Movies can often inspire you to travel to destinations that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to visit.
Heck, maybe you had never even heard of the place.
But after seeing a movie you think, “Damn! I really want to visit Paris!” Or fill in whatever city or country or region or site.
For me I was never too whipped up on going to Paris.
Then I saw Ratatouille.
And it all changed for me.
Our little chef-rat Remy can’t believe he has ended up in Paris.
And the expression of awe and wonder on his face melts my heart.
That’s when I knew I needed to travel to Paris.
So I did.
And I fell in love with Paris just like Remy.
So for this Christmas edition of the weekly blog post, here are some of my favorite movies to inspire you to travel.
Maybe you can take the time this holiday season to slow down and watch one or 2 of these.
And even if you can’t travel just now, you can at least dream a little.
PS Most movies take place in Europe although I’ve thrown in a few from elsewhere on the globe.
The Pixar movie that inspired me to travel to Paris stars Remy, a rat that has a talent for cooking. He is indeed a true chef. But he’s a rat. So he teams up with a young man who has ties to the famous recently deceased chef, Auguste Gusteau. As you can imagine, mixing rats and people creates lots of chaos. Paris features heavily in this animated flick — and Pixar gets it right. One of my favorites!
Midnight in Paris
Owen Wilson stars as a sentimental writer visiting Paris with his fiance played by Rachel McAdams who is a materialistic bitch in this movie. Anyway, Owen Wilson loves wandering around Paris (probably why I love him so much). And he gets caught in some sort of time warp where he is transported back to Paris in the 1920’s. He meets Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso and Dali and Gertrude Stein. Paris is so beautiful in this movie — from the portrayals of Paris in the 1920’s, the late 1800’s and present day.
I stumbled on this movie on iTunes … and what a stumble. Martin Sheen stars as a father who travels to France to retrieve the ashes of his son who is played by real life son, Emilio Estevez (who also directs the movie). The son was just beginning to walk the 800km Camino de Santiago which begins in France and then continues across northern Spain ending in Santiago de Compostella. The father doesn’t understand the son. But the father decides to finish what his son began and the result is emotional. The characters he meets along the way just add to the humor, tears and ups and downs of this thing called life. The Way makes me want to undertake the Camino, or at the very least, other long distance walks like the West Highland Way. It’s a wonderful movie!
Letters to Juliet
I know some of you are groaning at this choice, but hear me out. While the movie is nothing to write home about, I do love Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, a fact checker for The New Yorker. She goes to Verona, Italy with her fiance. He’s too busy running around getting ideas for his soon to open restaurant so Sophie helps out the Secretaries of Juliet who answer the love letters left in the wall by Casa di Giulietta. Sophie discovers a forgotten one from 1957 written by Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) and this sets off a chase to first find Claire then her long lost Italian love. We are treated to the gorgeous scenery of the Italian grapevine-filled countryside. Yes it’s a bit sappy but the scenery is worth it.
PS I Love You
Another sappy pick that is far from Hillary Swank’s best work. But it’s the bit that takes place in Ireland that ultimately won me over. Hillary is Holly who marries Gerry (Gerard Butler) at a young age. Unfortunately she becomes a widow far too soon. But Gerry (the Irish half of this couple) knew he was going to die (cancer) so he set it up to have letters delivered periodically. In them he reminds Holly of the past but also has her do things to do to help her move on with life. Naturally I love the part when Holly and her 2 girlfriends go to Ireland. It’s the best part not just for the scenery, but also because it flashes back to when Holly and Gerry meet. But it also ultimately helps her move on.
Under the Tuscan Sun
I’m pretty sure this would be on everyone’s list as a movie that inspired them to travel to Tuscany. Diane Lane is fabulous as Frances May in this loose adaptation of the memoir of the same name written by Frances. The book is quite different but the movie’s advantage is that you actually get to see all the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. And it is that stunning.
I love this movie starring Juliette Binoche as a single mom, Vianne, with a nomadic spirit and a gift for creating chocolate treats. It’s 1959 and she moves to a small, very traditional village in France just as the Lenten season is beginning. Vianne is quite different from the other moms so her daughter, Anouk, struggles to fit in. Soon Vianne and the mayor of the village (Alfred Molina who is fabulous) are at odds. Add in the river rats who come to town, lead by Johnny Depp (*sigh*), and it’s a delightful film. It was filmed in parts of Burgundy and the Dordogne. And every time I watch it I want to visit a little village in France.
You can’t watch Braveheart and not want to visit Scotland — if only to meet the Scots whose independent spirit has lived on. And while some of the scenes were filmed in Ireland, there are still many scenes shot in Scotland. And it is a stunning country filled with strong, independent and humorous people.
All the Harry Potter movies
All the Harry Potter movies feature some fabulous locations around England, Scotland and Wales. For me I have always been enamored with Scotland, but was less so with England. Reading the Harry Potter books and seeing the movies changed that. I wanted to see some of the English countryside and small towns — and especially the Hogwarts Express and that part of the landscape which happens to be in Scotland. These movies really have been a boost to UK travel.
Pride and Prejudice
The 2005 film starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet is another of those movies that made me want to visit the English countryside. All of Lizzie’s wanderings through the rolling hills and fields has such a romantic and dreamy quality thanks to great photography, in my opinion. There were shots in this film that made me long for cool, misty mornings. Even if you aren’t a Jane Austen fan, the gorgeous landscape and grand houses will draw you in.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I really wasn’t sure what to expect of this movie starring Ben Stiller. And I was pleasantly surprised. Walter leads a pretty boring life as negative assets manager at Life magazine. But he dreams of adventure. So when he receives a package that is supposed to contain a certain negative in the mail, but doesn’t seem to, he goes on a chase to find the photographer and the negative his boss wants. This leads Walter to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. I love that this man, who seems to be playing it safe, breaks out of his shell and follows his dreams. He gains confidence and learns what he is made of. Better than expected flick! And portrays what travel is all about!!
The Sound of Music
My final Europe choice is The Sound of Music. This was one of my mom’s favorites. And how can you not watch this and fall in love with Salzburg and the Austrian Alps? In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve been inspired to run across the top of a mountain singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” I watched this movie year after year. It may very well have been what lead me to be the mountain gal I am today. Who knows. It’s a definite classic.
Indiana Jones movies
The Indiana Jones movies have always inspired me to go on an archaeological dig in Egypt or Jordan or Peru or somewhere “exotic.” I was pulled toward adventure and wanting to be like him. While I’m no Indiana Jones, and many of us won’t be quite that adventurous, I do hope these movies inspire us to seek our own adventure. Anything is possible!
Lord of the Rings
This trilogy gave a huge boost to New Zealand tourism. And these movies certainly made me want to pack my bags for this far off land. I don’t think I need to go into the plot of these movies as most of you are familiar. I’ll just say that I have yet to get to New Zealand but these movies give me a way to visit there virtually until I finally do.
Seven Years in Tibet
This movie, based on the book by the same name, stars Brad Pitt as Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who is climbing in British India back in 1939 as WWII breaks out. He and his climbing buddy, Peter Aufschnaiter (played by David Thewlis) are German citizens so they end up in a British POW camp. They eventually escape and cross the border into Tibet. And while not welcomed at first, they are in time. Heinrich befriends the boy Dalai Lama who is the current Dalai Lama. It also shows the Chinese coming into Tibet to take over. While the film is a bit off on historical accuracy, there are parts of it that are actually filmed in Tibet (secretly) and in Nepal. Some of the rest was shot in the Andes of Argentina and in Canada. But regardless, it does give a sense of the unfortunate history of Tibet and its people. And I believe that the young actor who plays the young Dalai Lama is spot on. Everything I’ve read about the Dalai Lama you see in him as a young man — curious, inquisitive, funny, child-like yet wise beyond his years. This movie has always made me want to visit these beautiful and sacred mountains.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Or the movie in which I fell in love with Gael Garcia Bernal. And learned about Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The Motorcycle Diaries is based on Guevara’s memoirs as he and his friend take a road trip through South America before Guevara is to complete his medical degree. It’s a life altering trip for Ernesto as he sees the inequalities between the haves (which he and his friend are part of) and the have nots — especially the poor conditions for the indigenous people. This is the beginning of Che becoming the Che we know of. And it showcases the natural beauty of South America. Having been to parts of Argentina I can say that the mountains here are stunning!
So what do you think of this list?
There are more that I could have included and there are those that I have yet to see.
I’ve got my own list of “must see” travel movies started.
I’d love to hear from you.
Feel free to drop comments below.