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Speciality Travel Articles

Movies: The Reel World

Film Tours 2002-2003. by Susan Kostrzewa

Eight-year-old Cole Malizia of Tampa, Florida had as much desire to visit Oxford's Bodlean Library as to see his dentist ... until he found out that scenes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were shot there.

"Cole can't wait to see the places he has seen on the film," says his godmother, Mimi Malizia Young, who plans to take him on an 11-day Potter tour in 2003. "He's also really excited to see King's Cross Station and imagine the Hogwarts Express setting off from there."

Look for movies to move out of the multiplex and onto the itineraries of travelers, according to industry professionals. Over five million people in the past three years selected a vacation destination because of a movie or TV show they saw, according to studies by Travel Industry of America (TIA).

According to experts, the yearning for movieland escapism was accelerated by the all-too-graphic verities of September 11. "People need a break from life," says Philadelphia family therapist Patricia Fuisz. "Movies make people feel good, and can inspire or even change perceptions. They're a mini-vacation."

Tony Reeves, author of The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, also attributes the trend to a longing for glitz in a grimy world. "I think that everybody, at some time, has experienced that moment of - Wow ... this is where such-and-such was filmed," says Reeves. "The real attraction has to be the undeniable glamor associated with movie sites."

It's a wrap! These tours are a ticket to Celluloid Central:

The Sound of Music
"A return to peace, tranquility and innocence." That's how Susanne Servin, owner of Herzerl Tours, describes the company's trip based on the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Servin arranges customized tours for tourists through the Old Town of Salzburg, Austria (where little has changed since the movie was filmed) and its picturesque environs. With visits to locations like the steps of Mirabell Gardens (where "Do- Re-Mi" was shot) and the hills above Werfen (setting for the "Sound of Music" number), groups are immersed in a bygone era of innocence.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Raking in over $317 million in ticket sales since its 2002 release, the boy wizard's movie debut has definite 'plex appeal, and the upcoming sequels are intensely anticipated around the globe. According to Annabella Fitch Hutton, whose company, The British Connection, is organizing an 11-day Harry Potter-related tour of England and Scotland, requests from muggles (non-wizards) for a Potter tour have been steady since the film was released.

The tour's itinerary, which includes visits to Durham Cathedral (used for Hogwarts interiors) and chats with extra at Kings School in Gloucester, appeals to fans because of its "meshing of fantasy and reality," says Hutton. "At the moment, people want something fun, and they also want to have a purpose when they travel."

New Zealand
Lord of the Rings
In a country where sheep outnumber people, the sudden limelight leveled on the island after the release of 2001's popular Lord of the Rings has Kiwi officials anticipating an onslaught of hobbit and Ringwraith fans. The naturally surreal landscape of places like Tongariro National Park, where footage of Mordor and Mount Doom was filmed, and Matamata, a farming community on the Coromandel Penninsula doubling as Hobbiton, immerses visitors in the drama of the trilogy.

"The scenery in the film is fantastic," agrees Matthew Palmer of Chicago, who saw the first movie three times, and is eagerly awaiting the sequels. "The landscapes perfectly capture the feeling of the film. But it's also the story - the idea that we can control our own destiny, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant we might feel - that I think resonates with audiences right now."

The triumph of man over nature celebrated in 2002's A&E series is drawing some travelers to the ice-bound continent, according to Kristy Royce of the cruise wholesaler Expeditiontrips.com. The company books 20-day voyages of South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and the South Orkney Islands, including an optional trekking excursion following part of the explorer's overland route. Australia's Rosemary Rayfuse felt it was as much a mental revelation as it was a physical one. "The final walk from Fortuna Bay to Stromness was one of the most 'spiritual' experiences I have ever had," says Rayfuse, who did the trek in 2001. "I suddenly developed a deep respect for what they had done."

Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia
Gods and Generals
A growing respect for America's pivotal moments has travelers seeking U.S. history tours, according to Les Rodman, whose company, Americana Tours, has taken history buffs to places like Gettysburg and Antietam for seven years.

The September release of Gods and Generals, which retraces the lives, passions, and careers of great Civil War military leaders, is expected to heighten interest in America's legendary battle of the brothers. This period in history is poignant to modern Americans grappling with their own war, explains Rodman, because it "elicits a certain sadness, while at the same time celebrating personal victory and the maturation of the greatest nation in history."

The American West
River of No Return
Though this 1954 film starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe was actually filmed in northwest Canada, its title refers to the Salmon River (the nickname was bestowed by Native Americans in the region). True to the movie's Gold Rush theme, the 100-mile Middle Fork section of the river features pioneer homesteads, gold dredging ruins, and Indian rock paintings. Middle Fork River Expeditions offers three-, five- and six-day deluxe wilderness river trips on this legendary stretch of the Salmon, offering "mild to wild" rides in oar boats, paddle boats and inflatable kayaks. Groups can also make like Marilyn while exploring this wilderness region where bighorn sheep, moose, and eagles abound.

Out of Africa
The dreamy atmosphere of Karen Blixen's farm is re-created at Loldia House, a turn-of-the-century homestead located in the Great Rift Valley. Here, dramatic scenery and rustic elegance capture the romance and reality of 19th-century European settlers like Blixen, says Sarah Brewin, owner of Zarafa's Safaris. Brewin's company can arrange customized safaris geared specifically toward the film, including traditional farmstays where the calls of the wild harmonize with the playing of Mozart's music on the veranda. Much as it was to travelers in Blixen's day, Africa still appeals with its "romance, adventure, and the lure of the unknown," says Brewin.

To Die Another Day
Aficionados of Agent 007 will be shaken - and maybe a little stirred - by the pounding surf of Maui's coast, location for scenes from the new Bond film To Die Another Day, scheduled for release in November. "Bond movies are known for their stunning locales," says Maui Film Commissioner Amy Kastens. She notes that the island's tropical landscape and tradition of outdoor adventure evoke the edgy and sophisticated world of the super-spy, whether it's hanging ten at "Jaws" in north Maui (a site included in the film and known for its mammoth waves) or sipping martinis 007-style at the posh Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua.

Moulin Rouge
"The French are glad to die for love," asserts Nicole Kidman's Satine in 2001's Moulin Rouge, showcasing the drama and decadence of beaux-arts Paris and the eccentric characters who populated the Montmartre neighborhood. Travelers on The French Experience's six-day "Paris Experience" tour will wine, dine and dance through the city's atmospheric haunts by night (including, of course, dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge), visiting museums like the Louvre and Musee D'Orsay by day. Lodging in Montmartre and visits to Versailles also capture the elaborate excess and romance of the film.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
With some six million Americans partaking in martial arts activities, the way of the master is clearly a magnet for the masses. Adventurers eager to explore the exotic environs of the hit 2000 film can head for China and Hong Kong on a 15-day tour offered by tour operator Eastquest. Featuring Huangshan (site of many of the film's fight scenes), Shaolin Temple (considered the birthplace of Chinese martial arts) and historic Shanghai, the tour appeals to people interested in China's warring and cultural past. A visit to a Hong Kong film studio will also please movie buffs.

French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once described cinema as "something between art and life" - not quite fantasy, and not quite reality. For fans eager to experience the charmed world just one step up from daily existence, movie tours offer a way to get into the picture.


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