So, the opening of the new James Bond movie is being pushed back due to COVID-19, not to mention your vacation plans have blown up like MI6′s headquarters in “Skyfall.” We’re all in the same boat, kids, or rather we’re all stuck on the couch (wouldn’t a boat be nice?), oozing with pent-up wanderlust. How to beat the homebound blues until we can all safely travel again? Pick up that clicker and find a good movie — one that will transport you to someplace distant and delightful. To get you started, there’s “Under the Tuscan Sun,” (sun-drenched, olive oil-soaked Italy), “Out of Africa,” (Meryl + Kenya = fabulous), and “Eat, Pray, Love” (a travel three-fer: Italy, India, Indonesia), and virtually any 007 film (Turkey, Thailand, Egypt, the Swiss Alps, to name a few). Here are a few more, less-obvious choices that offer a virtual vacation thanks to cool locations and great scenery.
New York City: Annie Hall (1977) However you feel about Woody Allen, his 1977 Oscar winner is a valentine to New York. “The city feels like a living, breathing character,” says Nick Carr of www.scoutingNY.com. Alas, some locations are long-gone, like the Coney Island roller coaster seen in Alvy’s childhood flashbacks, and some are transformed, like the Doubleday bookstore where Alvy bought Annie books about death — now it’s a Prada boutique. However, the clothing shop that was the backdrop for their first big kiss remains a clothing store — look for it at 9 Greenwich Ave. the next time you visit, if you’re an “AH” fanatic. The movie queue where Marshall McLuhan magically shows up, and the party scene (“There are people out there from the New Yorker magazine!)” are quintessentially NYC. “The movie is filled with authentic locations,” Carr says, and the essence of the city comes through in every scene.
In real life: Take an On Location NYC TV & Movie Tour of famous filming sites; www.onlocationtours.com.
Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Girl meets boy, not realizing he is fabulously rich — until she visits his family in Singapore. That’s the premise of this film, based on Kevin Kwan’s novel. The fashion is eye-popping, Awkwafina steals the show, and you’ll be logging onto Google Flights before the credits role: Singapore’s fantastical, futuristic look is on major display. Locations include the SuperTree Grove in Gardens by the Bay, a collection of towering tree-like structures where the wedding reception was shot, the showy-glowy Marina Bay Sands (with its famous rooftop park), and the spectacular Raffles Hotel, where Rachel and Nick stay. The hawker (open air food court) scene was filmed at Newton Food Center. The family’s fabulous mansion — actually two different homes — is actually located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In real life: Soak up the glitz on a four-hour tour of Singapore with a Crazy Rich Asians theme; www.toursbylocals.com.
Belgium: In Bruges (2008) “But then, like a flash, it came to me. And I realized, [expletive] man, maybe that’s what hell is: the entire rest of eternity spent in [expletive] Bruges.” So, a lead character in this film, Ray (played by Colin Farrell) isn’t a fan of the postcard-perfect medieval town in Belgium. He plays one of two Irish hit men sent to Bruges following a botched job in London. But to the rest of us, this World Heritage Site looks awfully appealing. Locations captured on film include the Belfry (originally built in 1240) with its 366 steps, Groeninge Museum, the Jerusalem Church, Grote Market, and a renowned restaurant called Cafedraal that still exists (but is currently closed due to the coronavirus.)
In real life: A canal tour is a dandy way to explore the neighborhoods of Bruges, known as “the Venice of the North.” There’s also a chocolate museum and beer museum. www.visitbruges.be.
Fiji: The Blue Lagoon (1980) Longing for a beach vacation? They don’t get much dreamier than Turtle Island, part of the Yasawas chain in Fiji — a good reason (perhaps the only reason) to watch this 40-year-old movie. It earned a Razzie (worst actress) for poor Brooke Shields. The story line: Two Victorian-era kids are marooned on a tropical island in the South Pacific without adult supervision after their caretaker dies. Their sexual awakening ensues. More interesting is the story of Turtle Island itself: The island was privately-owned when Columbia Pictures selected it as the shoot location, but once the movie wrapped, owner Richard Evanson launched it as a resort with 14 straw-and-wood huts.
In real life: Book a stay at Turtle Island (www.turtlefiji.com) and experience this exquisite locale yourself. Watch the movie that started it all on a big screen set up on the beach. Have a cocktail, and make a toast to Brooke Shields, who later redeemed herself with two Golden Globe noms.
Kauai: Jurassic Park (1993) Hawaii’s fourth-largest island looks impossibly green and gorgeous — even when overrun with marauding dinosaurs. Look past them and admire the scenery in the original film of this franchise, where Kauai was a stand-in for the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and, of course, the fictitious “Isla Nubar,” represented by the verdant slopes of the Na Pali coast. Most of the film was shot on the island; locations include National Tropical Botanical Gardens, Allerton Garden (also seen in “Honeymoon in Vegas”), and Manawaiopuna Falls (also known as Jurassic Falls.) Need more Kauai visuals? Try “South Pacific,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Six Days, Seven Nights,” “Blue Hawaii,” and “Lilo & Stitch.”
In real life: If you’re a major movie buff, or simply want a lively way to see the sights, sign up for a seven-hour Hawaii Movie Tour of Kauai; www.robertshawaii.com.
San Francisco: Vertigo (1958) No list of movies would be complete without a Hitchcock film, and this one captures the moody City by the Bay exquisitely. You can almost feel the cool mist swirl about you as you watch ex-cop Scottie (played by James Stewart), who’s been hired by a husband to keep an eye on his wife (Kim Novak), in this study of desire, death, and acrophobia. The movie is a twisty delight, yes, and it’s also a travelogue of San Francisco must-sees, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Jackson Square Historic District, the Legion of Honor museum, Coit Memorial Tower, and Mission Dolores in the Mission District. You even get redwoods, courtesy of shots filmed in nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
In real life: Planning to do lots of sightseeing? Pick up a San Francisco CityPASS (www.citypass.com/san-francisco ) and check out iconic sites like the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39 (sea lions!)
Africa: Black Panther (2018) Yes, we know, Wakanda isn’t real, and much of this blockbuster film was shot in Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Atlanta. But still, the flyover shots of the landscape — filmed over South Africa, Zambia, and Uganda — are stunning, and will make you want to go this minute. The lush jungle footage was filmed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ve watched the movie for the plot; watch it again for the scenery (and no, we’re not talking Chadwick Boseman).
In real life: Ready for adventure? Stay at Buhoma Lodge (www.ugandaexclusivecamps.com) for spectacular views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and treks to see the elusive mountain gorilla; more than half of the world’s population of these primates lives in Uganda.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org