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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!


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...

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...

On Two Legs in the Peak District

Buffeted by a blustery wind, I took in the burnished autumnal hues of the Peak District. A frisson of warmth in the last few days had painted the countryside, and the pockets of trees splashed russet, gold and auburn among the green pastures of the hills. The picturesque village of Castleton, built in grey Derbyshire stone, was dappled with sunlight and shadows as clouds drifted across the sky. I couldn’t imagine a place I’d rather be on a crisp, sunny, November day than at the top of Mam Tor. Mam Tor means Mother Hill; she’s also known as Shivering Mountain. Apparently, the name’s due to some landslips that caused this peak to tremble, but it seems apt for different reasons when you reach the summit and the wind whips wildly around you. Whatever you call her, she’s a majestic feature of the Peak District, with the high, wild Dark Peak in one direction, and the undulating, limestone White Peak landscape in the other. When I moved back to Sheffield just over a month ago, one of the things I was most looking forward to was having the Peaks right on my doorstep. It’s one of the UK’s most beautiful natural areas, and its oldest National Park. I live on the edge of the city, and it takes just minutes to leave urbanity behind and find myself on the winding roads of the Peak District. But for the last few weeks, I’ve had problems with my legs, so I’ve barely left my everyday surroundings of home and university.  I’ve found walking difficult and driving painful, and I can feel my...

Review: Sin Nombre

Amidst a very real migration crisis on the Mexican/US border, this Mexican/US collaboration has produced an insightful, deeply human tale of the true cost of crossing borders and hoping for a better life. With glorious cinematography and a versatile, exciting director at the helm, Sin Nombre is a revelation.  Language: Spanish Running Time: 96 mins Director: Cary Fukunaga Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores Genre: Adventure/Crime Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Risking violence, robbery and death on a monumental journey atop a freight train, Honduran teenager Sayra is travelling through the entirety of Mexico with her father and uncle, hoping to build a better life in the USA. Her world collides with that of Casper, a young, troubled soul who has got on the wrong side of his violent gang, the notorious MS-13. How much is Sayra prepared to risk for Casper, and for how long can he outrun the gangsters who want him dead? The Review Though this film pulls no punches in terms of bloody violence, it in no way over-dramatises the situation. In fact, it’s a restrained portrayal which never spills into the gratuitous, and Fukunaga is a director with a feather-light touch. He pulls you into the story with long silences atmospheric shots, contrasting the lush beauty of Mexico’s changing landscapes with the gritty ganglands and the piles of people sheltering under thin sheets of plastic on top of the train. The viewer is left to draw their own conclusions about the characters’ motives and thoughts. It’s hard not to be swept up in the story, journeying each step with Sayra and Casper. Find out a...

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