• Kelly Blanton

5 Films That Inspire Me To Pack My Bags!

'Under The Tuscan Sun'

Hey there, Gadabout Kelly here! A few years ago, before I was ‘officially’ a Gadabout Gal…I was the ‘Mix Flick Chick’. I went to multiple film press screenings each week, and then I reviewed and discussed newly-opened movies each Friday morning with DJ Mark Dantzer on local Columbus, Ohio radio station Mix 107.9 FM.




As a lifelong movie-lover and pop culture fan, this was seriously a dream-come-true gig!


“Let me get this straight…I get to go see a bunch of movies each week ~ FOR FREE…and then talk about them each Friday morning on the radio?? Yes, please!!!



After a few years, the station changed their morning drive format and eliminated early morning interview segments like mine…but boy, did I have a great time while it lasted!


You see, I grew up with a father who was a serious movie-lover ever since HIS childhood, and I got my lifelong love of movies and Hollywood from him. My dad Ron Castell grew up in the 1940’s in Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1942, at the age of four, my dad saw his first movie ~ ‘The Black Swan’ with Tyrone Power. From the opening credits, he understood there was something magical about moving images on a silver screen.


My dad Ron Castell at 3 years old in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1941

From the time my dad was a young boy, going to the movies occupied a major portion of his allowance. Movies were 15 cents…plus 5 cents for a Coke and 10 cents for popcorn. Can you believe it?? At least twice a week, my dad would get on his bike and pedal to one of Battle Creek’s seven movie theaters. The movies exposed my dad to worlds FAR from Battle Creek. Some people may have learned everything they needed to know in kindergarten. My dad liked to say that he learned everything he needed to know from the movies.


In 1972, when I was 8 years old, my dad took me to see one of his favorite films ~ the 1942 classic ‘Casablanca’. I’ve loved Humphrey Bogart ever since! (You can imagine my fellow 3rd grade classmates were somewhat confused when I would often say: “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”)




My love of movies began in my childhood, and then as I grew older, I fell in love with traveling as well. So it’s only natural then, that I would love movies…about travel, right??


Yep, I do.


I love SO many wonderful films that feature travel or unique and special places to visit…waaaaay too many to feature here. So, I just decided to highlight 5 favorite films that I really love and watch often. If I’m ever channel-surfing and I come across one of them, I’m hooked, all over again. These are films that have a very specific sense of place. A place that I love visiting…or that I really look forward to visiting someday. The films I’ve chosen for this list are not necessarily about traveling….but the locations where they are set are so strongly felt, they are basically another character in the story. Each time I rewatch one of these films, I’m ready to pack my bags, and go there!


So…without further ado, I give you my list: 5 Films That Inspire Me To Pack My Bags!


1. UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003)



This romantic comedy drama starring Diane Lane is based on Frances Mayes' 1996 memoir of the same name. The film is about a recently divorced writer who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will lead to a change in her life. This is hands-down one of my favorite flicks. Not just because Diane Lane is so wonderfully charming and relatable in it, but seriously…I think there are more than a few of us who have a hidden desire to chuck it all and move to a beautiful foreign land and start life over fresh, experiencing the joy of new place and unique experiences. This film very much highlights the quirks and craziness that can happen to a stranger in a strange land. It by no means sugarcoats what it would be like to completely start your life anew in a foreign country. That being said, the charm of Italy and Tuscany itself, along with the absolutely beautiful places and people totally win you over. I mean it when I say…I harbor a not-so-secret desire to chuck it all and move to a vineyard in the Italian countryside. The food, the wine, the people, the beautiful vistas. A visit to Italy has always been on my bucket list…and I’m thrilled to say that I will be traveling there for the first time in September 2019, with the Gadabout Gals and our Gadabout Guys! We are all SO excited, and I will probably rewatch this film multiple times before my feet ever actually land on Italian soil.


2. To Catch A Thief (1955)



This romantic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar who has to save his reformed reputation by catching an imposter preying on the wealthy tourists of the French Riviera. Grace Kelly also stars as a beautiful young American heiress who is romantically interested in Grant and ends up helping him try to prove his innocence.I’ve always been a big Hitchcock fan, and ‘To Catch A Thief’ is one of my favorites of his flicks. The glamorous Grace Kelly and the super suave Cary Grant take us on a fun journey around Monaco and the south of France. The best parts of the film involve their witty repartee and their jaunts around many of the French Riviera‘s most beautiful sites. Whether it’s on the water, in a swanky ballroom or on a precarious drive high above the cliffs of Monaco…this movie is suspenseful, witty, charming and enjoyable throughout. An unabashed love letter to Monaco and the French Riviera. I first saw this film as a teenager, and the beautiful setting of this film was one of the first times that I saw or even really heard of Monaco. I’ve wanted to visit there ever since, and this small principality on the Mediterranean Sea is on my travel bucket list. When I finally DO make it to the Riviera, I look forward to looking out over the water from a beautiful balcony at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc.


3. OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001)

This heist film is a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack film of the same name. It features an entertaining (and VERY attractive) ensemble cast ~ including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts.

OK, I must admit…most of my love for this flick has to do with George Clooney…aka Danny Ocean. You may not think of this flick when you think of movies that inspire travel….but Georgie in a tux, walking around Vegas, in & out of casinos, fancy restaurants, and the glamour and neon lights of the Vegas strip? Wowza. That makes THIS girl want to book a fight to Vegas RIGHT NOW. I’ve been to Las Vegas many times in my adult life. For a time in my 20’s, I lived in Los Angeles, so a road trip to Vegas was only a 5-hour drive..and a very fun weekend. My friends and I did it often. I’ve also traveled there frequently more recently with my husband and sometimes with our families. I truly enjoy the energy of the strip, the beautiful and opulent hotels, the myriad of fabulous restaurants and the entertaining over-the-top stage productions. I truly think this film captures the fun and somewhat cheekiness of Las Vegas…without some of the more seedy cheesiness. Add in the handsome and rakish charm of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and a fun cast of crazy characters who make their way around modern day Vegas, and this is an entirely enjoyable feast of eye candy extraordinaire that makes me want to go there again soon.


4. OUT OF AFRICA (1985)



Meryl Streep and Robert Redford star in this epic film set in 20th century colonial Kenya. She is a Danish baroness/plantation owner and he is a free-spirited big game hunter. Fortunately for us, they have a passionate love affair and we get to go along on their journey. The film is loosely based on the autobiographical book Out of Africa written by Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym of Danish author Karen Blixen), which was published in 1937. Filmed on location in the UK and Kenya including the Shaba national game reserve…there are so many beautiful scenes in this very moving film.

One of my favorite scenes is when Redford and Streep ride in an open air propeller plane over the desert with beautiful views of the vast landscape and the many wild animals below. There is also a very romantic and sensual scene where Redford helps wash Streep’s hair outside in the open air on her plantation. Their romantic chemistry is palpable. Before seeing this film, I never really had a desire to visit Africa. Now, the chance to experience an African safari is definitely on my travel bucket list.


5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)




I saved one of my VERY favorites for last. This romantic comedy introduces us to Harry and Sally at the time they meet, just graduated from college, and just before sharing a cross-country drive…alone. We follow them through twelve years of chance encounters in New York City and the film raises the question "Can men and women ever just be friends?" The Big Apple in all of its glory plays a major part in this flick…and every time I rewatch it (which is often)…I want to go back to NYC right away! Scenes in Central Park in fall, sidewalk cafes and bookstores, loft apartments and diners. This film captures the essence of NYC at it’s best…and the people who live there and love it. The fact that this flick was written by the late great Nora Ephron is no coincidence. I love her way with words and her ability to write strong characters (especially females) that are very believable…flawed, funny and very human. In my opinion, the soundtrack filled with some of my favorite standards performed by Harry Connick Jr., also adds to the fab quotient and atmosphere of this flick. I’ve been very lucky to have visited NYC many times..from my youth through today. I love everything about that crazy/wonderful city. I have to say, this film is what the slogan ‘I LOVE NEW YORK’ is all about!


OK, now that you know a few of MY favorite travel-inspiring films, I’d love to hear some comments ~ which movies inspire YOU to pack your bags?


#GadaboutGals #Gadabout #TravelInspiration #TravelMovies #FlickChick

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