Category: Movie tourism

Movie Tourism – The Greek Isle of Patmos

Released in 2009, the movie Opa was filmed in various locations on the beautiful, scenic island of Patmos, often called “The Jerusalem of the Aegean.” Starring Matthew Modine as Eric the archaeologist and Agni Scott as Katerina the taverna owner, this entertaining comedy promises romance and fun in Eric’s quest and unexpected discovery of life’s real treasures.

Located at the northern end of the Dodecanese chain, Patmos is praised by Forbes magazine and the NY Times as an idyllic place to visit with fewer tourists and a smaller local population than many other Greek isles. Known as a Christian pilgrimage destination for centuries, many leisure travelers will find Patmos an ideal vacation spot to experience a rejuvenation of mind and spirit.

Patmos attractions:

The spiritual and historical significance of Patmos dates back to the exile of St John in 95 AD, where he experienced visions from Christ as written in the Book of Revelations. Buses run regularly from Chora or you can take the cobblestone path up the hill to the Monastery of St John, which was built by Khristodhoulous in the 11th century and fortified against invading Turks and pirates. Inside the Monastery, you’ll find numerous courtyards, ten small chapels, terraces, and stairways, as well as what remains of the ancient temple of Artemis, a legend from Greek mythology. Visit the Chapel of Theotokos for its 12th century frescoes, and view the exhibits, utensils, clerical vestments, and religious icons within the Treasury and Museum. The library houses over 13,000 historic documents and manuscripts, as well as biographies of saints and Aristotle’s Accusations.

On the hill just below the Monastery, you can enter the biblical site of the Cave of the Apocalypse, the revered sanctuary where St John lived and slept. Within this quiet refuge, visitors will find icons and mosaics that depict the Apostle’s visions. A religious music festival is held outdoors each year in September at the Cave, with the Feast of John the Theologian celebrated 25-26 Sep. Many other processions and celebrations take place throughout the year.

Hours for these World Heritage attractions: Open May to Aug. Sun, 8am-1pm, Mon, 8am-1:30pm, Tues & Wed, 8am-1:30pm & 2-6pm, Thu-Sat, 8am-1:30pm.

Admission: Free to monastery, $8 to the Treasury.

Things to Do:

Tourists will find over 20 beaches and small bays on Patmos and nearby islets including Diakofti, Kampos, Aspri, Lefkon, and Merikas to enjoy swimming, windsurfing, beach volleyball, a picnic, or simply relaxing. Take a walk on the beach at sunset, arrange a daytrip to a neighboring island, or rent a sailboat at Grikos for your own adventure. (Note: You can see a lot just by walking around, but perhaps the best way to explore more of the island beyond the villages is by renting a car or moped.)

No vacation is complete without doing some shopping while wandering through the narrow alleyways past courtyards of flowers and medieval buildings in Chora, or taking a 20-minute walk or taxi ride to the main port of Skala. You’ll discover many small shops in both towns that sell everything from Greek art and textiles to religious items, ceramics, and souvenirs. Some of the shops receiving good reviews include Midas, Iphgenia, and Filoxenia for jewelry, and Art Spot for small figurines. Stop in and visit with Mr Alafakis at Parousia to learn something about icon painting. Selene’s, next to the port authority office, is an interesting old store featuring arts and crafts made in Greece.

Dining & Entertainment:

The Greek people love to eat, and dinner is always a leisurely event. Excellent Mediterranean cuisine and seafood can be found at Vegghera overlooking the harbor in Skala. Dine on specialties such as salmon with rose sticks, octopus, squid, rabbit, or pork. You may or may not like the local beverage, ouzo, but it’s worth a try, especially with an appetizer of saganaki (fried cheese).

Hours: Easter to Oct – 7:30pm to 1am. Prices: $12 – $45.

The friendly atmosphere of Pantellis restaurant, also in Skala, is very popular with the locals, serving delicious wine, moussaka, pastitsio, and other entrees. Have breakfast or lunch at the Aigaio Cafè in Skala or Oassis Taverna in Grikos. Lunch often consists of mezedes or appetizers including stuffed grape leaves, squash balls, and eggplant dip. Prices at tavernas and cafes average $10 – $40. Visit the small village of Kambos and have an informal lunch or dinner at Taverna Panagos – open noon to midnight, or Taverna Leonida for a romantic setting on Lambi Bay – open noon to 11pm, Easter – Oct.

Nightlife is simple for the most part, but the tavernas do come alive with the jubilant cries of “Opa,” a traditional Greek expression of joy at being here, a welcome to the laughter and party sounds of bouzouki music, reminiscent of Zorba the Greek. Don’t be surprised to hear a glass breaking, thrown on the floor at the end of a Greek dance to show appreciation – this too is a tradition! (While living in Greece, I joined in the fun by breaking a glass fruit bowl, probably not a tradition, but one that did amuse the crowd.) Enjoy Greek music and dances on summer evenings at the Aloni, or get together with friends at Isalos, Astivi, or Celine.

Accommodations:

A member of the Luxury Hotels of the World, the Petra Hotel is highly recommended by Conde Nast as a boutique hotel with outstanding personalized service and hospitality. Located about 200 feet from the beach in the fishing village of Grikos about 3 miles from Skala, each of the 12 rooms or suites is tastefully decorated and equipped with all the modern amenities. Enjoy the excellent Greek food, the artistic décor within, the outdoor cafè, and swimming pool, while you experience the incredible views of the Aegean and the bay from your balcony or terrace. Consider the Petra Hotel for a honeymoon or any other special occasion.

Prices: $265/double room, $430 and up for suites (breakfast included).

Near the harbor town of Skala, tourists may choose the old world charm and ambiance of the Porto Scoutari hotel, surrounded by landscaped gardens and offering spacious guestrooms. Whether lounging beside the pool, going to the beach, or enjoying the spa and view, the hotel provides the intimacy and seclusion of a personal villa. Rooms and suites with private terrace, up-to-date amenities, and a choice of sea, garden, or pool view. Rates: From $150 to $300.

Another option is the Doriza Bay hotel and apartments, the newest on the island. Located not far from the Cave of the Apocalyse, guestrooms and suites have a private balcony, refrigerator, satellite TV, and other conveniences. The 1 and 2-bedroom two-story apartments offer a private entrance, kitchenette, and internal stairs. (Ideal for families or two couples.) Rates: $109 to $218.

(Note: 7 and 4-night packages with discounted rates at both hotels are also available.)

Other accommodations to fit any budget can be found at self-catering apartments and villas.

Getting to Patmos: Fly to Athens, take a 7-8 hour ferry ride from Piraeus. Ferries run several times a week – $45 economy seating, $51 lounge chair, $115 cabin. Patmos is also on many cruise ship itineraries.

If you can visualize the beauty and tranquility of Patmos, you may want to experience this bit of paradise on your next vacation to the Greek isles.

Sharon L Slayton

Movie Tourism – County Cork, Ireland

Moby Dick, Ondine, The Nephew, and War of the Buttons are just a few of the many movies filmed in County Cork and other locations in Ireland. The Wind That Shakes The Barley, starring two brothers Cillian Murphy as Damien and Pádraic Delaney as Teddy, is a powerful story of social and political unrest and divided loyalties in the Irish civil war of the 20th century. The unusual title is based on the songs and poetry by Robert Joyce that symbolized the Irish Republican Army. Directed by Ken Loach, the film won an award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and received worldwide success at the box office. We will cover some of the towns in County Cork, the largest of Ireland’s counties where scenes were filmed in 2005, as well as tourist attractions nearby.

Cork City, the main seaport and second largest city, is often thought of as the real capital of Ireland. Music plays a huge part in Irish culture and you’ll find great entertainment here and throughout County Cork. In June and July, enjoy the Midsummer Festival of Dance, Music, and Theatre, chamber music at various locations in the city, and Cork Live at the Marquee, which has featured many famous stars including Lionel Richie, Tracy Chapman, and Lady Gaga. Visit in October to hear great jazz at hotels such as the Gresham Metropole and Moran’s Silver Springs, or drive about 15 miles south to the picturesque town of Kinsale for more music and the gourmet festival of culinary specialties.

A main attraction in Cork City is the 19th century Gaol, the scene of Damien’s execution and a wonderful example of Ireland’s most famous neo-classical sculptor, John Hogan. Wander through the same halls where prisoners in chains were led to their cells, now occupied by lifelike wax figures. Graffiti remains on the walls where the unfortunate scribbled and drew of their pain and sorrow. The audiovisual presentation adds to the eerie atmosphere as you listen to the history and social injustices of the times.

Hours: Open 7 days, Mar – Oct, 9:30am to 5pm, Nov – Feb, 10am to 4pm.

Tours available in 12 different languages, night & educational tours. Souvenir shop & picnic area. Handicap accessible.

Prices: Adults – $11, Students – $9.50, Children – $6.

Dining: Restaurants in Cork City offer a tempting variety of cuisine from regional to international dishes. Visit the English Market where you’ll find numerous stalls selling raw, cooked, and take-out food, or go upstairs to the Farmgate Cafe. Jackie’s on the way to Bandon features fresh fish and chips, and Amicus is a family-oriented place for good food and reasonable prices. Other establishments include Lal Quila and the Spice Route for Indian, Nakon Thai, and the Manor Room at the Hayfield Manor Hotel, known for its classic gourmet specialties.

About 20 miles from Cork City lies the small town of Bandon, the gateway to West Cork. Tourism has not yet overtaken Bandon, so this might be a good place to stay, while visiting other places of interest in the area. The music festival, held each year in June since 1996, features many well known groups and a variety of traditional Irish jigs, folk, and rock music. This is certainly one of the best of its kind in Ireland.

Scenes from the movie were also filmed at the delightful village of Timoleague, 8 miles south of Bandon, where the 13th century Franciscan monastery still stands on this inlet from the sea. While here, visit the Castle Gardens, a place for family gatherings and children’s play. History of these gardens on the Argideen River dates back to the Earl of Barry and generations of the Travers family from the early 1800’s to the 1900’s. The new house on the grounds was built in 1926 not far from the old Barry castle. Exotic plants and evergreens flourish from autumn to spring in the mild, humid climate of these informal gardens. Strolling through the terraced gardens, visitors will discover a lily pond, a 19th century walled garden, and a river garden, as well as greenhouses of fruits and vegetables. Free admission. Hours: Easter weekend, mid-May to mid-September. Travelers will find a number of restaurants and pubs in this charming town, a great place for outdoor activities including walking, sailing, golf, and fishing.

While exploring County Cork, you’ll recognize scenes from the movie in the quaint thatched roof farmhouses of Coolea, and the ambush in the mountains around the village of Balvourney, where tourists and locals visit St Gobnait’s Abbey and well. Among the other activities for tourists to enjoy is the 3-day Cobh People’s Regatta in August, a gala festival of music, fireworks, and a queen’s coronation. Located at the southern end of the Cork City railway line or about 13 miles from the city, Cobh is a seaport town on the Great Island in Cork Harbor, which is connected to the mainland by the Bevelly Bridge. Cobh has a long maritime and shipbuilding history as a departure point for Irish emigrants to America and the deportations of criminals to Australia. It was the last port for the ill-fated Titanic, a cemetery for bodies recovered from the Lusitania, and a film location for The Eclipse in 2009.

Just as Nellie Bly made it her objective in traveling the world alone in a record 72 days, a visit to County Cork would not be complete without taking time to kiss the Blarney Stone – Blarney Village is a short 5-mile drive northwest from Cork City. Whether Jeremiah the prophet, Cormac MacCarthy the Irish chieftain who built the castle over 600 years ago, or the Crusades actually brought the stone to Ireland, it remains a worldwide national landmark and a precious treasure. Since the stone is set within the castle walls below the parapets, visitors must lean backwards over the iron railing on the walkway to kiss the stone. Everyone from Sir Walter Scott, presidents, and world leaders to international celebrities and millions of tourists have followed the legend of never being at a loss for words by kissing the “stone of eloquence.”

Stroll through the castle grounds, stop at the Blarney House, built in 1847 overlooking the lake, and spend time in the Rock Close gardens. Venturing down the “wishing steps” to a magical place beneath the trees, it’s easy to imagine a fairyland where Druids and elves once dwelled.

Castle Hours: Mon-Sat: May & Sep, 9am-6:30pm; Jun-Jul-Aug, 9am to 7pm; Oct-Apr, 9am to sunset. Sun: 9am to 5:30pm (summer), 9am to sunset (winter)

Prices: Adults – $13.50, Students & Seniors – $11, Ages 8-14 – $3.50.

Note: More information on Blarney, the Blarney store, or ticket purchase online at blarneycastle.ie/

County Cork Accommodations: Hotels, numerous B&Bs, farmhouses, guesthouses, self-catering apartments, and budget friendly hostels. Highly recommended in Kinsale is the Danabel B&B, conveniently located about 20 minutes from Cork Airport and 30 minutes to the ferries. Tennis, golf, boat trips, beaches, restaurants, and shopping nearby.

Open year round except Christmas. Rates: $40-$61 (dbl room). Special for 7 nights, Oct to Mar, $285-$353.

Flights: Major airline carriers to and from Cork City Airport. Rental cars available.

Ferries: From Cork City to Swansea in Wales, France, and the UK.

Trains from Cork City to Dublin and good connections to many small towns throughout Ireland.

Ireland is a country of incredible beauty, an exciting panorama of rural landscapes, windswept coastlines, mountains, and forests. County Cork in the southwest corner is just one of many popular destinations in Ireland, but each promises travelers an unforgettable vacation experience.

Sharon L Slayton

Movie Tourism – Canary Islands

Film production and tourism attract over 10 million people year round to the 7 Canary Islands, located just off the coast of Morocco. Known as the Fortunate Islands in classical Greek mythology, they are indeed a delightful vacation destination with a climate typical of subtropical volcanic islands. Tourists will find culture and cuisine similar to the Spanish islands in the Caribbean.

Several movies have been filmed in the Canaries including Planet of the Apes and the Ten Commandments, as well as the more recent remakes of Papillon and Clash of the Titans. This article will focus primarily on Tenerife, “the island of eternal spring,” with brief information on Lanzarote, where scenes from the fantasy Clash of the Titans took place. With a cast including Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Sam Worthington, the production begun in 2002 was later converted to 3D after the huge success of Avatar.

Mystery surrounds the prehistoric Guanche cavemen who first inhabited Tenerife, where they came from, and why they failed to progress over time. Eventually, the Spanish takeover in 1495 practically eliminated the ancient Guanche culture for some time. With a diverse environment from beaches and natural pools to forest and mountains, there are numerous attractions for travelers to enjoy in colonial Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz, and other towns on Tenerife.

Things to Do: While in Puerto de la Cruz, visit Loro Park, a huge, beautifully maintained botanical garden and zoo founded in 1972. In addition to an impressive variety of plants such as orchids, palms, cacti, and the native Drago trees, the zoo houses all types of animals, as well as the largest parrot collection in the world, a shark tunnel, dolphin aquarium, and the Arctic habitat of Planet Penguin.

Hours: 8:30am – 6:35pm, year round. Admission: $42 – Adults, $28 – Children.

7 restaurants, gift shop, etc.

Museums: We will highlight a few of the many museums on Tenerife, most with free admission.

Museum of Nature and Man – Located in Santa Cruz, the capital and main port of the island. Features significant archaeological artifacts, animal and plant collections, and other items of interest to anthropologists and botanists. Hours: Tues – Sun, 10am to 8pm. Small admission fee.

Museum of the History of Tenerife – Housed in the Casa Lercaro is the island’s history from the Spanish in the 15th century through 18th century British to the autonomous Canaries of today (owned by Spain).

Regional Military Museum – Housed within the Almeida Castle is military history with maps, weapons, and flags of the Canaries dating back to Lord Nelson’s attack in 1797. Hours: Tues – Sat, 10am to 2pm.

Museum of Wine and Vine (La Baranda) – An old farmhouse where travelers can sample the five regional wines of Tenerife, enjoy concerts and exhibitions at the Casa de Miel (House of Honey), have lunch, or visit the gift shop. Open daily except Mondays. Hours: Tues – Sat, 11am to 8pm. Sun – 11am to 6pm.

Other Attractions: Mt Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounds the dormant Teide volcano, the highest peak of Spain at over 10,000 feet and the third largest volcano in the world. Over 3 million people each year follow the trails up the mountain to the observatory, or take the cable car to within a few feet of the center of the volcano.

Tenerife has its own pyramids in the Ethnographic Park of Guimar, about 15 miles from Santa Cruz. Discovered by renowned anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, these pyramids closely resemble those found in Mexico, South America, and Egypt. Also of interest to visitors are the archaeological excavation of a Guanche cave, an exhibition of ancient watercraft, and a replica of Ra II. The park has numerous courtyards, terraces, and balconies, as well as a gift shop and various special events.

Hours: Open daily, except 25 Dec & 1 Jan, 9:30am to 6pm. Admission: Adults – $13, Children – $7. Handicap accessible. (Note: Prices and hours may change.)

Accommodations: No shortage of apartments, hotels, and rural places to stay. Highly recommended is the 5-star luxury Hotel Botanico & Oriental Spa Garden, with guestrooms and elegant penthouse suites, a Thai pagoda, 4 restaurants, and other amenities. Rates: Begin at $193 for deluxe room to $400+ for suites. Packages also available. (For real extravagance, book the Bill Clinton suite, an exclusive, separate wing of the penthouse, complete with a wrap-around terrace, three bedrooms, lounge area, and indoor whirlpool. Call for rates.)

Also mentioned is the 4-star Hotel Beatriz Atlantis & Spa, located in Puerto de la Cruz near Lake Martianez. Buffet restaurant, 2 bars, and glass dome spa facility, with shopping center nearby. Water sports, activities for kids, ideal for families.

Reasonable Rates: From $106 to $145 – double room with sea view.

Others in Puerto de la Cruz with good ratings include the Gran Turquesa Playa – avg rates $74/double room, and the all-suites Las Aguilles, rates from $94 to $260, breakfast included.

Dining & Entertainment:

Restaurants and cafes offer a variety of cuisine, from traditional Spanish to seafood and pork. Try papas arrugadas (crinkly fries), spicy mojo and salmorejo dips, and wine, of course. Highly rated is Lucas Maes, expensive, but excellent food and ambiance. Prices: $25 – $50. Hours: Wed-Sun, 1-3:30pm, 7-11pm.

Enjoy Mediterranean or vegetarian at Mil Sabores, moderately priced from $17, open Mon-Sat, 6:30am to 11pm, or Escondida for Thai & Basque. Prices: $60 – 3 course meal. Live entertainment. Hours: Wed-Mon, 1-4pm, 7pm-2am.

Visitors will find numerous nightspots on Tenerife including casinos, pubs, and bars, many with live music and open until 5 or 6am. If you’re familiar with the Caribbean, Rio, or Mardi Gras, you know that Carnival is Big entertainment, with music, street dancing, costumes, and parades. Carnaval de Santa Cruz in 2011 – 10 Feb to 13 Mar. Mostly free admission.

Scenes from Clash of the Titans and Krull were also filmed on Lanzarote, birthplace of famous artist Cesar Manrique whose works contributed to the island’s main source of income, tourism. Of interest to visitors are Timanfaya National Park and the submerged volcanic “Tunnel of Atlantis.” Other attractions include Manrique’s creation of the Cactus Garden, open 10am to 6pm, and the LagOmar Museum with an interesting history of Omar Sharif while filming The Mysterious Island, open 10am to 6pm (winter), 10am to 7pm (summer), Tues – Sun. Admission: Adults – $6, Children – $3.

Visit the 16th century Castillo de San Gabriel and the 18th century Castillo de San Jose, converted into an art gallery by Manrique in 1974. Hours: Daily, 11am to 9pm.

Besides beautiful beaches and incredible scenery, there are the usual fiestas, markets, shops, and theme parks. Rent a bike or drive around the island to appreciate its natural beauty.

Three main resorts, Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise, and Playa Blanca, offer numerous things to do and places to stay. At Puerto del Carmen, you’ll find over 100 restaurants, great shopping, and water sports, as well as the IronMan international cycling event in May/June, and the July Fiesta de Carmen. Costa Teguise is known for its beaches, windsurfing, cycling, and the only golf course on Lanzarote (to date). Accommodations range from budget to high dollar. Being less crowded, Playa Blanca may be preferred for the upscale atmosphere.

Getting there: Flights from Europe, the UK, and other countries on major airlines including Air France, Alitalia, American, Delta, British Airways, and Spain’s national airline, Iberia.

(Ferries & inter-island flights available.)

Sharon L Slayton

On The Road In Argentina

Filming of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road adventure, scheduled for release in 2011, should be completed this month. The cast, which includes Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, and Kirsten Dunst, traveled from California, Canada, and Louisiana to Mexico City and further south to Argentina. We will explore a few of the places and attractions featured in the movie.

Movie producers have found Argentina a prime location for film production as seen in the vineyards of Motorcycle Diaries and the mountains of 7 Years in Tibet. Many of the scenes from On the Road take place in and around Bariloche in the beautiful foothills of the magnificent Patagonian Andes. Tourists visit the area year round (the seasons are reversed) for winter skiing at resorts such as Cerro Campanario and summer vacations in the Lake District. Located within Nahuel Huapi National Park, San Carlos de Bariloche is an interesting town of German, Swiss, and English heritage, with numerous hotels, restaurants, and a variety of attractions for the tourist trade. Nahuel Huapi National Park (Island of the Tiger), Argentina’s oldest, covers a vast area, over 2900 square miles of lakes, rivers, mountain peaks, and peninsulas. (More information on hiking, camping, and exploring the park can be found online. $10 fee at certain access points.)

In Town:

Dining:

Beef, lamb, wild game, and fish are on the menus of most restaurants in the area. Positive reviews include Kandahar International, Naan, Alberto’s Steak House, and Cassis, about 20 minutes from town on the shores of Lago Gutierrez. Travelers enjoy the local Blest beer at the Map Room Irish pub/restaurant, coffee at the Antigua Cafè, or ice cream at Jauga. Chocolate lovers should visit the shops in Bariloche that feature the best products in Argentina such as Frantom, Mamushka, La Abuela Goye, and Tante Frida.

Civic Center – National Park Headquarters, Tourist Information, and the Museo de la Patagonia Perito Merino, which houses natural science, history, and ethnography displays, as well as colonial period artifacts from the region. .

Museum Hours: 10am – 12:30pm & 2 to 7pm, Tues thru Fri; 10am – 5pm, Sat.

Admission: $3. Gift shop onsite.

Out of Town: If the town of Bariloche seems too touristy, consider exploring the natural beauty of your surroundings by taking the 37-mile road around the Llao Llao peninsula. Cycling is a popular pastime and an excellent way to enjoy the scenery, flora, and fauna of the region. Bicycles can be rented in town; if you prefer, you can hop a local bus or arrange a bus tour of the area. There are trails through the forest where you can stop along the way at an outdoor restaurant for the famous Argentine beef or lamb cooked on the parilla (grill), hike down to the beach at Bahia Lopez, or follow the trail to the Refugio Lopez hut, a shelter for backcountry skiers and mountain climbers

Another option is the free shuttle bus from town to the gondola ride at Cerro Otto for more great views and a visit to the revolving restaurant at the top.

Cost: $15 p/p. Hours: Jan-Feb & Jul-Aug, 9:30am to 6pm. Other months – 10am to 6pm.

To fully appreciate the outdoors, consider renting a car for all day sightseeing around the Seven Lakes through small villages and valleys below interesting rock formations in the cliffs, home to the Andean condor. There are lookout spots and various type of lodging along the way.

The village of Colonia Suiza, about 12 miles out of town, may be of interest to tourists for its Swiss pioneer history and curanto, a time-honored way of cooking in the ground dating back to the late 1800’s. Covered with cloth and earth, complete meals are placed beneath the firewood on a layer of branches over hot rocks. Go to this attraction on Wednesday or Sunday at noon to watch the preparation, enjoy the food, buy some handicrafts, or visit the small museum and chapel nearby.

Boating, rafting, and kayaking on the lakes are popular activities for tourists, especially the lake crossing excursion between Argentina and Chile. This one or two-day trip takes you by catamaran from Bariloche across Nahuel Huapi Lake to Puerto Blest, across another lake, and then by bus through several small towns and on into Chile, if you choose.

Approximate cost: $175 p/p – one day. (Full itinerary, reservations, and prices available online.)

Shorter, less expensive excursions on the lakes are also available at rates from $30 to $50 p/p. Tours and guides can be arranged, as well.

Accommodations:

Praised by travelers and recognized by World Travel Awards as the leading golf resort in Argentina for 2010, the very luxurious Llao Llao Hotel offers superb spa services, kayaking on Moreno Lake, skiing at Mt Catedral at over 8,000 feet, spectacular views, and excellent food. Special reservation only events are held at Christmas and New Years in addition to painting, photography, and language lessons. Summer activities in 2011 include yoga sessions, workouts at the Pilates Studio, hiking, Nordic walking, and mountain biking.

Room Rates: $500 lake view, $700 suite. (Golf & spa packages available.)

Posadas Aurelio on Mt Catedral has 5 fully equipped villas that will accommodate from 4 to 6 people. Travelers will find Wi-Fi Internet, satellite TV, linens, and kitchen amenities in each villa. The Mt Catedral Ski Resort nearby offers all types of skiing on 53 runs with 39 lifts, snowboarding, paragliding, day care, and other services for visitors.

While on location, members of the cast spent time in the small, picturesque village of Villa La Angostura, about 50 miles from Bariloche. Although it is considered a mountain village with traditional European wooden architecture, travelers enjoy the leisure and recreation of sport fishing in nearby lakes, canoeing, skiing, and hiking through forests and lush vegetation. Cycling from here to the Myrtle Forest at the entrance to Arrayanes Park, a park within a park, takes about 3 hours. The small deer or pudú-pudú that inhabit the forest are reminiscent of the ones in the movie Bambi.

Accommodations:

The upscale Las Balsas Spa Hotel offers extensive spa services, personal trainers, 2 swimming pools, golf, water sports, and outdoor activities, as well as gourmet food and cooking classes.

Nightly Rates: Lake view rooms – $480, suites – $770.

(Note: Two to 5-star hotels, mountain cabins, apartments, private houses, and hostels with reasonable rates can be found in the vicinity of Bariloche and Villa La Angostura. Numerous campsites are also available.)

Restaurants: Local favorites include Gran Nevada, La Encantada, La Oveja Negra, Los Troncos for venison and trout, and popular regional cuisine at Tinto Bistro.

Going to Bariloche: Regular weekly flights via Aerolineas Argentinas, as well as train and bus service from Buenos Aires, or 16 hours by car. From Chile, you can drive from Osomo to the international mountain pass to Argentina, continuing on to San Martin de los Andes and south to Bariloche (total drive about 170 miles.) Border pass is usually open year round, 9am – 8pm.

Sharon L Slayton

Movie Tourism – Isle of Man (Mann)

Released in 1998, Waking Ned Devine (Waking Ned outside North America) is pure entertainment, with amusing lines, great music, and an Irish cast featuring Ian Bannen as Jackie, David Kelly as Michael, and Fionnula Flanagan as Maggie. A simple story of a lottery winner in a small Irish village, this delightful movie is filmed entirely on the Isle of Man.

Approximately 33 miles long and 10 miles wide, the island is in the Irish Sea about midway between Ireland and Great Britain, less than 20 miles from Scotland. Often considered a haven for offshore banking, as well as a popular tourist destination for travelers from Europe and the UK, the numerous locations and hilarious scenes from the movie have brought many others to the Isle of Man. The island presents a striking diversity, from the rugged seacoast, fortresses, and burial sites to the deep woods of the Glens and fields of wildflowers and heather in the beautiful countryside. Relive the vivid nautical history and adventures of the island in the legends of the Vikings and tales of shipwrecks and smuggling. Enjoy stories of the “wee folk,” and visit the old castles of English nobility. (Readers may recall that Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian of the HMS Bounty had ties to the island, as well.)

Many scenes from the movie were filmed in the village of Cregneash in the south of Man including Jackie’s farmhouse, the barn, post office, and pub. Many of the villagers in Cregneash still live the traditional Manx way of life from the 19th century, carefully preserved as a National Folk Museum. Here, you’ll see a living small community of farmers, thatched roof cottages, workshops, and the rare 4-horned Loaghtan sheep, native to the island. Enjoy demonstrations of cooking, gardening, weaving, and crafting, explore the footpaths, take time for refreshments in the tea rooms, and perhaps attend a service at St Peters Church in the center of the village.

Museum Admission: Adults – $4.50, Children under 18 & Students – $3.50, Family of 4 -$13. Open: 6 Apt to Oct, 7 days a week, 10am to 5pm, handicap accessible.

Some of the sets for the interiors of Jackie’s house were built at the Old Mill in Laxey, located in the Glen Moaar valley north of Douglas, the capital of Mann. Laxey’s main tourist attraction is the “Lady Isabella,” named at the time for the Lt Governor’s wife, and the largest remaining waterwheel in the world. Designed by Robert Casement and built in 1854 for the Laxey miners, the great wheel, an impressive 72′ in diameter, was completely restored in 1965. Visitors can climb the staircase for an amazing view, enter the old mine, or view the wildlife along the Laxey Mines Trail.

Admission: $2.75 – Children under 18 & Students, $5.50 – Adults, $9.50 – Family of 4.

The Niarbyl Visitors Centre on the bay where the beach scene from the movie was filmed provides audio-visual presentations, spectacular views, and a restaurant offering everything from afternoon tea, salads, and sandwiches to full evening menus and an extensive wine list. Try their famous Chocoholic Wotsit concoction for a special dessert.

Reasonable Prices: Most entrees average $13 to $25 p/p.

Open: Easter to October, 7 days a week, 10am-9pm. Nov to Easter, 11am-3pm Mon thru Fri, & 10am to 5pm Sat & Sun.

For a fascinating, exhilarating ride into the past, ideal for cyclists, take the Marine Drive seen in the movie. Heading south from Douglas, you’ll follow the road beneath the stone archways of the old Victorian gates, which allowed the tramway and carriages to pass. An estimated 2,000 people paid about $1300 each to ride on the open top, double-decker tram at the grand opening in 1893. Through lack of maintenance and money, the tramway was eventually abolished, but you can still see the ruins of old bridges and electrical cable poles in the rocky hillsides as you walk or cycle along Marine Drive, now with “kissing gates” at both ends.

Other Attractions: The Calf of Man, a small island just off the coast, is a nature reserve and a bird observatory. Castle Rushen, situated in the old capital of Castletown, is a well-preserved fortress completely restored from medieval times. You can follow the mapped route within the castle from the drawbridge to the gatehouse and continue through the guardrooms, prison cells, dining hall, chapel, and treasury.

Hours: 10am to 5pm, Easter to October.

Admission: Adults – $7.50, Children under 18 & Students – $4.00

Accommodations: There are a number of hotels on the island including the Ascot at $80-$115, the Regency at $120-$190, and the Sefton at $140 a night. Others recommended are the Hilton, the Town House, and the Gloucester. Prices range from $50 for smaller establishments to $215 for a large apartment type hotel. Lodging is also available at B&Bs, self-catering apartments, holiday cottages, and hostels.

Things to Do: Although Mann is a small island, there is no end of things to see and do from walking, photography, and bird watching to boating, diving, and motorcycle riding. Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – the TT is considered “the” international motorcycle racing event, a 27-mile course, dating back to 1907 and held in May and June each year. Music, drama, art, and crafts play an important part in Manx culture, as well, and travelers will find a number of festivals and other events are held throughout the year. Visitors will find year round entertainment at the Gaiety Theatre & Opera House in Douglas.

Transportation: Several airlines have flights to Ronaldsway Airport from the British Isles. Average Fares: $47 from Dublin, $41 from Liverpool, less than an hour. Rental cars available at the airport.

Ferries: 3 to 4 hour trip, from Liverpool, Haysham, Dublin, and Belfast.

Average Fares: $26 and up, one way, depending on departure time, location, and type of reservation.

This article has covered many of the film locations from Waking Ned Devine, all worth seeing; yet there is a great deal more that awaits travelers to the Isle of Man.

Sharon L Slayton

The Ghost Writer – Movie Tourism – North Frisian Islands & The Baltic Sea

Released early this year, The Ghost Writer features an outstanding cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, and Timothy Hutton. Based on the novel Ghost by Robert Harris, Roman Polanski has produced an intriguing film about war crimes, British politics, and the isolation of exile. Under the capable direction of Roman Polanski while serving a different type of exile, the clever plot weaves a bit of Agatha Christie mystery, romance, and melancholy isolation with the rare humor and irony associated with film makers such as Polanski and Hitchcock. Some of the settings filmed at Babelsberg, the oldest and largest studio in the world, may be familiar to moviegoers who have seen Inglourious Basterds, Valkyrie, and The Pianist. A majority of the other film locations, however, are well known to tourists who travel on holiday from Denmark, Germany, and Poland to the North Sea or the Baltic.

Usedom, used by the German Luftwaffe as a covert research and missile test center in WWII at Pennemunde, lies on the Baltic Sea bordering Germany & Poland. Only 2 to 3 hours by car from Berlin, the island has been a popular resort since the time of German nobility and the Jewish upper class, and it is now a holiday destination for European and other international visitors. Comparable to Brighton and the Hamptons, Usedom is known as “Berlin’s Bathtub,” offering travelers sunshine, fine beaches, nature reserves, and an interior of historic villages, lakes, and gardens. Familiar sights on Usedom are the handmade canopied wicker chairs “strandkörbe” on the beach where people sit to watch the sun go down and listen to the unique sounds of the “singing sand.” After nude bathing became less popular, Usedom developed its own year-round spa culture with visitors flocking to the Puria and the Ostsee Therme spas in the villages of Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck, and Bansin.

Things to Do: Rent a bike and cycle past the villas along the coast and through the villages that are connected by a 5-mile boardwalk. Stop and enjoy schnapps and smoked herring in a beach shack, or dine at one of the more upscale restaurants on Usedom. The Restaurant Stellwerk in the old train station at Heringsdorf is a fascinating place of unusual décor, service, and cuisine. Seated in train car compartments, you’re served beer or other beverages from a model train that goes from table to table. Choose from a menu of favorite 19th century recipes for antipasto, crayfish, and duck, or try the odd combination of herring and dark chocolate. Open daily at Noon.

Cafè Knatter, a combination guesthouse and restaurant, offers German specialties, open air dining, and a private beach for surfing or sailing.

Room Rates: From $95.

You can visit the Botanical Garden, open daily during the summer, or the Pennemunde Technical Information Center where concentration camp and prison inmates were forced to work under deplorable conditions. Today, it is a museum of rocketry history and a cultural center representing world peace and reconciliation, as well as a memorial for the lives lost in the Nazi plan for military supremacy.

Hours: Apr – Sep, 10am to 6pm; Oct – Mar, 10am to 4pm.

Admission: $8 p/p, $22 for families, $42 for guided tours.

Accommodations: Usedom Palace, used by Polanski and crew, is on the water in the village of Zinnowitz. Rates: Around $227 high season, includes breakfast. The Villa Staudt, once visited by Kaiser Wilhelm II, has 13 apartments with summer rates around $140 and $50 during the winter.

(Numerous other historic villas with comparable rates, hotels, and B&Bs are also available.)

Special Events: October – Butterflies from Taiwan Exhibit; Art by the famous 18th century romanticist painter, Phillipp Runge; Designer Fashion Show collections. November – Hotels sponsor Wellness Days. December – Winter Craft & Food Market.

Sylt, another film location in The Ghost Writer, is a 25-mile long Frisian island in the North Sea connected to the mainland and bordering Germany & Denmark. Realistic scenes and houses in the movie were made to resemble those at Martha’s Vineyard, as well as the lighthouses found along the coast of Cape Cod where the story takes place. As a World Heritage site, the income from tourism is substantial, with about a million visitors each year. Most come for the summer sunshine and refreshing, healthy air before the cold winter wind sweeps across the island from the North Sea.

Things to Do: Besides hiking, cycling, surfing, and visiting the Ellenbogen nature reserve, there are two museums of interest – a museum of the island’s history and the Sylter Heimatmuseum, a restored 18th century sea captain’s house behind a gate of gigantic whale ribs – Entry Fee: $4. Visit the Aquarium, prices – $15 & $10, or spend some time shopping at designer boutiques. You can always rent a wicker chair for about $14 and just relax on one of the finest beaches in Europe.

Visitors will find a variety of nightlife at clubs and bars such as Pony, Greta’s Rauchfang, the Club Rotes Kliff, and the Compass for the young crowd, as well as the casino at Westerland, the capital and largest town on Sylt. Many join the crowds on the promenade at Westerland to enjoy afternoon concerts and Frisian grog, a strong beverage of rum, sugar, and water.

Recommended Restaurants: The Copper Pot in Kampen, a refurbished WWII bunker by the sea, is fun for socializing with friends, Voigt’s Alte Backstube for pancakes and rich desserts, the Gogärtchen, and the elegant Jörg Muller for outstanding seafood and European cuisine, as well as the many Jurgen Gosch fish places. The Wonnemeyer is great for families, with a friendly atmosphere, a beach sauna, and an old ship for the kids to explore.

Accommodations: Over 40 hotels including the upscale Miramar, the Laudhaus Stricker, and the Fahrhaus, as well as hostels, B&Bs, self catering apartments, and camping grounds.

Special Events: July – Children’s Circus & Barcardi (Bacardi) beach party. August – German Polo Masters & Catamaran Regatta. September – Surf World Cup at Westerland beach.

Transportation: Sylt offer convenient bus transportation with fares from $2 to $8, or bicycle rental for visitors to the island. Three hour train ride from Hamburg to Westerland, $55. Flights from several major cities in Germany. Car ferry and car train service from Havneby, Denmark to List, at the far northern end of the island.

(Note: Many of the websites for accommodations, restaurants, and attractions are only in German.)

You may not be interested in seeing Polanski’s latest endeavor, but the islands where The Ghost Writer was filmed are certainly different and well worth considering as vacation destinations.

Sharon L Slayton

Movie Tourism In Bruges

The comedy In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleeson, takes us to various locations in the city of Bruges, Belgium where the movie was filmed. Bruges is a frequent first stop for travelers arriving at Ostende from the UK, or for visitors to Europe from other countries, a short train ride from Brussels. Tourists will find a well-preserved town, a World Heritage Site, remaining relatively untouched by industrialism and the modernism of other tourist destinations. Often called the “Venice of the North,” Bruges is known for canals, medieval architecture, music, and art, as well as for over 300 varieties of local beer, fine Belgian lace, and delicious chocolate and pralines. It is a fascinating place with numerous attractions, so we will cover some of these scenes from the movie.

Couples and romanticists will discover the Minnewater “Lake of Love” and park a delightful retreat across the old bridge from town and away from the tourist crowds. Stroll through the grounds or watch the swans that have symbolized Bruges through the years float gracefully on Minnewater. In July, the summer Cactus Festival is a popular 3-day event where people can enjoy a variety of music in outdoor concerts by well known international artists in a beautiful setting.

Admission: $50 – 1 day, $89 – 2 days, $117 – 3 days.

Much of the Old World charm, history, and culture of Bruges can be found in its museums. The significance of beer making dates back to the 15th century and to the wealthy, powerful Gruuthuse families. Lodewiik van Gruuthuse and other lords of Gruuthuse made a fortune in the sale of Gruut, barley or wheat, and built a splendid mansion filled with medieval treasures of art, furniture, lace, and tapestries. In 1865, the Archaeological Society of Bruges recognized the value in these great collections, and by the late 1800’s the palace had undergone a complete renovation to become a grand museum. Officially taken over by the city in 1955, the Gruuthuse Museum is now a main attraction in its extensive variety of exhibits and memorabilia from the Middle Ages. Visitors will find impressive wood, ivory, and marble sculpture from the 16th century, different styles of furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries, religious and domestic silver, and an extensive collection of metal objects including the original fireplace and chimney from the kitchen of the Gruuthuse family. The museum also houses ceramics from various regions in Europe such as Holland’s Delft, France, and Germany, as well as tapestries, a small stamp collection, and some musical instruments.

Hours: Tues – Sun, 9:30am to 5pm. Admission: $8, Ages 6-15, $1.50, Under 6 free.

Travelers interested in the Fine Arts may want to visit the Groeninge Museum, which features paintings from the 14th through the 20th century. Some of the highlights include masterpieces by the famous Flemish painters, Jan Van Eyck, Memling, and David. Other artwork on display is from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the Herbert collection of Flemish expressionist paintings, acquired by the museum in 1985.

Hours: 9:30am to 5pm. Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec, and most Mondays. Admission: $10 – Adults, $7 – Ages 13 to 26, 60+, and groups of 15 or more.

Featured in the movie is the Relais Bourgondisch Cryce hotel where Farrell and Gleeson, the two hitmen, hide out while in Bruges. Although pictured as a somewhat modest establishment managed by Fiennes, it is actually a highly recommended upscale waterfront hotel on Rosary Quay. Chosen for the Cultures Choice award and the Best Luxury Hotel Worldwide by Travelers Choice in 2008, this small 15th century hotel of 16 guestrooms is elegantly furnished throughout with antiques and designer accessories. A lavish breakfast buffet complete with champagne and famous Belgian waffles is served in the cozy 17th century Flemish tea room of the hotel. Breakfast – $30. A 5-minute walk along the canal takes you to the hotel restaurant, Maria van Bourgondie, with its menu of gourmet specialties. Travelers can find less expensive accommodations in the city, but this family owned hotel has a distinctive, romantic appeal for those interested in the movie and its popular location for photographers, writers, and artists.

Room Rates: Standard – $258, Superior/Classic – $481 and up. (canal view)

Other scenes from In Bruges were filmed at the well known Cafedraal restaurant near the city center, a friendly bistro/bar with an outdoor garden terrace and a choice of soups, seafood, and wild game entrees.

Prices: $30 to $50 Hours: 12Noon – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm. Closed Sundays.

While in Bruges, travelers may be interested in seeing the historic 250-foot Belfort or Belfry Tower, built in the 13th century in the market square and rebuilt three times, as portrayed in Longfellow’s poem, “The Belfry of Bruges.” The original carillon of the 17th century was replaced by a set of 47 bells in the tower that ring every 15 minutes and where concerts are given throughout the week. A climb up 366 steps takes you past the 2nd floor treasury room of the town’s archives to the top for a panoramic view of Bruges and the countryside.

Admission: $11

Of great historical appeal to many is the Basilica of the Holy Blood located in Burg Square. This Catholic shrine consists of two chapels connected by a brick stairway, the lower one first built in simple 12th century Roman style, followed by the upper chapel of more elaborate Gothic architecture, stained glass, and murals. Sealed in an unopened crystal container, the sacred Holy Blood is thought to have been preserved and brought to Bruges from Jerusalem by the Count of Flanders sometime after the 2nd Crusade. The Basilica Museum also houses a golden statue of the Virgin Mary and other religious objects. The annual May celebration of Asuncion Day is a parade of Bruges citizens in historical costumes led by the bishop who portray the Procession and the arrival of the Count in Bruges.

Hours: Open Daily. April – Sep, 9:30am to 12Noon, 2pm to 6pm; Oct – Mar, 10am to Noon, 2pm to 4. Closed Wednesday afternoons.

Admission: Free to the Basilica. Museum – $1.50 & $.75.

Bruges, like most European cities, has a central marketplace or Grote Markt, which is framed by the Belfry Tower and the Provincial Court where ships unloaded and products were stored in the old guildhalls or sold at the open market. Statues of Breydel and de Coninck, the two Flemish leaders in the 14th century uprising against French occupation, stand proudly in the center of the Grote Markt. Here you can spend the day away from city traffic while exploring the restaurants, shops, and the remarkable reconstructions of medieval homes that line the square.

While in Bruges, travelers will enjoy a wide range of things to see and do from museums, churches, and open air markets to excellent food, fun, and Flemish hospitality.

Sharon L Slayton

The Edge of Love – Dylan Thomas – Movie Tourism in Wales

Released in 2008, The Edge of Love is a story based in part on the much talked about and celebrated life of Dylan Thomas, his wife, and two of their closest friends, filmed primarily on location in Wales. Written by Sharman Macdonald, Knightley’s mother and selected for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the cast includes Keira Knightley as Vera Killick, Thomas’ childhood friend and lover; Sienna Miller portrays Thomas’ wife Caitlin and Matthew Rhys is Thomas. Many of the scenes take place in and around the seaport town of New Quay on Cardigan Bay in West Wales where Thomas resided at his Majoda home in the 1940’s. The film crew used the nearby field to build the sets for the movie. This part of Wales is world famous not only for Dylan Thomas, but for beautiful seascapes, over 400 castles and historical landmarks, nature trails, and meadowlands.

The small towns along Cardigan Bay and within a few miles are very popular vacation spots, with many things to see and do including the harbors, dolphins, boat trips, beaches, colorful Victorian homes, wildflowers, wetlands, and birds. We will cover some points of interest in this article for vacationing in Wales.

Accommodations: The Black Lion Hotel on the Bay has an interesting history probably dating back to the 12th century as the oldest coaching inn or “grog shope” in Wales. Popular with fishermen, cyclists, and nature lovers, this B&B is a good spot from which to explore the countryside and nearby towns. (Note: Please check the website for availability.) Also worth visiting in New Quay is Dylan’s Bar for the cozy atmosphere in what was once a very large kitchen at the Black Lion Hotel. Thomas spent a lot of time here drinking with his friends and writing some of his greatest poems and radio scripts. Another favorite watering hole for Dylan and the young Richard Burton was the Blue Bell pub.

The Ty Mawr Hotel, a fully restored Georgian mansion, offers charming accommodations in the countryside not far from the town of Aberaeron. Visitors will find three rooms named after members of the cast, Knightley, Miller, and Rhys, who stayed here for a month while filming The Edge of Love. With three lounges and an upscale restaurant, this small but elegant hotel in a lovely setting offers lavishly decorated rooms and large bathrooms with all the modern amenities. Room Rates: $130 to $180, Suites – $235.

(Note: Other accommodations can be found at B&Bs and guesthouses, as well as numerous holiday cottages for rent.)

Things To Do: Plan on walking, a favorite pastime for locals and tourists, especially along the 6.8 mile coastal trail from New Quay to Aberaeron. You’ll have a great view of Cardigan Bay, the harbor, and fishing boats as you follow Glanmore Terrace road lined with restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops. The trail is carefully marked and easy to follow with a few small bridges and short climbs. In Aberaeron, you can catch the bus back to New Quay or spend a few hours in this quaint village, another favorite hangout for Thomas. The entire 25-mile Dylan Thomas Trail, officially opened in 2003 by his daughter, begins in Llanon and continues on to the market town of Lampeter, Aberaeron, and New Quay. Information placards and a detailed guide are available.

South of New Quay about 18 miles is the small market town of Cardigan where you can visit the Coach House, a heritage center featuring a tapestry display of the area’s history. Admission is free. Another attraction near Cardigan is the two towers and ruins of the 13th century Cilgerran Castle on the River Teifi. Hours: 27 Mar – 31 Oct, 10am to 5pm; 1 Nov – 31 Mar, 10am to 4pm. Admission: $4 – Adults, $11 – Family.

Area Attractions: Travelers may want to take a short drive, about an hour and a half to Swansea, the birthplace of the famous Welsh poet (and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Just 10 miles from here on what is known as the “Golden Coast of Wales” are the birthplaces of other famous people including Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton. Here you can visit the Dylan Thomas Centre, free of charge, between the hours of 10am – 4:30pm to view the permanent exhibition of his life events and a bookshop filled with books, recordings, and other interesting memorabilia. You can have coffee or tea in the Books & Bites cafè, or stay for a delicious lunch in the Centre’s restaurant. From 27 Oct to 9 Nov of this year, the Centre will sponsor an annual festival in his honor and featuring other famous literature from Wales.

Just 28 miles from Swansea at Bronwydd Arms Station, you can take a ride on the Gwili railway, featured in The Edge of Love, Carrie’s War, and Heidi. This year marks its 150th anniversary as the only steam railway in South West Wales.

You can have lunch on the train, stop at the picnic spot station along the way, or get snacks and beverages at the Bronwydd Arms Station where you catch the train. Tickets: $8 – Adults, $4 – Children, $20 – Families. 1 hour ride, or all day same price.

Families will enjoy Thomas Day, a special event on 11, 12, 18, & 19 Sep where children are entertained with live characters, animal displays, and puppets in the open-air theater here. Tickets: $14 and $12. (See the website for the timetable and other events such as dinner and jazz on 9 Oct.)

For more of Dylan Thomas, tourists can visit the nearby town of Laugharne, where he “got off the bus and forgot to get back on.” Here he and his family spent the last 4 years of his life until 1953 at the Boat House and Writing Shed. Now a museum, gift shop, and tea room, open May to Oct, 10am – 5:30pm, and Nov to Apr, 10:30 to 3:30. Another tourist attraction in Laugharne is the 12th century castle overlooking the River Taf with a history from the Norman Conquest and the Tudors to the gazebo where Thomas wrote, the ruins, and landscaped gardens that remain.

Open: 7 days, 27 Mar – 31 Oct. Admission: $4

(Note – For golf enthusiasts – Wales plays host to the 2010 Ryder Cup for the first time this year, 1-3 Oct in Newport, about 50 miles from Swansea. Although tickets have sold out, travelers might enjoy visiting the Celtic Manor Resort to catch a glimpse of celebrities and royalty. Tickets are still available at $30 to $50 for the Celebration Concert in Cardiff on the 29th of Sep featuring stars of stage and screen.)

Travelers to Wales will find a small, beautiful country with friendly people and a fascinating history in performing arts, literature, and sports.

Sharon L Slayton

Count of Monte Cristo movie tourism: Adventure Travel In The Maltese Islands

Scenes for the 2002 movie Count of Monte Cristo, based on the classic adventure story by Alexandre Dumas, were filmed at various locations on the Maltese Islands of Gozo, Malta, and Comino, south of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. All three islands offer travelers a wealth of archaeological and historical treasures, along with beautiful scenery, favorable weather, and a variety of things to see and do. This article will cover some of these points of interest for vacation planning.

Gozo, meaning “Joy,” is about 3 miles or 25 minutes by ferry from Malta and popular with travelers for its laid-back rural atmosphere and friendly villagers. Victoria, or Rabat, is the cultural center of activity for shopping, dining, and visiting the many churches, museums, and other attractions of historical interest on the island.

A camera is a must while visiting The Citadel, with a history dating back to the Bronze Age, the Phoenicians, and the Romans, until it was eventually overtaken and much of it destroyed by the Ottoman Turks. Restoration is ongoing, however, and you will get incredible views as far as Malta from the top of the walls. Within these walls stands the Cathedral of the Assumption, built in 1697 on the site of old Roman temples. Cathedral & Museum Hours: Mon – Sat, 10am to 1pm and 1:30 to 4:30.

Located just inside the main gate, tourists will find the Museum of Archaeology, once the town hall for the Knights of St John, filled with exhibits from the various historical eras. Further uphill within the Citadel, you can visit the Folklore Museum, the Natural Science Museum, the Old Prison, Law Courts, and St Joseph’s Chapel.

Hours: Mon-Sun, 9am to 5pm. Admission to 3 sites: $5

Accommodations: Several hotels are available such as the Excelsior and the Kempinski, but many travelers choose to rent rustic farmhouses or upscale villas for their vacation. These offer more privacy and freedom to explore the island, take leisurely walks through the countryside, shop at the It-Tokk market, or socialize with the villagers where bars open early and close late.

Restaurants: Highly recommended to travelers is the Ta Rikardu restaurant in the Citadel, offering good food and a small gift shop. A fun place for drinks and snacks is the Two Twenty Two; enjoy the terrace at the Fusion 4 bar/cafè, or dine on game, seafood, or local specialties at the Country Terrace.

Other Things to Do: Watch the sunset over the rocky cliffs at Dwerja Bay; visit the wineries; sample the Maltese cuisine. Do some rock climbing, or for real adventure, experience the thrill of diving the Blue Hole near Gozo. Come in October for the Olive Oil Harvest Festival. Historians and archaeologists will want to visit the two oldest freestanding temples in the world at Ggantija, a UNESCO Heritage site of megaliths similar to Stonehenge dating back to 3600 B.C. Hours: 9am – 5pm, 7 days a week. Admission: Adults, seniors, & children – $10, $8, and $6. Ages 5 and under free.

Comino, the smallest of the Maltese Islands, lies between Malta and Gozo. Virtually uninhabited except for a few farmers and small wildlife, there are no cars on this tiny island. Famous for the Blue Lagoon, hidden coves, and sandy beaches, travelers come to Comino to spend a day or even longer to unwind and escape the crowds on the larger islands. Besides swimming, picnicking, sailing, and sunbathing, scuba and snorkel diving is extremely popular here, especially around the Santa Maria Caves seen in the movie and the coral reef of Kemmunett Islet. Tourists can take a 20-minute boat trip for about $7 from Malta or Gozo, have lunch and drinks onboard, or leave the boat to hike and explore the hillsides covered with wild herbs and flowers. For vacationers, the only hotel on the island at San Niklav Bay has its own ferry service and offers 4-star quality rooms with balconies, a gym, 10 tennis courts, two swimming pools and private beach, bars, and restaurants. Comino Hotel ferry service rates average $10 for adults. Forty-six fully equipped cottages are also available, about a 10-minute walk or free shuttle bus service to the hotel. Breakfast is served on the terrace for bungalow occupants, lunch and dinner at the hotel.

Open: April to October. (Spring is a perfect time to visit Comino.)

Rates: Reasonably priced from $45 to $75 p/p with ½ board. Special rates in June and July from $50 to $60.

The main attraction on Comino from the movie is St Mary’s Tower, used to represent the Chateau d’If where the Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel) was imprisoned and eventually escaped. Dramatically situated on the cliffs high above the sea, this 17th century Tower served as the vantage point to warn of pirates and Turkish invaders. The Knights of St John used it for a hunting lodge in the peaceful years of the late 1700’s, and later by the British until the end of the 19th century.

Mdina, known as the “silent or noble” city on the island of Malta, is a fascinating medieval town with traditions dating back over 4,000 years of rulers and religious orders. Believed to be the refuge for the Apostle St Paul, the old capital of Mdina remains a home for several monasteries. Stroll through the uncrowded streets past old homes and palaces of elegant Baroque architecture and visit the Museum of Natural History, the Medina Cathedral, and the Museum of Roman Antiquities near the walls of Mdina. The Palazzo Falzon, or the Norman House, probably built in the early 13th century, was first occupied by the Frenchman L’Isle Adam in 1530 and was restored in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. The Palazzo is actually medieval in design, with living quarters on the 2nd floor, stables and kitchens below. Museum with a large collection of antiques on the ground floor.

Open: 7 days a week, 10am – 1pm, & 2 to 5pm. Admission: Free

After visiting the attractions, stop for lunch or dessert at the well known Fontanella Tea Rooms, or linger until the street lamps are lit and have a quiet, romantic dinner at the exclusive Bacchus restaurant. The Bacchus is known for fine dining with an impressive wine list, great entrees, and inviting atmosphere. Open: 9am to 11:30pm. Reservations suggested.

Transportation: Ferries from Mediterranean ports to Malta, and flights from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Buses are very inexpensive at less than a $1 for up to an hour’s ride; average daily rates for rental cars are $25 to $35, and cabs and water taxis are available for tours and island hopping. You can take the 5-mile tourist train tour in Rabat for $5, leaving every hour from 10am to 5pm, to see some of the various attractions.

Relive history and adventures of the past on your vacation to the Maltese Islands.

Sharon L Slayton

Visiting Croatia: Beautiful and Damned literary / movie tourism

Currently in film production is the “Beautiful And Damned,” based on the book by one of the greatest American novelists, F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is the story of Fitzgerald and Zelda, his problematic wife, as seen in the characters of Anthony Patch and Gloria. They are two of the “Beautiful People,” a part of the uninhibited class who entertained, traveled, and indulged in every frivolity and excess of life in the early 1900’s. The well known British actress Keira Knightley as Zelda and Leonardo Di Caprio as Scott (if rumors are correct) should do a masterful job in portraying the intensity, the genius, and often harsh reality that characterize Fitzgerald’s writing. Although few other details are available, the anticipated release date is some time in 2011.

Scenes are being filmed in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and at the Opatija resort on the Adriatic Sea. There are just under a million people in Zagreb, once a familiar stop for the Orient Express, offering travelers a variety of things to see and do. Divided into Upper and Lower Towns, visitors will find an interesting contrast between the two. Below the hilly streets of old buildings, bars, and cafes, the Lower Town features more hotels, wider and pedestrian only streets, and a nice stretch of park grounds in the center, similar to Central Park, known as the Green Horseshoe.

Accommodations: Most hotels cater to business travelers; however, vacationers can find more luxurious places to stay. The Regent Esplanade and the Hotel Sheraton, both near the train station, offer 5-star amenities and prices to match. The Hotel Westin, part of the Starwood chain, has accommodations and facilities to please most tourists in an excellent location for sightseeing. Guest Rooms & Suites: $200 and up. For comfort and convenience, the Hotel Arcotel Allegra is near the train station, with rooms averaging $140, the Aristos by the airport, and there are several other good, but less expensive hotels in and around Zagreb.

Things to Do: Not far from the train station, travelers will enjoy the pleasant surroundings of the Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find a large area of trees, shrubs, a formal English garden, two ponds, and four rock gardens with over 10,000 native species of plants.

Hours: 1 Apr – 1 Nov, 7 days a week, 9am to 2:30pm Mon & Tues; open to 6pm the rest of the week. Admission is free.

Attractions: Highly recommended by art aficionados is the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters located in the old Academy of Science and Art palace, built in 1880. The Gallery on the 2nd floor of this Italian Renaissance palace opened to the public in November 1884 and features works by Bellini, Carpeaux, and Bruegel. The original 284 pieces created by Austrian, German, Dutch, French, and Flemish artists were donated by the Museum’s founder, J.J. Strossmayer. Since then, the artwork in the Gallery has increased through the years to over 784 from individual and collector donations. In addition, there are over 4,000 exhibits of paintings, sculpture, and graphics with collections from Uzorinac, Csikos, and the contemporary art of Sebalj. On permanent display in the Gallery are 254, and the rest kept in storage or at other establishments in Croatia. One of the most interesting pieces in the Museum is the Baska stone slab of Croatia’s ancient Glagolitic script, displayed in the atrium of the Gallery.

Hours: Tues – Sun, 10am to 1pm, & 5 to 7pm.

Admission: $5 – students & groups, $10 – adults.

Visitors will find fine examples of Croatian culture in folk costumes, tools, and handicrafts in the Ethnographic Museum. You can explore the Archaeological Museum, with its displays of artifacts and the oldest coin collection in Europe. Mimara Museum houses collections of the Far East, archaeology, and the European old masters (restoration, however, is not great, so authenticity has been questioned.)

Restaurants: Very reasonable, with lunch around $5 and a 3-course meal with wine about $15 to $20. Worth mentioning are the Boban for pasta, the Dubravkin Put for fresh seafood, and the popular Kaptolska Klet for traditional cuisine and friendly service.

(Note: Much of the information on museum and restaurant websites is in Croatian.)

Nightlife in Zagreb is inexpensive entertainment, popular from September to June, before the summer when travelers leave the city for the coast. There are bars, dance clubs, pubs, and live music in both the Upper and Lower towns.

Transportation in Zagreb: Besides walking, trams or buses are an option; taxis are usually too expensive. The best way to see Zagreb is by the tourist train, which is free and runs every hour from 9:30am to 7:30pm.

Opatija, a popular tourist spot on the Bay of Kvamer about 125 miles from Zagreb, was also chosen for scenes in the Beautiful And Damned. Easily accessible by car, train, or plane from several major cities in central Europe, Opatija is about 7 miles by bus from Rijeka, with connections to other cities and ferries to Italy. The mild climate, beaches, and gardens of this Adriatic Sea resort have lured travelers since the mid-1800’s and the time of Austrian emperors. Besides people watching, sunbathing, water activities, and strolling along Opatija’s boardwalk, the 8-mile Lungomare, the town offers an open-air summer theater of comedy, drama, and music, carnivals, and festivals throughout the year. Numerous business, sports, and cultural events are held here, as well as conventions on health and wellness therapy.

Attractions: Among the interesting 19th century buildings still standing is the Villa Angiolina, built in 1844 by a wealthy merchant and later changed into a hotel. As the railroad brought more travelers to the area, other hotels soon followed such as the Hotel Kvarner and the Hotel Imperial. Other attractions include the Maiden with the Seagull by Zvonko Car, overlooking the sea, and The Fountain – Helios and Selena by the Austrian sculptor Rathautsky in 1889 located near the Church of St Jakov on the grounds of an old Benedictine monastery. Opatija even has its own Walk of Fame, with 32 stars for prestigious artists, scientists, and athletes.

Accommodations: There are numerous hotels in the center of town and by the sea including the Hotel Ambassador with rooms and suites from $125 to $400, and the popular Grand Hotel Adriatic, with a casino, fully equipped spa, tennis courts, and convention facilities. Sample packages are reasonably priced at $135 p/p for double room, 4 hours daily at the spa, morning workouts, buffet breakfast and dinner, as well as entrance to the casino and hotel beach. Other hotels include the Bristol and the older Hotels Kvarner and Imperial. Visitors will find a good selection of villas, a few apartments, and hostels for budget travelers in and around Opatija.

Restaurants: Travelers can indulge in a wide variety of excellent seafood, Croatian dishes, Italian and Mediterranean specialties, wild game, and a fine selection of wine at Opatija restaurants. Many of these such as Bevanda, with its unique champagne, vodka, and caviar bar, Ika, Mali Raj, and the Yacht Club have open terraces and wonderful views of the sea. Smaller cafes offer less expensive pizza and pasta.

Entertainment: The Hemmingway Bar next to Angiolina Park is probably the most popular spot for nightlife in Opatija. Since many places close before midnight and drinking laws are strict, this is a good choice for after dark entertainment. Partygoers can find a few other places near the harbor, but Opatija is more about relaxation and leisure fun than the big party scene this Riviera resort might suggest.

Visiting Croatia is something you may not have considered before, but it does offer travelers something different in vacation destinations.

Sharon L Slayton