Essential cities for the cinema tourist

Get on location with these travel destinatons

The most traveling you've probably ever done has been in front of the same glowing screen that you're reading from right now. With visual culture just about everywhere you turn, the movies are more and more likely to impact where you plan your next international adventure. That's why Tourism Competitive Intelligence, back in 2012, reported that over 40 million people around the world chose their travel destinations based on a movie they saw somewhere. But that doesn't mean you have to be waiting in line at King's Cross in order to try crashing into Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Here's some hotter choices!

A view of the Wiener Riesenrad (Koerner/Getty)

Vienna, Austria

A tourist capital inside a continent of many, you'll probably feel slightly less lame than you would for gunning right for Paris, Rome, or Berlin. Many a movie director has felt the same, Vienna is something of a movie-perfect version of the Euro-tourist audio-visual experience. Everything from The Emperor Waltz (1948) and The Seven-Per-cent Solution (1976) to 360 (2011) and Woman in Gold (2015) have used Vienna's European aura to sell everything from romance to spy thrillers. Of course, the go-to Vienna classic will always be Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), written by Graham Greene and starring Orson Welles. Taking place in the city shortly after the Second World War, the movie's most iconic scene is held at the Wiener Riesenrad, an attraction that remains one of the world's largest ferris wheels and that still sits at the entrance to the city's Wurstelprater amusement park. For a more erudite adventure, I would suggest following the route of Jesse and Céline, the romantic heroes of Richard Linkletter's Before Sunrise (1995), who meet in Vienna and wander along the romantically rendered Donaukanal and listen to the poetry of its streets commingling in the evening air. It's all still there.

Bruges, Belgium

A smaller cinematic corner of the continent, the cute Belgian city has been the setting for the convent in the Audrey Hepburn-starring drama The Nun's Story (1959) as well as Martin McDonagh's self-referential hit movie In Bruges (2008), which starred Colin Farrell as a hitman hiding out his crimes. "Why f*cking Bruges," Farrell's character constantly cries, lamenting its quiet streets and plethora of historical buildings, such of the prominently displayed Belfry of Bruges, one of Europe's few remaining medieval bell towers, that stand in lieu of monotonous clubs and bars. All of which are just a short train trip away.

The Belfry of Bruges, at night (NurPhoto/Getty)

Pondicherry, India

On the other side of the world is the world's second most populated country. Pondicherry, a set of coastal cities rich with elegantly-preserved remains of its colonial past diced in between a culture of public bazaars and market stalls that have long been the prize of the esoteric tourist. The entire first act of Ang Lee's Oscar-crashing Life of Pi (2012) was shot in Pondicherry's French Quarter, where Suraj Sharma's titular Pi flirts with shopkeepers and where his father, of course, works at the city zoo―which Lee shot in Pondicherry's famous Botanical Gardens.

A scene from Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)

Scotland, United Kingdom

A small detour back to the Continent, the glowing green pastures that veer dangerously into jagged cliffs have made a fine backdrop for more than a few spy chases. The small hamlets and grand expanses of spaces have more than opened the land up to the historical imagination, Mel Gibson's turn as the leader of the Scots in Braveheart (1995). Other classics that will make you hunger for the drab but never too dour setting for our hearts and minds include both Skyfall (2012) and almost all the Harry Potter movies. Much of Scotland's lush landscape remains unchanged and easy to pluck out for a tour.

Iowa, United States

Back on our side of the world and not very far away are the glowing fields of middle America, the setting for many an all-American drama shot between its serene and sometimes creepy corn fields―including, of course, Fritz Kiersch's beloved Children of the Corn (1984). Other classics include the likeminded Field of Dreams (1989) or Twister (1996). Kevin Costner's inspirational tale of love and loss, in fact, inspires enough visitors to the otherwise timid town of Dyersville, where a tidy visitors center eagerly awaits believers from around the world.

Bonus: Pittsburgh, United States

Surprised, huh? Well, America's 62nd largest city has been the cinematic face of the American urban experience every since Pennsylvania introduced a tax credit for companies looking to shoot an American street scene on the cheap. Over one hundred and twenty movies have been filmed in Pittsburgh―everything from the Gotham of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and Denzel Washington's most recent adaptation of Fences (2016). Check 'em out

Pittsburgh, at nightfall (Raymond Boyd/Getty)

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Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

Vacation VacationUniversity of Kentucky

Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!