26th June 2018
You wait for ages and then three come along at once.
No, not buses. Continents.
In April 2018 I was invited to join up with Bailey of Bristol’s latest adventure, ‘Bristol to the Bosphorus’.
This epic expedition would take in 21 countries in 21-days. Starting at their HQ in Bristol, the route would entail a Bailey Advance 76-4 motorhome, Pursuit 550-4 and Pegasus GT70 Rimini (towed magnificently by the Skoda Octavia and Skoda Kodiaq) travelling south through France and then after a further nine European countries, the team would arrive in Istanbul, Turkey. It was at this point in their adventure I would fly out to join them.
As an actor, presenter and vlogger, no two days in my working life are ever the same. In the busy weeks leading up to #Bristanbul, I hadn’t given the trip too much thought. It was just ten days blocked out in my diary.
However, when I arrived at Istanbul Airport, the reality sunk in. I would be either towing a caravan or driving a motorhome back up through Turkey into Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and back to Bristol.
To make matters more interesting, there would be no time to see the family at the end of it all as I was booked to fly straight out to Washington DC to compere an awards ceremony.
I’ve definitely had more boring fortnights.
On our first night, we were introduced to the now well-travelled convoy. As we unhitched, hooked up and sipped on a bottle of Efes beer, I remembered I was in Asia.
We certainly had a memorable stay in Turkey. A navigational error resulted in the convoy getting stuck in one of the largest markets in the world, Istanbul’s infamous Grand Bazaar.
The eight hours we then spent at the Turkey/Bulgaria border was equally unexpected, as was the hefty fine slapped on us by the border ‘officials’.
Despite all this, I would definitely return to Istanbul, but I wouldn’t recommend driving in or out of Turkey. If I was taking the family, we would drive down as far as Bulgaria, find a campsite to leave the van for a night or two, then hop on a train and treat ourselves to a hotel in Istanbul.
Having left Asia behind, there were plenty more adventures ahead.
Bran Castle in Transylvania, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was very exciting. It was also the inspiration for myself and the others to have a bit of fun by adding a vampire theme to our daily Sausage Diaries vlog.
The idea behind the Sausage Diaries was that I would create a daily vlog, documenting our travels, but to add some extra sizzle I would sample the local sausage and beer.
From the manic mean streets of Istanbul, through the potholes of Romania and into the relative luxury of the well-made roads of Czech Republic, we ate a lot of sausage and drank plenty of beer (after the driving, of course). It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.
As we travelled further north our driving stresses decreased. Road quality improved while border control staff changed from downright corrupt to at times non-existent.
The whole trip was certainly epic. To quote Bailey of Bristol’s caravan ambassador Lee Davey, it felt like it “passed in a whirlwind, but lasted a lifetime.”
Then I was on a plane, having left Europe behind. In just a fortnight, I had gone from Europe to Asia to Europe to North America, taking in ten countries. What an incredible adventure.
But my hunt for local sausage was still on. The day I arrived in the US, I went straight to Barack Obama’s favourite Washington hot dog joint, ‘Ben’s Chili Bowl’. As I ordered the world famous ‘Half-smoke Chili Dog’, my waitress asked where I was from. “Europe” I replied. “My dream is to travel around Europe” she told me. “I would love to go to Istanbul”.
“You must,” I replied, “and while you’re there pop across to Asia. But just think twice before you take a caravan or motorhome through the Grand Bazaar”.