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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.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

London with more dash than cash

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. In this post the family is on the hunt for cheap London entertainment after discovering the public toilets by the London Eye can only be entered for 50p... Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs). I also publish an interview every week with people who live or work in Islington at islingtonfacesblog.com - there's a prize for the 100th follower.


London Eye fabulousness.
I'm lucky to live in London so have an endless variety of exhibitions, shows and trips to enjoy. However it's an expensive city - one of the world's most expensive cities, along with Oslo (Norway), Geneva and Zurich (Switzerland). We may not have run away inflation, like Zimbabwe had until recently, but my income is modest so day trips have to be planned carefully.
Result: lots of opportunities to explore all that London has to offer for free (not just museum, gallery and the Royal Festival Hall's free toilet facilities!).


This weekend a friend was celebrating her 50th birthday in a lovely way. Her husband had organised groups of friends and family to surprise her at various London sightseeing hot spots. I was particularly lucky to get a trip on the London Eye. It was a glorious sunny day and the half hour in the pod whizzed past as presents were opened and the Emirates stadium, Wembley, Crystal Palace mast, Ali Palace, Parliament and the MI5 building spotted... And then we said goodbye and off Debora went to her next appointment at the V&A gallery.


Find this tiny police station in Trafalgar Square - allegedly made from a hollowed out street light.
Inevitably I felt a bit low back on ground, so perked myself and my two daughters up by going to see London's smallest police station (installed in 1926 to enable one policeman to keep an eye on the demos happening in Trafalgar Square). It is a only a short - but stunning - walk across Hungerford Bridge from the London Eye and then past Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square. We took photos and tried to guess how many super-slim police officers could fit into this police box. Still at least it keeps the wind and rain off, and made my children dance around looking for Sherlock Holmes. 
As for the cost to look: zero pence.

We were then lured into the National Portrait Gallery where there's David Bailey's self-curated Stardust exhibition. Even for the £16 ticket it's incredibly popular... definitely worth gawping at the queue to see if you can spot a celeb. Once tired of that, aim to fit in a 30 minute-gallery talk (on saturdays at 12 noon) in front of a painting. You'll be given a stool and then hear an expert tell you its history, context and all sorts of gossip about it - and always for free. We found out about James 1/James VI's very strange interest in witches and how his booklet about them, and insistence that communicating with a witch should be a capital crime, inspired Shakespeare's Macbeth. I think it's lucky for James that he is better remembered as the man who made sure the Bible was provided in English rather than Latin. However I now understand why his witch-mania led to him being dubbed "the wisest fool in Christendom", a fact that I'm sure will be useful for pub quizzes...
Cost for a half hour history talk: free.


In the UK lots of secondary schools teach Geography or History for GCSE - it depends on the timetable. So if you feel you (or a child in your care) is missing out on history I reckon a cheap day ticket to London to Trafalgar Square area could be a rich investment in historic learning. If you bring some sandwiches and eat them in nearby St James' Park then that's a free day out. Enjoy.

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