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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 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.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

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.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

How be in New York without leaving London

If you won the Lottery (or even Monopoly) would you go to New York?
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here's how to get that New York experience without leaving London. This post is by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  

I'm not as good at gritting my teeth as I should be - but this blog helps. When people tell me about where they've just visited (New York) or where they are going (New York) or where they plan to take their daughter on her 16th birthday (New York) or what they did last school holidays for just 4 days in New York I make an effort to listen, and see if I can figure out a UK alternative. Today it is New York v London in a three round battle.

1st Round - looking around
Turns out the hot new thing in New York is a walk along the raised High Line, a one-time goods train line that ends up in the Meatpacker District. It's now a park, with wheelchair access, that provides a lovely off-road walk with incredible views. All the info is here. But it's absolutely no different to the Parkland Walk - a former railway that runs from Finsbury Park N4 in London up to Highgate Woods. If you take a brief detour you can then go on to Alexandra Palace. It's 4.5 miles (7.2km) of rustic pleasure in the middle of the best city in the world (oops, a bit partisan as I'm thinking London!).

New York nil: London 1

2nd Round - stylish living
"We loved hanging around in NYC with all those Art Deco buildings, drinking cocktails, jazz and the atmosphere..." Oh, easy win for London. You just head to Hackney's Mare Street (breathe in the edgy atmosphere) and in your best outfit pop into the Town Hall Hotel. Here there's a mix of Edwardian glamour, '30s furnishings and loft chic (sounds New York doesn't it?). Best of all the Town Hall Tea Lady serves martinis from her trolley. Bliss.

Result: New York nil: London 2

3rd Round - fabulous street food
American immigrants have introduced the best foods to the big apple (even if the US is infamous for it's Macfood exports). Noodles and spices and easy over breakfasts are all done wonderfully in New York. Servings are monster, prices cheap. But street food markets are the big trend in London and offer Korean fusion and other fabulous choices. More to the point - when I asked my cousin (who'd just come back from New York where she successfully stayed in an airbnb appartment) what new food was all the rage in America, she   said she'd noticed nothing any different to the food on offer in London. If you are still thinking Pizza Express is the bees knees, then maybe it's worth trawling Hoxton or China Town in the evenings or for a lunch time tastebud treat try Exmouth Market, Broadway Market or Whitecross Market .  If you subscribe to Boat Magazine (£2) you can get a rather fab map of London's best street food. Or take a look here at London's top 10 street food vendors published in the Guardian.

Result: It's a knockout 3-nil win to LONDON.

Added bonus
Airmiles of carbon saved - 1 tonne (see carbon comparison website info here).

Over to you
What's close to home that feels like somewhere very other, or even New York?


Karin said...

Someone at work went to New York recently, but I just wondered why. My image of New York is a very large, dusty, grubby, over-crowded city, which is not my idea of fun at all. Then, London doesn't hold much appeal for me either, although I'm sure it has it's good parts, but I'm not a city person.

nicolabairduk said...

Hi Karin, yes choosing where to go for a break is very individual. But I have to admit my gut instinct about NYC is it's exciting - with those amazing art collections and of course also familiar thanks to films, and shows like Sex and the City etc. Nicola

Anonymous said...

Hi Dear. I wrote a comment which seems not to have made it. You know I agree with you about flying for short visits, but.... you need to find another argument, because places are unique and NYC is a fabulous, fascinating, thrilling place indeed. Places in the UK that touch the energy there: performances at the Barbican can feel very Brooklyn Academy of Arts. Lots of neighbourhoods in London can feel like boroughs in NYC for cultural diversity and liveliness. I will keep thinking... But London is London, and I love it (muchly thanks to you)...

nicolabairduk said...

Hi Annie-onymous, yes it's the idea that NYC is "just across the pond", so let's go for only 2 nights that makes it especially high in the where else could you go ideas-bank. I have researching this piece however found some great ideas for the big night out pete and i enjoy each wedding anniversary. Shame we have to wait until December! Nicola

Karin said...

As you say, Nicola, everyone is different. My idea of interesting architecture is somewhere like The Weald and Downland Museum, which also tells me about how people used to live http://www.wealddown.co.uk/

Our local high street has lots of restaurants and our supermarkets are full of interesting and exotic foods, even New York cheesecake. So much of the world has been brought to this country.

When I go abroad I want wonderful, natural scenery and a restful atmosphere. I've enjoyed watching the odd episode of Friends, but never felt I wanted to visit their neighbourhood. For me New York embodies all the things you try to steer clear of such as consumerism and pollution. I should think the air quality is terrible. Would Freud have had anything to say about your attitude to NYC, I wonder? ;-)

nicolabairduk said...

Hi Karin, the downlands museum near Chichester looks fab. Can't find an easy way to get there via public transport (not mentioned on its website), but as I can bring the dog will explore a way to get there during the summer holidays. have just been rereading Far from the Madding Crowd which I'm sure gave me some insights into what is likely to be on display in the farming life exhibits. Nicola

nicolabairduk said...

From Facebook:
Sara "Well, sorry to be extra-Londonist about this, but Herefordshire has a long history, possibly longer than New York's, of being called The Big Apple. And given the cider, with probably more relevance ...."

Howard "Just north of Great Yarmouth are California and Bel Air... :)"

Nicola Baird "Now that Howard strikes me as a good day out (or even longer!). Great idea. Sara what are the 3 most enjoyable things to do or places to visit in herefordshire. Can you see cider being made?"

Howard: "You'll find it on Google Maps next to Scratby - which doesn't sound quite so appealing..."

Caroline B: "California is right by Hemsby and Komova . . . .there is a great fresh fish place at Scratby, the 'amusements' at Hemsby feel very American and have been mentioned in a book on American influence here . ."

Karin said...

this page could help you get there http://www.wealddown.co.uk/Visit/Getting-here - although it does sound a bit complicated.

nicolabairduk said...

More from Facebook:
Sara "Yes you can, at Westons Cider. And we have a cider museum in Hereford. Mind you I am looking forward to global warming so we can rip out all the apple orchards and have olive groves instead ... And the Hay Festival (although Wales claims Hay belongs to them). And the Mappa Mundi - the earliest map of the world, in Hereford Cathedral. And bits of Offa's Dyke to walk along. And thousands of other completely glorious country walks. And the Black and White village tour. And Butty Bach, the jewel in the crown of Wye Valley Brewery. And last but not least Hereford is the home town of Mott The Hoople. I can't cut it down to three!"

Nicola Baird "Mott the Hoople sounds amazing - thank you for this convincing list. I have a lot to learn! And clearly you to visit..."

Sara "Oooo goodie do come. I forgot - there is an American diner just outside Leominster which feels very USA truck stop-ish, although perhaps not NY ..."

Penny "Ed's Diner, Piccadilly"

Nicola Baird said...

From Julie: "Initial idea was a New York breakfast - when I think of New York I think of chrome diners: eggs over easy and home fries."

From Rachel: "The Parkland Walk does NOT compare" (and then she showed me the pix, it's more like the Hammersmith Flyover being grassed and turned into a footpath). Oops!