Whether it's the latest blockbusters we see on the big screen or the quiet moments from classics we catch on the small screens at home, the powerful images we see in movies can inspire us. In the case of travel editors, it can motivate us to visit those locations so often gloriously depicted on the screen before us. Below are just a few of the films that make us want to pack our bags and head out into the world.
Love and Intrigue on the Cote D'Azur
Alfred Hitchcock's light and breezy mystery, To Catch a Thief (1956), is most memorable for its spectacular setting along the Cote D'Azur, or French Riviera. Seeing the film at a young age captured my imagination as what traveling in Europe, especially along the Mediterranean, must be like. Such cinematic treats included the winding mountain road that leads to a coastal restaurant in Nice; the beach club at Cannes, with its palpably warm, blue-sparkling water; and the Hotel Carlton, where Grace Kelly, in her stunning summer dress and hat, is met by the equally dashing Cary Grant for an informal picnic of chicken and beer, in Kelly's Alpine Sports roadster. And who can forget the scene where Grant savors a lunch of quiche Lorraine and wine on his sunny villa terrace against a mountainous backdrop? It's these images that inspired me to travel to Europe.
For fans of the film, the French Riviera is still as alluring and as beautiful as ever. True enough, it's a playground for the wealthy, but plenty of old-world culture still exists. You can stay at the Hotel Carlton (tel. +33 4/9306-4006; www.ichotelsgroup.com) and visit its beach club, where some of the film was shot; the casino, however, is gone, replaced by luxury suites. You can drive on the coastal roads, from Nice to Monaco, and take in the same breathtaking views from the film. If you're thinking about a trip to Cote D'Azur, watch To Catch a Thief and get inspired. To help you plan, pick up a copy of Frommer's France or Frommer's Provence & the Riviera. -- William Travis
Perhaps no movie has inspired me more to hop a train than Sidney Lumet's classic adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (1974), which netted Ingrid Bergman an Oscar® and manages to capture the adventure and exotic flavor of luxury rail travel (even if the train is admittedly stalled for most of the picture). The classic route traveled by the train in the movie no longer exists, but you can still capture the experience on the privately owned Venice-Simplon Orient Express (www.orient-expresstrains.com).
Another film that immediately made me want to book travel plans is Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed 1993 version of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing (1993). The film is supposed to take place in Sicily, but the movie's actually a picture-perfect postcard of the rosy Villa Vignamaggio and the sunny Chianti hills where it was filmed. Tuscany has rarely looked this good on celluloid, and the movie is a great way to put you in a jovial mood before setting off on a trip to Italy.
For more information on picturesque Italy, pick up Frommer's Italy, or Frommer's Florence, Tuscany & Umbria. -- Naomi Kraus
Where Ya Gonna Go? New York City
Watching a city be ransacked by ghosts and covered in slime may not entice you to travel there. But paranormal activity aside, Ghostbusters (1984) is truly the quintessential New York City movie. The film is a veritable advertisement for NYC: the Ghostbusters crew hits the campus of Columbia University, the New York Public Library, the fountain at Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center's ice-skating rink and City Hall, among other famous landmarks. New York's incomparable skyline is always in view -- gorgeous aerial views of Central Park and the glittering lights of the Brooklyn Bridge are highlights. The film's backdrop is authentic New York, with pigeons, cabs, tabloid newspapers, cops, horse-drawn carriages, and crowds.
Most New Yorkers would agree that what makes our city unique are its people, and the movie is spot-on in depicting the eclectic cast of characters one encounters here. Some of the obvious stereotypes are in effect: the hermetic, obsequious neighbor (every New Yorker has one), the secretary with a distinctive New York accent, and the benevolent mayor, named Lenny, which is classic New York in itself. New York is unrivaled for its cultural diversity, and everyone from rabbis to punks to Con Ed workers to accountants makes an appearance. It's also interesting to see the gulf between New York's high society and working class (catch the scene at the posh restaurant Tavern on the Green, where aristocrats blindly ignore the suffering of oddball Lewis outside). Watching this movie as a kid, I never caught on to the New York references, but upon a recent viewing I was amused by all the inside jokes, such as endless winding staircases, apartment pests, and the promiscuity of sailors during Fleet Week.
The strong emotions that New York elicits can be summed up in the final line of the movie, when the character Winston yells out "I love this town!" The line, said in the immediate aftermath of nearly apocalyptic devastation and while covered in melted marshmallow, demonstrates for viewers how New Yorkers' love for their city is unconditional (and presages the surge of strength and affection that would follow 9/11). Watch the movie -- and, of course visit New York (www.nycvisit.com) -- and you'll be saying the same. You can check out a map at www.ironicsans.com to plan out your own Ghostbusters tour. And don't worry, while a few urban myths about haunted buildings in New York exist, you can rest assured that you'll be unscathed -- and Slimer won't turn up when you hit a hot dog cart in the park.
Planning a trip to the city that never sleeps? Pick up Frommer's New York City, Frommer's Portable New York City, or Frommer's New York City Day by Day. -- Jamie Ehrlich (with thanks to Ben Finane for his Ghostbusters expertise)
Wrestling & Ruins South of the Border
I don't know about you, but nothing makes me want to pack my bags and head south of the border more than watching a shirtless Jack Black wrestle in spandex. Nacho Libre (2006), directed by Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame, tells the story of Nacho, a mestizo friar who dreams of becoming a famous luchador, or wrestler. You needn't be familiar with Lucha Libre, the Mexican form of extreme wrestling in which all the contestants wear masks and the rules are mere suggestions for fair play, to enjoy Nacho Libre's story and its characters. One of the things I like the most about this movie is the setting and scenery. Filmed exclusively in the tiny town of Etla and the nearby countryside in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, the film takes you to a crumbling monastery, a historic town center, cactus-filled hills and finally to the understated ruins of an ancient civilization. The movie is not grand in scope, so the local surroundings pull the viewer into Nacho's world. It's not necessarily the specific town that the movie was filmed in that inspires me, but I am intrigued simply by the stark countryside flecked with archeological ruins, old Catholic churches, and isolated towns.
Another scenically inspiring film is Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), a bizarre Thai Western filmed in the river flood plains near Bangkok. There are enough lotus flowers and dogwood trees to compel anyone to book a trip to Thailand.
For more information check out Frommer's Mexico and Frommer's Thailand.
-- Melinda Quintero
A Literary Landscape
The strong, imaginative heroine is appealing. The animated rabbits and ducks are cute. But it's England's ambience and scenery that make Miss Potter (2006), the recent biopic about the life of children's book writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter, such a rich and atmospheric film. I could take or leave Renée Zellweger's cheeky pout, but the ornate Victorian drawing rooms of London, and the lush, rolling hills, stone fences and cozy farmhouses of England's Lake District make Miss Potter utterly watchable. In London, it's Beatrix's quiet study as much as it is the horse-drawn carriages and bustling cobblestone streets outside that evokes in me a longing to pack my paintbrushes and corsets (or laptop and jeans as the case may be, but that's beside the point) and hop the pond. I'm also drawn to visit the nearby Lake District, where Beatrix gravitates as the film progresses. The quaint country cottages and verdant landscapes beckon to me to breath fresh air, convene with nature, and settle in for a warm cup of tea.
For more information on Miss Potter's Lakes District go to www.visitmisspotter.com. For more insight on travel in London and the surrounding English countryside pick up a copy of Frommer's England, Frommer's London, or Frommer's London Day by Day. -- Cate Latting
Indian Movies. . .In India
Bollywood, India's booming film industry, is known for taking audiences on a virtual world tour, from the snow-capped Swiss Alps to the red, double-decker busses of London. But, there are those occasions when a director actually shoots in India, and the results are often enticing and enough to get you booking your next flight to the subcontinent. In Fanaa (2006), the story of a blind girl, a sweet-talking tour guide, and how sight and a terrorism plot can change things (this is Bollywood, after all), audiences are taken on a tour of Delhi's major sites, including the red sandstone and marble Qutab Minar; the Red Fort; the Jantar Mantar observatory; the rectangular Purana Qila fort; and the Lodhi Gardens. Keep in mind, however, that admission fees are higher for non-Indians, so while locals may get in to Qutab Minar for Rs.10 (US 23¢), foreigners pay Rs.250 (US$5.70). This rule applies to many attractions in India, including Agra's Taj Mahal, where those challenging the rule are rumored to be quizzed on Indian history or politics.
Frommer's India can help you plan your visit to the sights listed above and many more . -- Anuja Madar
Swinging, London Style
Blow Up (1966), Michelangelo Antonioni's dazzling and dizzying portrayal of Swinging London, was truly an inspirational travel epic for me. In the busy streets, the groovy cars, the exciting music, the colorful clothes, and the overall jet-set pace of the film, I saw a magical London -- a place at a young age I'd only read about. It was too cool, too vibrant. And it was that energy I sought out on my first trip abroad -- to London. I'll never forget arriving at Victoria Station, via the train from Gatwick, and running up to the street just to see and feel that energy. The city didn't disappoint. Taxis and double-decker buses, whizzing around roundabouts, smart looking people making their way in and out of the station -- it was otherworldly fantastic.
London has obviously changed a lot since the 1960s, but you can still feel the vibe of Swinging London in the streets of Soho, with its dense conglomeration of nightclubs, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, and shops. Leicester Square, Soho's hub, was a central hangout for swinging London celebrities, from the Rolling Stones on down. Carnaby Street, London's hip fashion center in the '60s, was synonymous with colorful mod suits, Mary Quant miniskirts, and flowing caftans -- what the press called "the Peacock Revolution." Fashion and music came together here: The pounding music of '60s bands like the Who, the Small Faces, and the Rolling Stones sold the clothes, and the flamboyant clothing sold the music. And even though Carnaby Street is no longer the hipster haven it once was, clever entrepreneurs are reviving Carnaby Street's mod appeal with Kingly Court, with mostly boutiques pushing young designers.
I've visited London a number of times since that first trip, and it still has that same unbelievable energy. When I watch Blow Up for the 68th time or so, I know it's time to go. Find more swinging London sights with the help of Frommer's London, Frommer's Portable London, and Frommer's London Day by Day. -- William Travis
On Location with Lord of the Rings
While Anne Tyler's Accidental Tourist (about a travel writer who hates to travel) is one of my all-time favorite novels-made-into-movies ever, I'd be happier to book my next getaway to Middle Earth. I'm a card-carrying fantasy movie geek, and I've always wanted to visit New Zealand -- the real-life setting for The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. Native Kiwi Peter Jackson's movies bring to life JRR Tolkien's fantastical realm while showcasing the pure beauty and rugged drama that is New Zealand. While a fair number of other shows and films have been shot in NZ, such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; Hellboy; King Kong; The Piano; and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, LOTR is a stand-out for its high content of outdoor scenery and minimal usage of indoor sets. While most of the sets no longer remain, I suspect you'll recognize a lot of the highly distinctive scenery. You can see one of the few exceptions, the actual village of "Hobbiton" as well as "Bag End," Bilbo and Frodo's denlike cottage, south of Auckland amid the sheep and cattle farms in the countryside of Matamata.
Most of the filming took place on the southern tip of North Island near Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Wellington Rover Tours (www.wellingtonrover.co.nz) offers a Rover Ring Tour where you can get up-close-and-personal with the outskirts of the shire, have an "orc-sized picnic lunch," and borrow or buy elf ears to wear during your tour. Flat Earth (www.flatearth.co.nz) also offers "luxury" (no elf ears here) LOTR tours of the area with ritzier options like wine-trail outings. Hammonds Scenic Tours (www.wellingtonsightseeingtours.co.nz) also offers a little something for everyone taking you to the local highlights of the LOTR sites with other stops along the way at wineries and fur seal colony habitats. Scenes shot in the area include the village of Bree, the "get off the road" scene and the flight to Bucklebury Ferry, Saruman's tower, and Rivendell -- in other words, this is hallowed ground for the true LOTR fanatic. Take a guided tour of the gardens at Fernside (www.fernside.co.nz), used as part of the scenery for Lothlorien -- its White Bridge was redesigned for the scene in the film where the Fellowship bids farewell to the elves and Galadriel. Movie Horses NZ (www.moviehorsesnz.com) gives you the opportunity to interact with all of the horses from the film, from Asfaloth, Arwen's white stallion to Clydee, Gandalf's cart pony from the shire. Wellington Movie Tours (www.movietours.co.nz), who bill themselves as "the lowest priced Rings tour in NZ," throws in stops at other famous movie filming spots as well and provides props for you to reenact your favorite LOTR scenes -- a shoe-in for your holiday card photo.
For the more adventurous hobbit, the central part of North Island near the small urban community of Taupo is where you will find Mt. Ngauruhoe, or Mount Doom, and Mount Ruapehu, aka the land of Mordor. You can make the Tongariro crossing (www.tongariro-crossing.com) on an 8-hour "tramp" across the scarred lava fields with active volcanic thermal vents hissing hot sulfuric steam. This volcanic terrain provides the backdrop for scenes such as Isildur cutting the One Ring from Sauron's hand in the flashback in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the violent scuffle where Sam and Frodo fight off Gollum, and Gollum splashing around to catch fish in the stream.
Many shoots took place near the alpine lake resort areas of Queenstown on the South Island. The snowcapped mountains around Mount Cook represent the foothills of the White Mountains where the signal fires of Gondor and the beacons of Minas Tirith are lit to call for Rohan's support against Sauron's army in The Return of the King (2003). The gory and dramatic battle of Pelennor Fields was filmed on a sheep farm in the high country (www.benohau.co.nz). For air and ground tours, check out Trilogy Trail Tours (www.trilogytrail.com) -- be sure to read about their role in the filming process. South of Christchurch, gear up for the Ride of the Rings (www.fat-tyre.co.nz), a mountain biking trip across the Canterbury plains, aka Rohan, the land of King Théoden and the Rohirrim, which is breathtakingly featured in The Two Towers (2002).
If you tire of Middle Earth, check out a traditional Maori kapa haka performance, the local nature and wildlife (dolphin, kiwi, penguins, and more), have some adventure (kayaking, trekking, and bungee jumping, to start), watch rugby (www.allblacks.com), visit wineries in Marlborough, and find out once and for all what the deal is with Waitangi Day (February 6) -- I don't know about you, but I've been fascinated with its presence in my calendar for years.
For more information, visit the New Zealand Tourism Board at www.purenz.com, and pick up a copy of Frommer's New Zealand. -- Alexia Travaglini
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