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.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Where do apricots grow?

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here I have a look at how to grow exotic fruits in the UK - and consider a fruit tour.... 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.

Can you grow exotic fruits in the UK? What would a fruit tour be like?

Peach tree in my garden - not looking too bad,
but it has struggles with peach tree curl and
in the winter when I cover it for frost protection
the fleece gets regularly blown off.
Apricot jam sounds English doesn't it? But years ago, after a trip to the north west corner of Pakistan I learnt that the best apricots are actually from Hunza orchards. This info remained unchallenged for two decades until I discovered that in certain cantons of Switzerland apricots are sold on roadside stalls and home brewed apricot liqueurs are popular. These two countries seem so far away that they'd be unlikely to have a reputation for the same fruit - although admittedly both specialise in super peaks.

Now I've discovered that there is an apricot capital in the UK, well a place in the flat lands of Northamptonshire called Aynho but known as "Apricot Village". I'm told you can spot an apricot tree growing up cottage walls or free-standing in most of the village's front gardens ... and the fruit grows beautifully thanks to the stony, sandy soil. Aynho isn't too far from Banbury, Oxon - or the amazing Aynhoe Park which can be hired for expensive weddings.

Over to you
Next time you buy some apricots will you be reading the small print to find out where they come from?


Monday, 6 January 2014

Just imagine if Mary Kingsley joined us on a dog walk...

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here we go for a London walk imagining how the famous explorer Mary Kingsley would experience 2014. 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.

Mary Kingsley is famous for being a Victorian woman who travelled hugely, from her 30s onwards, around west Africa including Sierra Leone, Angola, Cameroon and South Africa. Here's the link to the wikipedia page. Mary was born in Islington in 1862 - though I recently found a plaque marking one of the homes she'd lived at in Hampstead, north London.

Islington and Hampstead have many lovely places to go, eat, drink etc - but they are also some of the best boroughs for people spotting. So, as Nell, 12, and I walked by with the dog we tried to imagine what Mary - the famous adventurer, ethnographer and travel writer - would see on our walk back to Islington in the rain.

Nell sets off on an explorer's journey.
Mary Kingsley had strong views about polygamy (ok in the context of wives have a lot of work so could do with some help & it ensured no woman was unmarried which meant they were given proper support not treated like outcasts); no killing of twins (a common practice when she was travelling in Africa) and also women having their own independent life (but not to the extent of being called a feminist, that made her very ratty). What would she see now besides more cars and less people walking than in her day? What else would she think curious? We reckon:
  • Mini portaloos parked in gardens so the builders can take a loo break
  • Garages for cars that look as if the owners park their car in the kitchen
  • Joggers
  • Fancy dogs in fancy coats
  • The choice of recycling or rubbish bins
  • Drinks cans thrown down
  • Arsenal and Tottenham football fans in jeans
  • 2-D statues at Finsbury Park train/tube station
  • The lack of kids out (especially unsupervised)
Tree covered in old man's beard (wild clematis) - could it be hiding a medicine man?
We did find a bearded tree though - and wondered if it would remind Mary Kingsley of something she'd seen on her travels?

Over to you
Is there anywhere you go all the time that someone from another century probably just wouldn't believe - either how much it had changed, or how little?