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January 8, 2013

Set-jetting on The French Riviera

A bit of a departure from the usual fare but l wanted to share a piece of v.v.exciting news.

In conjunction with my good friend and film expert, Jon Melville  I am launching next month a new blog about film and travel and as part of that project, we are very excited to announce  a partnership with the Cote D’Azur tourism board. More details about the project from Jon below and I’ll keep you posted for the launch date of the blog.

 

The famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice

The famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice

 

“The French Riviera had it all. Sea, gardens, villas nesting among the bougainvillea…wherever we set up a camera our dream location was there, right in front of us!” Film pioneer Charles Pathé on the creation of the French Riviera’s first film studio in 1908

The French Riviera. It’s a name which conjures up images of young starlets on the Croisette at Cannes, Cary Grant driving sports cars through picturesque villages and restaurants overflowing with wine and good food as the sun slowly sets over a calm sea.

The area, also known as the Côte d’Azur, may be best known films such as To Catch a Thief (1955), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Jewel of the Nile (1985) and Ronin (1998), but the last 12 years has seen a total of 121 feature films, 195 TV episodes and 1784 commercials shot on the French Riviera, making it the perfect location for anyone interested in visiting film locations and living the good life.

Thankfully, the days of the French Riviera being exclusively reserved for millionaire celebrities is long gone, with the growth of budget airlines and accommodation making it a haven for both film stars and film fans.

 

Ancien Palais des Festivals in Cannes

Ancien Palais des Festivals in Cannes

 

With “set-jetting” – the phenomenon of travellers visiting a country to visit its film locations – on the rise, and the forward thinking tourism board, CRT Côte d’Azur, keen to celebrate their cinematic connections in 2013, I’m teaming up with Kash to launch a new blog for them later this month.

I’ll be heading over to the Riviera from the UK this week to find out what the area has to offer travellers who perhaps want to catch a glimpse of the streets seen in The Transporter (2004) or to stay in the same hotels as Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot in the Fifties and Sixties (or the hostel along the road).

I’ll be taking photos and making some short videos of the trip, sharing them via Twitter, Instagram and other social networks using the #cinemazur hashtag, all of which will build into a comprehensive guide to the French Hollywood. Hopefully I’ll get a few suggestions from fellow travellers, both for budget tips and film locations I’ve missed.

Poster for the first Cannes Film Festival in 1939

Poster for the first Cannes Film Festival in 1939

 

The itinerary is currently looking something like this:

  • Nice – To Catch a Thief (1955), The Persuaders! (1971), Condorman (1981), Ronin (1998), Swordfish (2001) and The Transporter (2004). Visit the homes of director Romain Gary, Gabrielle Chanel and more…
  • Villefranche-sur-Mer – The Adventures of Captain Fabian (1950), An Affair to Remember (1957), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Ronin (1998) and Killers (2010). A visit to the Chapel St Pierre, decorated by filmmaker Jean Cocteau
  • Cagnes-sur-Mer
  • Beaulieu-sur-Mer
  • Grasse – GoldenEye (1995)
  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
  • Saint-Paul de Vence  - Moment to Moment (1966), OSS 117 – Mission to Tokyo (1966) and Big Kiss (2004)
  • Antibes – Let’s Not Get Angry (1966), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Big Blue (1988), Lolita (1998)
  • Cannes – French Kiss (1995),  Ronin (1998)

So feel free to tweet me any suggestions for the trip and I’ll see if I can visit them.

 

 

June 28, 2012

Visiting Scotland on the Brave trail

Callanish Standing Stones monolith

 

If the Disney Pixar movie Brave has inspired you to come and visit Scotland, I have the perfect guest post for you from good friend and founder of Cinematic Scotland, Jonathan Melville . Here’s the lowdown from Jon about how to discover Scotland and go on the Brave trail.

 

Merida takes aim in Brave

Merida takes aim in Brave

 

 

Think of Scotland and what comes to mind? Castles? Mountains? Tartan? Haggis? Magic curses that could change your fate?

That last item may not be in any of the official guide books, but thanks to the release of Disney Pixar’s latest animated blockbuster, Brave, there’s soon going to be a whole new generation of film fans for whom Scotland is the most exciting place in the world to visit.

It was in in early 2012, during a chat over coffee in Edinburgh with the owner of this very blog, Kash, that the plan for a tour of “Brave Scotland” came into being, the idea being that we could visit some of the locations used by the filmmakers in Brave. With a new blog in the works, Cinematic Scotland, it seemed a good time to try.

Of course, being a film made on a computer somewhere in San Francisco, there are no “real” locations in Brave, posing a slight problem for the trip. Thankfully, the 10th Century version of Scotland seen in the film still exists today, at least in part, with enough castles, forests, waterfalls and stone circles around to inspire a series of movies.

In 2006 and 2007 the filmmakers came to Scotland to see for themselves what heather felt like, how the stones on our castles fitted together and what all that rain really looked like, meaning I had a rough itinerary to follow.

 

 

Urquhart Castle panorama

Urquhart Castle panorama

 

 

With the assistance of Edinburgh-based tour operator Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, who provided space on one of their coaches for a five day Outer Hebrides Adventure, I used my trusty iPhone to Instagram, tweet and Facebook my way around the country, publishing them on Flickr as I went.

Locations as diverse as Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, Callanish Standing Stones and centuries-old blackhouses on the Isle of Lewis and Scotland’s most-photographed castle, Eilean Donan, were my targets, with dozens of photos recording the tour. The Isles of Harris and Skye were also part of the itinerary, but Lewis seemed to be the most relevant for Brave fans.

 

 

Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis

Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle of Lewis

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle of Lewis

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

I

also used the iPhone to capture some video clips of the tour, with the wind a crucial part of my plan to make the videos look homemade rather than overtly professional. In other words it was blowing a gale on the Isle of Lewis and the camera went everywhere…

I even watched a man weaving Harris Tweed.

During the tour I managed to fit in many of the locations visited by the makers of Brave, with a few they perhaps didn’t have a chance to see. Sadly there are no giant Lewis Chessmen in the finished film, a real shame as the one I found was a real gent.

Meeting a Giant Lewis Chessman

Meeting a Giant Lewis Chessman

 

 

Although I live in Scotland, this was the first time I’d made it across to Lewis and Harris (both of which are on the same island, separated only by some mountains), meaning as well as seeing Brave come to life I was able to see some more of the country and her people.

Apart from enjoying the ferry trip from Ullapool to Lewis and a few days in Stornoway, the island’s capital, the Callanish Standing Stones were probably my favourite part of the trip. While nobody is entirely sure if the stones were originally used as a place of worship or a burial ground, today it does feel quite a serene place, even with the wind blowing.

 

 

Callanish Standing Stones monolith

Callanish Standing Stones monolith

 

 

As well as blogging the tour on Cinematic Scotland, we plan to release a downloadable map in the next week or so, offering more information on where I visited and how fans of Merida, King Fergus and Queen Elinor can also follow in their footsteps if they’re brave enough to travel to Scotland.

 

 


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