Starry-Eyed Travels

Travel Inspiration through Film and Literature

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Welcome to Starry-Eyed Travels!

Thank you for stopping by; I’m so glad you’re here! Pour yourself a cuppa and bring your chair a little closer – you’re about to lose yourself in a world of travel inspiration, whether you’re a bookworm, a film-lover, or you just want a good travel tale or two. Click the links above to go to the travel, film and book sections, or just browse the latest articles below. Above all, have fun!


Where to Eat in Lisbon

Now, this is no definitive guide to the best restaurants in Lisbon. I’m nowhere near hipster enough or in-the-know enough to even attempt that. No, this is more a tale of my own wanderings and feastings around the Portuguese capital. The thing I love about return trips (and to Lisbon I have returned many a time in the last couple of years) is that you have the luxury of shifting perspective, from the big sights and tourist must-sees to hidden museums and snapshots of everyday life, to – finally and deliciously – the food. And boy, did we eat Lisbon up. It’s not that we planned this Lisbon trip around food exactly, but I went with my friend Fiona, and when we’re together, eating and drinking becomes our central activity. We just seem to sniff out the best wine, partake in petiscos, and test out flavours. She’s an incredible home chef and makes her own wine, so she knows a thing or two about those. We were staying in an airbnb rental in Alfama, the old, Moorish part of the city which is a warren of cobbled becos and travessas, and gorgeous, slightly crumbling buildings, many of which house tiny restaurants. The first night, we decided not to venture far, so we wandered along the Rua dos Remedios, where Fado club marketeers waved leaflets, and cozily-lit restaurants tempted with wafting aromas and blackboard menus. We chose Alfama Cellar, enticed by the wall of wine we could see from the window. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a tiny place, with just a few, simple tables – no frills, no fancy touches;...

A Return to Blogging

The last year has been absolutely amazing. In many ways, the best of my life so far. I now know what it is I want to do when I ‘grow up’ – and funnily enough, it means not really ‘growing up’. I haven’t travelled very much, but I’ve journeyed far and wide through film and literature – I’ve got so much to write about! But first, I just needed to write a post to say hello, sorry for being away, and what the next step in this Starry-Eyed adventure is. In the last year, I’ve written. And written. And then written some more. I’ve done a research masters, which, officially, involved writing about 60,000 words, on a wide selection of topics. Unofficially, in notes and drafts, in grappling with deliberately obscure and brain-breaking philosophical theorists, you can probably double that figure, at least. To support myself through that masters, and you know, pay the bills, I’ve been working as a freelance writer, specialising (unsurprisingly) in travel. Yep, more writing – about 800-1000 words per day. So now you might begin to understand why I haven’t published anything on Starry-Eyed Travels for a very long time. Whenever I wasn’t writing, I was in need of a break from the computer and some fresh air, so I walked, and I thought, and most of the time, it was my academic work consuming my brain, in the best way possible. I’ve been living and breathing African cinema – it’s become my passion, my niche in the world of academia, and something I want to champion. I’ve lost count of how many times...

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love and Death in Latin America

We’re approaching the first anniversary of the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the world’s great writers. With his generous moustache and twinkling eyes, he was also a beloved figure, particularly within his native Colombia. From the time I read One Hundred Years of Solitude as an eager undergrad, I fantasized about meeting the great, Nobel-prizewinning man with the spellbinding words. Yet though Marquez is sadly gone, his literature lives on, fine-spun tales of Love and Death in Latin America. If you’ve never read Marquez, why not start with one of these four classics? 1. No One Writes to the Colonel/El coronel no tiene quien le escriba One of Marquez’s early novellas, No One Writes to the Colonel is poetically tragic and, at least in Marquez terms, mostly realistic rather than magically realistic. The Colonel of the title is 75 years old, a veteran of the Thousand Days War, a bereaved father, the owner of one pair of shoes and his dead son’s cockerel. Every day he goes to the dock to wait for the post to arrive by boat, hoping, as he has been doing for 15 years, that his pension will finally arrive. In the meantime, he and his sick wife have been living a life of dignified poverty, scraping together food to eat by selling off their worldly possessions. The only other thing giving meaning to his life is training the cockerel to fight. None of the characters is named, adding to the sense that the desperate situation of the colonel and his wife is not unique at the end of the war; it is...

Hollywood’s Latin American Fiesta

FLying Down to Rio (1933) and Down Argentine Way (1940) In the 1930s and 40s, the USA in general, and Hollywood in particular, went gaga for all things south of the border. In 1933, Roosevelt launched the ‘Good Neighbor’ policy, in which he sought to improve the image of the US among Latin American countries. Since it proved somewhat difficult to reassure Latin American governments of his non-interventionist direction, having suffered repeated, heavy-handed military interventions from the US in the past, Roosevelt’s Inter-American Office persuaded Hollywood’s major production companies to demonstrate this new-found love for everything Latin American through cinema. So, over the next decade or so, a flurry of films was produced, using the power of song, dance, and Betty Grable’s legs, to demonstrate friendship towards countries like Brazil and Argentina, and to show US audiences the positive side to Latin America. Looking at these films nowadays, it can be slightly cringe-inducing to see Carmen Miranda pop up as the token ‘Latina’, complete with fruit-basket headdress, because, Latin America is ‘exotic’ you know, or to listen to a Hollywood star mangling the Spanish language, because obviously, darling, we can’t have some unknown from Argentina taking on a leading role. It doesn’t seem to concern anyone exactly which bit of Latin America the film is about; hence Mexican Dolores Del Rio assumes a Brazilian role, while Brazilian Carmen Miranda is the showpiece of ‘Argentine’ culture. Still, there is a clear attempt to minimise the differences between Americans, US and Latin, at least within the upper echelons of society, and boy, are these film fun. Both Flying Down to Rio...

My Year in Travel

Photos: January – London, February – Berlin, March – Lisbon, April – Surrey, May – The Alentejo, June – Tangier, July – Paris, August – Snowdonia, September – Oxford, October – The Peak District, November – Edinburgh, December – Serra da Estrela     2014 –  it feels as though I’ve lived three years in this one. It’s been a year rich in travel and new experiences; dreams have been realised, wishes come true, discoveries made. I became a freelance writer full-time, I wrote and published my first book, I was chased by a horse in Portugal, and I turned 26 in Tangier. I’ve called London, Lisbon and Sheffield home, and I’ve toured swathes of Portugal, Spain and France, as well as taking a brief city break in Berlin. Travel always heightens experiences, lengthens time, allows you to see more, sense more, experience more deeply. 2015 promises more travel to places new, but 2014 is the year I will think of most as o meu ano português – my Portuguese year, and it’s one I’ll never forget. January – London Berlin Lisbon April – Surrey The Alentejo June – Tangier Paris Snowdonia September – Oxford October – The Peak District November – Edinburgh December – Serra da Estrela January I began the year living in Kensal Green, London, where I had been since September 2013. I gave up teaching and turned to writing full time. I sought out cute coffee shops to work in, and explored London’s quirky, little neighbourhoods, camera in hand, while wrapped up cozily against the winter winds. February Before upping sticks from London and moving...

Thailand Tribulations: Mosquitoes, Monkeys and Motorbikes

Today’s post comes from Delia, a dear friend I met while judging an English competition in deepest, darkest Surrey, as you do. She has a wicked sense of humour and a fear of anything remotely rural (so the Surrey countryside was rather a challenge). Her latest adventures in Thailand make for a hysterical read. Enjoy! Last year I spent three weeks in Bangkok and got bitten by mosquitoes seventy times. Somehow, I still didn’t get Dengue Fever. It was with some reluctance then that I returned to Bangkok this year. I’d seen the film Final Destination and I knew how these things worked. I was pretty sure that there was a Dengue-riddled mosquito waiting for me at the airport. A mosquito that knew I should have been infected last year and was determined not to let me escape twice. However much I covered up, it would hone in on that tiny part of me that wasn’t soaked in DEET. As it turned, hiding from mosquitoes would be the least of my worries. Motorbike taxis are an everyday part of life for many in Bangkok. Women ride side saddle, often clutching bags of shopping and small children, without a care in the world. So when my friend assured me that it would only be a short trip down a few quiet sois (streets) to a café that would make it all worthwhile, I agreed, albeit with a huge amount of trepidation. My friend, a Bangkok resident, bounded onto his bike with all the enthusiasm of a toddler riding their first tricycle, while I boarded mine with the wariness of a...

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