Let’s be honest. Lately, there are plenty of reasons not to travel.
Whether you are afraid of flying, have a language barrier, refuse to pay the checked baggage fees, don’t want the added stress of connecting flights, or just plain can’t afford it – many would-be travelers are now thinking twice about taking the plunge.
For all those who dream of traveling the world, but are just not able to make your dream a reality, I have a solution. Choose one of these movies, each set in beautiful locations, for an armchair tour and a travel experience you won’t soon forget – all without leaving the comfort of your well-worn recliner.
On any true Francophile’s ‘must see’ list is this visually stunning movie, set in Paris. Experience what it is like to live in an authentic Paris neighborhood through the eyes of the quirky and adorable Parisienne, Amélie Poulin. Amélie lives in Montmartre, which is located on the Northern periphery of Paris. She is a waitress at a local café, where much of the movie takes place.
Go shopping for fresh produce in her local market, strolling and stone-skipping on the picturesque tree-lined Canal Saint-Martin, and on a wild goose chase around the majestic Sacré Coeur. Gorgeous glimpses of real Paris apartments, cobblestone streets, the Métro, all three train stations and the Pont des Arts on the Seine are charming additions to the tour. French dialogue (with English subtitles) is an added bonus which goes a long way in making you feel like you’ve been to Paris.
A Good Year
Based on the book, ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle, this flick does an excellent job of bringing the book to life. Filmed in both London and Luberon, it’s the scenes shot in the South of France that are the real star of this show. A gorgeous French Chateau, complete with a turquoise blue swimming pool, acres and acres of lush green vineyards, manicured French gardens dotted with cyprus trees and small dusty one-lane roads that wind around the countryside with Bonnieux and Petit Luberon in the background, make you want to give up your day job to be part of it all.
The historic hilltop village of Gordes, complete with a stone fountain, weathered muddy-colored stone facades, and the Hotel Renaissance serves as the backdrop for the bistro and food market scenes. The relaxed Provençal atmosphere that this area is famous for just oozes from the screen.
>> Uncover seven secrets about the South of France
Under the Tuscan Sun
Though Frances Mayes’s memoir barely resembles the movie version, you’d be hard-pressed to argue with the eye candy that is Italy. Most of the film takes place in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. You are guaranteed to fall in love with the dilapidated Italian villa, Bramasole, surrounded by rolling green hills, the delicious Italian food and the tiny picturesque town of Cortona. Picking olives with the neighbors, visiting Siena for the flag ceremony and running into a new love interest in the cobbled streets of ancient Rome further pulls you into the Italian experience.
But when the camera flies above an Alfa Romeo as it hugs the winding roads of the Amalfi coast, revealing the azure Mediterranean far below, the real fairytale begins. Tiny pastel cubes which house both hotels and cafés seem to drip, layer by layer, off the sides of the cliffs while balconies, suspended in mid-air, hang freely over the top of the clear blue sea below. You’ll need to be pinched to make sure you’re not dreaming!
It should come as no surprise that this romantic comedy, loosely based on the life of Venetian author and self proclaimed ‘ladies man,’ Casanova, is set in the magical Italian city of Venice. The city, built totally on water, has many unique things to offer that sets it apart as a movie location like no other. The jade-green Grand Canal lined with arched open-windowed palazzos, bejeweled gondolas, and hundreds of footbridges crossing the tiny back canals are just a few that are woven into the story.
The ever popular Piazza San Marco, sans pigeons, with its shining examples of Venetian architecture like the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica, take center stage against the backdrop of the clear blue Italian sky. Over-the-top period costumes, stunning décor with a Renaissance flair and a Vivaldi era soundtrack are all just icing on this already delicious cake.
Musicals, Abba, or a singing Pierce Brosnan may not be your thing, but if it’s a trip to Greece you’re longing for, look no further… This is a Grecian feast for the eyes. Join the cast of Mamma Mia as they sing and dance their way through the spectacular small cluster of Greek Islands. Go sailing on the turquoise waters off Milia Beach, stare down the craggy cliffs onto the pristine Kastani beach on the coast of Skopelos, enjoy the backdrop of the rocky little hamlet of Damhouari on the Eastern Pelion coast, bask in the lush greenery on Sporades Island, and run up the steep steps of the beautiful Agious Ioannis Chapel on Skopelos for a Greek wedding.
The contrast of the deep blue Aegean Sea, the smooth chalky white houses tucked into the hillside and the vibrantly colored bougainvillea are enough to leave you breathless.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Though almost none of this movie was actually filmed in Japan, the set designers did such a great job in recreating it you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The geishas’ kimonos are a work of art in their own right, done in vibrant silks embellished with gorgeous detailing. Combine them with the opening scenery of the Japanese coast, the little fishing village, Japanese tea houses and the set of the small Kyoto alleyways lined with geisha houses and you’ll immediately feel like you have been transported to Japan in the 1920s.
Little details like red lanterns adorned with Japanese characters, colorful parasols and rickshaws add to the mystical vibe of this area. In the most impressive scene, a Japanese garden comes alive with a temple, a tea garden, curved wooden footbridge and pink cherry blossoms cascading from above. The result is a visually stunning love letter to Kyoto.
Sound of Music
An oldie but a goodie, this popular musical, based on a true story, is set in the beautiful location of Salzburg, Austria in the 1930s. Picturesque Salzburg, with its timeless Baroque architecture, makes a perfect setting for this award-winning film. The movie opens with aerial shots of lush green fields dotted with tiny yellow flowers set against a backdrop of a massive snow capped peak, known as Untersberg, in the Alps. Visit the Nonnberg Abbey, the Frohnburg Castle and Leopoldskron Palace, used for exterior shots of Maria’s convent and the von Trapp family villa, respectively.
Tour the perfectly manicured Mirabell Gardens and the Residence Square. Join Maria and the kids while they weave themselves through the streets of Salzburg, St. Peters District housing buildings adorned with green copper-domed roof tops, and cross the Salzach River on the Mozart Bridge. The Cathedral in Mondsee and the surrounding square, where the wedding scenes were shot, are showstoppers. This movie is confirmation that those hills are definitely alive!
The Fellowship of the Ring
Filmed exclusively in New Zealand, the first in the Lord of the Rings series was released in 2001. Fans of the book and movie alike couldn’t have imagined a better setting for Middle Earth. The journey begins in Matamata, known for its gently rolling emerald green hills and rural landscape; it makes a perfect locale for the Shire. The Kawarau River in Queenstown, the setting for the Pillars of the King, is an amazing natural creation. Similar to the Grand Canyon, with white water rapids raging between two giant cliff faces, it’s an adventurer’s dream.
Kaitoke Regional Park and Paradise, Glenorchy, with their lush, shady, dense forests carpeted with vibrant green moss, serve as stunning backdrops for Rivendell and Lothlórien, respectively. The deep aquamarine waters of Lake Wakatipu, a glacier lake, and the remote Mavora Lakes further showcase the unspoiled, natural beauty of New Zealand. For a more in-depth tour, highlighting over 150 locations, watch the complete trilogy.
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