Eco friendly transport around town: adult scooters

I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to scoot away on my brand new ‘patinete’ or adult scooter, when I bought it in Valencia this spring. I felt like a kid again! Living in a city where you use public transport a lot and distances are sometimes a little bit far to walk (and arrive on time), it is extremely handy to have a portable vehicle to get yourself from A to B just that little bit faster. Adult scooters are perfect for short journeys, the school run or your daily commute with public transport.

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My trusted Oxelo scooter

My little boys have scooters and yes, they are usually associated with children’s activities, but believe me, the adult version is just as much fun. Wind in your hair, stepping away, gliding with ease, passing pedestrians and saving time. What’s not to like?

Scooters or patinetes (for the Spanish people among us) come in all shapes and sizes, with or without hand brakes. I bought an Oxelo adult scooter from Decathlon recently, for 119 euro. No hand brakes (instead you have a foot brake – you slow down by pushing the mud guard down on the back wheel with your foot), but it is foldable with a strap for easy carrying.  Even the handle bars fold inwards so you basically carry a scooter over your shoulder the size of a large bag. And not too heavy.  Very useful when getting on public transport! You can get actual carrier bags too if you want to take your scooter with you on longer journeys.

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Electric scooters

There are also electric scooter available these days, which I must admit, look very attractive, especially at times when I am trying to push my non-electric scooter uphill, in 32 degrees heat. They are quite a lot more expensive, but would be a good option if you have difficulty walking long distances or need something a bit faster but still portable and easy to manoeuvre.

Which surfaces are best for adult scooters

Non electric scooters are particularly great on the flat or downhill, on smooth surfaces. Unless your scooter has big rubber tyres, don’t ride with them on old cobbled streets or very uneven roads. You get the idea, bumpetybump. Not great. Tiled paths are fine, although the bigger the tiles the better. In quiet residential streets I sometimes ride on the tarmac, as this surface is obviously ideal. Just make sure you watch the traffic and get back onto the pavement when it gets busy (yes, mum).

Wearing a helmet is always a good safety measure. If you live on a hill, it is a must. These scooters gain speed fast when going downhill, especially with a 75kg/150lbs adult on it. You really don’t want to hit a rock or curb and go flying without being protected.

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Micro-scooters is another great shop to find your ideal portable adult (or kid) scooter. Micro-scooter

Scoot to the gate: your micro scooter with built-in case

For the geeks among us, or rather the commuters who are traveling a lot, there is the Micro Luggage Scooter. No more running to the gate at the airport pulling your trolley case on wheels or clutching your cabin bag. And killing time waiting for your flight will never be the same again. Imagine the smooth surfaces in that departure lounge…

Happy scooting!

micro luggage scooter

 

Valencia, historic city with an edge

This summer my family and I did a house exchange with a lovely family in the city of Valencia, Spain. It is a fantastic city for families with children and there is plenty to see. So what to do in Valencia?

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Renting bikes and cycling through Turia park to the City of Art and Sciences

 


Valencia seems to be a city of many layers. At first sight, it’s just like any other big city: lots of high-rise buildings, busy traffic and not an awful lot of beauty about it when you first arrive on the outskirts of town. It is after all Spain’s third largest city and has just under one million inhabitants. But when you dive into it and stroll around – or rent a bike – you discover a wonderful, laid-back, colourful place full of art, parks, cafe culture and last but not least…the beaches. Oh and also plenty of vintage shops. Did we love it? Oh yes, we did.

Street Art in valencia

The Ciutat Vella, including Barrio del Carmen, is the old town. Now as any old town this one too has plenty of little streets, old buildings, cathedrals and historic squares, but what makes Valencia different is the street art. What? Graffiti and historic buildings? No way! Yup. And it looks pretty good. Definitely a big hit with my 5-year old who loves drawing (why are they allowed to draw on walls, mummy? Erm…).

Now I would use all of my own photos in this blog, but unfortunately my dear husband left our camera on the plane to Madrid. Ouch. Fingers crossed we’ll get it back. In the meantime, you’ll get my iPhone shots and some beautiful images I found around the net.

 

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Image: Travel and Lust
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The mural in the image below must have been one of my son’s favourites. “It’s a mummy! Did you now that mummies have toilet roll wrapped around them?” Image: Travel and Lust

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City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences is a world in itself. This impressive part of Valencia, whether or not you end up actually going inside any of the buildings, is worth visiting. It consists of the Oceanographic (Europe’s largest sea aquarium), The Science Museum, the Palau des Arts and the Hemispheric. Plenty to keep you occupied. More info here: www.cac.es

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The City of Art and Sciences is an amazing complex of white contemporary architecture (by Calatrava) and blue shallow water all around the buildings. The kids couldn’t wait to get their clothes off for a dip after a visit to the Science Museum!

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Turia gardens in valencia, great for bikes and kids

Rerouting the river Turia and turning the old riverbed into a 9km long park must be one of the best decisions ever made by city planners. What an asset to have for the people of Valencia. Full of play parks, fountains, cultural events, free outdoor gym equipment and cycle and footpaths. We rented bikes from Valencia Bikes (although there are many rental places everywhere) which kept us entertained all day and was great to move around quickly from A to B with the kids. Valencia is super kid-friendly by the way. Mini play areas next to the cafe terrace, why doesn’t anyone else think of that as standard?

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discover The beaches in valencia

One of the great things about Valencia is the proximity to the beach. Different from what most people think when they hear the words ‘beach’ and ‘Spain’ in one sentence, the ones in Valencia are nothing like the package holiday type. We experienced some fantastic beaches, quiet and more lively, but never overcrowded or lined by tacky bars and souvenir shops. A breath of fresh air. You can easily reach them by public transport, bike or car.

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Valencia has some great beaches all along the coast, many of them quiet. This is the beach at El Saler, just south of the city. It’s 8.15pm…kids still playing. Spanish routine!

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A little gem of a place on Patacona beach is La Mas Bonita, cafe and beach bar. Fantastic food and stunning location.

 

Urban cool on Easter Sunday in Aberdeen: street art and vintage

There are a zillion things to do when  you’re looking for Easter themed activities around here. Egg hunting at every castle estate around the Shire is one of them! If you fancy something a bit different this year – or you’re just not that much into chocolate (is there such a thing?) – here’s a suggestion for an alternative itinerary for a pleasant Easter Sunday in Aberdeen. Once you have polished off plenty of hot cross buns at your Easter brunch, put on your comfy shoes and head into town.

NUART Aberdeen 

The team behind Stavanger’s street art festival NUART has come to Aberdeen this Spring and is adding some much needed colour and art to the granite city. Eleven international artists have worked hard over the past week to create their works of street art and the results look impressive. The drab looking exterior of Aberdeen’s indoor market has been improved greatly with a huge, gorgeous drawing. Numerous other grey walls, old doors and forgotten corners of the city have also been used as canvases by the artists.

Street art in progress by Martin Whatson
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Street art by Alice Pasquini

The festival starts on the 12th of April and continues until Easter Sunday with lots of events including talks, film screenings and creative workshops. On Saturday there is the UK premiere of Saving Banksy at the Belmont cinema. For this Sunday however – and to keep in with the Easter spirit – I recommend the Easter Sunday Street Art Hunt: find six hidden artworks around the city centre by following the hints provided (pick up a paper sheet from Cafe 52 on the Green). You win an Easter Prize if you capture the art on camera and return to Cafe 52 to show it.

If you’ve got kids with you, you could start off early and also take part in Chalk Don’t Chalk, to create your own chalk street art pieces, with professional artists on hand to teach and guide children on their designs (at 11am on the roof garden of St Nicholas shopping centre). For the full programme of events and other info please visit www.nuartaberdeen.co.uk.

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Old Togs New Tricks Vintage Fayre

Then, of course, it wouldn’t be Nina’s Apartment if there wasn’t a bit of vintage thrown into the mix. My favourite local vintage fair is back this spring at Underdog, with lots of quality traders bringing their gorgeous unique wares to this quirky little venue. Whether it is an original floaty seventies dress you want for your summer wardrobe or a sleek mid century design collectable to add to your home, there is plenty to see and buy and rummage through.

Traders include The Closet, Peapod, Vi Vinyl, Louis Little Haven, Very Vintage, RetroriginalUK, The Vintage Collection, Black Cat Vintage, Heather D, Re-Store, Quinneys Antique Jewellery & Marcia Wilkes MUA – Glitter Bar.

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Vintage clothes by The Closet
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Cool retro kitchenalia and glassware by Very Vintage

Being held in a nightclub with low lighting and an industrial interior gives it a great vibe and makes it stand out from any other vintage fair you’ve ever been too. Oh, and there’s a bar, perfect to finish off your Sunday with a tasty craft beer or two, which you’ll definitely deserve after all that walking. Happy Easter!

Old Togs New Tricks Fayre. Underdog, 1 Union Street, Aberdeen. Sunday 16 April, 12-5pm. Entry free

 

Discover art on your doorstep during NEOS open studios

I don’t know about you but I love art. I have run out of wall space a long time ago but I still can’t help myself when I see an artwork I really like and that would look amazing in my house. More than once I raided my bank account for a painting or print that really wasn’t something I could or should spend money on that day…but oops, I did it again! I have never regretted any of those purchases however, not like I regretted buying those shoes in the sale or another plastic toy for my kids that they only played with once. Art does not seem to go out of fashion. And if anything gives your home personality, it is those unique pieces of art that you love and nobody else owns.

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Each year in September, now for the 14th year running, there is NEOS, or North East Open Studios, where over 200 artists across Aberdeen city and shire open their doors to the public, showing off their work and technical skills. It is amazing. Not only do you get to see a wide variety of art in all shapes and forms, you also get to speak to the artists, ask them questions and – this is what I like most – you discover places in your local area you never even knew existed. It’s like a treasure hunt, a discovery trail, an off the beaten track adventure, finding those yellow numbered signs dotted all over the North East for eight days. Oh there’s one! Keep going!

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People exhibit their work in the most unusual places. An old train carriage in someone’s back garden? It’s there. Whisky distilleries, village halls, sheds and of course people’s own front rooms and workshops are transformed into temporary exhibition spaces where you are invited to see arts and craft. Informal, welcoming and you often even get a cup of tea. All for free. Try that for an average day out.

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Upper Loop Studio

You don’t know anything about art you say? It’s not something that really interests you ? Nah – you’re just saying that. If you like beautiful things and getting inspired, then just give it a go. A number of artists are professionals and are doing it for a living, but most participants are people like you and me who make art in their spare time. Many of them are real talents. Flicking through the thick NEOS directory you’ll be able to select the artists you might like to visit, whose work is anything from cool abstract paintings to water colours of our local ‘mountain’ Bennachie (oh yes, loads…), wood sculptures, ceramics, photography, jewellery and contemporary printmaking. A lot of artists also give demonstrations and workshops for you to have a go yourself.

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Pick up one of the directories and go visit a few places. Pile some friends in the car and make an afternoon of it. Download a trail if you fancy ‘doing an area’. You’ll be amazed how many artists you have living on your doorstep. You may even find yourself coming home with an original piece of art or commission someone to make you one. If you still tell me you didn’t enjoy any of it after all that, then – oh well. But I bet you have a blast.

NEOS starts on Saturday 10th of September and runs until the following Sunday 18th of September.

www.northeastopenstudios.co.uk

NEOS on Facebook
NEOS on Twitter @NEOS_uk

Online Directory Flip book

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Treasure hunting in France: brocante!

I am just in my second week of a four-week long trip through France and boy, am I loving it! It was a long drive, but it’s great to have the car with us to go wherever we want. I am thoroughly enjoying the warm climate, the food, the old villages full of character and oh yes – the brocante. What’s brocante you say? Well, it’s basically French old junk with some real gems amongst it if you look for it. You can find rural barns, town shops and Sunday fleamarkets full of vintage, antiques or just second hand, usually advertised by a hand painted sign on the side of the road.

Brocante market near Auch,  Midi-Pyrenees
Brocante market near Auch, Midi-Pyrenees

You come across plenty ‘brocante’ signs while driving across the country, but if you really want to plan your treasure hunting while in France there is a useful website listing loads of local markets by area called www.brocabrac.fr

I have just downloaded the app that goes with it. An app? A brocante hunting app. Amazing. 

Wish I could bring home some more of the fabulous pieces I have spotted so far. Shame the car is packed full of camping gear, two kids and my husband’s racing bike in the roof box. Quelle dommage! Need to plan a future trip with a large van – on my own next time. 

Au revoir, I will keep you posted!

Vintage and retro brocante shop in Mirande, France
Brocante shop in Mirande, Midi-Pyrenees