Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy days and songdays – Belfast and Jamaican Wailers

Belfast is one of the last places you might expect to find a reggae footprint but The Wailers are alive and well on the banks of the River Foyle.

Nathaniel Ian Wynter was a regular visitor to Island House, Bob Marley’s home in Jamaica where he would jam.

There was jamming’ to be done too when Natty spoiled us all in the unlikely setting of my old homestead, Greystones, Co. Wickllow.

Natty look

Natty, you see, had been lured to Ireland by a caílin, and stayed.

He came to Greystones to play Bob’s hits before an intimate gathering a few years ago.

Two greats: Bob and Natty

And we had the pleasure too to listen to Bob’s music, and the best Soca, at the One Love festival in Crop Over in Barbados.

They are few now of those who played with the Great Man Marley and we lost the last regular member of the band only this year.

Bunny on the money

Bunny Wailer left us last month, drawn away by the invitation to play the best reggae gig anywhere… in Heaven with Bob and Peter Tosh.

Gosh, it’s Tosh: Peter Tosh

Nothin’ will stop a Jamaican jammin’ and our island friends have been putting on shows for us the past year.

And they are movin’ Heaven and Earth to get us back out there to jam with them.

Flying high

We already had the good news of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic announcing new services to Montego Bay from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Where at the top end of luxury resorts we were attracted by the Geejam Hotel‘s opening of their Marumba Studios, any musico’s dreams.

Chill: Geejam www.booking.com

There are the 12 rooms and all the fineries but with a recording studio, events area, live stage and DJ booth.

If you want more old school then a Bob Marley tour is a must.

Tour de force

Get on a seven-hour trip to Marley’s Nine Mile from Montego Bay Hotels from £93.41.

Take in Bob’s home and hood and the Mt Zion of many a song where the Great Man visited.

Our room down there: Holiday Inn Resort, Montego Bay www.tui.co.uk

So which holiday provider to get on? Well, we’re nothing if not loyal, and always return to our first, TUI

Hey mon Damian

TUI is offering a week in the Holiday Inn Resort from €898pp.

Biggy Ziggy

And with us celebrating all things reggae today the world is indeed lucky to still have Damian and Ziggy Marley banging out their tunes.

Irie!

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Flying, Ireland, UK

Rihanna at the gate as Barbados Airport reopens

Rihanna was there to meet me but where was my party?

Ri-Ri is the first face you’ll see as you walk into Grantley Adams Airport, Bridgetown, Barbados, through its open-air entrance.

Follow the signs

She’s there draped on the wall in the arrivals area along with the world’s greatest-ever cricket all-rounder Sir Gary Sobers.

And, yes, I’m talking about you Laura

And from this past week she has smiling excited visitors to greet again as Grantley Adams reopens.

Sign here

We’ll be filling up soon

In the balmy heat of an early Bajan summer evening I found myself spending more time with the superstar than the party I was there to meet.

I hadn’t picked out Barbados tourism’s board or that the blonde Afro traveller a few groups ahead of me in the queue was heading that way.

Incoming flights from the UK and Ireland

And so I found myself on my own in the airport long after everyone else had left.

The friendly Bajan airport staff allowed me back through customs to double check if my party were there before connecting me with a taxi firm and my hotel.

That’s far

And a bottle of rum to go please

In said taxi I asked the handsome Twentysomething driver about his family and if he had a partner.

To which he said that the Bajan girls were all after the same thing.

I had heard from my West Indian pal that there were three women to every one man on the island.

Can we get off yet?

I asked him to turn the taxi around to remove me from such temptation.

But I then thought better of it, and besides what would the poor staff at the Grantley Adams Airport make of me showing up again so soon.

Barbados Aer

And, of course, my Rihanna

And for our Irish friends, Aer Lingus are now on board too with new flights through Manchester from October 20. With fares from £199.

And you can attach on the connecting flights from Dublin and Cork from €249 and from Belfast from £239.

MEET YOU AT THE AIRPORT

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland

Oh Ireland in the Sun – Montserrat

There’s an advert on Irish television where the winner of the EuroMillions lottery buys a tropical island for his friends and family… oh Ireland in the sun!

Didn’t he know there was a Caribbean island there already which is more Irish than Ireland?

Montserrat is the tiny 39 and a half sqm Emerald Island of the Caribbean because of its Irish links which run deep.

The Irish have been around the Leeward Island since 1632, sent there from neighbouring St Kitts and later Virginia.

Fly the flag

Sounds of Ireland: The oul’ harp

Montserrat was to build a thriving economy around tobacco and indigo (that’s blue dye) and later tobacco and sugar.

Fast forward to today by way of Cromwell’s transportations, and if it wasn’t for the sun, palm trees, volcano and rain forest you’d swear you were in Ireland.

It’s there in the island flag with its figure of a cailín standing by a cross and holding a harp. We’ll gloss over the Union flag in the corner.

While a shamrock adorns Government House.

The oul’ Shamrock and the oul’ Jock

So why then is Montserrat not a throng of Irish visitors from the Old Country?

Possibly because they prefer the Canaries and there is a lot to like about them but say that it’s Tenerife you love then you’ll love Montserrat too.

Hot-Hot-Hot

The volcano and Arrow’s hot-hot-hot too

There’s the volcano which gives you the distinctive black beaches shared by both islands, though there is one white beach that we all love too on Montserrat.

While there’s evidence of the volcano’s activity in the form of a buried city, and now St Vincent’s has awoken and is erupting the focus switches south to the ghost town of Plymouth.

The best place to view it is from the Garibaldi Hill viewpoint or the viewpoint from Jack Boy Hill on the east of the island following a short hike.

Combined, of course, with a trip to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Your own beach?

While Montserrat’s Irishness is all around you in its symbols (the shamrock stamp in your passport), names of villages and they say too in an Irish brogue it goes into overdrive around St Patrick’s Day.

When the Montserratians tie in their own commemoration of their slavery past with the saint’s day.

For the craic, yes, but also because it is steeped in their history.

St Paddy’s Day, mon

Irish pubs everywhere: Martin Healy and his band in Montserrat

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1768, the African slaves on the island rose up and it is alleged nine slaves were hanged.

And they have never been forgotten with St. Patrick’s Day now heradling a ten-day festival to honour their Afro-Irish heritage.

Again there are too few of the Irish who go out to Montserrat, and we mean to do something about it.

Green for go

Martin Healy and his band have been pioneers over recent years.

And trawling through the records we’ve seen that Martin is a regular visitor out to the Emerald Island

Caribbean craic

Stay there… the Caribbean

Where he was a special guest at Governor’s wife Sujue Davis’s popular latest Coffee Morning on Tuesday, March 11 before that same evening performing at the Uncle’s bar/restaurant a popular night spot in Flemings.

And the Montserrat Reporter (are you employing?) chronicled that ‘the three-man Irish band performed throughout the week at probably every ‘rum shop and bar’ and is a major performer in the popular “Pub Crawl’.

So Montserrat, all 4,900 of them, celebrates their Irish roots with good trad music then, and also its Caribbean heritage with our favourite Soca Music.

Arrow hits the mark

Golden Arrow

Hot-hot-hot? Yeah, you now it, mon. It’s this classic from one of Montserrat’s favourite sons, the legendary late Soca star Arrow

So to get there… you’ll fly out of the UK to Antigua where it’s only a 15-minute flight out to your Ireland in the Sun.

And here’s where you’ll stay with a wide range of hotel rooms, guest houses, villas and apartments all flagged up on the Montserrat site.

Tropical Mansion Suites on Montserrat

And with less than 5,000 people on the island, everyone practically knows each other, and if you say you’re Irish you’ll get a warm welcome from Warren and Cherise!

Slainte!

And no, you don’t get away that easily… here’s why we love the Caribbean so, from Trinidad and Tobago to Barbados.

And next up is Jamaica where we’ll bring you all the news of how they’re jammin’.

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music

The world is open again

And, yes, we know that England has a habit of pronouncing that the world means them.

But on the day when England begins to emerge from lockdown our friends at Meet The Media over in Ireland brought the world of Travel together again.

Highlight of the year

The annual meet is a highlight of every Travel professional’s year.

Go Westbury

And this year, while different being run remotely, was even more important in championing our industry.

In praise of Dublin

I’ll keep you going with all the latest as the day evolves but to kick off as the world can’t come to Dublin yet let’s bring Dublin to the world.

The Westbury Hotel, off Grafton Street, is where old friends get together to exchange the past year’s tales and experiences and look forward to the coming year.

We’ll have that filled soon

And good wine flows before we all retire at the end of the day to the hotel bar Balfe’s.

Grafton Street, between Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green, is where Dubliners mill (and milliner with Brown Thomas boutique where the glam set go to shop).

A slice of life

Between the buskers and mime and statue entertainment.

High tea in the Westbury or people spot from the balcony of Bewley’s Oriental Cafe with your hot chocolate and cinnamon swirl (guilty!).

They’ve been coming ti Bewley’s for years

The spirit of rock guitar great Phil Lynott still hovers above the eponymous statue outside Bruxelles, a favourite meeting place.

And a must-do selfie. And if you have a plectrum leave it there in tribute to the Great Man and Proud Dubliner.

Our Meet the Media would traditionally end in one of my favourite Dublin bars, Mary’s on Wicklow Street.

Where surrounded by good Guinness and great craic and a reconstructed traditional Irish bar and hardware store we’d listen to great music.

And plan with our international friends where we’d go next.

Both that night and the rest of the year.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Countries, Ireland, Music

Shay Healy 1943-2021

We shared a fondness for Eurovision and Country music although he typically was a legend of both, rather than just an observer like me.

Shay was the star columnist in the award-winning Weekend lifestyle section of the Irish Daily Mail which I edited for five years.

His life was, of course, one well lived and any time in his presence was time well spent as Shay, like all Dubliners, was a natural storyteller.

Prize guy: With his IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award. www.ifta.ie

The hand that life deals us all had been unkind though to Shay in his latter years after he lost his beloved wife Dee Dee.

And he contracted MS which frustrated him as he could struggle to articulate himself.

Me doin’ my Nashville thang

All of which made his Irish Daily Mail column so much more precious.

As a vehicle to talk self-deprecatingly about his own condition and his life in music in general.

Our year: Shay wrote What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan

Music gave Shay the opportunity to travel and to sample life in another country when he went off to live in Nashville.

And it was while in Music City that he brushed shoulders with the Father of Rock’n’roll himself, Chuck Berry.

Shay regaled the tale in his own inimitable way recalling how he had found himself back stage at a Chuck concert.

Pals: Shay wrote for Billy Connolly

He had been given clearance to approach the great man and knocked on his dressing room door.

Beckoned in he found Chuck with a blonde sitting on his lap.

Chuck looked up with a big smile on his face and said; ‘You get two questions’.

Roll over Chuck Berry

To which a stunned Shay said: ‘Are you joking?’

And Chuck shot back: ‘One question left.’

There will be laughs aplenty and the best music tonight in Heaven.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Holyday favourites

And because of the holyday season we’re in this week’s Rainy days and Songdays today celebrates Holyday favourites.

Happy clappy California

Whoopi

Oh Happy Day (Oakland/San Francisco)

Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, oh when He washed, When Jesus washed, He washed my sins away – The Edwin Hawkins Singers/Sister Act

They don’t need much invitation to unleash a Gospel Choir on you in California.

And Hallelujah there was one waiting for us on the first day in Anaheim for our American Travel Fair, IPW.

Elvis sings Gospel

Full of Graceland

How Great Thou Art (Memphis)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation. And take me home what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And then proclaim, my God how great thou art – Elvis Presley

And it is worth remembering that Elvis first learned to sing in church.

And during his residencies in Las Vegas he would invite his friends up to his room for impromptu Gospel singalongs

It’s better to imagine Elvis’s heart being joyful at the moment God came to take him home that day in Graceland.

All God’s Children

Whenever God Shines His Light (Belfast)

Whenever God shines his light on me. Opens up my eyes so I can see. When I look up in the darkest night. And I know that everything is going to be all right – Van Morrison/Cliff Richard

And aren’t we all God’s children anyway even Van the Man, the grumpiest man in rock?

Religion is all around you in Belfast where Van is known to put on occasional jazz cabaret shows at the Europa Hotel.

It’s always best though with a Celtic soul twist.

Welsh worship

Bread of Heaven (Cardiff)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff

And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.

And is a favourite of Welsh rugby fans.

It scores too as it celebrates God rather than the popular policy of God celebrating said country.

Mississippi music

Grammy loves you

This Little Light of Mine (Mississippi)

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And you’ll find a lot more about Sister Rosetta and all the wonderful Gospel and early Rock singers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

And the significance of This Little Light in a room of reflection on your Civil Rights visit to the Two Museums in Jackson.

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – The Royal Canal and other Irish landmarks

Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners

Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’

And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.

Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.

The Beardie Boys: The Dubliners

That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.

If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.

And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.

What a Corker!

Jim and Alan at the Phil Lynott statue in Dublin

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy 

Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.

The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.

Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.

But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.

Low lie those fields

Those low-lying fields: Athenry

Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry  – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings

Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.

I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!

I was maybe just tilting at windmills.

And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.

The Band is back together

Neat little town they call Belfast

 In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders

It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.

And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.

Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.

And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.

As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.

Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…

London’s got nothing on this

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.

Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.

It was round by Brockagh’s corner

Harkin’s Bar, Donegal

 It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.

If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.

Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.

Meeting of minds in Wicklow

Moore Wicklow please

Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. The Meetings of the Waters, John McCormack

And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.

The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.

We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.

And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.

Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.

Still, I did get a 12!

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – British isle be back

And a return of an old favourite feature here on the back of MSC’s announcement of summer cruises around Britain.

The cruises which will be for us British only will begin with a series of short cruises from May 20 followed by seven-night sailings.

Safe entry: With MSC

My old pal, the exquisitely named UK&I MD Antonio Paradiso assures us that vaccinated and non-vaccinated passengers will be allowed on board.

Just make sure you have a negative test within 72-hours of embarkation.

And MSC will even get you on shore for excursions though having enjoyed their on-board dining and entertainment….!

Barbados is plain sailing

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Barbados was my first jump-off point too… jumpin’ into the Caribbean to swim with turtles, and jumpin’ at the Crop Over carnival.

And it is the new jump-off too for Royal Caribbean for your island hopping.

Royal Caribbean is offering up to €350 off your stateroom.

They have a lead-in seven-night South Caribbean island hop holiday price.

On Grandeur of the Seas from €434 from Sunday, December 19.

We’re talking Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (home of the blue liqueur), St Lucia and Dominica.

Greek island hopping

And we still have a few Greek islands to hop.

Travel Department is running a nine-night holiday staying in Athens and on board the medium-sized ship The Celestyal Experience.

The Greek Islands & Aegean Sea Cruise is all yours to book for September or October from €2,139pp.

Including everyone’s favourite cruise stop-off Santorini.

MEET YOU BACK ON THE SEAS

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Watching the Detectives

Just like watching the detectives don’t get cute, just like watching the detectives, I get so angry when the teardrops start, But he can’t be wounded ’cause he got no heart. Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives

And with apologies to the Poet Laureate of New Wave.

But it’s not the bespectacled one but the new run of Line of Duty, shot in Belfast, which has got me thinking.

About my favourite detectives in the cities they are associated with.

So here are seven deadly detective shows, their music and their cities.

Van’s the man

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Van der Valk, Amsterdam: So good they kept a sample of the Simon Park Orchestra’s original score ‘Eye Level’ for the reworking of the original series.

And even then purists lambasted the modern version and Marc Warren’s ‘Piet’ as opposed to Barry Foster’s.

And don’t you just love the cluttered narrow bars they all drink in.

Hutch more New York

My New York

Starsky & Hutch, New York: Starsky & Hutch was the breakthrough police show for young people more used to oldie cops.

Good, yes, like the lollipop-sucking Theo Kojak. And, yes, we loved you, baby, too!

But Starsk and Hutch and Huggy Bear brought a street vibe, slapstick and more New York life.

As did the Stiller and Wilson remake with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear captured the excitement and warmth and music of the original.

Glasgow is No Mean City

Glasgow wit

Taggart, Glasgow: And who would have thought they could have made grey post-industrial Glasgow cool in the Eighties?

But they did and you knew you were in for something different when the credits rolled.

And Maggie Bell gave us a smoky, bluesy No Mean City, a homage to a gangster novel about Twenties Gorbals Glasgow.

London, you’re nicked

Two English and a Scotsman

The Sweeney: Regan and Carter were the Line of Duty of their day, the water-cooler show before water coolers.

Again another they made a remake of, with only Ray Winstone able to reprise John Thaw, while Plan B took on Dennis Waterman.

The Winstone opening scene had a car chase around Trafalgar Square while Thaw’s played out more on wasteland.

But London sizzled from the moment the Thames TV with its iconic St Paul’s graphic came up… and who can forget the theme tune?

Monsieur Bean?

Maigret, Paris: And it was always going to require us to make a shift to see Mr Bean as Monsieur Maigret.

Mais oui, Rowan Atkinson pulled it off, with that brooding sense of contemptuous arrogance we so love about Parisians.

And who doesn’t love an accordion?

Naturellement, you would want to show off the City of Lights if you set your show here.

Which is why it was shot in Budapest with Szentendre doubling for the Montmartre.

Across the Channel

Sunny Jersey

Bergerac, Jersey: And a little bit of sun came into our lives in the Eighties.

In the only part of the UK where they get sun… in Jersey, on the doorstep of France.

As none of us can identify a Jersey site from a Jersey cow then their first image was a map of the island.

Before we get action clips of dunes and John Nettles running after high-end crooks.

Old at the time, Johnnie then retired to Midsomer.

Deadly Caribbean

Nylon Pool, Tobago

Death in Paradise, Guadeloupe: No mon, it’s not Saint Marie, but Guadeloupe.

It lies halfway down the eastern Caribbean chain between Dominica and Antigua.

And it has some of the features you’d expect in a West Indian island, a volcano, sandy beaches obvs and a rainforest.

And you’ll get some of this and more of the other in Tobago and Barbados

All good and varied locales for misdemeanour and murder.

And all set against an uplifting score and, if you know your stuff, homages to the film The Harder They Come.

So to cheer your day up here’s some Jimmy Cliff ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want‘.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Go on, go on, go on to Istanbul

You’d expect Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, to either snub the Turkish tea.

Or lay into it on Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul.

Mrs Doyle, aka Pauline McLynn, is yet to reveal her true self on the BBC2 show, next on on Friday, March 26 and available on Catch Up.

She, in fact, comes across as a bit ditzy and not at all religious.

Here come the girls: Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread and Pauline McLynn

I can vouch for that.

With Pauline effing and blinding like a true modern-day daughter of Ireland when I met her.

She was the speaker at an Australian Irish Chamber of Commerce lunch in Dublin.

My cup of tea

I was as a guest of the-then newly opened Flight Centre store in Dawson Street.

Pauline is joined on the Sultans Trail by six other celebrities, only four others who I recognise.

That’ll be javelin queen Fatima Whitbread, sports presenter Adrian Chiles, ex-politician Edwina Currie and comedian (and I use that term loosely) Dom Joly.

Here come the boys: Dom Joly, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif and Adrian Chiles

The Sultans Trail is new to me.

But not the pilgrims who have been walking sections of the 2,200km stretch from Vienna to Istanbul.

Our super seven set out from Belgrade, and I am surprised that they didn’t check out its hidden palace.

What’s in a name?

And they make their way through Serbia and a little bit of Greece.

On their 1,000km two-week trip to the great city on the Bosphorus.

Our Lady in Medjugorje

In the first episode we see them walk through forests, pick lemons, climb castles (and one pilgrim, Amar Latif is blind).

And partake in a Serbian celebration to Our Lady. She’s big in the Balkans.

Before in a few episodes’ time we reach Istanbul and the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world.

And it has at various times been known also as Byzantium and Constantinople.

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It’s still the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church and is still known as Constantinople across the border in Hellas.

A bit like Derry and Londonderry… know your audience.

I’d recommend that when our pilgrims do get to Istanbul they have a blow-out then on a boat trip on the Bosphorus.

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Now you all know I love a good oul’ pilgrimage and unbeknownst to me there have been two previous series.

Where’s my invite?

Eight celebs have already been out to Santiago de Compostella and Rome following, I guess, in my footsteps.

With Onur in Istanbul

I was, of course, with my friends at CaminoWays and FrancigenaWays.

And I know the question you’re asking… why wasn’t I one of the celebs chosen to go to Istanbul to complete the set?

Yes, you’d be right… the BBC Director General has already had his knuckles rapped for that oversight.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD