"Madame," said the ferryman, kissing my hand in the old Romanian custom as i boarded his flat-bottomed skift for passage to the underworld of Vlad Tepes' tomb on Snagov Island.
The inspiration for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, is actually buried on this little island outside of Bucharest.
I was met on the other side by a woman with a lantern (yes, a lantern) who toured me around the complex and then showed me the cracked and open sepulcher where Vlad was said to rest (or not rest, as the case may be).
It was getting late. Cranes were calling in the marshes. I imagined Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman rising from the shadows and inviting me to join him in a dark eternity of never ending night and passion beyond the flesh.
Since starting this website several years ago, I've been busy traveling around the world, exploring new ways to make a living and stay in love with what I do.
The new incarnation of this site is going to be personal not professional. You'll find stories here about what I'm doing, amazing things I can help you do yourself and advice from a seasoned traveler who is jonzing for the next trip, just like you.
My Mom was an actor and an acting teacher and I trained as an actor myself. Instead of pursuing a career in theatre and film, I decided to live the fantasies I loved on screen and write about movies and travel. I've been doing that for publications like the New York Post and others for the past 10 years.
I've shot a bow and arrow in Sherwood Forest (and met the real Sheriff of Nottingham). I've traveled in the steps of Lawrence of Arabia across Wadi Rumm. I've followed in the wake of Fletcher Christian in the South Seas. I've explored Morocco like Kit and Port in The Sheltering Sky and much more.
I'm currently planning some new adventures I'm going to share with you here but will also be writing about some of the peak experiences I think people will find intriguing here, too.
So if you love film on both the big and little screens, check out the site when you want to escape from reality. I'll be escaping right along with you.
TravelHushHush's Gretchen Kelly is now the Editorial Director of Flight 001.com, the retro-fabulous travel solutions store and online portal.
The store looks like the fuselage of a 747:
The products are style-centric and make me want to travel every day of my life!
Watch for coordination between this website and Flight 001 in the near future!
Are you waiting with baited breath to see Jaime Dornan tie up Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey? Why wait? You can watch The Fall on Netflix and see Dornan play a serial killer (who likes to tie up women) in Belfast. Gillian Anderson plays the Detective sent from London to stalk the stalker. Through the whole film she's holed up at The Merchant--Belfast's first real luxury boutique hotel.
I stayed at The Merchant while writing about Belfast for The New York Post almost ten years ago before it became Hollywood, Ireland. Check in with me tomorrow for more on The Merchant and Belfast's new role as set-jetting central. And read The International Business Times interview with me on the power of set-jetting here.
SPOILER ALERT: Don't continue if you haven't seen Downton Abbey, Season 5, Episode 4!
So last night we witnessed Lady Mary dump the smug Lord Gillingham at the Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens of all places.
The idyllic park that witnessed milord's humiliation is west of Hyde Park in Central London. It's also the subject of J.M. Barrie's wonderful and wistful sequel to Peter Pan called, "Peter Pan in the Kensington Gardens" and was once illustrated by Arthur Rackham, the Edwardian illustrator who influenced Brian Froud (who created the characters in Labyrinth, one of our favorite fairy films).
Lady Mary's sly agenda of dumping Lord Gillingham here so he wouldn't "make a scene" backfired. He made a huge scene...refusing to accept Mary's kiss off--all in front of Peter Pan!
For those set-jetting Sound of Music lovers who've done the Vienna and Salzburg, Sound of Music tours, here's a special opportunity to get up close and personal with Maria and Captain Von Trapp.
The TCM Classic Film Festival premieres this March with both of the movie's stars together in attendance for a talk and a screening of the film that launched thousands of trips to the Austrian Alps.
I spoke with Kym Karath (Gretel) at the Austrian Tourism Board several years ago and she told me that she was still very close to Julie Andrews who was "very much like the character in the film to us."
I admit it. I'm a Star Trek "Big Bang Theory" type geek. And yes, I have a Tiny Spock (see below). I've also recently found some very beautiful National Park WPA-era posters that are just chock full of vintage travel vibe.
So why not combine the two? Tiny Spock Visits Our National Parks!
Our first visit will be to Death Valley National Park (in February). You'll get a chance to see Tiny Spock near some cacti, Tiny Spock poolside with a Margarita and Tiny Spock lost in a desert that looks a lot like the planet Kirk had to fight the Gorn on--you know those paper mache bolders?
So Tweet me @GretchenKelly and let me know what National Park you'd like to see Tiny Spock visit next and what Death Valley National Park experience you'd like to see him try--logically, of course.
SPOILER ALERT: Season 5 Episode 3!
So...Lady Mary is being a bad girl again. Season 5's episode 5 of Downton
Abbey follows Lady Mary into the den of iniquity that is Liverpool's Grand Hotel (with Lord Gillingham in an "adjoining room"!).
As many set-jetting Downton Abbey fans know, Liverpool is not just the home port of the Beatles. In Downton Days, Liverpool was frequented by the landed gentry who often spent days in the city's grand hotels prior to embarking on the great cruise lines across the Atlantic.
Liverpool still has one of these wonderful hotels...intact and redolent of a haunting turn-of-the-century allure that only marble walls and grand foyers afford.
The Britannia Adelphi Hotel, turns 101 this year. The hotel was featured in the BBC series, Hotel and has played host to Winston Churchill, Roy Rogers (and his horse Trigger), The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
The grand dame hotel is also said to be haunted. Ghosts have been seen on the Adelphi's third floor...voices have been heard and some even say a demonic presence has been felt there--perhaps it's just Lord Gillingham wondering when Lady Mary is going to make up her mind!
While VisitLiverpool doesn't have a Downton Abbey era page, it does have some iconic images of the "Three Graces": The Royal Liver Building, The Port of Liverpool Building and The Cunard Building--all of which would have been familiar to Lady Mary and her paramour--if they actually ever got out of their adjoining suite and around the city, that is!
All week long our favorite travel lifestyle show, Travel with Val will be featuring a segment on Set-Jetting featuring yours truly (Gretchen Kelly of TravelHushHush) talking about THE BEST FILM AND TV TRAVEL LOCATIONS OF THE YEAR.
Thanks to Val and my friends at Visit Norway, Adventures by Disney (Frozen), Cape Girardeau (Gone Girl), New Zealand Tourism (Hobbits) and the Pacific Crest Trail Association (Wild), the segment has been a huge success.
Set-jetting is an increasingly important dynamic in the travel and film industries. Join me for more set-jetting adventures here every week.
Godzilla comes to the small screen this week on Cinemax.
Bryan Cranston's hair may be as scary as The Big Guy, but we love that shrill and wonderful "EEEEYAHHH" sound this new Godzilla makes. Sound artists mixed in some of the classic Godzilla cry with the new one for authenticity.
Set-jetters will note that lots of fly-over territory is filmed in Hawaii (what is it about Hawaii that seems to lure large prehistoric monsters--e.g. Juraassic Park?).
For more on the set-jetting Godzilla trail check out my Frommers story here.
Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel has snagged a suite-full of Oscar nominations this year, among them Best Picture. The film's evocative imagery of a palatial, Belle Epoch hotel in mittle Europe has film-goers searching Expedia for "the real" hotel seen in the film.
Thankfully, many of these wonderful reminders of the elan of the past remain. I've had the luck to have stayed in some of them. The Atlantic (above) in Hamburg served steamship passengers so its massive room doors open out rather than in--to accustom travelers to ship's doors that do the same. The Atlantic is something like a friendlier version of The Shining's Overlook. No ghosts but a lot of Grand Budapest-like spirit.
Other hotels in the same tradition would have to include Istanbul's Pera Palace (Agatha Christie stayed here and it's recently been renovated), Marrakesh's La Mamounia, The Palais Jamais in Fez and closer to home, The Waldorf Astoria, here in New York, whose lobby is still a grand plaisir to cross and whose chiming clocks and gleaming surfaces continue to charm. Let's hope these wonders won't go the way of The Plaza and be turned into semi-condos.
For more set-jetting go to my piece this week on Frommers.com and read about the hotel that most inspired the set designers of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Sir Pat showed up on the Jimmy Kimmel show to illustrate a recent Expedia poll on the most annoying plane passengers, ever. Our favorite? The seat climber. "Pardon my genitals in your face," says Patrick. How many of us have endured the same? Other categories: stinky food man, chatty Cathy and applause-at-landing man. Bravo Patrick! You nailed it.
This week's segment of Travel with Val on NY 1 features Gretchen Kelly on the best movie and TV travel destinations of the year. Read about all ten of her best movie travel destinations of the year now on Frommers.com. And catch up with TravelHushHush.com daily for film-inspired travel tips, news, interviews and more...
TravelHushHush in the Media....
Gretchen Kelly was recently the Moderator on a panel of film/travel experts at 2014's CINEPOSIUM.
Gretchen helmed a panel of five film board and industry insiders talking about the importance of movies and travel to over 100 Film Board Directors from all over the world...here is the bio from the organization's site:
Gretchen KellyEditor and Publisher, TravelHushHush.com | Contributing Editor, Frommers.comGretchen Kelly is a globally-consulted expert on "set-jetting" or movie-and-TV-inspired travel. Her website, TravelHushHush.com explores the myriad ways movies, TV and travel connect. She also writes for Frommers.com, the New York Post and other major print and online outlets. She is currently at work on a new project--The Location Look Book--and a memoir of her cinematic travels to over 80 countries, Around the World in 80 Movies. Follow her on Twitter @gretchenkelly, Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook: TravelHushHush.
Gretchen was also recently featured in a SKIFT.com special report on film and travel. If you would like more information on the ways movies and travel boost each other, e mail Gretchen at TravelHushHush@gmail.com.
What's the best "set-jetting" film of 2014? The film that really makes you want to get up and go somewhere?
Well, there's Paddington Bear (London), Gone Girl (Missouri), Exodus (where the big wave was filmed in the Canary Islands).
But for our money the best set-jet film of late last year (even better than Grand Budapest Hotel) is Wild.
Why? Because Wild is a visceral representation of how travel transforms. Filmed largely in Oregon and Washington (not on the actual trail that Cheryl Strayed walked--that 1,100 mile Pacific Crest trek), the movie shows what travel does to you, blisters and all (oh that boot scene!).
We're sorry the Golden Globes passed Reese up last night but we're still hopeful that Oscar won't.