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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.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Another country: the crazy art world

This blog looks at ways of learning about the world without having to get on a plane. Discovering art is very low carbon - enjoy the inside story of self-proclaimed art terrorist, AK47, who stole a Banksy.  Words from Nicola Baird.

Meet AK47artist at home. Pic is screenshot version(c) Portable Networks Graphic Image
The Banksy Job – five years in the making – is a real treat. It's an eccentric art movie about larger-than-life character (but perhaps not exactly an artist) Andy Link. As AK47 he creates an anti-art movement supported by his white-overall clad followers, Art Kieda. AK47’s plan is to steal a massive Banksy sculpture, modelled on Rodin's The Thinker, but reposed to become The Drinker. Success sees the stolen sculpture planted in AK47's back garden. And then in a bizarre twist how it gets to be reinstalled in Shaftesbury Avenue.

The directors, Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey, call it a heist movie. It’s shot as a documentary, but mocks itself, its characters and the art world with proper British eccentricity. There’s also some choreographed scene stealing from AK47’s overall-clad art crew too.

If you like street art or are bemused by artistic pontification The Banksy Job
is a perfect film. Photo taken at the Prince Charles Cinema premiere.
Left is question master Amanda Mo with artist AK47 and the d
 Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey.
Curiously I was sent a free ticket courtesy to the premier by the PR for Andrew Lamberty who runs the Lamberty Gallery on Pimlico Road. According to the press release the gallery is: “A busy and pioneering showcase for extraordinary pieces. Lamberty sources and sells the very best in 20th century and contemporary art and design. Alongside this, Lamberty is known for discovering and developing cutting edge emerging talent, representing now some of the leading names in the contemporary furniture design and art scenes.”

 I loved it, and really enjoyed the humour. Enjoy the trailer:

The Banksy Job may have a name that hints at car chases and Italy, but it Is most definitely a London film, covering street art turf wars. It will also introduce you to the bizarre authentication system that Banksy runs, Pest Control.In other words you don’t have a Banksy until it’s verified by Banksy. Not having a Banksy I really didn’t know this. But one day perhaps...

The film's done well in the US and Paris - but it's an oddball movie so the best way to see it is via download. Enjoy.

Directors: Ian Roderick Gray, Dylan Harvey
Star: AK47 “very fuckin contemporary innit”
Downloadable from 19 June - even the trailer is a lot of fun. Find it on netflix, etc.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Indian style in the heart of Brighton

This blog looks at ways of learning about the world without having to get on a plane. Here's a look inside George IV's crazy Brighton Pavilion which is a mix up of India and China, places that the King never visited. Best of all it's full of dragons. Words from Nicola Baird.
Brighton Pavilion - the regent's love nest with an Indian style
exterior, Chinese inside. Like me George IV hadn't visited either country.
For years I've wanted to go to India - via the famous Brighton Pavilion, in Brighton. I had no idea what was inside (and now I know why - it's because it's not a place that encourages photos or instagram feeds although the website has a fantastic intro video, see here). But I'd heard it was something special. So I abandoned the dog and took a late afternoon trip to Brighton. What an absolute treat awaits you just a 10 minute easy downhill stroll from the train station.... a glorious garden and an eye-popping building in Indo-Saracenic Revival style (get that!) with minarets, domes, bumpy things all in a beautiful pale quarry stone. 

Inside the decor is as over the top as is possible, and I loved it. There's a room which is full of dragons. Snakes are wriggling down the walls. Birds are captured in the hand-painted wallpaper and beautiful bamboo motifs keep repeating themselves on chairs, staircase balustrades and walls. It looks Indian outside, Chinese pagoda inside. And then there are the domes with incredible shiny scales, and lights that are as big as vast upturned umbrellas.

You can have a virtual tour of the banqueting room on this link  (but it's much better being in the room).

George IV was only king from 1830-37 but he was also Prince Regent before his coronation. The Brighton Pavilion was for lavish entertaining.  Eventually it was inherited by Queen Victoria who found it far too public and sold it. It's now owned by Brighton, but has had various uses including an Indian Hospital and a venue for baby shows, flower shows, tea rooms and even a flea circus...

Head down North Road past the Dome and turn right into the gardens. The Dome
used to be George IV's stables and there is a secret tunnel from here to the pavilion,
used by George when he felt too fat shamed by the ever-staring public.
As might be obvious I didn't take a guided tour, or buy the guide book so learnt minimal factual info. But who needs facts in a building that kick starts the senses? If you have a chance do go - and i think it would be a lovely visit with children too as there are so many animals, birds, reptiles and insects scattered in the pattern to distract (aka find) while you oh and ah over the decor. For example you can find moths motifs woven into the domed music room carpet. It is an expensive visit (approx £20 but that can give you a year's visiting rights) but clearly it's an expensive building to maintain. Apparently you often see conservators at work.

And if you do go, try getting a cup of tea in the upstairs cafe with it's lovely tile decor and beautiful rooftop balcony with views over the gardens.

I have to admit that i've always been a bit anti Brighton - it's a place that feels like it is permanently holiday time - but clearly I'm mellowing. Not only was the Brighton Pavilion a pleasure to visit, the locals were really helpful about pointing us in the correct direction. And as for this famous symbol of Brighton, well, I especially like the way George never visited India or China, despite Britain's huge Empire of the time. Instead he brought "exotic" versions of these two vast countries to the UK in the form of this pleasure palace - clearly he was also a fan of virtual travel.

  • Info about the Brighton Pavilion - a once royal palace - is on this website. Tickets bought on line are 10 per cheaper.