What is my Favourite Dinosaur? – Part 1: Herbivores

What is my Favourite Dinosaur?

Part 1: Herbivores

A blog post by Felicity

In June 2020, after our trip to Romania (where we filmed Romania : Seeking Dracula’s Castle), I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Dinosaurs: Yes Please’. That post touches a little on my background and why dinosaurs are still so appealing to me and of such significance in my life, but in this post I want to deal with a very important dinosaur related question.

I am frequently asked: ‘What is your favourite Dinosaur?’

Usually it is asked by people joining me on one of my Island Gems fossil hunting trips but most recently it was asked by a friend and the newest addition to our fossil guide team. This is always a difficult question for me as I genuinely don’t feel I really have a favourite.

Like most children I loved dinosaurs. I believe today there are many films and programmes involving dinosaurs which are suitable for children. I don’t remember much choice from my youth but the films I do remember are the ‘Land Before Time’ films. The first film dates back to 1988 and they are still being made to this day.

Most adults, unless they’ve relearnt the names due to their own child’s interest, can only name a handful of dinosaurs. These tend to be Triceratops, Stegosaurus, T-Rex and one of the sauropods.

Interestingly, when it comes to the sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), the names people know vary. Some people know the Brachiosaurus, some know Brontosaurus and some say Diplodocus.

Thanks to Jurassic Park a lot of people also know the name of the carnivore Velociraptor, but what they picture is the fictitious Steven Spielberg dinosaur rather than the turkey sized fossil the name is actually linked to. Before anyone gets upset- don’t worry- there are plenty of real dinosaurs similar to Jurassic Parks velociraptor but they have other names such as Deinonychus, Utahraptor or Allosaurus to name but a few.

Inaccurate Velociraptors But Very Accurate Retriever!

The animated ‘Land Before Time’ film franchise includes many of these dinosaurs. The main characters are Littlefoot the brave main protagonist Apatosaurus/ Brontosaurus (in my previous blog post about dinosaurs I believe I explain briefly about some of the issues with dinosaur species being mixed up!), Cera the boisterous triceratops, Ducky the happy-go-lucky, optimistic Saurolophus, Spike the gentle giant Stegosaurus, Petrie the nervous Pteranodon and there is often a scary ‘Sharptooth’ T-Rex keeping everyone on their toes somewhere in the story.

As a child my family likened me to Ducky the Saurolophus. I mentioned this to my sister just now and she said ‘Friendly, sweet, talks to anyone, likes swimming and splashing in puddles… still holds true’. I have to say I have always had a soft spot for the species.

In 1993 Steven Spielberg created Jurassic Park based on the Michael Crichton book of the same name. I was only aged three when the film was released and though it was not a child-friendly film, I was that obsessed with dinosaurs I was allowed to watch the film when it was later released on video (or possibly when it was shown on tv) and I was hooked! I remember I was at my Nans house when I first watched it, surrounded by family so likely at Christmas in approximately 1995 or 96 I would guess. I was so keen that my family gifted me a set of dinosaur toys, some of which had removable parts so you could look at the organs and bones inside the dinosaurs. They were great, not just because they were cool but because they also acted as a bedroom guard against my sister for a short time (as she found them too gruesome to get close to!).

Felicity Meets A Dilophosaurus

The film portrays a dinosaur called the Dilophosaurus. A frilled dinosaur with venomous spit. To quote the film, ‘A beautiful but deadly addition to Jurassic Park’.

I particularly liked the sound that these dinosaurs make in the film, playful chirrups and chirps. I found them adorable (until they spit) and beautiful when they open and shake their frills. A beautiful frilled-lizard dinosaur. I was also given a toy of this species which had a button to pop open the frills. I am a herbivore and saw carnivores as a bit mean but I liked this dinosaur and it became one of my favourites.

Sadly, this portrayal of Dilophosaurus was also somewhat inaccurate. Where the film made velociraptor bigger than reality, it made Dilophosaurus smaller. In the film they looked to be about 6 foot long at most, whereas in reality they would have been about 23 feet long!

The impressive neck frill resembling that of some modern lizards is also inaccurate for this dinosaur though it did have a pair of longitudinal arched crests on its skull, likely enlarged by keratin. Lastly the venomous spit that made this dinosaur so formidable and memorable in this film was also fictional. While some dinosaurs would have had a poisonous bite similar to that of a Komodo Dragon (due to grooves in the teeth and poor hygiene rather than any toxin or venom) to my knowledge no dinosaur actually had venom.

As I got older and learned more about dinosaurs it became harder to choose a favourite, rather than easier. They all have incredible features or adaptations.

Some of the armoured dinosaurs for example (picture the ankylosaurs – the armoured tanks covered in spikes with a club at the end of their tail) even had armoured bony plates on their eye lids. The vegetation they had to eat was often sharp, so they needed this to protect their eyes (although scans of their skulls suggest it was their sense of smell they relied on most). The downside is that the thick armour on their skull didn’t leave a lot of space for their brains. The herbivore dinosaurs weren’t graced with brain power, that went more to the carnivores, but it didn’t stop there from being an incredible array of herbivore species.

When you consider that something like 700 species of dinosaurs have been named and more being discovered each year, it seems somewhat unfair to expect me to have a favourite, especially with such diversity to choose from.

Do you go for one of the long-necked sauropods? If so, which one?

Do you go for the largest such as the Patagotitan or the Argentinosaurus which are estimated to have been 122-131 feet long and weighing in at approximately 77-110 tons, or do you agree with Greg and go for one of the smallest Sauropods such as the Europasaurus or (Greg’s favourite) the Magyarosaurus. These were approximately 20 feet long and weighed about the same as a modern day cow or, at most, 1 ton (Greg likes the Magyarosaurus due to it being the biggest dinosaur found in Romania but one of the smallest sauropods found in the world!).

Magyarosaurus In Romania

Do you go for the famous three-horned Triceratops, or do you delve a little deeper and discover that Triceratops is just one member of the Ceratopsian family and that this group has so many cool dinosaurs such as the Styracosaurus, with its incredible display of long face and frill horns, or the Protoceratops, who is all frill and no horn!? Do you go for Diabloceratops for its wicked name (which means ‘Devil horned-face’) and its scary appearance, or do you choose Pachyrhinosaurus for the fact it’s kind of an amalgamation of the Pachycephalosaur (another awesome dinosaur), a rhino and a Triceratops? Added to that, some of the Ceratopsian group are actually bipedal and look nothing like a Triceratops or what most of us picture when we think of the Ceratopsian group – do you choose one of those just to confuse everyone?

Tricera-choo!

 

As we mentioned them perhaps you could pick Pachycephalosaurs as your favourite. The thick-headed lizard who also makes an appearance in the Jurassic Park franchise. The domed headed dinosaur that head-butts things and had a skull roof measuring 22cm / 9 inches thick! There are a few in this group you could choose as your favourite dinosaur but one that stands out to me is the Dracorex Hogwartsia. Yep, you heard me, the Dragon King of Hogwarts. For any of you Harry Potter fans, we may have found your dinosaur!

Do you prefer the Hadrosaurid family of duck billed dinosaurs? My sweet Saurolophus Ducky from Land Before Time. The one in this group I always think of is the lovely Parasaurolophus. A dinosaur that could be both bipedal and quadrupedal and with the cranial crest protruding from the rear of its head and made up of the premaxilla and nasal bones. Often depicted as ‘honking’ through that skull crest. Another one I rather like is Corythosaurus whose name means helmet lizard. You get the idea with this group I think, a lot of rather fantastic cranial crests!

Or you could go for the armoured dinosaurs we mentioned earlier – Ankylosaurs for example. About 25 feet long, quadrupedal and weighing about 8 tons. Covered in bony armoured plates, decorated with spikes and sporting a club tail. If we were talking a game of dinosaur robot wars this is a pretty scary opponent!

A less intimidating member of this group would be Minmi who would have only been about 9 feet long and weighing in at 660 pounds. This ankylosaur had long limbs compared to others in its group and it is thought that it did so in order to move quickly to hide under vegetation when a large predator was nearby.

Minmi, unlike other Ankylosaurians, had horizontal bone plates. One of my favourites in this group however is the Polacanthus. The name means ‘many thorns’ and it was an early example of a Ankylosaurian dinosaur. The reason this one is special to me from this group is because it is found on the Isle of Wight, and in fact the type species Polacanthus Foxii was found on the Isle of Wight in 1865. There are not many fossil remains of this dinosaur, but I am fortunate enough to say that Greg and I each have a fossil plate from this species, something we both treasure (though Greg (and I) were somewhat horrified when someone on one of his tours dropped the fossil and it broke!).

Another armoured dinosaur but so different in appearance to the ankylosaurs would be the more famous Stegosaurus. This quadrupedal dinosaur with its distinctive kite-shaped upright plates protruding from their back and a tail sporting vicious spikes is understandably a memorable species to behold. While most people agree that the spikes were likely used for defence the back plates are more of a puzzle and subject to some debate. Most these days seem to think those plates were either for display (attracting a mate or a territorial display) or for thermoregulation. Maybe both. Stegosaurus was approximately 29 feet long and weighed in at up to 7 tons. Once again Stegosaurus is just the most famous member of the Stegosaurid genus or group.

Kentrosaurus is an earlier, more primitive member of the group and this dinosaur was only 15 foot in length and weighed about 1.1 tons. This dinosaur also had the plates along its back merging into tail spikes but this dinosaur also sported shoulder spikes and, in my opinion, though smaller, had a far pricklier appearance than the Stegosaurus. A few members of the Stegosaurid group seemed to sport impressive shoulder spikes but the classic Stegosaurus did not.

The list goes on and on. These are just the main groups of herbivorous dinosaurs I picture when someone asks me to list some plant-eating dinosaurs or describe what herbivore dinosaurs are like. When they are all so different, how can you easily explain them to someone, or select a favourite amongst them.

When my new guide asked me this question, he seemed a little shocked that I didn’t go straight for the Iguanodon. Iguanodon, after all, is the most common dinosaur found on the Isle of Wight and it is basically thanks to this species that I have a job as a fossil hunting tour guide. While I may not outright give it the credit as my favourite dinosaur, I will do it the honour of giving it it’s own blog post soon. Before that, of course, we haven’t even touched on the carnivore groups – so for those of you who want a meat eating predator as your favourite dinosaur, we will look at those in my next blog.

If you would like to let me know which is your favourite herbivore, please leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading,

 

Felicity.

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

A World In Miniature

A World In Miniature

A blog post by Greg

Bekonscot Model Village, Buckinghamshire, UK

In late-March 2020, our world suddenly shrunk. We went from a life of touring shows around the UK, and building up our travel documentary making around the world, and found ourselves, along with most of the world, in lockdown.

I am actually writing this blog on the 23rd March 2022, exactly two years after the UK officially entered our first lockdown of the pandemic, and it has certainly been a strange two years for everyone!

I am currently booking shows and making plans for my first ‘full season’ of shows since before the pandemic, which is particularly exciting as my ‘Greg Chapman’s Magic Show‘ series has recently been released to stream free on Plex TV and Tubi TV, and as it joins our travel documentaries ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle‘ and ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘ on there, and our marine wildlife charity documentary ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘ has recently been released on Prime Video, this year’s shows also give us the opportunity to really share our videos with my live audiences for the first full season, a real chance for us to grow what we do!

One of the big things I look at each year for my shows are what I call my ‘tentpole shows’ for the school summer holidays, as I try to book up a series of shows a few days a week running through those weeks to allow me to really enjoy settling into a venue. In the past these have been at Sudeley Castle and the Black Country Living Museum.

Last summer, and this summer, as the world opens up and gets bigger again, I have kept my world small for these ‘tentpole shows’, performing at a little village in Buckinghamshire, UK. Of course, when I say a small village, I mean a really small village – ‘Bekonscot Model Village & Railway‘ – a beautiful slice of English charm and eccentricity!

You may have been to a model village somewhere around the world – there are wonderful examples in the UK and abroad, and Felicity and I have visited a few of them, including Mini-Europe, a tourist attraction containing miniature versions of buildings and monuments from countries throughout Europe.

A miniature Brussels in Brussels.

When writing about places we’ve been in this blog, we usually focus on places which we have visited on our travels, so why am I focussing this blog post on Bekonscot rather than Mini-Europe?

The simple answer is that Mini-Europe may not exist if it wasn’t for Bekonscot Model Village and a man named Ronald Callingham. This is because Bekonscot lays claim to being the first model village in the world, and the inspiration for so many others, and Ronald Callingham was the man who came up with the idea as something a little different for his back garden back in the 1920s – certainly makes a change from a gnome with a fishing rod sat by a pond!

The story goes that Mr Callingham’s indoor model railway had grown a little too large, and that Mrs Callingham had reached breaking point with it, and that in 1928 she told her husband, in no uncertain terms, that either the railway or her was going to leave the house. Being a sensible man, Mr Callingham realised that it was time for the railway to leave the house, but being a clever man he saw the loophole in his wife’s ultimatum, and instead of getting rid of his model railway altogether, he merely moved it into the garden.

Of course, now that the model railway was in the garden, it gave him even more space to expand, and the model village was born! A swimming pool, only dug out the year before, was repurposed to become a lake in his new village of Bekonscot (apparently an amalgam of Beaconsfield where his current house was, and Ascot, where he had lived before).

The Lake at Bekonscot

I really enjoy this origin story of the world’s first model village, because of the sense of whimsy to it – the fact that it wasn’t built as a business, but ‘just because’.

Trust me, I would not have been a professional juggler if I didn’t have a lot of appreciation of doing things ‘just because’!

Although it is now a tourist attraction, and since it was first opened in 1929 it has had many visitors, including hosting Queen Elizabeth back on her 8th birthday (when she was still Princess Elizabeth) and a number of times since, the village started as a way for Ronald Callingham to continue the fun of expanding his model railway and village, and so the whole model village right up until today is filled with a sense of fun – from the funny (and, I will admit, often delightfully groanworthy) names of the shops, such as ‘Sam & Ella’s meat shop’, the meercats peeking their heads up in the zoo, and the poor fire department who have to put out the same fire several times a day!

When I arrived for my first day of performing at Beconscot – actually back in February 2020, shortly before we set off to Romania to film our documentary about Vlad III Dracula and the first lockdown – I remember what stuck me most about the village was the sense of fun – a sense which goes back to its origins.

One of my favourite parts of the whole village, which may mean more or less to you depending on your age, a model of Enid Blyton’s Beaconsfield home, complete with Noddy and the Famous Five at play in the garden.

I am a big reader, and I always have been, but my earliest memory of a specific book was the day that my father lent me his copy of the Enid Blyton book ‘The Boy Next Door’, which I read many times in my youth, along with the ‘Mystery’ books, ‘The Famous Five’, ‘The Secret Seven’, the ‘Adventure’ books and the ‘Circus’ books. I’m sure that reading all of these instilled some of the early thoughts of adventure, searching for answers and even juggling which have become cornerstones of my life now. To see this house in the village filled me with a sense of joy and nostalgia, which really is the sense which fills the whole model village!

Performing at Bekonscot in summer 2021

I know this has been a slightly different blog post – being about a place we have visited less than a hundred miles from our home instead of in another country on our adventures. So often we miss talking about, or even getting around to visiting those places which are closer to home because we are so busy writing about our adventures, so I decided it was time to put this right – do let us know in the comments if you’d like to hear more about some of the places I work at in the UK – and do let us know if you have a favourite model village to visit!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Timing Is Everything

Timing Is Everything

A blog post by Greg

A number of things have come together to inspire this blog post. The first of these is a song that I heard for the first time the other morning by a country singer named Trace Adkins called ‘Timing Is Everything’. The second is a photograph that I saw on Instagram the other day which was taken by someone who was one of the last people to visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris before the devastating fire in 2019. The third is the recent loss of a close friend and mentor to me as a performer, who I got to meet and work with due to a well timed email. Finally, and on a lighter note, we’ve been watching a series called The Umbrella Academy, which deals a lot with the ideas on time travel and of minor changes to the past having major effects on the present and future.

These four things, floating around together in my mind, have culminated, as I sit down this morning to write our weekly blog, in thoughts about how much timing can have an influence on life, and the extent to which timing has shaped our travels and our lives in ways we wouldn’t expect. The fact that Felicity and I are even working on travelling around the world together making documentaries as husband and wife at this point in time may really all be a matter of timing!

If an Italian minister hadn’t altered the tax laws making my touring in Italy a lot less profitable in 2013, I wouldn’t have taken a part time job in a shop for a few months next door to where Felicity and her sister worked. Had it happened a year later, the shop, Island Gems, would have moved to it’s current location across the island in Godshill and perhaps we wouldn’t have met then!

Even had we met a year later, and the timeline of our life together had run the same, it would have put our honeymoon in Mexico into early 2020, and the rise of Covid 19 may have stopped the honeymoon happening anything like it did. It was the filming we did on that honeymoon which inspired our move into travel and wildlife documentary making, so who knows what would have happened without it!

With thoughts about timing being everything in mind, I thought that I would share some of my favourite moments from our travels together so far which really have come about not as the result of careful long term planning, but by moments which have happened leading to unforeseen wonderful results!

As I’ve already mentioned our honeymoon in Mexico (which became the basis of our first travel documentary, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty‘), I ought to begin with the major change in plans which came just a few weeks before the adventure began.

Felicity and I had been learning to dive in the run up to the honeymoon because we had intended to have a number of diving based experiences while we were in the country. Unfortunately I had unknowingly picked up an ear infection while doing an open water session in a very cold lake in January, and while driving up and down the hilly road to Penzance for a show at the Acorn Theatre my ear started to hurt, a pain which intensified during my straitjacket escape that evening, and the pain became unbearable within a day requiring a trip to A&E where I was informed that the infection had built up pressure and perforated my eardrum.

You can probably see why this hurt more with a perforated eardrum!

My immediate panic was that this would affect our upcoming flights, but although it would likely be uncomfortable I was told that these would be alright – but I couldn’t put the ear under the increased pressure which would come with diving, and so that had to be ruled out for the honeymoon.

This was obviously upsetting as we had been planning the dives for a long time, but we managed to swap plans to activities where we could snorkel instead of diving, and this was when we managed to book up to snorkel with Whale Sharks in La Paz. You can read all about that experience in one of Felicity’s previous blog posts HERE! It remains, to this day, one of the most magical experiences of our adventures, swimming gently alongside these gentle giants of the sea with their beautiful starry sky like patterns, and if I hadn’t got an infection, and then had the hilly drive to Penzance and blown my eardrum just weeks before we were due to fly, we wouldn’t have done it while we were in Mexico!

In fact, that was a double whammy of timings with that particular day in Mexico, because when I had changed to the whale sharks because of my ear problem that was all we had planned to do that day.

While we were on Isla Mujeres, however, just a few days before we were due to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz, we decided to go for a walk to try to find a quiet area of beach away from the bustling crowds. We didn’t realise as we left the main town just how far we would have to walk, and had forgotten to bring a drink with us, and began looking for somewhere to get a drink. We finally found a place, but when they bought a drink it had ice cubes in it.

Public service announcement – and we can’t say this enough – don’t drink the water in Mexico! Most people know this, but do be particularly careful to use bottled water when cleaning teeth, and remember that ice cubes are often made with tap water. We knew all this, but on this one occasion we just quickly scooped the ice out of the glass and still drank the drink.

It was the only time we made that mistake, but once was enough!

I don’t need to go into the details of Montezuma’s Revenge which hit us both hard, but suffice to say that we were both out of commission for a few days, and had to rearrange things once again. We managed to make our flight across the country, and from a hotel bed in Cabo San Jose, between frequent trips to the bathroom, I worked to reschedule what we could (we both agreed that perhaps bouncing around the water on a jet-ski as we had planned may be a step too far!).

When it came to moving the date for the whale shark snorkelling, I was told that we could move the date, but the only space which they had available was on a day which combined snorkelling with whale sharks with snorkelling with sealions, so that if we moved we’d have to swim with sealions as well. Of course we took the opportunity, and getting to be in the water with these playful creatures in the wild was another experience we are so happy to have had, and all thanks to having ice in a glass for a few seconds!

Let us leap forward to Turkey, where we had flown to Denizli specifically because Felicity had seen images of the incredible Cotton Castles at Pammukale, an incredible travertine formation topped by the Ancient Greek city of Hierapolis, and wanted to see these natural wonders in real life. So we set off from our hotel up to the city of Hierapolis early in the morning and got to the top of the Cotton Castles where we saw… nothing.

Yes… That mist is where the Cotton Castles should be!

A thick mist was in the air, so thick that we could barely see a lot of the structures of the ancient city, let alone see the wonders of the travertines, and it looked like we had got the timing wrong on this one, and so we had a look around as much of the ruins as we could see and made our way back into town to the hotel. We decided our best bet for the afternoon would be to drive out of town, and picked a local ruin site called ‘Laodicea’. 

As we got to the end of the road which our hotel was on, however, I made a decision, instead of turning right to go straight to the ruins of Laodicea to instead turn left and have one more attempt to see the Cotton Castles through the mist from their base at the edge of the town, and as we drove towards them we discovered that the mist had lifted and they were now clearly visible! Because we’d decided to take that extra five minutes to go past them at that time of day we got to see the Cotton Castles which we were in the area for, and they were so worth seeing! I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that they aren’t made of snow when I look back on the video footage of us on them!

Not only did we get to see the Cotton Castles, however, but as we had now talked about visiting Laodicea we now decided that we would do that the following morning on our way out of town instead, and that meant that we happened to be there as a couple of the archaeologists were working on reassembling a column.

We were there at the right time again, as when they saw our interest the two of them invited us in to have a look around the excavations which they were partway through – something which we hadn’t expected, and which you can read more about in my blog post HERE.

I feel like I could go on all day giving examples of this, but as a performer I know the ‘rule of three’, so perhaps just one more example before I wrap up this blog post – but I would be very interested to hear any examples you have of ‘timing is everything’ moments on your travels in the comments below!

I’m going to leap ahead to our most recent documentary, ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘, in which we partnered with the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit to film a documentary about their work. On arrival the weather wasn’t great, but luckily we managed to get out on their research boat within a few days of arrival to get some footage of the team at work, and then we would have to content ourselves with working with the team around their base for the remainder of our time with them.

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am going to give away part of our newest documentary now… if you want to go and watch the documentary to avoid this minor spoiler then go and have a watch (links at the bottom of this page) and then come back to this blog!

On the last day we were in Scotland, one of the team, Betty, happened to be walking along the harbour wall just at the right time to see some dolphins in the bay there. This led to a big scramble as some of the team grabbed binoculars to watch what they were doing, and other members of the team hurried to prepare the equipment ready for if the dolphins started to head towards where the team’s boat was in its harbour.

They did.

At the last moment, when we thought that we wouldn’t be back out on the boat to see the dolphins again, one of the team being out on the sea wall and looking in the right direction at just the right moment meant that we got to head out and see these amazing creatures out in the sea once again, and that is an experience always to be cherished!

So much of our adventures are carefully planned as we have to get filming permissions and make sure that we get all of the shots which we need to put the documentaries together, but sometimes it is great when things just happen in the moment, and then timing is everything.

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

A Nun, An Actor, and A Pregnant Teacher Walk Into Venice…

A Nun, An Actor, and A Pregnant Teacher Walk Into Venice…

A blog post by Greg

Yes, apparently I was once young, short-haired and clean shaven!

Back when I was spending most of the year touring shows in schools in Italy (for more on that, read my previous post HERE), I would usually sit down towards the end of each season with my director and friend Rupert to discuss what I would be doing with Action Theatre the following year, deciding which shows I wanted to do, when I would be out in Italy, and any other points we needed to discuss.

I remember, one year, Rupert asking me if there was anything in particular that I would like to do the following season. After a moment’s pause I had the answer to his question.

“I’d like to do a show in Venice,” I told him, going on to make it clear that I meant actually in the ‘islands and canals’ part of Venice, rather than in Mestre on the ‘mainland’ where I had performed plenty of times before.

I don’t know what it was about the idea of performing in Venice that appealed to me, but I knew I wanted to. I had only visited the city once before for a few days, and had enjoyed my time there, but I was also fairly certain that performing in Venice would have a story to it, and I wasn’t wrong!

Rupert readily agreed, and the fabulous team in the office were set the task, amongst all of the other jobs that they had to do, of fulfilling this actor’s whim and booking me a show in Venice, and they did. They found a school that wanted not just one one-man show, but three, and I was on my way.

By the time the following season rolled around I had almost forgotten mentioning this idea until I sat down to look at my schedule at the start of the season and found the date in Venice on there. It was only at that point that I began to consider the logistics of performing a show in Venice.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the islands of Venice have many narrow streets and lots of canals. They do not, however, allow cars on the islands of Venice, except in the car parks on the first island, connected to the mainland by a bridge.

Three different shows meant three different sets, costumes and props, plus a small sound system, would have to be moved from the car in the carpark to the school deep in the heart of Venice, and staring at the schedule I realised this for the first time and raised it with the team there. The people in the Action Theatre office are, I’m sure, far too nice to have taken any pleasure in pointing out that you should be careful what you wish for, but that they had booked the show and it was my job to try and figure out how to make it work.

By the time I set off for Venice I still hadn’t quite figured out the logistics, however I had been told by the English Teacher at the school that I could unload my set the afternoon before the shows to save trying to get my kit through to the school in the morning before the first show began, and that she would meet me in the carpark with some help to carry the kit to the school. I envisioned a team of parents, or perhaps older students, who might help to make this an easy task.

In my Italy touring days, before I met Felicity, I had a slightly older travel companion…

What met me in the carpark, however, was not a team of assistants waiting to help me transport all of the kit. Two people were waiting there, a nun, and the English Teacher. To make it even more interesting, the English Teacher was quite heavily pregnant…

I’m not sure what level of kit they were expecting, but I’m pretty sure it was not what I had with me. I started to figure out which pieces of kit were the lightest and settling on a large but lightweight wooden cactus (I was far more worried about the teacher lifting heavy things while pregnant than she seemed to be, but I wanted to avoid her having to carry the heaviest bits), while the nun picked up the sound system.

This was back in the days when my Italian was very utilitarian – I could have the basic conversations needed to get into a school, but could easily get lost when the conversation moved further afield – and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I had learned Italian in Torino and the Venetian accent was very different. The nun, however, was absolutely lovely, and chatted away to me with a big smile on her face while I loaded myself up like a pack mule with everything I could carry (as somebody who has always had more brute strength than athletic ability, I have always preferred to carry more in fewer trips wherever possible).

Our journey began, looking like the oddest reimagining of the ‘three wise men’ in the Nativity, as we followed each other through narrow streets clutching our gifts of a sound system, a wooden cactus, and everything else!

Venice, you may not realise, is full of flights of stairs, up and down from bridges crossing over the canals. It is also full of very narrow streets, and more than once all of the bags on my back got completely jammed between buildings and I found myself stuck until a shove from the nun got me moving again. Then there are the narrow walkways beside the canals where, if you have a number of heavy bags poorly arranged on your back, you are at constant risk of falling in, and I must admit that I came close to losing the entire show under the waters of Venice more than once.

It was, however, a journey filled with laughter. The nun and I chatted away to each other, barely understanding a word that the other was saying, with the teacher in the middle understanding most of what was said, and occasionally translating, which made it even funnier as it became apparent that there was very little crossover in what the nun and I were talking about.

Finally we made it to the school, and I was all happy with a feeling of ‘mission accomplished’, until the teacher pointed out that we’d have to get all of the kit back to the car the following day after the shows!

Still, for that day we were done, and I was taken to where I would be staying for the night, not in a hotel or bed and breakfast, but with the family of one of the students from the primary school.

I rarely stayed with ‘families’ when touring in Italy, it was generally easier to stay at a hotel or a bed and breakfast, purely because with five hour long shows a day some days, plus up to six hours driving, it wasn’t always easy to summon up the enthusiasm to be friendly and chatty on arrival at someone’s house, especially when they had an overexcited seven year old wanting to talk to the ‘English actor’.

On the rare occasion that I stayed with a family, however, it was nice to get a local perspective on things. They usually made good, homecooked, local food for dinner and would talk about life there. I learned that the daughter of the family may, when she grows up, have to leave Venice, as house prices there were pushing the younger people out. The father, from Brescia, told me that while he was accepted as a local, he would never be seen as truly Venetian, something which I sympathised with having moved to the Isle of Wight where I happily call myself an Islander, but will always be distinct from a ‘Caulkhead’ who was born there.

He also spoke about his home area of Brescia, and said that everyone in Brescia was grumpy and short tempered. I must sat that during my time in Italy I never found that to be the case, and I did a fair number of shows around Brescia, however by pure chance the other team of actors in the company at that time told me when I saw them the following weekend that they had been to a town where the people in the local bar had been quite rude to them, and when I asked them where they’d been they replied:

“Brescia.”

The next morning I woke up and looked out of the window at a canal with the rain coming down, and was glad we had moved the kit the day before, and that the weather forecast suggested that the sun would be back out before we had to transport it back.

I went down to the family, and the father asked if I had an umbrella, to which I replied in the negative.

“But… you are English!” the little girl said, sounding as though she’d just met Father Christmas and that he hadn’t had any presents.

This was one of the enduring stereotypes which I always found was believed to be true of all English people. We always carry an umbrella, because it always rains in England. Once when we were writing a new show, I inserted into the plot the fact that a bat had been accidentally killed with an umbrella. The director questioned how we would alibi the fact that we had an umbrella on sunny days, and I just told him:

“We are English!”

The father, proving the lie to his suggestion that people from Brescia are rude, handed me an umbrella, and then told me about the ‘dance of the umbrella’.

“I don’t know why we use them here,” he told me. “The streets are so narrow, and people are passing each other. You both move your umbrella to one side, then the other. The umbrella is always that way, or this way, never over your head. You are just as wet as you would be without, but we feel better because we have an umbrella!”

We got to the school, and I performed the shows, and all went very well. After the show I packed up my kit, and was ready to begin the process of carrying it back through the streets when the teacher came in.

“Are you ready to go?” she asked, looking far happier than I might expect from someone about to carry all of that equipment back through the streets.

I nodded.

With a smile, she went over and opened the back door to the hall where I had performed which opened straight onto the canal, where a small boat was waiting.

She explained that after we had carried the kit in the day before she had phoned one of the parents, who had said that, as long as the children enjoyed the shows, that he would bring his boat to take me back to the carpark. So we loaded all of our kit into the boat, and I climbed onboard, asking where I should sit.

He told me that I could sit where I want or, if I wanted, I could stand up front.

I have visited Venice a few times now, and I have travelled around in the crowded Vaporetti, the large water buses which take you around the city. I have been in gondola’s twice, once on my own, and once with Felicity, and enjoyed it both times (though obviously it was better with Felicity!). These are the ways that tourists travel around Venice.

However, if you want to feel a bit special as a young actor, try standing on the prow of a boat containing all the kit for your shows, as you are driven down the Grand Canal in Venice, passing the jealous gazes of all those people squeezed into the vaporetti and standing on the shores and bridges!

Thanks to the team at Action Theatre, a nun, a teacher, a boat owning Venetian parent, and a friendly Brescian, I had performed in Venice in a way that had exceeded all my expectations!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

Dracula’s Grave… Or Is It?

Dracula’s Grave… Or Is It?

A blog post by Greg

Sat here in early-March 2022, as we are busily planning our upcoming travel documentaries and some more wildlife based documentaries, it seems very difficult to comprehend that it was two years ago that Felicity and I were in Romania filming ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ (to watch the documentary, see the links at the bottom of this post).

In some ways, with everything that has happened with the pandemic, it seems like so much longer ago than that. Yet at the same time, as it was our last travel documentary and our last trip abroad, it still feels so fresh that is seems it couldn’t possibly be that long ago that we finished our search for significant places in the life of Vlad Dracula III of Wallachia by visiting his grave site at the Snagov Monastery in Transylvania.

It was the end of a confusing journey, and one which has continued for me throughout the edit, and right up until today. Just the other night I was being interviewed by the ‘Winging It Podcast’ all about our travels and our documentaries, and even after all this time I couldn’t give a clear point of view on whether I think of Vlad Dracula III as more of a ‘folk hero’ or as a ‘historical villain’ (to get an overview of Dracula’s life, have a read of Felicity’s blog post HERE). In very simple terms, in brutal times Vlad used brutal means to protect his country. Of course, then the questions become just how brutal was he, was he more brutal than others of his time, and were these actions justified in order to protect his country? These are questions we struggle with throughout the documentary, and I still do today.

Parking up on the streets near Snagov, we then crossed the bridge over onto the small island which holds the monastery, wondering what we would find inside, how clearly marked the grave of Vlad Dracula would be.

The island itself was very picturesque, and, in keeping with what we had found so far in Romania, a few dogs ran over to greet us as we arrived.

Sat almost in the centre of the small island in the middle of the lake was the main monastery itself, an ornate chapel, with the door at the front open and a young girl waiting to welcome people on the way in. We were asked on the way in not to film inside the monastery, but that we could pay a few Euros on top of the entrance fee to get a permit to photograph the inside, which is why there is no filmed footage of us inside the monastery in the documentary, and we had to do the ‘pieces to camera’ on the outside, using still photography to show the interior.

The entrance room of the chapel at the Snagov Monastery.

On entering the monastery we were greeted with an entrance room ahead of the main chapel area. This was the room where we paid for our entrance tickets and photography permit, but also the room where our question was answered about how Vlad Dracula, Vlad the Impaler as he is often called, would be presented in this particular monastery.

We may have been struggling with the ethical dilemma that Vlad III could present, but here there was no question, no debate. In Snagov Monastery, Vlad III of Wallachia is a hero. A display filled one wall, with pictures, writing and articles about Vlad, all clearly presenting him as the Romanian folk hero that we had heard about throughout our journey. We were about to visit the grave of a hero, and as we walked through into the main room of the chapel this was confirmed.

We found ourselves in an intricately decorated chapel, with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and artwork (I want to say ‘frescoes’ from the time I spent studying art history as a minor segment of my history degree, but I will honestly admit that I really would struggle to tell the difference between a fresco and any other method of wall painting). This was not a humble country church, it was a church which suggested royalty to me.

A blue strip of carpet ran down the centre of the room, leading towards the main focus of the room, a rectangle of concrete on the floor, with a picture of Vlad’s head at one end, and a candle. The grave of Vlad Dracula.

From the entrance hall to this room, although this was a monastery and therefore the chapel was clearly dedicated to the Christian God, I think that it was also fair to say that this was a shrine for Vlad III.

I have said many times that when we create our travel videos, I always feel like there are more ‘characters’ on the journey than just Felicity and I. Very often this is the country, and certainly Romania had been a third character in this documentary. More than that, however, we had travelled with Vlad III along with us each step of the way. We had visited the place of his birth. We had been to the venues of his triumphs and failures, we had been to places where he had taken brutal action against his enemies. We had struggled with the morality of his worst actions, and felt sorry for him for his upbringing and losses along the way.

Regardless of our mixed views on his actions, I felt that it was right to be here at Vlad’s grave to pay our respects to our historical travel companion for our time in Romania, and I am very glad that, although it wasn’t a castle, we took the time to visit his grave.

Our search for Dracula’s Castle, and the true man lurking beneath the muddle of history and legend, ended knelt beside the last resting place of Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia.

Except, of course, being Vlad Dracula, it isn’t quite as simple as that.

For starters, it is quite possible that Vlad’s head was not buried with his body.

After he was killed in an ambush (or possibly killed by some of his own people if you believe a different version of events, his head was, according to stories, taken to the Ottoman rulers in Constantinople. According to the stories which put his body at Snagov, some monks recovered his body and returned it to be buried in their monastery).

We were, therefore, likely paying our respects to Dracula’s body, but not his head, the location of which, according to these stories, would be unknown.

Except, of course, it isn’t even that simple. Some of the places we visited to try to find Dracula’s Castle, in particular in Bran Castle and in Corvin Castle, we felt the actual presence slip through our fingers in favour of legends and stories, with no hard evidence of Dracula’s presence there at all.

Surely, however, here at the grave of Dracula, there was some proof beyond local folklore that we were genuinely at the last resting place of Vlad III. Perhaps the grave had even been excavated at some point by archaeologists to prove, once and for all, that this was Dracula’s grave.

The good news is that such an excavation was carried out by the archaeologist Dinu V Rosetti. The bad news is that although he found bones under the supposed grave site, they were not human, and not of the right era.

“Under closer examination I found here a pre-historic pit, ceramics and … many bones of animals.”

Of course, the tradition couldn’t go that easily, and alternative suggestions for why no body was found in the grave were offered. With so many people knowing the location of Vlad III’s grave there was the risk that it could become the target of his enemies intending to desecrate his body, and so the monks dug it back up and moved it elsewhere. A body found in a wooden coffin with fragments of a purple veil and silver buttons has been offered as possibly being the body of Vlad moved to a new location, although other evidence points away from this.

What we end up with, whether because Vlad was never in the grave, or because he was moved, is a symbolic grave, more of a memorial than a last resting place.

It is fitting, considering the blend of legend, folklore and history which had made up our journey through Vlad’s life, that even at his grave we are left not being sure whether we have visited his true grave, or merely a grave crafted from local tradition. Like much about Vlad III, unless more information comes to light in the future, you will have to decide what you believe is most likely to be true.

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg