Let the silver screen transport you - literally. Jill Starley-Grainger picks the hottest tickets for this year’s film-fan holidays.
Jill Starley-Grainger is commissioning editor for the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Each month she'll be musing for us on some of the finer things in life when it comes to travel. This month, she's sharing the best location vacations.
Ever been inspired by a film to book a trip? Hitchcock’s Vertigo had me trailing in the footsteps of James Stewart and Kim Novak in San Francisco; Roman Holiday saw me Vespa-ing around the Colosseum and Vatican (a feat much scarier than Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck made it look on the silver screen); and Memoirs of a Geisha had me booking tickets to Kyoto in Japan.
Of course I don’t spend every holiday hunting down film sets, but who doesn’t get a thrill when they spot a scene from a favourite movie in real life? That’s the main appeal of Los Angeles for many visitors, and fans of some films – Harry Potter in Britain and Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, for example – have spawned an entire industry targeted at ‘location vacation’ tourists to their countries.
If you aren’t sure where you want to visit in 2014, this year’s cinema realises could have your holiday sorted in no time.
The date-night delight: The Love Punch
Desperate for a dose of joie de vivre? You’ll get it in spades in The Love Punch, out now, which stars Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan in this year’s feel-good fun-fest. The duo hit Paris in search of the financial shark who stole their company, then pursue him to the south of France. Cue car chases from Paris’ Arc de Triomphe over Pont de Bir-Hakeim– followed by a train along the lush jagged cliffs of the French Riviera. Stepping off Cannes’ famous Croissette beach, they snorkel over to a mansion to take their revenge in comedic fashion.
Image: The Love Punch
Do the trip: That mansion is actually the Château de Ferrières outside Paris, and it's occasionally open to visitors. But the real mood of the movie is the sunny, glamorous French Riviera – easily recreated by booking a hotel by the Cannes Croisette, then hiring a boat to take you a few miles down the coast to Port Vauban Marina in Antibes. Hop out and have a drink on the terrace of one of the brasseries here, taking in views of sparklingly superyachts.
The off-beat comedy: Of Horses and Men
If you prefer your comedy a little darker and your landscapes a little starker, then saddle up for Of Horses and Men, in cinemas (Icelandic with English subtitles) now. The story revolves around the strange love lives of a small community of Icelanders and their unbridled passion for their horses. The horses not only star in the title, but they also steal the show, their only competition for top billing being the stark mountains and steep fjords.
Image: Of Horses and Men
Do the trip: Most of the movie was filmed in an area of western Iceland called Borgarfjördur. Horse riding is way of life here. Most guesthouses can arrange day trips (or longer) for you, and you’ll trot over extinct volcanoes down to black-sand beaches, where you can spot puffins and orcas just offshore. Serious riders will want to book one of the multi-day tours, where you ride with a herd and change mounts along the way.
The adventurous escape: Tracks
Feel the need to get away from it all? In 1977, Robyn Davidson did, too, so she set off on a 2,700km trek across the Australian Outback, her only companions a dog and four camels. This true story was recently filmed, with Davidson’s approval – Mia Wasikowska portrays her – and is out in cinemas now.
Do the trip: You might not want to follow in her exact footsteps from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean – it took six months of blistering heat and encounters with dangerous animals for her to complete it! To get a feel for the sheer scale of the great Aussie interior, take the famous Ghan train from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock). One of Australia’s unmissable sights, the Rock is best experienced at sunset as the sun casts slowly-changing artistic shadows on the sandstone slab.
The summer blockbuster: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The eighth film in the franchise, out in July, picks up where Rise of the Planet of the Apes left off, but is set before The Planet of the Apes. In a surprise to no-one, the plot pits man against ape in an epic fight for the world. The non-stop action was filmed on the not-remotely-apocalyptic Vancouver Island in Canada.
Image: Planet of the Apes
Do the trip: You won’t find any apes on Vancouver Island, but go in summer and you can see equally impressive bears, including the Kermode, a unique subspecies of black bear known as the Spirit Bear for its all-white fur coat. In winter, however, you might feel – like the apes – that the world is coming to an end. The island is popular with storm-watchers, who book the coastal hotels to watch as the Pacific whips itself into a climatic frenzy.
The family favourite: Paddington
If you've got kids in tow, pack the marmalade sandwiches, pull on your duffle coat and head for London. An all-star film about Paddington Bear is coming to cinemas in November. Colin Firth voices the eponymous character, with Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and Sally Hawkins playing the live-action characters. Paddington famously leaves the jungles of Peru and gets lost in Paddington Station, so you can also scene-spot en route to or from the airport (eye-balling the soaring glazed wrought-iron roof designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1854).
Image: Movie, Paddington, ©Studiocanal
Do the trip: Although it’s not in the film there's a bronze statue of Paddington by the escalators at the station. But don’t go to 32 Windsor Gardens, Paddington’s home. It’s entirely fictional. Do make like Paddington and take a wheeled shopping basket for some bargain-hunting at busy Portobello Market on a Saturday. Or head up that escalator at Paddington Station. At the top, you’ll find the world’s only shop dedicated solely to Paddington Bear paraphernalia. And for the ultimate in toy-fests, with heaps more Paddington Bears to choose from, head for Hamleys. The world’s most famous toy shop is in central London on Regent Street.
Read more #SMART stuff