A-Z activities

A-Z countries

What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bumped into Sengal this morning

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here is a surprising idea about how to find Senegal much closer to home. This post is by Nicola Baird 

All I did was take the dog on a slightly different morning route march. Amazing variety of posters up at Arsenal stadium. Special praise to anyone who knows which Gunners player this quote refers to. Strangely I posted this piece on the same day that the Guardian revealed that Youssou N'Dour plans to give up music and possibly run for president.

Friday, 25 November 2011

On a tour of 3D Africa

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here are some ideas about how to get that bit closer to every country in Africa (and maybe create your own). This post is by Nicola Baird 


As part of Black History Month 2011 the older children at Nell's school created a 3D map of Africa. Nell was in charge of Mali and it looks fab, she created a wonderful mosque too. When all the countries were put together (there are 52) it turned out that Nigeria had been forgotten. What an embarrassment, so Nigeria was quickly produced. Above is a picture of the children's efforts with Nell and Netta posing.

Mapping your world
There's a great idea in the brilliant Mission: Explore book that shows kids how to establish your own country. You've just got to map it, name it, establish the boundaries, sort out a flag and register it with the United Nations. Hard to believe it is that simple - but turns out that Pete (my partner/nell's dad) has long ago done that when he declared Essex an independent nation. The main demands included serving Tiptree jam at state occasions; plus all music to be provided by Ian Dury or Billy Bragg (for more Essex sillyness have a look at Pete's blog, http://thejoyofessex.blogspot.com).

Over to you
I'm curious - has anyone else created their own universe/country/breakaway state with their kids or friends? BTW, I'm not talking about real independence here, just pretend. Do share

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ready to ski?

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here are some ideas about how to offer a winter sports experience - like you might have in Austria - but much closer to home. This post is by Nicola Baird 

From late October, each week another Austrian ski resort opens up again after the long summer break. A good place to find out more is at this blog here. I've never skiied on snow, and only tried an artificial slope once, I think in Harrogate although xscape at Milton Keynes is far more famous, and there's the Chill Factor at Trafford with a luge run and the Snow Centre in St Albans, just 10 minutes from the train station. But last weekend on a brainstorm with the Geography Collective (working on their next Mission Explore book challenge) one of the bonding activities was to toboggan at the Chatham Ski Slope (apparently the longest artificial slope in Kent and the South East).

It seemed a shame to let the kids miss out this early winter sport pleasure so when I left the geographers, I took Lola, Nell and their friend Xander to Broadgate ice rink, just by Liverpool Street in the centre of London for a long skate on a chilly, blue-sky morning with near perfect mountain conditions (!). As you can see from their expressions, they loved it - as did Xander's mum Nicky. And you can try skating too from November - early February.

Obviously if we were thinking Austrian we'd finish off our skating or tobogganing with hot chocolate and cakes. Instead we ate noodles at Spitalfields market, but I guess when you are on a skiiing holiday, you never really know what you might do next...

Over to you
Where do you go in the UK to recreate a winter sports feeling? I'd love to try to ski my way around the UK using the artificial slopes...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Running out of loo roll

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here are some thoughts about taking the piss, politely. This post is by Nicola Baird 

It may be possible to use leaves, newspaper scraps and bits of magazines to wipe your bum. But... I'm not keen on these options while recycled loo paper is so cheap and easy to come by (unless you forget to keep the stocks up). The obvious answer is to make sure you always have a couple of slices of toilet tissue tucked into a pocket.

British people are often very conservative about their toilet habits. I remember being amazed at about eight years old that there were squat toilets in France. Since then I've learnt that many countries use squat toilets - in some rows of "ladies" in Singapore, say, you can choose between the Western sit model and the Asian squat.

That flush costs how much?
Our family is just about to switch to a water metre in a bid to help everyone in the house understand that water has a price. It's easy to follow Ozzie rules - "if it's yellow let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down," when it's only family in the house. Far harder when there are visitors. At least that's what I think, anyone got any thoughts about how to internationalise your own toilet habits so water isn't wasted and blushes spared?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Here be dragons (aka griffins)

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here's how to find fantasy beasts via a trip through London. This post is by Nicola Baird 


I love visting the City's griffins. The picture above looks rather like a sacrifice, although it really shows Nell trying to climb on to one of the City's guardians between Temple and Blackfriars tube. Using the old I-spy game a griffin deserves at least 10 points (a pigeon would be 2, a cathedral 6), and there are plenty of griffins to find in the Square Mile, so a good way of exploring London as you look around the protest site at St Pauls.

Griffin ID please
Look for the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle and furry horse ears & what do you see? Scales. Clearly the griffins guarding the City are actually dragons. I doubt such a mish-mash beastie could ever have been real - although the Greeks and ancient Egyptians made statues of them. As for dragons, I've always assumed they are a folk lore memory of dinosaurs (or at any rate dino bones).

More info about Griffins on Wikipedia here. And if you want to remind yourself about I-spy books, then look here.

If it's London dragons you want though, then go to the National Gallery and enjoy Uccello's St George and the Dragon - a slaying of what appears to be the lady in pink's pet.