Disclosure: SouthernGirlGoneGlobal has an affiliate relationship with Amazon. If you make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links in this post, I will receive a small commission which does not affect your cost. Amazon is my first go-to for videos and books, whether shipped with Prime or downloaded for Kindle or Audible, but I have included links to Netflix and other sources as well. More on what’s available on Prime Reading–including what’s free–here.
So we’re on global lockdown. Whether you’re in the trenches working even longer hours in healthcare facilities; at home all day with restless children; one of my English students bored that campus is closed, and/or anxious about when or how this will all end… cue “Come and Run Away with Me” by my Nashville singer/songwriter friend, Carole Earls and check out the list below.
These works are by authors and screenwriters who are the best escape artists I know. Books, movies, and television series have the power to transport us now to dream locations and inspire us to go there for real one day. Helping me with this list are pro travel bloggers who were moved…literally…to explore a place abroad they’d experienced on the page or screen. Some of us were supposed to be in Catania, Sicily at the Travel Bloggers Exchange last week. Though grounded, we’re finding ways to make the best of staying home. Here’s hoping these suggestions take you away for awhile from stress and cabin fever. Please add to the list in comments below. Whether mysteries, memoirs, romances, comedies, or classics…what books, films, or tv series sweep you beyond borders to a happy place? (The US travel book, movie, and television list is coming soon…stay tuned.)
- Death in Paradise –TV series
The BBC series Death in Paradise is a murder mystery set on a tropical island, filmed in Guadeloupe. Watching it, I was so mesmerized by the setting that I often stopped even following the story, just enjoying the view. That’s why I chose to go to Guadeloupe a few years ago: to visit this stunning place, which, it turns out, really is as beautiful as on the show!–Rachel of Rachel’s Ruminations
2. The Way –film
I’ve been harboring a secret desire to walk the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) which starts in the Pyrenees of southern France and then traverses northwestern Spain before reaching the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella in the Spanish province of Galicia. The cathedral is a shrine said to be the burial place of St. James, the patron saint of Spain. I’m worried Mr. Excitement might notice that it’s a mere 476.8 miles longer than the Milford Track —- and we’re 14 years older. To subtly introduce the idea, I
cajoledinvited him to join me in watching the film, The Way –Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque.
3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona –film
Two friends on a trip to Spain fall in love with the same painter (no wonder, it was Javier Bardem). LOVED the entire cast of this film, which includes Penelope Cruz, and the city that inspired Woody Allen to direct it. The year it came out my friend, Kim, and I did a girls’ getaway in Barcelona.
4. The Trip to Spain –film
Oh how I love the wit of British Comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as they banter (on this trip they are Don Quixote and Sancho Panza) taking us on a journey through beautiful landscapes, hotels, and food.
5. Bread and Tulips –film
This was the first movie that made me fall in love with Venice and want to live an expat life. I love the main character and her desire for something different–simpler, sweeter. She inspired me to wander, so full of questions about my future, too. Here are the secrets Venice shared. Currently it’s available on Youtube movies in Italian with English subtitles.
Books–Travel and Expat Memoirs:
Memoir of a London journalist who flees heartache and career woes to write a memoir while living a year in Florence. Her story of finding a better way to live and love is entertaining and endearing.
I am such a fan of chef, journalist, and lyrical memoirist Marlena de Blasi. I just ordered The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club. I’ll let you know how it is.
9. An Italian Affair—Laura Fraser
My friend, Sara, is not a fan of this book because after reading it, I spent our trip to Italy almost twenty years ago dragging her about in hopes of finding a love interest of my own. Laura Fraser is one of my favorite writers (see the other work of hers recommended below). She coached me on the first chapter of my Morocco memoir and attending her publishing retreat in the artist colony of San Miguel de Allende is top of my Bucket List though the writing retreat in Tuscany would be amazing, too.
Frances Mayes is another one of my all-time favorites. See another book of hers I recommend below. Finding out she is a southern girl and reading about her childhood was an unexpected surprise. More on that book and other southern favorites coming soon…
12. Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide–Dario Castagno
Dario’s tales of leading Americans on tours in Tuscany’s Chianti regions made me laugh out loud.
13. An Italian Education—Tim Parks
Englishman Tim Parks entertains with an amusing story of raising his family in Verona, Italy.
14. Beautiful Ruins–Jess Walter
A love story spanning 1960s Rome and Cinque Terre to modern Hollywood that made me. add Cinque Terre to my Bucket List.
15. A Room with a View—E.M.Forster
1900s period comedy of manners/classic in the vein of Jane Austen depicts a young woman torn between her upbringing in Edwardian England and her heart’s home in Italy.
16. The Tourist
Johnny Depp plays a math teacher/bumbling tourist who meets a mysterious fashionista (Angelina Jolie), in this romance- action film. The even bigger star here is Venice providing escapism at its finest.
17. Enchanted April
Before anyone used the terms “girl’s getaway” or “journey of self-discovery,” Elizabeth von Arnim wrote a best-selling 1922 novel about frustrated English housewives who travel to Portofino, Italy. The film adaptation, a period film about rejuvenation and reinvention, is timeless.
Brit wits Comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan trace the steps of the Romantic poets through Italy.
This adaptation of Frances Mayes’ memoir with Diane Lane has launched many-a-divorced woman on an expat life abroad. My first night after moving to Marrakesh solo, I unpacked my DVD and watched it under a Moroccan moon.
20. Only You— A romantic comedy with Robert Downey, Jr., Marisa Tomei, and Bonnie Hunt that will make you fall in love with Rome, Tuscany, Venice. The shots of Positano on the Amalfi Coast in this movie and Under the Tuscan Sun make the city Top of my Bucket List.
A sociopath (Matt Damon) charms his way into the life of an heir (Jude Law). Though a dark thriller, performances by actors, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Blanchett, are as stunning as the scenes of Italy.
22. The English Patient—Michal Ondantjee
One of my favorite films, the story of a forbidden love in northern Africa unfolds in the ruins of an Italian monastery in Tuscany during World War II. I was thrilled to visit the set on a girls’ getaway to Italy.
My favourite Netflix show and books transport me to the place I can’t stop traveling to: France. They provide some of the best stories about the culture, food, and sights of this beautiful country.– Janice Chung of Francetraveltips
I asked my Canadian friend, Janice Chung, who is. guru of all things France for her list. She has been to her heart’s home 34 times. She said the film that made her want to travel to and through Paris for the first time was Two for the Road.
23. 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go–Marcia DeSanctis
Guidebook, memoir, and meditations for the serious Francophile.
The classic tribute to the country that became home to British expats Peter and Jennie Mayle.
25. Almost French—Sarah Turnbull
I had this true story of Australian journalist who falls in love and makes Paris her home on my list, too.
26. Me Talk Pretty One Day –David Sedaris
In this collection of personal essays, the one for which the book is titled is a must-read for anyone who has struggled in a language class. Sedaris’s description of moving to Paris and taking a course in French is hilarious. My university students who have struggled with learning foreign languages as I have enjoy this.
27. L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris My Home and 28. The Sweet Life In Paris –David Lebovitz
Expat memoirs of a chef renovating his apartment and life in Paris.
29. French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure —Mireille Guiliano
Known as “the ultimate non-diet book,” the author is full of life wisdom.
30. Call My Agent (French-Dix Pour Cent) –tv series
Comedy series about a Paris talent agency trying to keep their stars happy and business afloat. French language with English subtitles on Netflix.
31. A Moveable Feast—Ernest Hemingway
Though his novels are more popular (my Moroccan students enjoyed The Sun Also Rises set in Paris and Spain, and my Dominican Republic students loved For Whom the Bell Tolls about the Spanish Civil War), this memoir, A Moveable Feast, is my favorite Hemingway work. It’s a sensual portrait of 1920s Paris that inspired a successful journalist risking everything to write his first novel to fulfill that dream.
A comparison of cultural differences between American and French women, the book begins with this:
It’s not the shoes, the scarves, or the lipstick that gives French women their allure. It’s this: French women don’t give a damn. They don’t expect men to understand them. They don’t care about being liked or being like everyone else. They generally reject notions of packaged beauty. They accept the passage of time, celebrate the immediacy of pleasure, like to break rules, embrace ambiguity and imperfection; and prefer having a life to making a living. They are, in other works, completely unlike us.
33. Chocolat —Joanne Harris
With magical realism Harris paints a French village of colorful characters who become chosen family thanks to pirates and a single mom with a gypsy soul. My interview with the author who is as fascinating as her works is here.
My French Films
The Oscar-nominated film adaptation starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp ties for my favorite movie-of-all-time.
35. Before Sunset
I mention here a binge-worthy trilogy about cross-cultural romance starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy because the 2nd film, Before Sunset, which is set in Paris, is my favorite. The first film, Before Sunrise, was filmed in 1995 when the young couple met in Vienna the night before she must return home to Paris and he to the US. The third film, Before Midnight, was released in 2013 and set in Greece. All are character-driven– smart dialogue against backdrops of some of the most beautiful places on earth. The soundtracks are cool, too.
Writer Owen Wilson time-travels to 1920s Expat Paris where he meets Woody Allen’s take on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dali, Picasso, and the rest of the Lost Generation.
37. A Good Year
A Wall Street Wonder (Russell Crowe) inherits his uncle’s vineyard in a French village where he visited as a child. There he meets a beautiful local woman (Marion Cotillard).
38. Le Divorce
A Romantic comedy about American sisters navigating love in Paris, starring Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson.
39. French Kiss–Ok, I can’t find this anywhere. If someone does, please let me know. It’s an all-time favorite. Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline star in this romantic comedy set in Nice, Paris, and the vineyards of France.
40. The Durrells in Corfu –tv series
Based on naturalist Gerald Durrell’s novels, a financially strapped English widow takes her children to live on a Greek island in the 1930s. Seasons 1-3 are available with Amazon Prime. Season 4 or the entire season is available through PBS Masterpiece.
An unappreciated housewife–a bit like an older version of Bridget Jones– escapes to Greece.
42. My Life in Ruins
Nia Vardalos plays an American-Greek tour director whose life changes on a final excursion.
43. Mama Mia
Meryl Streep stars in a musical about a mother and daughter set in Greece.
Nicholas Cage plays an Italian officer stationed in Greece where he falls in love with a local (Penelope Cruz).
46. Mostly Martha
When a stubborn chef has to take custody of her defiant niece, the Italian sous-chef she hires becomes a buffer. The romantic comedy is in German with English subtitles.
47. Downton Abbey –film
The movie sequel to the beloved series.
48. P. S. I Love You
Gerard Butler plays a dead husband who left behind letters to encourage his wife to go to Ireland and move on with her life.
49. Dear Frankie
A single mom hires Gerard Butler to play the role of her son’s father for one day.
50. Out of Africa
Oscar-winning film set on a Kenyan coffee plantation where Meryl Streep is an aristocrat who moved to Africa with an unfaithful husband. There she falls in love with an adventurer played by Robert Redford. This film is a favorite of my friend, Sally, a nurse and jewelry designer who lived in Africa over 20 years.
51. Hideous Kinky
Esther Freud, great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, wrote this autobiographical novel about moving to Morocco with her mother and sister in the early 1970s. I watched the movie starring Kate Winslet before moving to Morocco ; the hardships of the family’s bohemian life are softened in the novel because they are relayed from the viewpoint of a curious child. The descriptions in both prepared me for the Marrakesh Medina–chaos that stirred me, exhausted me, thrilled me like no other place.
52. Travels: Collected Writings 1950-1993– Paul Bowles
A master of describing place, Paul Bowles lived many years in Morocco and writes about them here. These essays also include time spent in Paris, Thailand, and Kenya.
Movies Filmed in Morocco (Just a Few for Now)
The story of Gertrude Bell, explorer of the deserts that would become The Middle East. Filming was done in Morocco in Marrakesh, Erfoud, and Ouarzazate.
Set in the Middle East but filmed in Marrakech, Tensift El Haouz, Essaouira, El Jadida and Chichaoua.
Though set in Abu Dhabi, filming was done in Marrakesh. The girls’ suite is here.
British retirees make a new home in India–a place I so want to visit too.
58.– 59. Love in the Time of Cholera –Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Set in the author’s Colombia, the novel and movie starring Javier Bardem testify to the power of lifelong love.
The “People’s Poet” of Latin America, Pablo Neruda’s work calls us to his beloved Chile and beyond.
Based on the memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would become revolutionary Che Guevara, and his 1952 trek across South America with his friend Alberto Granado, the film is a coming-of-age story that shaped his future politics and the world.
Though her material is sometimes dark, I love works by this prolific Chilean author.
64.-65. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia –Elizabeth Gilbert
This journey memoir started a revolution of solo female travel. Also watch the movie, too.
66. All Over the Map–Laura Fraser
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, to celebrate her fortieth birthday, Laura meets The Professor (from An Italian Affair) and realizes she’s ready for a home and family. In her gut-honest memoir travel journalist Laura Fraser seeks answers across Argentina, Peru, Naples, Paris, and the South Pacific.
67. A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller –Frances Mayes
She describes the art, architecture, history, and culinary delights of Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, and to the Mediterranean world of Turkey, Greece, the South of Italy, and North Africa as only a now-retired university professor and lifelong student of other cultures can be.
68. The Alchemist–Paulo Coelho
A fable about following our dreams. Santiago travels from Spain to Morocco to Egypt and as inspired many to travel and create new lives in new places, too. Here’s how my Spanish friend, Moni, and I bonded over this novel which launched a cross-continental friendship and expat lives.
Love story of Hemingway meeting his match in his 3rd wife who was the first world-recognized woman war correspondent.
70. Beyond Borders
One of my Top 10 of All Time movies–a love story filmed in Africa, Thailand, and Canada of an American expat living in England and a Doctor Beyond Borders.