Films have a wonderful ability to transport us to an exotic locale or a faraway city. Or make us want to transport ourselves. It’s impossible to watch Roman Holiday without dreaming of following in Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps: eating gelato on the Spanish Steps and riding a Vespa through the city – all while being accompanied by Gregory Peck. And you can’t watch Amélie and not want to walk the hazy, magical (and incredibly clean) streets of her Paris.
Other films also inspire the travel bug, but it’s much more coincidental. Last year I found it in In Bruges. The story of two Irish hitmen sent to hideout, it’s an incredibly dark and violent comedy set in the beautiful and historic Belgian city. If it wasn’t for the foul language, violence and bloodshed it could be a travel brochure. So last year on my annual European vacation I made it a point to spend a couple days in Bruges.
The city centre is one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval settlementss, making it a UNESCO heritage site and a popular tourist destination for millions of travelers every year. It’s quaint and historic and beautiful. Everything you want in a European town. But when I arrived I realized I was definitely not the only one who’s visit was inspired by the movie.
The Markt is the main square, dominated on one side by the Belfry of Bruges. The bell tower plays a crucial role in the movie, when a character leaps to his death. And I watched tourists stand in line to have their picture taken in its shadowas they lay on the ground to imitate the mangled corpse. I clearly was not the only movie fan there.
I had no intention of getting down on the ground, but I did pay the fee to climb the 366 steps to the top for the panoramic view of the city’s red roofs and church steeples. I also had a check list of movie-related things to do: see the legendary swans of Bruges (check), visit the Groeninge Museum (check), see if the town really does have a Pizza Hut (check – it does).
My two days were filled with walking the cobblestoned streets, eating Belgian waffles and drinking Belgian beer. I wandered along the canals and stood in an insanely long line for a box of Belgian chocolates. For 48 hours I soaked up the atmosphere and the history of Bruges. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen and I’m so glad I did.
I guess I have Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson to thank for that.
What about you? Has a movie ever inspired you to travel? Where have you been and what made you want to go? Let me know in the comments.