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, 10 November 2015

A trip to Italy, crossing Umbria

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. Sometimes talking and reading about a long walk can inspire a family adventure. For example tracing the route of St Francis of Assisi via a new trekking book inspires guest poster Pete May to ponder the joys of long, slow walks  & tasty Italian treats.

Long-distance walking has long been a love of Around BritainNo Plane and the Italian equivalent of our slow walking can be found in the Rev Sandy Brown’s new guidebook The Way of St Francis — a pilgrimage through the green heart of Italy, taking in Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio.

During winter evenings I like to read travel stories – a recent discovery was Tim Moore’s cycling adventures on a wooden bike with the most rudimentary brakes (!) around super-mountainous Italy on the route of the Giro D'Italia 1914, Gironimo. Now here’s another way to discover Italy - by reading The Way of St Francis. The book covers the full 550km pilgrimage, known as the Via di Francesco, visiting key sites from the life of St Francis of Assisi. It starts in Florence, famous for art, leather bags and the Duomo (as seen in the film A Room With A View), goes through St Francis’ home town of Assisi and finally ends in Rome with a tour of the seven pilgrimage churches.

It has 28 stages and takes a month to walk – working on a budget of just over 50 euros a day.

Spiritual nourishment
Seattle-based author and ordained minister Sandy Brown described the pilgrimage as, “being about a state of mind” at the guide’s launch at Foyle’s new(ish) bookshop at 107 Charing Cross Road,  London.

“It’s about turning your back on your old life and focusing on the beyond, the past and the future,” Rev Sandy Brown, The Way of St Francis

Brown showed pictures of stunning gorges, forests, sunflower fields, olive groves, a Roman waterfall and villages clinging to mountainsides. Sandy said he felt much closer to the spirit of St Francis through seeing the chapel where he received his stigmata and the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi where he was buried.

Lentil stew, mushrooms, wine and hazelnut chocolates - Umbrian-style treats
perfect for eating after a long walk, wherever you are walking. www.lenticchiacastelluccio.it
is an Umbrian agricultural cooperative with beautiful pictures of flower-drenched Italian fields.
Feasting too
Another great attraction of the walk is the superb food and drink Umbria has to offer over slow evening meals, such as Umbrian wine, chocolate, bread, pasta, lentils and cured meats.

The Way of St Francis is a very practical guidebook, with full directions, maps, altitude profiles and information about all the shrines, churches, towns and places to stay on the route. It’s more than a physical trek though. Brown remembers coming to the upper gate of Assisi: ”When I looked down at the Basilica of San Francesco my eyes filled with tears. It was a powerful moment of joy of accomplishment and an overwhelming spiritual connection with the simple beauty and meaning of this place.”


  • The Way of St Francis by Rev Sandy Brown is published by Cicerone, price £16.95.
  • Pete May is part of the Around Britain No Plane family. His latest UK travel book is The Joy of Essex, or see his Joy of Essex blog.
Over to you
What slow walks and slow food make you dream up travel adventures? And where - or what - do you recommend?


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Talking about a fashion revolution with university students

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 so it's always exciting to meet people with the same sustainability goals but a very different approach. Here's how pomegranates, onion skin and happy silk worms make such a beautiful contribution to fashion via the clothes of Kitty FerreiraWords from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Zivile - Q: are the jacket and top your own products?
Valerie Goode: Yes the blue jacket and white peace silk shirt are both my label, Kitty Ferreira. I often wear my own products – you never know who you are going to meet.
What's it all about?
Kitty Ferreira is a sustainable fashion brand from London which has been wowing London and Brighton Fashion Week audiences. It's not just the fabulous clothes from Kitty Ferreira founder, Valerie Goode, it's also the way she makes them, and the reasons she sticks to chic sustainable fashion.
"Fashion is the second most polluting industry (after oil). To understand more watch a movie called The true cost 
Valerie Goode, MD and founder of Kitty Ferreira. 
University students with Valerie Goode from Kitty Ferreira sustainable fashion.
At the end of October 2015 I invited Valerie to talk Kitty Ferreira to my fashion-loving blogging students and this is the result:


Dila - Q: What's your inspiration?
Ethics and the natural world. My background is Caribbean and the brand is named after my grandmother. I looked at the land and the way she relied on it to feed herself, clothe herself and heal herself and I looked at my own experiences and tried to blend the two – boardroom to bar style. I wanted something you can wear to work, and wear out in evening… it’s not frivolous style. Take a look at my interview with BrightonFashion Week here.

Perside - Q: Do you have to know people to succeed in the industry?
It's extremely competitive and that’s even more reason why you need to stand for something. Fortunate that there is talk of ethical fashion throughout media and it is becoming more and more mainstream. Even the larger retailers are taking on sustainability in supply chains – H&M, and a few weeks ago M&S (see article here). 

When I started I had to forget almost everything I’d learnt throughout my 12 year career fashion buying. All my contacts became obsolete. I had to start from scratch and source a sustainable supply chain, sustainable fabrics, and find sustainable processes and procedures for production. 

When running a business you can’t be focused on what the barriers are. I try to have positive attitude. It helps to align yourself with experienced professionals, but I don’t always think this is the only way to get in. If like me you knew no-one in ethical fashion, my work has allowed me to meet people who do, like Lucy Siegle, who invited me to The Observer Ethical Awards and have her wearing my dress, likewise MBA professionals and investors. I wouldn’t worry about who you don’t know, rather who you would like to know.

 I wouldn’t worry about who you don’t know, rather who you would like to know.  
Valerie Goode, MD & founder of Kitty Ferreira

Valerie Goode from Kitty Ferreira looked to her Caribbean roots for inspiration for her fashion brand. She says that pomegranate can be used as a super natural dye for high end fashion. She uses it on upcycled silk and peace silks (that don't harm silk worms) to make clothes of the most cheerful, glowing yellow. 
Lannay Q: Why pomegranates?
I was looking for a wow factor. It’s the reason why I’ve been able to achieve a lot in short time. I wanted to incorporate an ethical practice and natural procedure so using natural materials to dye fabrics was a no brainer. I settled on two materials because of the beautiful colours. On the high street your wouldn’t see these colour ways. When we are designing colours we are looking at the white skin – you can see (on mywebsite/lookbook) that these colours suit darker skins v well. It’s two fingers to that side of that industry!  Fashion needs to be more representative. I did a catwalk with models of diversity so there were disabled models, bigger than average models, different ethnicities at the Ideal Home show 2014 - and my garments go up to size 26

Go follow Kitty Ferreira
Let's hope more of the public hear about the Kitty Ferreira brand and are as inspired by it as these university students were by Valerie's visit. 
You can read more about Valerie Goode at this blog I posted on islington faces in July 2015. Or follow what she's up to on social media...