Abercrombie & Kent: Five cinema-cations around the world

You may not have that look that Hollywood craves, but you still want to get close to the action, right? You want to touch the greatness that comes with being splashed across screens from coast to coast. Thanks to the latest concept from luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, you don’t need talent. The latest “cinema-cation” packages send you to the locations where some of the hottest movies of the last year or so have been shot. There are enough options that you’ll definitely find something to match your personal style.

1. Sex and the City 2
After seeing this movie opening night on May 27, 2010, dash off to Morocco. A&K Group Managing Director George Morgan-Grenville was actually over there while movie was being filmed at the Amanjena Hotel and in the Djema el-Fna Square souks. The interiors and pool scenes, he says, were shot at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma and Palmeraie over in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Suggests Morgan Grenvile: “Take a camel ride at sunset and spend the night under the stars in a Bedouin-style tented camp surrounded by the largest sand dunes in the world.”

2. Eat , Pray, Love
Before going to see Eat, Pray, Love on August 13, 2010, check out the treasures of Northern India with this A&K Journey for Women. You’ll take apersonal journey with A&K guide Shagun Mohan, who says, “We spend time with local women at a bead-making workshop in the holy city of Varanasi, witness a spiritual Aarti ceremony on the Ganges at night, see the Taj Mahal at both sunrise and sunset, and visit Khajuraho’s Hindu temples. This kind of journey is a life-changing experience for almost anyone.” 3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallow Part 1
Families can get a feel for Harry Potter‘s Great Britain ahead of the November 19, 2010 opening with the A&K Tailor Made Magical Great Britain package. According to Duncan Hambidge of A&K Europe, who has visited may Harry Potter film spots with his family, “One highlight for children is the Great Hall at Oxford University, Hogwart’s Dining Room. Another favorite is crossing the dramatic Glenfinnian Viaduct in the Western Highlands aboard The Royal Scotsman, the route taken by the Hogwart’s Express train in the Chambers of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire.

4. The Hurt Locker
Last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker captured the attention of audiences across the United States. A&K suggests following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia if you’re looking for travel inspired by this movie. The A&K Extreme Adventures Jordan package is the way to go, led by Raed Omar Saleem.

Saleem’s been leading thrill-seeking visitors through Jordan since 1997 and recalls from a recent excursion, “In the middle of nowhere, we pitch our tents and gather around the campfire for dinner, recalling the hikes through ancient cities, the 4X4 treks and mountain climbs that brought us here. Without speaking of it, we all share the same sense of awe, the palpable sense that time passes through this desert yet barely seems to touch it. The moon-like landscape stretches to the mountains, bannered by multicolored striations in the rock. The smooth reddish sand is devoid of stones, and our camels’ toes rouse no dust as they thudded in their steady pace. There is no dust here in the valley of Wadi Rum, once a sea basin and later the place T.E. Lawrence found his calling. That is the beauty of the desert: it is nothing and everything.”

5. Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin
Trace the history of life with the A&K Wonders of the Galapagos trip. Says A&K’s Ian Mackinnon, “The islands of the Galapagos offer an opportunity to interact with the natural world to a degree that’s virtually impossible anywhere else.”

He suggests, “Swim and snorkel with sea lions and turtles. Stroll past colonies of penguins and blue-footed boobies. Imagine yourself as Charles Darwin seeing a tortoise for the first time. Every island is unique; it’s no wonder Darwin was changed by his time there.”

I suggest: “Bring a creationist and ask constantly if he thinks dinosaurs walked the earth 5,000 years ago. Point and laugh.”

Holidays to make you feel smart: summer courses at Oxford

If you’re like me, you went to a state university. The education may have been good, but your student union looked like a shopping mall and your dorm resembled a Soviet prison. Here’s a chance to relive the youth you never had by studying at one of the world’s greatest and most beautiful universities.

Recently I checked out out two summer school options at two historic colleges at Oxford University–the Oxford Experience at Christ Church College (pictured here) and the Creative Writing Summer School at Exeter College.

The Oxford Experience is the pricier and cushier of the two. There are a series of one-week courses from July through early August on everything from Darwin to the history of the English language. The small classes (max 12 people) and experienced teachers ensure that you’ll learn a lot. Students live at the college and there’s a real communal atmosphere, with interesting people from around the world. I met several who were on their third or fourth year. Day trips to places such as Bath and Stonehenge mean you’ll have your entire vacation taken care of for you.

Next year’s courses will be as varied as ever, with classes such as The Twilight of the Romanovs, King Alfred and the Vikings, English Romantic Poetry, and the Art of the Illuminator.

The summer school for writers at Exeter College is more like a real university course–three weeks of intensive work with professional writers that can earn you college credit if you’re already attending university somewhere. You have to apply to get in and there’s required coursework. If you’re serious about your writing career, it can also give you the one thing talent can’t–contacts.


One of the best aspects of this summer school is the series of guest speakers. I attended one on screenwriting by Nicholas McInerny, who writes for The Bill, the UK’s most popular cop show. He had piles of good advice for getting into the business and staying there, and much of it applied just as well to fiction and nonfiction writing. I found myself taking notes. He even offered to help a student meet a TV producer. You won’t get that at a community college course.

Both schools have a lot going for them. You get to stay in college accommodation, surrounded by Gothic spires and lovely gardens. Food is provided by the colleges, but have no fear. This is far better grub than the cafeteria swill they serve at more proletarian universities. Christ Church and Exeter have sumptuous dining halls decorated with ornate stonework and stained glass windows. You also have the advantage of staying in the heart of one of England’s most historic and beautiful cities, with teachers who will point the way to all the best hidden spots.

While prices look steep ($1600 or more per week for Oxford Experience, and about $3500 for three weeks at the writing school) that covers decent accommodation and great food so it’s not much more than getting a hotel or B&B for the same amount of time, and takes a lot less planning.

So if you want to experience high culture and learning at its best, try a smart holiday at Oxford University.