License to thrill in, Matera, Italy
The sight of James Bond climbing a steep road to the rock-hewn city of Matera in southern Italy at the start of No Time to Die proved irresistible. As Bond was driving an Aston Martin, we arrived on the bus with a child in poor condition. Like Bond, we settled into a cave hotel, the elegant Corte San Pietro, and wandered the town’s maze of stairways and cave dwellings. Then, just as disaster struck Bond in Cathedral Square, we had to give up sightseeing to look after our four-year-old. At least we got to sample some gelato (great sore throat medicine) at the famous I Vizi degli Angeli – something poor 007 didn’t have time for.
Under normal circumstances, Ireland
As young college students stuck in love two years ago, my boyfriend and I made a pact to follow Marianne and Connell’s relationship path from the TV show Normal People by visiting the inspiring places he’s been to. filmed as soon as possible. We were not disappointed. Starting out on the Sligo coast, we walked hand in hand with the magnificent Benbulben mountain as a backdrop. It could have been Cape Town! We then traveled to Wicklow Mountains National Park to check out the perfect Palladian villa that served as Marianne’s home in the show. We ended our trip to Dublin with a walk in the charming Trinity College: a cool craic!
A great adventure in Budapest, Dresden
A trip to Dresden in search of filming locations for Wes Anderson’s masterpiece The Grand Budapest Hotel began at the Zwinger Palace Complex. Its baroque buildings serve as the backdrop for a sinister Willem Dafoe pursuing Jeff Goldblum, which memorably ends with Goldblum losing his fingers. But the highlight was Pfunds Molkerei, an elaborate dairy with intricate hand-painted decorations that doubles as Mendl’s Bakery in the film. It holds the coveted Guinness World Record title for “the most beautiful dairy in the world”. Its fresh milk is delicious, and who would have thought that you could get sage derby cheese in Saxony?
Finding Atonement at the White Cliffs, East Sussex
Although Atonement is as beautiful as it is devastating, I immediately wanted to visit the location of Cecilia and Robbie’s idyllic seaside cottage. After doing extensive research, I chained my friend to a weekend walk in East Sussex. We started in Seaford and walked along the Seven Sisters trail which eventually brings you to Eastbourne. Along the trail you pass through Cuckmere Haven, where you will find the Coastguard Cottages. I was absolutely blown away by the scenery. There’s something so quintessentially British about the landscape of chalk cliffs, shingle beaches and cottages. I immediately felt transported to the film.
A spiritual experience in the west of Ireland
Head to County Clare in Ireland and walk in the footsteps of Father Ted, Mrs. Doyle, Father Jack and Father Dougal. A multitude of paradisiacal sites on this part of the Atlantic coast formed the backdrop of the programme. From Doolin take a ferry to Inisheer, the Aran Island masquerading as Craggy Island in the opening credits. Visit the austere landscape of the Burren where Father Paul is struck by lightning while playing mini-golf, or the Aillwee Caves where Victor Meldrew is hunted by Dougal. How about the majestic Cliffs of Moher, where Father Jack takes his constitutional day? Or the sandy stretch of Lahinch Beach, where Bishop Brennan frolics? In the many fine pubs in the area, you may even come across some of the many locals who have played extras.
Journey to the Promised Land, Łódź, Poland
Andrzej Wajda’s epic film The Promised Land inspired me to visit Łódź, Poland’s version of Manchester. Izrael Poznański, the “King of Cotton”, was the inspiration for the film in which the oppressive conditions of workers contrast with the opulent lifestyle of greedy landlords. Its former factory, a brick Gothic cathedral for cotton weaving, has been redeveloped to house a mix of trendy shops, cafes and cinemas – not unlike Ancoats! The eclectic pre-war mix of Poles, Jews and Germans is no more, but the museums and cemeteries, and in particular the Poznanski Mausoleum, bear witness to those exuberant times of industrial and social revolution. A fascinating place, two hours from Warsaw.
The good, the bad and the beautiful Spanish desert
I did a double take as the bus passed a familiar mountain outline. Unknowingly, I had entered Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti western” country, aka the Tabernas Desert in Almeria, Spain – the backdrop for huge hits such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Wanting to know more, I returned with my son to visit Fort Bravo, a still working-class Wild West frontier town and Mexican pueblo film set. A hilarious and memorable day included cowboys with guns, deafening mock shootouts in a saloon bar, charging horses and a blasted Hall of Fame gallery, where we spotted a signed portrait of David Beckham (who filmed there a Sky TV commercial) hidden among many star Mexican soap operas.
Two countries for the price of one, Sweden and Denmark
In the famous Scandi noir The Bridge, UK viewers were dazzled by how easily the characters crossed the Øresund, Europe’s longest road/rail bridge, to continue the chase in another country. It might not be that quick to cross (about 20 minutes by train), but the structure is something. The artificial island in the middle cannot be visited; it is a haven for migratory birds. Although nothing has been actively planted there, a few rare plants have found their way there (car windows? Bird poo?). For anyone so inclined, visiting Øresund allows you to tick two countries off your list, including a capital city, with all its offerings!
A horror pilgrimage in the tents, Wismar, Germany
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was filmed in 1921 in Lübeck and Wismar. Count Orlok arrives in the fictional port of Wisborg in a coffin on a seemingly deserted schooner and begins his bloodthirsty work. Almost 100 years later, I wandered the back streets of Wismar in search of the gothic arch leading to the quays that framed an advertisement for Max Schreck, who played the evil Count. I was suitably cold and wet – it was a late September afternoon on the Baltic coast, but I found it. I shivered and rode the train back to camp in a deserted field outside Schwerin, wishing I had stayed in a hotel.
Winning tip: A galaxy far, far away… on the train to Norway
Leave cosmopolitan Norway behind and enter another galaxy via the Bergen Railway. At the highest point of Norway’s rail network is the village of Finse, better known to many as Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. I can understand why they chose it, with frozen lakes and highland hikes in snow all year round on the beautiful serene plateau of Hardangervidda. What more could an intrepid adventurer on an alien ice planet ask for? And what more could these A-list stars have wanted, at about the same altitude as the summit of Ben Nevis, than the elegant Finse 1222 Hotel? Just be sure to wrap yourself in your best Jedi robes.