A-Z activities

A-Z countries

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.

Monday, 18 July 2016

11 things to make you want to stay in Morecambe

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. In search of the perfect sunset we headed to Morecambe. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

The iconic Battery pub, scene of holiday hangovers for many Morecambe
tourists, is now overshadowed by the fabulous Beach Cafe serving a nice
pot of tea and an excellent ice cream.
1) As we walk past the disused fairground by a huge burnt out pub "suitable for families" Pete, my husband, remembers that as a Lancaster University student he used to work there. The next day we walk through the West End along the Promenade towards Heysham (site of a nuclear power station) and Pete points out another vast pub that he used to work at, The Battery, which closed down in 2010. It's not all bad news as in front of The Battery is a rather fabulous glass box housing The Beach Cafe which serves great coffee.

Morecambe railway station. Get self-guided walks from
stations along the Bentham Line at this website.
2) Even the railway station  - which is just two stops up from busy Lancaster - has moved. It's no longer on the sea front, instead it's a 10 minute walk from the main promenade, built on a road that is punctuated by roundabouts decorated with striking bird sculptures.

Kittiwakes seem to be taking over Morecambe -
it's just art.
3) Unfortunately this stylish bit of art is slightly undone by the shops which are of the Aldi and fast food type.  And in Morecambe's West End back streets where there is no longer a pier (blew away in the 1970s) and thus no end-of-the-pier tat on sale (which this July weekend was dominated by floating snakes-on-a-stick) there are numerous empty shops and charity shops.

It's clear that Morecambe has changed, but does it need more of a much needed makeover?

4) We've just spent a weekend break in a Victorian hotel with wide staircase and that very British seaside tradition, swirling carpet (the Clarendon Hotel, no website, at 76 Marine Road West just 10 mins walk from the train station - a good base and allows dogs). It was the 1880s when tourists started to flock to UK beaches, and 100 years on (according to former barman Pete) Morecambe was still hosting "Glasgow Week" - a fortnight when the Scots left their factories and came for a holiday of intense drinking.

5) Intense drinking is still a hobby in this bit of Lancashire. On the train there are loads of people dressed up in their Saturday best starting the party by necking wine. On another the racegoers returning from Cartmel races are noisily pie-eyed.

Kites on show at the Kite Festival behind the Midland Hotel at Morecambe.
6) But there's also the elegant Midland Hotel - a shining white Art Deco building, put up in 1930, dominating Morecambe Bay - looking like a temple of city cool. At the beach below the hotel is a Kite Festival which involves nothing more taxing than enjoying the way kite-dogs, fish, octopus etc make gentle patterns in the wind. When the tide is right you can see the kite surfers tear along the famous quick sands (find out more about Morecambe Kite Surfing Club here).

7) The long promenade is car free, boasts kids parks, water sprays for playing in, lots of lawn, climbing walls, statues - including comedian Eric Morecombe who came from Morecambe - and a cycle lane. The people we meet are friendly - well they certainly chat - and most places are also not just dog friendly but actively offering any dog a nice bowl of water.

Rentable bikes at Morecambe station.
8) We travelled by train but there is a lot of car parking around. And buses!

9) In London you notice how multi-cultural the population is. In Morecambe it's not like that, but I was surprised to see so many people in wheelchairs, and also families with a child with physical problems or learning difficulties. There are also a lot of oldies speeding past in mobility vehicles.

Great chips from the blue side of this double fronted chippy,
Atkinsons at 16-18 Albert Road, Morecambe, 01524 410890
10) I don't eat chips often - my rule is four times a year, and it would probably be none if it wasn't for that fact that my family adore them and they make a cheap dinner. But at 9.45pm on a Saturday night we were hungry(after doing a long walk across Morecambe Bay led by the Queen's Guide, more of this in another post) and by luck found a fantastic chippy. I swear these were the best chips I've ever eaten, and tasted all the better for being eaten outside sitting on the Promenade Wall overlooking Morecambe Bay trying to guess which Lake District mountains we could see.

11) And of course it's always sunny. Yes there will be plenty of wind off the bay, so if you do fancy staring at those famous Morecambe sunsets remember to pack a fleece. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

French fluency: it's only going to cost £8,171 or is it?

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. Learning to speak a language fluently (or even a few words) is a wonderful way to get to know the world better. This blog looks at the costs - apparently Indonesian is the cheapest to learn, and Korean the most expensive. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

My Bangladeshi born neighbours cooked this for my family to celebrate the end
of Ramadan. Isn't that lovely? Eid mubarak to all who've been fasting. Understanding
each other isn't just about words - it's also sharing food and, in our case, cutting our hedge!
Today my brother texted to say he's 50 per cent fluent at French according to Duolingo (an app on his phone).  I'm a bit jealous as I'm still  only 44% fluent! So I was interested to see that you can work out exactly how much it costs to learn a new language.  This post contains info from a press release promoting Voucherbox.co.uk

The guide for travellers seeking to pick up a new language reveals that Indonesian is the cheapest tongue to master while Korean will set you back the most cash. Apparently French will cost me £8,171. I reckon it's going to be more expensive for me than it is for my clever younger brother!

Difficulty (Hours)
Ave cost per hour
Overall cost to fluency
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)
Mandarin (Chinese)

"Money saving gurus at Voucherbox.co.uk looked into the costs and the number of hours it takes for English speakers to start from scratch learning a new language and go all the way through to fluency.

The data was compiled using the average prices from a cost-per-hour language learning website, and calculated the estimated expenses of learning 28 languages from around the world.

As well as the cost per hour, the research also looked into the difficulty of learning each language – with average hours needed ranging from 600 to a staggering 2,200.

The 28 languages were picked from around the world and included European languages such as Spanish, Italian and French, as well as the more exotic languages such as Persian, Mandarin and Thai.

The results showed that although Indonesian took longer than more basic languages to learn, with around 900 hours needed from start to finish, it had the cheaper average hourly rate of tuition of £6.35, meaning the cost was particularly low.

Coming in at second place in the cheaper languages was Portuguese, with a total cost of £6,138. This differed to Indonesian as although the hourly price is a costly £10.23, only 600 hours are needed to speak fluently.

This was then followed by Spanish with a total costing of £6,157. This included 600 hours of language priced at £10.26 per hour.

In terms of typical school-taught languages within the UK, it’s those who study German compared to French that should be pleasantly surprised. Within the research, it was revealed that students on German courses at school could be saving £12,013 in money compared to just £8,171 if they had chosen to learn French.

Tipping the costly end of the scale as the more expensive languages to study included Korean, Mandarin and Japanese.

To learn Korean, you must set aside a whopping £41,155, as well as dedicating 2,200 hours to the language. It was revealed that as well as being one of the most difficult languages to crack, it will also cost £18.71 per hour.

Mandarin, or Chinese, will set you back a total of £29,367, while Japanese is also expensive, priced at an average of £24,375."

Over to you?
So if money is the only object - what language would you like to learn?!