Longing to travel but stuck in Singapore indefinitely?
With the European Union countries reopening their borders selectively in time for summer on July 1, here are three continental destinations that have been glowingly depicted on the big screen.
These summery films will entertain and transport globetrotters elsewhere, at a time when leisure travel for Singaporeans seems unlikely till next year.
To elevate the experience, pair each movie with food and drink from that locale.
- Maida Pineda is a food, travel and wellness writer, author and yoga teacher based in Melbourne.
1 MAMMA MIA! (GREECE)
Movie: What is not to love about this 2008 classic, with an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth?
The story about a bride-to-be in search of her biological father is set to the hits of the 1970s superstar group Abba.
Mamma Mia! will make you fall in love with the Greek island of Kalokairi, but you will not find the island on any map of Greece. It is a made-up name, meaning “Summer Island”.
In reality, the movie was shot in Skopelos, a 96 sq km island in the Aegean Sea off the eastern shore of mainland Greece.
Skopelos means rock, referring to the island’s limestone cliffs.
Viewers will not forget the deep turquoise water and white sand shown in the film.
The island’s attractions include Kastani Beach, where Sophie (Seyfried) and her fiance Sky (Dominic Cooper) sing Lay All Your Love On Me.
Also lovely are Glysteri, where Sophie and her three prospective fathers jump off the rocks; and Agios Ioannis Chapel, where Sophie gets married.
The chapel is one of 360 places of worship on the island. Before Hollywood’s invasion in the summer of 2007 to shoot the movie, Skopelos was best known for its abundance of plums, with eight varieties harvested from June to September every year.
Food and drink: Why not create a Mamma Mia! viewing party with Greek delicacies?
The cuisine is known for its freshly caught seafood from the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, grilled simply.
And no local meal is complete without olive oil, olives, lemon juice and good bread.
Create a Greek feast centred on a homemade moussaka, with layers of eggplant, minced lamb, pureed tomatoes, onion, garlic and spices topped with bechamel sauce and cheese.
Buy some pita and pair it with all your favourite Greek dips: hummus, taramosalata (fish roe dip), tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber dip) or melitzanosalata (traditional eggplant dip).
Add to your meze (small plates) a bowl of Greek olives and feta. Pair these grazing plates with Greek wine.
Did you know that wine-making dates back 6,500 years in this country, making Greece one of the oldest wine regions in the world?
2 UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (ITALY)
Movie: When divorce, writer’s block and depression all hit San Francisco writer Francis Mayes (played by Diane Lane) at once, her best friend presents her with a trip to Tuscany.
She impulsively buys Bramasole, an abandoned villa in rural Cortona located near Arezzo, Tuscany. The movie captures her struggles living in Bramasole and her journey to making her wishes come true.
In the movie, the stand-in for Bramasole was actually Villa Laura, located in Cortona. Its 17th-century estates are available for weekly rental throughout the year.
However, Villa Laura promises not to give you headaches, which Bramasole did for Mayes. It offers an idyllic vacation home with a garden of sweet-smelling jasmine, roses and lavender, and a hot tub overlooking the Tuscan countryside.
Food and drink: Tuscan cuisine is simple Italian food. Think Pappa al Pomodoro – soup made of tomatoes, garlic, basil and stale Tuscan bread.
Classic Tuscan dishes include lampredotto sandwich, made from the fourth stomach of the cow, and Crostini Toscani (bread with chopped chicken liver sauce).
Add panzanella (a bread salad with tomatoes, red onion, basil, olive oil, vinegar and salt) or Lardo Di Colonnata (a salami made of pork lard cured in local marble) and you will have a comforting Tuscan spread.
For serious carnivores, there is Bistecca alla Fiorentina, taken from the loin of a young steer with fillet on one side and sirloin on the other side. This piece of steak is 3cm to 4cm thick and a hefty 1.5kg to 2kg in weight.
End the meal with limoncello, a homemade liqueur comprising lemon peel, sugar and alcohol.
3 VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (SPAIN)
Movie: This 2008 romantic comedy-drama, written and directed by Woody Allen, will take you to Barcelona, Spain.
Two American friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), meet Spanish artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). He flirts with and seduces both women, while still being in love with his emotionally unstable ex-wife.
In true Allen fashion, it is both quirky and entertaining. But the clearest love story in this film is Allen’s love affair with Barcelona. He is enchanted by the city’s visual beauty and sensibility.
Surrealist architect Antoni Gaudi’s art and architecture are featured in the film. The Basilica La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the rooftop of the La Pedrera are all spectacular seen through Allen’s eyes.
The city’s flair for the arts is also highlighted in scenes shot in the Joan Miro Foundation, the Catalonia National Art Museum and the Barcelona Airport.
Of course, you cannot miss Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most iconic avenue.
Food and drink: The best way to watch this movie is to have a party of tapas and paella.
Create a Spanish feast with your favourite tapas like patatas bravas (fried potatoes with aioli and spicy tomato sauce), chipirones (deep-fried baby squid) and anchoas (anchovies served with vinegar, parsley and garlic).
But try to include Barcelona tapas classics such as bombas (tennis ball-sized croquettes served with garlic sauce and a spicy tomato sauce), pa amb tomaquet (bread rubbed with garlic, crushed fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper) and, of course, the classic cured hams, Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico.
End on a sweet note with crema catalana, a creamy vanilla custard with a torched sugar coating on top. Catalans usually pair their tapas with a glass or two of vermouth or cava.