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!


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...

Review: Les Intouchables

French cinema is having something of a renaissance, with films sweeping across the channel attracting a global audience. Les Intouchables raises the bar even higher, breaking box-office records set by previous smashes such as ‘Amelie’ and ‘The Chorus’. A laugh-out-loud comedy, and a touching, original story, watch it before Hollywood gets their hands on the rights. Language: French Running Time: 112 minutes Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy Genre: Comedy Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Philippe (Cluzet), is a multi-millionaire Parisian with a short temper and a love of classical music and pretentious art. He is also a quadriplegic, confined to a state-of-the-art wheelchair. Driss (Sy), is a French-African born into the slums of Paris, where drugs and violence are a way of life. They form an unlikely partnership when Driss turns up at a job interview with Philippe just so he can get his social security benefit, and ends up with a job as Philippe’s carer. Philippe’s dull, clinical world is flung into disarray as Driss delights in driving his supercars, flirting with Philippe’s assistant and disbelievingly pouring hot water onto his boss’ unfeeling legs. Life without Driss is soon unthinkable, but are their worlds simply too different for the fun to last? The Review: I knew this film was something special when it had my mum and brother gripped – I can’t usually get them to sit through an entire foreign-language film! From the first flash-forward scence, which sets up an extraordinary scenario that takes the rest of the film to unpick, to the moments of laugh-out-loud humour, this is a compassionate, fresh and funny film. While there...

The little joys of Lisbon in three seasons

I could spend ages talking about the things to do in Lisbon – admiring the almost optically-impossible Sé cathedral, touring the castle, taking a literature tour… but we would be here all day, and it’s hardly groundbreaking stuff. It’s funny, but when I think of Lisbon, which is at least several times per day, it is the little experiences, the feather-light moments of magic, which cause my skin to tingle. So these are the little joys of Lisbon, through three seasons of the city.  Winter   Sink your teeth into a warm, smoky chestnut Be lured by the tendrils of smoke emanating from the many stands, and by the shouts of ‘castanhas, quentes e boas!’ (chestnuts, hot and delicious!) Gaze upon the rich, nutty beauties, roasting in the flat pan. Hand over your two euros, and clasp the warm cornet with anticipation. Peel off the first hard shell, licking the salt from your fingertips. Take your first, much anticipated bite. Gaze at chestnut-less passersby with a mixture of pity and smugness. Linger over coffee No self-respecting Lisboeta drinks anything other than espresso coffees. Learning to take your time and savour the tiny cup is a skill best learned on a dull winter day, when the light and warmth of a small, family-owned cafe is the most inviting thing in the world. When your espresso appears on the bar, treat it like a fine wine, allowing it to settle, and drinking in the rich aroma first. Allow it to cool a little, making conversation with the bartender. Then sip, slowly, pausing to gaze out of the window at the grey,...

An Amelie Tour of Paris

Thirteen years ago, an off-beat French film captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world and propelled Audrey Tatou to stardom. Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain remains an iconic Parisian film, with such a sweet story at its heart that you just can’t help but fall in love with Amélie and her city, and there’s no better way to relive the film than with an Amelie tour of Paris.  If you’d like to know more about the film, read the review here. These days, though the Amélie obsession there once was in Paris has quietened, the film is still deeply intertwined into Paris life. Stand long enough in the Gare du Nord, which was one of the locations used in the film, and the tinkling, melodic music of Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack will fill the air, courtesy of an amateur pianist at one of the public pianos. But it is in Montmartre that the film really comes to life. Walking up Rue Lepic, close to the Moulin Rouge, the Café des 2 Moulins is an unprepossessing sight at first; one street café among many along this stretch. Patrons sit in the wicker chairs beneath the scarlet awning, sipping coffee and flicking through the morning paper, keeping one eye on the hustle and bustle of life around them. But it is unmistakably Amélie’s café. Inside, the long bar, and even the layout of the chairs and tables, is exactly as it looks in the film. The only thing that is missing is the hypochondriac waitress, and you can’t help but watch the glasses on the shelves behind the bar,...

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