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Posts in ‘Film, Art, Theatre, Music & Dance’

Salzburg: a destination for the whole family.

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The planning, booking and execution of a family vacation/holiday can often be a complete nightmare. I can remember, as a little girl, only ever wanting to go to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World and not understanding why my fairytale frolicking had to include, by my dad’s rules, some historical or educational component. Why should I care about the life and times of a dead cartoonist? No, I don’t want to go to the museum, and Epcot Center is boor-riiiing…

My mother (like most) played martyr, trying to make everyone happy with stupid road games and chocolate bars. The only thing she required in a destination was a place to shop. And no one was to interrupt mom’s sacred retail ventures (we learned this the hard way!). My big brother, of course, crafted his vacation interests in direct opposition to mine, demanding to ride the rides that I was too short for and refusing to indulge me with “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” sing-a-long. (Cruel, I know).

When selecting a place to haul your family away to for a week, or even just a weekend, you need to ensure a diverse range of convenient tours and activities. You probably want to include an educational component in your itinerary: good luck drumming up enthusiasm for Historic Williamsburg or Auschwitz. You need to find a destination that you can easily sell to your children—a place that, like Disney, has some fantasy or adventure appeal. If, mixed with all the frivolity and merriment of your chosen locale, there is lots of history to be absorbed, even better!

Planning an exciting, yet culturally enriching, family trip is like experimenting with a healthy recipe: if you succeed, then you can delight your children with a tasty batch of Deceptively Delicious brownies. They won’t pick up on the well-masked, pureed vegetable ingredients, and you probably will even savor a few yourself.

Salzburg, Austria is the perfect such destination in which you can create a full proof family “recipe.” Simply mention the Sound of Music Tour, and you’ve got the attention of your youngest. Ask your “Sixteen going on Seventeen”-year-old daughter about Summer Strallen’s recent departure from the hit TV show Hollyoaks to play Maria von Trapp on the West End stage, and she’s all ears. And what movie-loving kid wouldn’t be delighted to visit a real Hollywood film location?

Now that everyone’s on board, you, as a parent, will be delighted to learn that Salzburg is one of the most culturally rich, and easily navigable of European cities. It is much smaller and more manageable than nearby Berlin and Vienna. And it is the birthplace of Mozart, for crying out loud. Walk through the charming Old Town district, and you will be immersed in the historical sights and melodious sounds. Turn a corner, and behold the famous Baroque cathedral (with its Romanesque basilica remains) and perhaps even a Mozart string quartet. And of course, there is the unforgettable, medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress, which towers the city, offering fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

“The hills are alive…”

Perhaps most significantly, you can let your children’s imaginations run free as they trace the footsteps of the von Trapp family through several of the actual sites used in the making of the Sound of Music on a behind-the-scenes tour. You will visit the Mirabell Gardens, where Julie Andrews (as Maria) can be seen singing “Do-Re-Mi” with the children in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. Also included is a trip to Leopoldskron Palace, which was used in the movie as the von Trapp family home. For the more active and restless among us, there are plenty of walking tours and excursions to the surrounding mountains, indeed climbed by Julie Andrews while singing the title song.

And to all the shop-a-holic mothers out there: the historic city center boasts a range of jewelry, high fashion, book, music and souvenir shops.

Oh, and one final thing: Mozart Chocolates = deliciousness. Nothing deceptive lurking in the green colored nougat centers—just 100% sweet marzipan, pistachio and chocolatey goodness!

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New Hobbies: Photography Tours

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PHOTOGRAPHING EUROPE

 

Who says you need fancy equipment or specialized knowledge to enjoy the experience of photographing your favorite city?

For amateurs and professionals alike, these guided photography tours, led by local experts, provide the perfect platform from which to explore the sights, history and culture of Europe through your own, unique lens.

1. We Open in Venice
Venice is a great starting point for absolute beginners. I don’t think there is one corner of that city that isn’t aesthetically overwhelming! The Grand Canal alone will provide you with enough shots for an entire roll of film. Turn the corner and admire the friendly gondoliers, as they effortlessly coast down one of many peaceful, winding tributaries. Get lost in the maze of picturesque alleyways amidst colorful buildings and quaint cafes. Enter Piazza San Marco, and you are inundated with the largest concentration of pigeons that you have ever seen. It is seriously difficult to depart Venice without some satisfying images!

After becoming acquainted with the city and your equipment, you may want to expand your local knowledge and sharpen your newfound photography skills on the Hidden Venice Walking Tour.

2. History buffs to Berlin
Rediscover the history and culture of this fascinating city through the exciting process of imagining, framing and shooting. You will be led by a local expert through several key sites, including Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter), the city’s well-preserved medieval square. Enter the mindset of Prussian kings and architects as you snap away in front of the fascinating buildings of Museumsinsel (Museum Island). Explore the legendary narratives of Frederick the Great through your own vantage points.

You will depart with a new, enhanced understanding of this fascinating city along with unique photographs and stories to prove it!

3. Budapest for the Imaginative
This post-communist city has such diverse historical layers and architectural styles that no single visitor will leave with quite the same impression. A guided tour is the perfect way to kick-start your photographic adventure as you wander through the side streets and admire the city’s crumbling history alongside its contemporary reconstructions. One may be attracted to the famous “castle hill,” with its grand architecture, monuments and panoramic views over the Danube River. Another might focus on the worn façades of beige, red, yellow and brown and bits of crumbling detail that serve as a reminder of this city’s turbulent plight.

Though you won’t be able to take your cameras into the Gellert Baths, they are definitely worth a visit as well!

Now, snap away!

Venice Photography Tour

Photography Tour of Historic Berlin

Photography Tour in Budapest – Across the Danube

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Film Tours: Hollywood and Beyond

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The post-Oscar buzz has likely reached your office desk over the past few days. You have probably overheard the break room chatter. Who showed up with whom? Did George Clooney match his world peace accolades with a shiny gold trophy? Will Amy Adams outdo her 2005 Caroline Herrera getup with an ‘Enchanted’ fairytale gown? Oh, and who won the award for Best Sound Mixing? Right.

Whether you are willing to admit it to your co-workers or not, you do hold a place in your heart for Hollywood glamour. Many of you are still recovering from the all-nighter you pulled in order to catch a live feed of the 80th Annual Academy Awards. Some of you have since wasted hours of valuable work/Facebook time ogling red carpet wire images and fashionista ratings. Let’s face it, a noteworthy portion of your Google searches are dedicated to pop culture happenings (after all, how did you end up here?) .

More significantly, you may even dream of one day journeying to the motherland of fame and fortune—strolling down Rodeo Drive, embarking on a behind-the-scenes tour, and, if you’re lucky, spotting a celebrity or two in person.

It is here that I provide some new inspiration for adventure-seeking film buffs. Why not replace your celeb-stalking hour with a bit of online travel planning? A rapidly increasing number of Hollywood films are being made in beautiful and exotic destinations across North America and around the world. With some research and careful budgeting, you could turn your next trip abroad into a personalized, unique ‘Hollywood’ tour—without having to brave the Los Angeles freeway in a cheap rental car. I can get you started now with a few suggestions:

Some new frontiers for film lovers…

The American South: Berendt’s Mysteries Unveiled
If the U.S. is your vacation playground, you may want to forgo the usual big city jaunt for bit of southern charm. Savannah, Georgia is arguably the friendliest and most picturesque city in the country; over sixty motion pictures have been filmed amidst its captivating tree lined streets and majestic antebellum mansions. Take a guided bus tour and search for sites from Forrest Gump, Cape Fear and, most famously, John Berendt’s novel-turned-blockbuster film: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Trace the murder mystery plot (based on true occurrences) by visiting the Mercer House, former home of the legendary Jim Williams, and catch a performance by the real “Lady Chablis” at Club One. If you’re lucky, you may encounter other book and movie characters—old acquaintances of Berendt’s—who still reside in Savannah today. continue reading

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