Category: Movie tourism

Castles, Chateaux, & Chocolat

The movie Chocolat, released in 2000 and based on the book by Joanne Harris, is a story of a single mother, Juliette Binoche as Vianne and her young daughter, whose travels bring them to the picturesque French village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, only an hour from Dijon in Burgundy. The film and cast received numerous academy nominations and European awards from the Screen Actor’s Guild, the British Academy, and Golden Globe.

In spite of the village mayor’s beliefs and strong disapproval, Vianne opens La Chocolaterie Maya during Lent, a daring venture with no promise of success. At first, the devout villagers are only curious about this new arrival and the tempting display of chocolat in the shop’s window. Before long, unable to resist this temptation, each one discovers a unique pleasure in chocolat, and word quickly spreads of its wonderful flavor and seemingly magical powers. Soon, romance comes to the village as news of Vianne’s shop reaches the gypsy camp nearby, and a mysterious visitor Roux, played by Johnny Depp, is lured by the delights of the chocolaterie.

Tourism to this beautiful area of France has always been popular, yet Flavigny has remained relatively unspoiled and is not considered a touristy spot. No doubt with the filming of Chocolat, its quaint charm has brought more visitors to explore this interesting town of medieval architecture, winding streets, and old world appeal. If you do go to Flavigny, be sure and visit the Abbey of St Pierre, the Church of St Genest, and through the old entry gates to the Maison du Donataire. You won’t want to miss seeing and tasting aniseed candy, Flavigny’s main claim to fame and recognized by the government as one of the top tasting sites in France. Still being made at the Abbey, anise candy is believed to be the world’s oldest type of confection with a history that began in Flavigny. Probably dating back to the time of the Roman emperor Flavinius in 50 BC to the founding of the Abbey in 718 AD, anise candy has tempted kings, queens, playwrights, and now the world, for centuries with its distinctive flavor. Today, aniseed candy is exported to over 13 countries and sold in flavors of violette, anise, mint, rose, orange blossom, cinnamon, jasmine, and coffee. Free samples of these delicious small treats are given out to visitors to the Abbey. Open: From 9 to 10:45 am, Monday thru Friday

About 3 miles from Flavigny, you’ll find the Bussy-Rabutin Castle, built in 1649 by Roger de Rabutin, a famous author who spent 16 years in exile here writing about Louis XIV and his many affairs. Visit the warriors’ drawing room and the King’s gallery with portraits of his mistresses.

Hours: 15 May – 14 Sep, 9:15am & 2-6pm. 15 Sep – 14 May, same morning hours, 2-5pm. Closed: 1 Jan, 1 May, 1 & 11 Nov, 25 Dec.

Admission: $10 Concessions: $6

Accommodations: A few including Le Relais de Flavigny hotel, and three B&B’s, Couvent des Castafours, L’Ange Souriant, and Béroubis.

Activities: Annual carnival in March, Sunday morning market Apr – October, and St Simon’s fair in October.

Visitors to Flavigny will no doubt want to travel through the countryside to enjoy the pleasures of similar villages and attractions of the Cote d’Or, most within 30 miles or less. A short 24-mile drive will take you to Morvan Natural Park, where there’s another choice of accommodation at the Chateau d’Island Vezelay, with prices averaging $150 for a double room.

Attractions: Fontenay Abbey, about 12 miles from Flavigny. Founded in 1118 by St Bernard of Clairvaux, the church, cloisters, prison, and kennels of this Cisterician Abbey were almost completely restored after the French Revolution, and it is now listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Fontenay provides a realistic view of monastery life, where visitors can watch demonstrations of old iron production at the forge, explore the dormitories and lodges, enter the church and cloisters, and stroll through the well-kept gardens. Cafè and gift shop on site.

Guided Tours: Apr – Jun, Sep – mid-Nov, Jul & Aug, 10am to Noon, 2 to 5pm. Price: $13 (Note: Prices and hours always subject to change.)

About 4 miles from Fontenay lies the village of Montbard, home of the 18th century scientist and writer, Georges-Louis, the Count of Buffon. A few things worth seeing are the Parc Buffon, the tower library, his clinic, and the museum.

Accommodations: There are numerous accommodations in the area, so we will only list a few.

Chateau De Malaisy – 17th century chateau, located on 37 acres in the Fontenay Valley. Prices: $140 – $160

Logis Hostellerie D’aussois – moderately priced, about 8 miles from Montbard.

Prices: $150

Hotel-Golf Chateau De Chailly – an authentic medieval Castle recognized as a National Monument, 24 miles from Montbard. Prices: $200

Scenes from Chocolat were also filmed at Beynac-et-Cazenac, another of the most beautiful villages in France. Located on the Dordogne River, this is a popular spot for tourists and artists, where the main attraction is the magnificent Castle built high above the riverbanks. With a history dating back to the 12th century, the Castle is one of the finest in France and has been a National Monument since 1944. Accessible by climbing a short, steep path, visitors will have a wonderful view of the river and village below. Completely restored in 1962 by its new owner, Louis Grosso, you’ll find splendid tapestries depicting the lives of the Castle’s lords, 17th century apartments with period décor, a large Renaissance fireplace in the main hall, and a small chapel filled with 15th century frescoes including Saint Christopher and the Last Supper. (Beynac Castle has been the scene for other films such as Les Miserables, Jeanne d’Arc, and Ever After.)

Hours: 10am – 6pm, Mar-Sep; Oct-Nov, 10am to dusk; Dec-Feb, Noon to dusk.

Admission: $10

Accommodations: Hotel Bonnet and Hotel Pontet in the village, rooms average

$50 – $75. Hotel du Chateau, located below the Castle, moderately priced with a good restaurant. Self-catering homes and holiday villas are also available, from $800 and up to $2,000 per week. Camping is also popular at Beynac, where campers can enjoy a range of amenities, fishing, rafting, and other outdoor activities along the Dordogne.

Restaurants: The restaurant at the Hotel Bonnet overlooking the river offers elegant dining, with a full gourmet menu of French cuisine from foie gras to dessert and wine, around $100 for two. Hotel Pontet offers a daily menu including wine, dessert, and coffee for less than $40 for two.

(Note: Flights, travel packages, and other information available online.)

Whether you are tempted by chocolate, anise candy, or other delectable sweets, you’ll enjoy visiting the Burgundy region of France on your next vacation.

Sharon L Slayton

Mamma Mia – Summertime Fun In The Greek Isles

You probably know the story from the movie, or the stage production in London and on Broadway, and are no doubt familiar with the unforgettable music of ABBA, but you may not have visited the Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos where filming took place. Starring Meryl Streep as Mamma, Amanda Seyfried as daughter Sophie, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth, this romantic comedy was an instant success when released in 2008, and a welcome addition to tourism in Greece.

Open to the public, many of the scenes in the movie were filmed in and around the beaches and harbor at Skiathos. The locals and tourists joined in the fun of watching old taxi cabs and 4-wheel bikes careen through narrow cobblestone alleyways in a frantic chase to the overloaded ferry waiting to dock, while members of the cast were more than willing to sign autographs for the crowds.

Accommodations (used by the cast): 5- star Skiathos Princess – Rates: $182 to $364 deluxe rooms, suites $390 to $500. The Mandraki boutique hotel also received very positive reviews, as a less expensive, more family oriented place to stay. (Availability seems limited, however, probably evidence of its popularity). Of course, you can leave the main part of town and explore the side streets where you’ll find accommodations at other hotels and small pensions, with prices to fit your budget.


Be prepared to do some walking, mostly uphill, once you leave the market square of craft shops, tavernas, and restored seafarers’ houses by the harbor, but the climb to the Bell Tower and the small St Nicholas church filled with Greek orthodox religious items is worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with an incredible panorama of white walls, red tile roofs, and the brilliant color of bougainvillea that clings to small verandas of houses on the hillsides above the sea. Returning to the streets below, you’ll want to do some shopping, have lunch, or take a stroll across the walkway to the pines of Bourtzi Islet, with its own separate harbor (used primarily for pleasure excursion boats.) Here you’ll find the cultural center of Skiathos, with a theatre and statue of Alexandros Papadiamantis, probably the most famous Greek novelist of the 19th century, who lived and died on Skiathos.

Restaurant Recommendations: The Windmill is considered top of the line, offering a fabulous view and a gourmet menu (prices not listed), ideal for special events and romantic evenings. In addition to less expensive and just as popular places, other restaurants recommended include Paraxenos for outdoor dining on Greek and international food, Elados Yefsis for traditional dishes of moussaka and spanakopita, and Portobello, a combination bar, cafè, and garden type restaurant.

Much of the movie was filmed on the island of Skopelos, or “Kalokari” (summer in Greek), the largest of the Sporades Islands, which include Mykonos and Santorini. Other than some fishing, herding, and production of honey, the overall decline in agriculture and wine production has led to a strong dependence on tourism to bolster the island’s economy. Travelers from northern Europe have discovered the climate and beauty of Skopelos as an inviting retirement destination. Besides the wonderful music and great acting, the cinematography in Mamma Mia is spectacular, capturing the beauty of Skopelos, from the deep blue of the Aegean Sea to the dark green of pine forests and the silvery sheen of olive groves.

One of the main attractions on Skopelos is the wedding chapel rebuilt for the film on the site of the Agios Ioannis Prodromos Monastery, rising some 300 feet above the sea near the town of Glossa. A 45-minute ride on the local bus from Skopelos Town brings you to Glossa, situated in the highest altitude of the Sporades Islands. From here, you’ll have a breathtaking view of Loutraki, the harbor just below the village, the sea, and rugged coastline

Sun worshippers will want to visit at least one of the legendary beaches of Skopelos, although most of these are pebbled and lack the fine sand of the ones on Skiathos. However, you can follow the steep, dirt pathway down to the sandy Kastani Beach, which was chosen for the majority of the beach scenes. You can catch a bus from town to Glysteri cove for somewhat secluded sun bathing. Stafylos is an easily accessible beach, about 3 miles from town by bus, and the beaches at Amarantos, used in some scenes from the movie, are a good place to soak up the sun and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings. Families will enjoy a short drive to Panormos beach, where you can find tavernas, mini-marts, and small boats for rent in the village nearby.

In addition to sightseeing, hiking, walking, and mountain biking for the more energetic, you may want to visit the Varvaras, Metamorphosis, or Prodromos monasteries, and the Museum of Cultural Heritage in Glossa, which opened free to the public in July 2008. Most shops are open until midnight, and bars even later. At any time of the year, you’ll probably enjoy a village festival, which adds to vacation fun. There are endless opportunities for amazing photography, so a camera is a must.

Accommodations: Numerous cottages and villas on the hillsides overlooking the sea or nestled amid the olive groves are available for rent; prices range from $124 to $168 a day. For example, the Glysteri Pool cottage is located on the hills about a mile from the beach at Glysteri Bay, featured in the movie, and less than 2 miles from town. The cottage has 2 bedrooms, pool, kitchen, and twice a week maid service. Enjoy the open terraces, the nearby tavernas in the village of Agios Konstantinos, and shop at the small museum for local handicrafts.

Villas, sleeping up to 6, with private pools, fully equipped, and beautifully landscaped are available for $178 – $246 per day.

Suites rent for $250 and up at the Skopelos Village Hotel (used by many of he cast and crew), where the air is filled with the aroma of honeysuckle, jasmine, and lavender. The hotel offers numerous amenities including a private beach, two swimming pools, a tennis court, bar, and restaurant.

(Note: Rates fluctuate with on or off-season.)

Tavernas & Restaurants: Agioli (for Italian) at the Skopelos Village Hotel, Agnanti at Glossa, Anna’s, Alexander’s and Finikas, as well as several other reasonably priced establishments. The Ouzeria Anatoli taverna is popular for live music, dancing, and good food. Ouzo is a very strong type of aperitif, with a distinct flavor (which I never did acquire a taste for while living in Greece)! Good jazz can be found also at some of the tavernas on the island.

Transportation: Besides the local bus, you can rent a car, bike, or moped for sightseeing around the island.

Ferry service: High speed and catamaran ferries available to most of the Greek islands. About 1 hr from Skiathos to Skopelos. Slower ferries average $12 to $20 for pedestrians and $30 for cars, one way.

Flights: From Athens, Volos, and Thessaloniki to Skiathos.

(Holiday packages, tours, booking, prices, and other travel information available online.)

With a pleasant Mediterranean climate cooled by the northerly Meltemia breezes, the enchanting islands of Greece attract tourists everywhere. The filming of Mamma Mia brings renewed interest in visiting these beautiful places and experiencing year-round summertime fun.

Sharon L Slayton

Italy: The Pleasures of A Simple Life

In 1994, Michael Radford directed the movie Il Postino, a simple, heartwarming story of friendship between the unassuming mailman and the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, while living in political exile in southern Italy. A famous poet and an unsophisticated village mailman would seem to have little in common, but in time the two find much to share and learn from each other.

Filmed on location in Italy, Il Postino has a small cast that included Philippe Noiret as Neruda, Massimo Troisi as Mario the Postino, and Maria Garza Cucinotta as Beatrice, a waitress in the village and the object of the mailman’s affection. Choosing not to follow in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman, Mario gets a job delivering mail to a single customer, Neruda. Having little education and being none too clever with words or the art of courtship, Mario is eager to learn poetry as a way to woo and eventually marry Beatrice. As he explains to Neruda, “poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.”

Il Postino is a romantic story, much of which was filmed on Salina, the greenest and perhaps the most beautiful of the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. Loyal fans of Troisi who died the day after filming was completed, a few celebrities, wealthy yacht owners, and tourists visit here, yet Salina has not become a playground for the rich and famous or a tourist trap for the international traveler. It has remained relatively unspoiled even after the worldwide success of the film, which received several academy nominations including best foreign language film. It is simply a great place to relax, enjoy the food and wine, the weather, and the spectacular view overlooking the bay at Pollara. With six volcanoes dormant for thousands of years and a mild Mediterranean climate, the island is rich in over 400 types of vegetation including ferns, pines, chestnuts, and oaks, as well as a home for rare cats, rabbits, and other small wildlife. Travelers can climb the hillsides, explore the caves, visit the black sand beach at Malfa, or take boat excursions around the island.

Accommodations: Small houses, fully equipped, can be rented by the week or longer from $400 to $1500, for two to six people.

Getting there: Ferry service from Naples and Milazo, hydrofoil from Palermo and Messina.

The picturesque island of Procida, the smallest in the Bay of Naples, is remarkably different from many of the better known island vacation spots. Because of its natural beauty, colorful architecture, and friendly villagers, it offered an ideal setting for filming some of the scenes in Il Postino (as well as for the movie The Talented Mr Ripley). Not far from Ischia and Capri, travelers will find Procida quiet and serene in comparison, although some celebrities have villas and a few artsy types live here. Many visitors come on daytrips from Naples, while others find inexpensive accommodations for longer stays. Cottages equipped with kitchenettes can be rented for $30 to $60 p/p; hotel rooms average about the same. Some families will choose the pleasant campgrounds not far from the beach, open from 1 May to 15 Sep. Prices: About $10 p/p, $10.per tent.

Strolling around the ports, travelers will find the scent of lemons fills the air, as the gardens in Procida are famous and celebrated each year in May with the Fiesta del Limone. Besides the market, there are several restaurants on the island such as Il Cantinone, which serves inexpensive good food. Open Monday and Wednesday thru Sunday from 12 pm to 3:30 pm, and 7 pm to Midnight. Full dinner costs around $20. For some fresh seafood, spaghetti or linguine, pizza or a panini, Graziella by the sea is open 7 days a week, Mar thru Nov, from 10 am to Midnight. Prices: Average $7 to $10. A popular attraction in Procida and an excellent place to eat is La Locanda del Postino, the same restaurant/bar where filming of Il Postino took place. Located near the Abbey of St Michael the Archangel, this might be your first choice for atmosphere, a refreshing glass of beer or wine, or a delicious pasta dinner. Open Noon to 4 pm, and 7 pm to 11 pm.

Travelers who like the sand and the sea will find several not too crowded beaches such as Ciraccio, Chiaiolella (considered the best), and one appropriately named Il Postino. Scuba diving is very popular here, as well, available Mon thru Sat, from 9 am to 1 pm, and 3:30 pm to 7 pm. Cost: One dive and equipment provided – $40, and lessons average $68.

The Abbey of St Michael on Terra Murata, the highest point of the island at 300 feet, is just one of many interesting attractions in Procida. Inside this 11th century Benedictine monastery, gold, marble, and lovely old artwork adorn the walls, the apse, and wooden ceiling. You can visit the museum and library or wander through the catacombs of the dungeon below. A very special religious event, a tradition from the 17th century, takes place on Good Friday in the Procession of the Mysteries of Procida. Village people of all ages (mostly males) carry the floats of papier-mâché statues of Christ and other religious figures, which represent the mysteries and depict chapters from the Old Testament.

Hours: Open daily, 9:45 am – 12:45 pm, and 3 – 5 pm. Admission is free.

A main attraction is the Vivara Reserve, a treasure for birdwatchers, naturalists, photographers, and archaeologists. Once connected to the mainland and first populated in the Mycenean Age, this carefully protected islet is now accessible by footbridge from Procida. If you are able to visit here, you will find small paths throughout the reserve, which is inhabited mostly by over 200 species of birds, rabbits, and small animals. The single building on the reserve offers a great view of the sea and coast from the terrace.

Hours: 8:30 am – Noon, Mon thru Sat. (There was conflicting information on this, whether open to all visitors, only those with permits, or closed.)

Other attractions for tourists include the 17th century Santa Maria delle Grazie church, the small fishing village of Marina della Corricella, the Avalos Palace or Castle, the Seafood Festival, and the mid-August Graziella folklife Festival. You can shop for handmade fine lace and embroidery items, stop at a bakery for foccacia bread, or just visit with the locals in the villages. Nightlife is rather laid back, except on the weekends with the younger crowd.

Transportation: Taxis, buses, and rickshaws manage to navigate the winding streets, and bikes and scooters are popular. A 3 to 4 hour boat ride around the island costs about $10, an enjoyable way to view the three separate harbors of Procida, each with its own quaint fishing village.

Ferry service runs at least 5 times a day, a one-hour ride from Naples, $11 p/p.

Hydrofoil service, 7 times a day, a 30-minute ride from Naples, $10 p/p.

(Note: Information and maps available at the Marina Grande where the ferry docks. Open 9 – 12 pm & 4 to 7:20 pm)

Consider adding this small part of Italy to your travel plans – pleasure is often found in the simplest things.

Sharon L Slayton

Atonement – On Location In The UK

Tourists worldwide visit the UK each year to learn more about the famous people, places, and events that have played such an important role in history, literature, and the performing arts. Based on its appeal and popularity, it is not surprising that locations throughout the UK have been chosen for film production.

Starring Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan as the young Briony, Romola Garai as Briony age 18, and veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave as Briony age 77, the Tallis family lived a life of wealth and privilege. The movie also features Scottish actor James McAvoy as Robbie, the not so fortunate housekeeper’s son, as well as hundreds of British extras from the town of Redcar where filming took place. Based on the book by Ian McEwan, Atonement directed by Joe Wright won an Oscar for the Best Musical Score in 2007 and Best Film of the Year at the 61st British Academy of Film Awards.

Grand English estates are often chosen as settings for British films as seen in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Wuthering Heights. In the movie Atonement, both interior and exterior of the private estate of Stokesay in Shropshire, were used for the Tallis family mansion and the smaller Turner cottage for the housekeeper and her son. Purchased by John Derby-Allcroft, philanthropist and builder of churches in 1886, the mansion was completed in 1892, just 6 months before his death. Wanting to preserve the inherent charm and Victorian décor of an English gentleman’s estate, yet abandoning the dismal atmosphere found in similar estates, Stokesay was designed by Thomas Harris to include modern electric lighting and heating. Built to last, Stokesay was used as a hospital and a home for evacuees during the war, as it passed on from generation to generation. By 1992, it became an English Heritage site, and most of the contents including over 60 bibles were sold in 1994 at a Sotheby auction, the proceeds used for much needed repairs. The filming of Atonement at Stokesay Court, occupied by cast and crew in the summer of 2006, has added another chapter to its historical significance and revival as a tourist attraction.

Group Tours: 20 or more – $22 p/p; 30 or more – $21 p/p. (Not recommended for children.) Tours last about an hour and can be booked Tuesday thru Sunday between 10 am – 3:30 pm. Includes coffee or tea and visitors can explore the grounds after the tour.

Individual Tours: In advance by appointment only – dates currently available this year – 6 & 17 Jul, 3 Aug.


Literary Luncheon: Sponsored by Castle Bookshop, this is an opportunity to meet at Stokesay and visit with well known British authors such as Andrew Taylor, Judith Cutler, and Edward Marston in early fall of this year. Price – $60 p/p.

(Note: Concerts, private parties, and other special events can also be arranged.)

Scenes depicting the French countryside in the late 1930’s were filmed from the poppy fields at Gloucestershire to Lincolnshire and the Ouse Washes in the Fens of Cambridgeshire. Avid birdwatchers and nature lovers will want to visit this area and the Nene Washes near Whittlesey, to view migrating birds, birds of prey, wading birds, and other waterfowl. Open 9 am to 5 pm, every day except Christmas and Boxing Day, admission is free.

Over one million pounds were required to construct the realistic settings for the beach scene of Dunkirk in 1940, which were filmed at the seaport town of Redcar. In comparison, the local townspeople were each paid a mere 50 pounds as the extras in the film who waited onshore for rescue ships and evacuation. Once a small fishing village in the 1300’s, Redcar was named after the petrified redwood rocks along the shore. Fishing proved extremely profitable for the townspeople, and it soon became a favorite vacation spot for tourists to enjoy a variety of other water sports including sailing, windsurfing, and diving. Visitors will find miles of flat, sandy beaches, comfortable B&Bs, holiday cottages, and great seafood, as well as shopping at high end and specialty stores. Every Wednesday there are bargains in wine, clothing, or fresh fish at the outdoor market in the center of town. Besides receiving the UK Seaside Award for the past eight years, Redcar offers numerous other attractions for vacationers who have been coming here long before the filming of Atonement.

The Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum, opening in October 1981, has three floors of exhibitions of shipyard photographs, ironstone mining, archaeology, and history of the area. From April to October, families can reminisce with 50 years of toys and music on display, in addition to games available to check out and play in the gardens or picnic area outside. There are many activities for children including contests, treasure hunts, and family craft workshops during the year. The Museum has a cafè, gift shop, and small playground.

Hours: Summer 10 am – 5 pm, Tues thru Sun; Winter 10 am – 4 pm. Free admission. Handicap accessible.

For visitors interested in the maritime history of Redcar, the Zetland Museum features the world’s oldest lifeboat, built in 1802 by Henry Greathead. With a crew of 13 to 20, it is estimated that over 500 lives were saved in 80 years. Other displays include a fisherman’s cottage, lifesaving equipment, lifelike figures representing rescues off the northeast coast of England, and the Laurie Pickett Gallery of photographs of the old fishing village and crews during the Victorian era.

Hours: May – Oct, 12 Noon to 4 pm. Closed Monday. Free admission. Handicap accessible on ground floor only.

If you are a frequent visitor to the track, and for something different to do, you will enjoy the Redcar Racecourse, a popular destination in Yorkshire for racehorse fans since 1872.

Prices: $22 – grandstand viewing; $5 – closed enclosure. Private suites with all amenities, ideal for groups, are also available. Children under 16 are free when accompanied by an adult. Free parking, restaurants, bars, and snacks. Regular races and featured events are held several times a month from April to October.

The movie Atonement takes travelers past villages and towns to the marshlands and dunes by the sea, as well as to the distant London tourist attractions of Whitehall, University College, Bethnal Green Town Hall, and St John’s Church.

Sharon L Slayton

Travel To “Eat, Pray, Love”

With award-winning actress Julia Roberts and co-stars Jacques Bardem and James Franco, the film “Eat, Pray, Love” should be a box office success scheduled to release 13 Aug of this year. Based on author Elizabeth Gilbert’s life story, the movie follows the young divorcee as she escapes the humdrum, familiar life in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, known for Italian meat markets and family owned shops, to the adventure and excitement of “la dolce vita” in Rome. This article will not include all the attractions in Rome or India where filming took place, as the spotlight will be on Bali.

After four months of fun, food, and companionship, a desire for spirituality takes her to the Hindu Ashram Hari Mandir in the suburbs of Pataudi near Mumbai, India. Yoga and meditation sessions taught by native gurus were filmed on the 25 acres of the retreat, as well as scenes from the local market, a Sanskrit school that houses 500 students, a hospital, and a home for the aged.

Visitors to this film location, about 40 miles from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, can indulge themselves with accommodations at the Pataudi Palace, featured in the movie. Built in 1935 by the Nawab Ibrahim Ali Khan of national cricket fame and the official home of the prince of Pataudi, the Palace has been fully restored as a world heritage site. Popular with travelers to this part of India, the hotel has kept much of its old world charm with spacious rooms and verandas overlooking rose gardens and cypress trees. In addition to dining on traditional, exotic Indian cuisine, the Palace provides a peaceful, romantic getaway from the noise of cities and crowded streets.

Rates: $250 double up to $450 single.

After four months at the Ashram, reality sets in, as some balance between earthly pleasures and abstinence is needed – what better place to find it than on the beautiful island of Bali. Travelers have always been fascinated with the customs and mysticism of Bali, a land of volcanoes, sacred temples, nature reserves, and a huge population of monkeys. Based on the movie, a large increase in tourism to the city of Ubud in the district of Gianyar is expected, as it was recently voted Asia’s best city destination by Conde Nast. Visitors will want to sightsee, and “Eat, Pray, Love” tours offer interesting itineraries in and around Ubud (meaning “medicine”), considered the center of art and culture on Bali. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the music and dance, the museums, and the shops filled with clothing, fine jewelry, paintings, and sculpture. You can practice yoga, visit the spas, and even learn from the local shaman that “the resting place of the mind is the heart,” bringing you one step closer to nirvana.

A featured attraction in Ubud is the annual Gempita Gianyar festival, a gathering of environmentalists, to be held this year from 2-3 July. Besides dance and music performances, the “Ubud Street Bash” features a carnival and parade down main street, with over 25 fashion designers, 7 musical groups, and hundreds of other participants. Special guests will be honored at a royal heritage dinner, and students, ages 15-17, can attend a 5-day summer art camp as part of the festival.

While filming the movie, Roberts and Bardem stayed at the Puri Saren Agung near Monkey Forest Road on the palace grounds of the Ubud royal family. The B&B style of the hotel offers visitors comfortable, yet modest accommodations in a choice of several bungalows, with evening dance performances in the open courtyard. The landscaped grounds with ornate stone gates, wooden pillars, and statues of Raksaka, lions, and elephants are the main attraction of this colonial style hotel. The hotel is inexpensive, with rates averaging $60/night, but they will probably increase with the film’s release worldwide.

A visit to Bali would not be complete without a guided tour that includes some of the ancient temples (over 15,000 on the island), where the Balinese people spend much of their time bringing flowers and food. A four-hour sunset tour includes the Tanah Lot temple overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Tamara Ayun temple, a bat forest, and the Alas Kedaton, a forest filled with hundreds of sacred Macaques monkeys. (Monkeys are considered holy if they live on temple grounds, but otherwise are considered a nuisance by most Balinese.)

Rates: $35 per car (up to 6 people)

The exclusive Pan Pacific Bali Resort, formerly Le Meridien Golf and Spa Resort, near the Tanah Lot temple offers garden and ocean view guest rooms with balconies. Suites, one, and two bedroom private villas, each with garden, pool, and pavilion, are also available. Set amid tropical gardens, terraced rice paddies, and coconut groves, the resort features a beautiful 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman. In addition to spa facilities, four pools, and a gym, visitors can enjoy dining at a half dozen restaurants, pubs, or lounges, some with live entertainment by Balinese dancers. Squash, tennis, cycling, and the outdoor seafood market nearby are popular, as well. With all the amenities and so many things to see and do, this would be a wonderful place for a wedding, a honeymoon, or a fabulous vacation.

Sample Rates: $666 – 2-bedroom villa; $604 – 1-bedroom villa, $460 – executive suite.

Golf packages: $400 – $800 for 3 nights, includes buffet breakfast, 2 rounds of golf, and a tour of the Tanah Lot temple.

Spirit Quest tours offer a great travel package for groups of 20 or more to Ubud, which includes round-trip airfare from several major cities, hotel accommodations for 6 nights, breakfasts, and entrance fees. Travelers stay at the Alila Hotel and Spa at the edge of the rain forest in rooms with balconies and private open air showers. You’ll dine on Italian food at the Amanusa Resort in nearby Nusa Dua, fresh seafood at the Bali Beach Club, and Balinese at the Lotus. Tourists enjoy shopping at the outdoor market for jewelry, silk sarongs, and crafts, as well as browsing the paintings at the Ayumas studio or the Bali Budaya wood carvings. Your well planned itinerary will include a visit to the Besakih Temple, which is actually 5 temples in one, as well as morning yoga and prayer sessions. You can pamper yourself with a one-hour $50 spa treatment, or request a personal reading by Kitut Liyer, the Balinese spiritual healer featured in Gilbert’s book.

Package Price: $3,000 (from Los Angeles). You can find more information on their website.

In her book, Ms Gilbert wrote,” I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine,” and travel to “Eat, Pray, Love” promises fun and laughter, and perhaps a different perspective on life along the way.

Sharon Slayton

Scenes From “Australia”

After two years of filming, the much anticipated movie “Australia” was released in 2008. Baz Luhrmann, writer, producer, and director, has created a story of the outback in epic proportions, the largest in this country’s film making history.

Starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and a large cast of supporting Australian actors, the scenes were filmed in 4 of the 8 states or territories, including Northern Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. This article will cover only a few of the many attractions from the movie. Travelers will want to visit some, if not all, the locations that are portrayed in the wonderful cinematography of the bush country, the coast, the waterfalls and rivers, and the rugged mountain ranges and deep ravines. Boosted by the millions of dollars spent in advertising by the Australian Tourism Commission along with the production of the film, the ongoing interest in Australia and Western Australia, in particular, has increased dramatically.

Much of the movie was filmed in Kimberley, the far northwestern wilderness area often thought of as the last frontier in the Australian outback. The buildings for the Faraway Downs homestead on the Ord River in Kimberley were demolished after the completion of the movie, since the area, as is much of Kimberly, is not accessible during the rainy season (December to April or May). While a replica of the homestead is planned, tourists can spend the day or longer at other cattle stations nearby.

Surrounded by the Cockburn ranges to the west and the Erskine on the east, Diggers Rest is a popular outback station about 40 miles from the town of Wyndham on the King River Road. Visitors can enjoy bird watching, camping, and horseback riding, as well as some of the best barramundi fishing in Australia. Seeing the outback by horseback or with a 4×4 is the best way to explore some of this vast territory and the land of the ancient boab trees, found only in Madagascar, parts of Africa, and this part of Australia. Horseback riding tours can be arranged at Diggers Rest, with rates at $50/hour, or at various rates for longer rides and more advanced riders. Bush country huts, air-conditioned bunkhouses with large porches, and camping sites are available. You can share the community kitchen or have meals prepared at reasonable prices from $18/breakfast to $30/dinner. At the end of the day, enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow travelers at the evening barbeques beside the billabong, or just relax on the front porch and watch the sun set over the splendor of Western Australia.

Rates: Bunkhouses – $150/night; Bush huts – $110/night.

For travelers interested in the aboriginal culture, an important aspect of the movie, the natural history, and looking for a good choice of accommodations, Home Valley Station provides an all weather airstrip for year round tourism. Air charter flights and 4WD vehicles for rent are available at the Kunumurra airport. In addition to horseback riding, guided tours, and scenic flights, as well as food and entertainment at Dusty’s Bar & Grill, you’ll see the Gibbs River Road crossing at the Pentecost River, featured in the movie.

Rates: Premium castle rooms @ $420 pp (includes 2 breakfasts), guesthouse rooms @ $230 pp, tents for up to 4 people @ $190, and camping fees are $16/adults and $5/children.

Over one million acres, now known as El Questro Wilderness Park, was once a cattle station that changed ownership many times and eventually opened as a park in May 1992. This might be a good place to spend some time while visiting some of the sights in Kimberley. Bushwalkers and campers will find safari style tents or air-conditioned bungalows along the Pentecost River, available from April thru October for around $200 U.S./night. Situated on the Chamberlain River, about 50 miles from Kunumurra, (domestic flights arrive daily), travelers will find the luxurious 5-star El Questro resort and lodge. Accommodations are ultra expensive, from $1300 – $2,000 U.S., which does include all meals, drinks, and guided tours in the area. Couples might consider the Chamberlain Gorge Suite here for a fabulous honeymoon.

Park Permit: $17/adult

(Detailed information on the above outback stations can be found online.)

Besides the opportunity for some great photography while hiking or riding through the rugged landscape along streams and estuaries in the Kimberley area, travelers may want to visit King George Falls. Located in a remote area of the northern coastline, accessible either by helicopter, charter plane, or by sea (best seen by air), these are the tallest falls in Western Australia.

For a change of scene, you could travel about 500 miles further north to the seaport of Darwin, where parts of the movie were filmed at Stokes Hall Wharf. Visitors will find great seafood, shopping, and other things to do while here. Of course, if your vacation takes you in the other direction as far as Sydney, you can visit some of the attractions that were included in the movie, such as the Strickland House, open to the public, and Camelot, a privately owned ranch. Bowen’s Waterfront, on the Queensland coast, is another place to see and visit with the local townspeople, many of whom had small parts in the film, and are always glad to share some of their history with you over a piece of pie and a cup of tea.

The scenes in Luhrmann’s movie will no doubt stir the wanderlust of any traveler to visit Australia, whether for the first time, or for those who can’t wait to return.

Sharon L Slayton

Visiting The Land Of Robin Hood

The release of the movie Robin Hood in May of this year, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and directed by Ridley Scott, promises a steady influx of travelers to the many film’s locations and an exciting growth in tourism to the UK. Central to the film is the city of Nottingham where Robin Hood courted and married the Lady Marian in the Church of St Mary in the village of Edwinstowe, and formed his band of rebels to restore freedom and justice to the poor. Visitors can follow the Robin Hood Trail in Nottinghamshire, which features 12 sites along the way based on each of the different themes in the film.

Nottingham is famous for its 17th century castle, built on the same site as the headquarters of the notorious Sheriff. Once a prison for outlaws, quarters for the guards, and storage house for beer, the mansion today houses a permanent collection of art, ceramics, metal ware, and glass. In addition to the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum and a children’s art gallery, visitors can enjoy the display of costumes, props, and memorabilia from the movie. Throughout the year, artists from the UK and other countries exhibit their work, and historical performances such as the annual Shakespeare Festival and Robin Hood Pageant are held here on the grounds. Tourists can take an interesting guided tour far below the castle through the winding passageways past the Duke of Newcastle’s wine cellar, while reliving the shocking stories of King David’s Dungeon and Mortimer’s Hole. Tours are free, except on weekends and bank holidays when prices are under $5 for adults and half price for children, and operate from Mon – Sat, at 11 am, 2, & 3 pm, with Sunday tours during the summer at 12 Noon, 1, 2, & 3 pm. (Hours & prices may vary.) A narrated video is also available for those who prefer watching this to descending 300 steps to the caverns below on the walking tour.

Just outside the castle, you can stroll through the old market square past the famous 7-foot statue of Robin Hood, which the townspeople refer to as the “world’s largest garden gnome,” and step into Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, an inn dating back to 1189, where tales were told and ale was shared in the quaint atmosphere of medieval times. The Galleries of Justice Museum nearby provides visitors with a history of the crimes and shocking punishments that existed at the time, where conviction, trial, and hanging on the front steps of the old courthouse and gaol is portrayed through actors and audio. Admission is about $7 for adults, and the hours are from 10:30 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week. The exhibition “Robin Hood: The Legendary Outlaw Returns” is free. In keeping with the theme of Robin Hood, you might want to reserve a place at the Sheriff’s Banquet in the Museum. For approximately $65 pp, you get a full 3-course meal, with unlimited beer or cider, or a bottle of wine, along with lively entertainment by wandering musicians and serving maids. The Museum has a cafè and a gift shop filled with games, books, and Robin Hood and Victorian items for sale.

The towering oaks of Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his Merry Men could hunt deer and safely hide from the sheriff is now a Nature Preserve open for all to enjoy. Here you’ll find seating in the midst of the forest in the old wooden cart used in the movie and watch the film exhibition (until October 2010), which follows the legendary hero. If visiting in August, join the crowds at the annual Robin Hood Festival for real-life demonstrations of sword fighting and archery. Located just north of Edwinstowe Village, the 450 acres of Sherwood Park are free to visit, with only a small parking fee. The Major Oak hideout of Robin Hood fame still stands among over 900 oak trees as perhaps the most famous tree in England. Trails are well marked, and information is available at the Visitors Center, in addition to two shops and a restaurant.

Besides visiting Hathersage, where Little John was buried, and Will Scarlet’s grave at Blidworth (previously mentioned in this blog), you can drive into Yorkshire and Loxley, the birthplace of Robin Hood, and see the Kirklees Estate where it is believed Robin Hood died. If you’re interested in the other film locations of Robin Hood, Dovedale in Derbyshire may be on your list. This peaceful place of green meadows, grazing sheep, steep ravines, and the sparkling River Dove running through it was chosen for a fierce battle scene in the movie. After a few hours of walking or cycling through this beautiful area, end your day with a visit to the Green Man pub nearby, just as Russell Crowe did, to join the locals for a pint or two.

Of course, everyone is familiar with the bright Lincoln green of Robin Hood’s attire, named after Lincolnshire where the cloth was produced. Travelers will want to visit this historic place, known for its beautiful cathedral and library of famous documents including the schoolbook of 1410, containing the first and only written rhyme still in existence about Robin Hood, “Robin Hood in Sherwood stood, hooded and hated, hosed and shod.” This is on display in each year’s exhibition along with a copy of King John’s (his arch enemy) Magna Carta. Since the city is only 6 miles from Sherwood Forest, it is thought that Robin Hood “robbed from the rich” who lived in Lincolnshire, where he would have gone frequently to seek company and participate in archery and jousting contests.

Ridley Scott spared no expense in filming the spectacular scenes of Robin Hood from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest throughout the countryside of England and Wales to the gardens, lakes, and woodlands of Virginia Water in Surrey. An amazing replica of the Tower Of London, with its fascinating history of notable prisoners and gruesome executions, was created for the film, but travelers to London can visit the real tower beside the Thames for a look back at one of the most horrific of times.

For many, seeing the film may be quite enough, but no doubt some of us will be further inspired to visit the land and legend of Robin Hood.

Sharon L Slayton

See also Mancunian’s old article on Nottingham and my recent travel plan for Oxford & Nottingham.

Blood Ties: TV show set in Toronto

I’m just wondering if anyone here has seen a TV show called Blood Ties? My wife and I got season 1 for Christmas and finished the DVDs a couple of weeks ago. It’s a detective / vampire / supernatural magic show set in Toronto.

I thought that was interesting because I can’t think of any other TV show I’ve seen set in Toronto. Seems like 50% are in New York, and then you got a few in DC, Miami, Vegas, or out in California somewhere. Then you’ve got ones set somewhere that’s either fictional or if it is actually a town it never seemed important enough to even wonder if it was real, much less try to visit. I’m thinking specifically of TrueBlood, another vampire TV series though without the detective angle. That one is set in Bon Temps Louisiana.

Anyhow I was thinking I might be bale to fly from Seoul to Toronto and then from Toronto to JFK. This way I get to see friends and family in New York but also see Toronto. I did find a site that seems to specialize in airline tickets for flights departing from Canada.

I was afraid that this might be an expensive idea but it seems that we’re talking about a flight just under 2 hours and the price is not too scary. I found this one in August: $228.44 + $100.19 taxes = $328.63 per person.

That’s real money but not enough to make me abandon the idea… Interestingly I only remember two blog entries that talk about Toronto, the shopping travel plan and a brief mention of a Nuit Blanche art show.

Sherlock Holmes movie (or still literary?) tourism

Mancunian wrote about Sherlock Holmes inspired tourism over 3 years ago. With the movie coming out, I guess we’ll see an increase in Sherlock Holmes tourism and England seems to be making sure of that with their marketing efforts. Here’s a press release:

VisitBritain Invites The World To Enjoy An Adventure In Sherlock Holmes’ Britain

Celebrating the release of “Sherlock Holmes,” the new action-adventure mystery starring Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary detective, national tourism agency VisitBritain has joined forces with Warner Bros. Pictures to invite tourists to discover Sherlock Holmes’ Britain – Past and Present – with a new campaign and online movie map, and a free Great British Film Locations iPhone App. The campaign, showcasing locations with links to Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, comes as the new film premieres in London this week. As part of the partnership, VisitBritain will be working with the film’s media and promotional partners globally to award Sherlock Holmes-themed trips to Britain that will include a stay at a luxurious Radisson Edwardian Hotel.

Guy Ritchie, the film’s director, commented, “Sherlock Holmes is an iconic British character and bringing our story to life on the streets of London, Liverpool and Manchester was part of the fun of making this film. Given the 150th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birth this year, I’m excited to unleash our version of Sherlock Holmes to audiences in the UK and around the world.”

Sherlock Holmes opens in cinemas from 25th December. Sherlock Holmes was filmed on location in London, Liverpool and Manchester with scenes shot at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Manchester town hall, Liverpool Docks at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent.

Actor Robert Downey Jr added, “Sherlock Holmes has great pride in being English. London is an incredibly fascinating city and the centre of the world at the time our film takes place. Holmes knows every inch of it and feels it’s his city. It was great fun filming throughout Britain.”

The website features footage from the film, locations from the film and from across Britain linked to the great detective – including the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street in London. Itineraries to London, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh will help tourists enjoy a short break in Britain with a Sherlock Holmes theme.

VisitBritain’s marketing director, Laurence Bresh says: “Today, VisitBritain increasingly uses the UK’s world-renowned film and literary heritage – as well as music, fashion and culture – to raise awareness of the appeals of Britain and its destinations. Sherlock Holmes is known around the world as one of Britain’s most iconic characters. Our partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures is a great way of helping people discover the secrets of our destinations and entice them into having a fantastic adventure here.”

VisitBritain is raising awareness of the new film and Britain’s popularity as a ‘set-jetting’ destination with limited edition Oyster card wallets, VisitBritain is raising awareness of the new film and Britain’s popularity as a ‘set-jetting’ destination as international travel buyers arrive in London for the annual World Travel Market at ExCeL. The film’s branding will also appear on limited edition Oyster card wallets distributed by VisitBritain throughout December and January from the Britain and London Visitor Centre and globally via The campaign is supported by Radisson Edwardian Hotels, Visit London, Marketing Manchester and The Mersey Partnership.

Angels and Demons / BA and AA Alliance?

No doubt the long awaited movie Angels and Demons will generate increased interest in traveling to Rome this summer. The movie, which opened in the US and around the world a few days ago, is a sequel to The Da Vinci Code and is set almost entirely in Rome. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Robert Langdon, a symbologist (is that a real profession?) who races around Rome in an affort to solve clues and thwart a diabolical plot directed against Vatican City (Still officially the world’s smallest country, despite other contenders).

Several Rome based tour operators are already offering Angels and Demons themed walking tours of Rome, taking in such landmarks as the bustling Piazza Navona, the Castel Sant’Angelo and of course, St. Peter’s Square itself. And some Rome hotels are also offering themed packages; the Westin Excelsior Rome, as well as the more famous (and more expensive) Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps.

Although much of the movie was filmed in Rome, the Vatican doesn’t allow filming in their country, so the production crew constructed a huge model of the façade of St. Peter’s Cathedral for some of the exterior shots. I have been to Rome, although it was about 25 years ago (during my backpacking days!) and I’m sure that watching the film will just make me want to go again.

Speaking of evil and diabolical plots, American Airlines and British Airways are once again trying to merge to create one huge airline. The two airlines currently codeshare as well as allow frequent flyer travel on each other’ flights. The last attempt by BA and AA to merge was back in 2002; the plan failed due to concern to access to slots at London’s Heathrow Airport. Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Atlantic recently opposed the idea, saying that he could not guarantee his airline’s survival if that happened. I personally don’t think the merge would be a good idea; it seems as though it would just be too much of a monopoly with transatlantic flights. And what about all the words that are spelt differently in the US and the UK (color, colour, etc) – just how much confusion would that cause?

Guest entry by Mancunian