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.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Autumn is Dracula season

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Dracula is one of the most popular horror stories - it definitely doesn't give Romania a good press, but it also turns Whitby and Purfleet into stars. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

The Dracula plaque at Purfleet.
A few days ago I was in the woods with two teenagers and an eight-year-old. It was dusk, very close to dark and not far off Halloween so the suggestion was "let's tell some scary stories". I insisted these were age appropriate but they ended up being scary for me, and us all. There's something about riding through twilight with the autumn leaves swishing that helps you connect with people from the past. How lucky we are to have electric light we all agreed as we rode along the darkening track back to the yard with its cosy well-lit stables.

Even with the lights on in a warmly-heated house I can get scared easily. So imagine what it must have been like to read Dracula by Bram Stoker when it first came out. You'd have used a flickering candle or a spluttering gas lamp if you were brave enough to read it before bedtime. I love the Dracula story with its twists and turns, sexuality and Victorian morals - but I associate it with Yorkshire, in particular the seaside town of Whitby. Turns out I was wrong, Purfleet in Essex has a nice link too. As does the big cemetery at Hampstead Heath.

Enjoy more info about Dracula by taking an atmospheric tour of the extremely creepy Hampstead Heath west cemetery on Halloween, 31 October. The last tour is at 3pm.

Or go and look at the plaque in Purfleet, just by the church. This would be a nice trip if you combined it with a visit to the RSPB's Rainham Marshes site. If the tide is out when you are by the Thames look for the skeleton hulls of wrecked ships as you head towards the striking visitor centre. See pix below:

Walking around Rainham Marshes, easily reached via Purfleet train station.
Don't look - he's behind you!

RSPB Rainham Marshes visitor centre.
But if you are Dracula-fixated maybe head to Whitby, where there's even a Dracula Experience. I know from going round it that it really is terrifying (if you want to be terrified). 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Reading about Cyprus



This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Lots of my elder daughter's friends have family links to Cyprus - I've seen their holiday snaps, but still hanker to know more about what this island is like. One way of finding out more is to get reading. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Cyprus – allegedly the birthplace of Aphrodite – is probably better known as a tourist hotspot or being divided. At least that's what I knew... until I read a new book which doesn't tackle the politics, but does give a sense of what it was like to live there during the 1980s.

The Green Line Divide by Z Vally.
The Green Line Divide by Z Vally is a small book about a burgeoning romance between student Alexis and a UN blue beret from Sweden, Sven. Politics doesn’t really feature in the story. Instead the author concentrates on Alexis’ experiences trying to earn enough to survive and retake her college exams. And she does, thanks to her ability to do cleaning jobs. Luckily Cyprus is blessed with a lovely climate so much of the story takes place as Alexis cycles to jobs or meets friends to discuss their work hiccups during their time off.

I’ve always loved travel stories – even people talking about their holidays – and the new quantities of books arriving as a result of self-publishing in print and on e-readers give us all plenty of new ways of looking at the world from people who (without being rude to Z here) are more normal, more like you and me than the English Literature graduates from Oxbridge.  That said The Green Line Divide has some rather odd English constructions, so if you are a stickler for correct grammar then it’s not going to suit you.

Another drawback is that what the author thought was funny I didn't. Despite this, the book still offers insight into an adventurous young woman’s life as she gets to know herself and Cyprus - often by backpacking around it - during the 1980s. There are plenty of allusions to real life - dusty roads, warm sunshine and grilled hallumi; not much time spent as a tourist looking at ancient ruins. Towards the end Alexis and her boyfriend quarrel over what to drink, but then both end up independently choosing mythos served in frosted glasses - surely that was a clue that they were made for each other?

Cyprus basics
  • In 1960 Cyprus gained it’s independence from the UK
  • 1974 – Greek and Turkish clash led to a divided country. There is now a buffer zone (known as the Green Line) between the Greek part in the South and the Turkish part in the North. This is protected by UN peacekeepers.
  • The capital is Nicosia (this is also divided)
  • Population: 1.41 million
  • Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and a member of the EU.
  • The Trodos Mountains have nine UNESCO heritage sites. Throughout the island are many important, ancient ruins.


The Green Line Divide: romance, travel and turmoils by Z Vally, available on Amazon.