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As we make the most of being at home, our thoughts still can’t help wandering to different corners of the world. Using the lens of TV and film, language, literature, food and drink, and music, we’ve explored ways to keep your travel inspiration alive from the comfort of your own home.

You could explore the brushstrokes of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo on a virtual tour of Florence’s Uffizi gallery or read books that conjure vivid images of Fez and Chile. Spend an evening in the kitchen rustling up a fragrant Mauritian curry or settle down to watch a movie that showcases New Zealand’s ‘majestical’ landscapes.

Food and drink

Take a Mauritian cooking lesson

Suggested by Sarah from our marketing team

Fresh fish on a Mauritian beach
Fresh fish on a Mauritian beach

I could talk about Mauritian food for hours: the island is the size of Greater London with a heady mix of cultures and cuisines to match. There are crusty French rolls and locally grown coffee for breakfast. Lunch could be fish curry served with a homemade selection of pickles — taught by a pair of Mauritian grandmothers in their own kitchen. Dinner might be an a-la-carte menu of exquisite tea-infused dishes.

For a taste of the island in your own kitchen, Maariyah, a young Mauritian with a passion for food, runs her own YouTube channel, Cuisine Mauritian. In clear videos, she runs through typical Mauritian snacks, recipes from her childhood and the occasional international dish with a local twist. I can recommend her family banana curry recipe, it’s a quick, simple dish that made me consider bananas in a new light.

You might also like:

  • Italian chef Massimo Bottura: Instagram cooking lessons to help you rustle up some ragu and perfect your béchamel.
  • Streetfood: Asia: take your taste buds on an Asian culinary journey by watching this Netflix series.
  • Ugly Delicious: David Chang’s food-themed travel tour sees him hunt down tasty dishes from different cultures and discover how they’re made.

Language

Take advantage of online language courses

Suggested by our marketing team

Alhambra, Granada
Alhambra in Granada, Spain

The popular language-learning app Duolingo has seen a massive spike since the lockdown, proving we're not the only ones using the downtime to kickstart our language skills. Duolingo builds spoken, written and listening skills, starting with the most basic words and phrases.

You make progress through completing a series of exercises that build on what you’ve already learned — each one only demands about 15 minutes of your time. You can also follow, and measure yourself, against fellow learners.

The app is already available in more than 30 languages, from Arabic to Ukrainian. Several languages are still in beta testing, including Hungarian and Klingon, if your time at home has included bingeing on Star Trek.

You might also like:

  • Slow news in French: these 10-minute podcasts by Radio France International (RFI) serve up the global news at a slower speaking pace, supported by written transcripts.
  • Coffee break lessons by Radio Lingua: a series of bite-sized podcasts in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish and Chinese, covering travel basics to more complex grammar.
  • A learning trip to Spain: take yourself on a mystery adventure to Spain in a series of videos that introduce you to the language.

Literature

Read Suzanna Clark’s A House in Fez

Recommended by Morocco specialist Kerry-Ann

Fez, Morocco
Fez, Morocco

I first met Suzanna Clark when I was living and studying in Fez. Her husband, a white-haired bon vivant named Sandy, ran Tahmis, a restaurant that was popular with the expat community. They were both from Australia and had fallen in love with the city’s dilapidated beauty and camel-trodden streets.

Her book, A House in Fez, is foremost a memoir of her year spent buying and renovating a 300-year-old traditional riad. Her prose vividly describes both the house and the people she befriended, including 18 skilled artisans who helped to recreate or repair the cedar-wood doors, the intricate tile mosaics and the central fountain.

But between anecdotes (and occasional grousing about Byzantine red tape), she immerses the reader into the culture and history of Morocco in general, and Fez in particular. I pick this up whenever I want a reminder of the city where I once lived.

You might also like:

  • Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile, by Sara Wheeler: the author’s six-month epic journey from the North Peruvian border to Cape Horn.
  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: an intimate portrayal of China’s tumultuous century told through the author’s life, as well as her mother’s and grandmother’s.
  • Cloudstreet by Tim Winton: a sweeping family saga that offers an unflinching view of mid-century working-class life in Perth.

TV and film

Experience Touches of Tokyo in Lost in Translation

Suggested by Japan specialist Tesia

Shinjuku district, Tokyo
Shinjuku district, Tokyo

This may be a predictable choice, but Lost in Translation is popular with those who long to revisit Japan, or want to visit one day — for a very good reason. It’s not so much the storyline that evokes nostalgia for me, but the depiction of sounds and sights — the ‘ping pong’ of doors opening, the woman’s softly voiced subway announcements and the beeping of the crosswalk signal.

The interactions between the Japanese and the western protagonists are relatable too, whether you’ve lived in Japan like I have, or are paying a visit. In the movie, Bill Murray looks out of a taxi window on arrival, in awe of Tokyo’s neon nightscape, and the bustle of the city surrounding him. It reminds me of my first impressions in that initial ride from the airport, when you’re looking out the window trying to take in your surroundings, thinking about the adventures to come.

You might also like:

  • Out of Africa: this 1985 award-winning film conjures the beauty and drama of Africa.
  • Amélie: a whimsical modern classic that’s also a loving portrait of Paris’s Montmartre district.
  • Woman at War: light-hearted but powerful, this 2018 film showcases Iceland’s stark volcanic landscapes as the backdrop for a story about an environmental activist.

Wildlife

Watch footage of Canada’s polar bears

By Canada specialist Emily

Polar bears in Churchill, Canada
Polar bears in Churchill, Canada

I find myself drawn in whenever I take the time to watch online wildlife footage filmed by hidden cameras. They’re a chance to see how animals behave in their natural habitat, completely oblivious to human eyes.

To remind myself of my polar-bear watching trip to Churchill, Manitoba, I often tune into the footage of this polar bear cam, filmed around Churchill’s Hudson Bay. Watching it brings back memories of my time there, when I was lucky enough to get up close to polar bears on tundra vehicle tours.

On one occasion, we had a polar bear come right up to our giant, six-wheel vehicle. After sniffing cautiously, he hoisted himself up onto his hind legs to peer through the windows, his breath clouding the glass.

While the footage isn’t live at this time of year, you can watch the highlights of the winter season for a taste of what it’s like to be out in the Canadian tundra alongside these gentle-yet-fearsome creatures.

You might also like:

  • Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa: watch some of the largest elephant in the world, as well as other Big Five animals, at a waterhole near the Mozambique border.
  • Galapagos Islands: you might still catch a glimpse of the archipelago’s renowned giant tortoises at the seasonal pools — they usually visit through spring.
  • Kelp forest at Channel Island National Park: a confluence of warm and cold waters, as well as the abundance of kelp, makes this one of the livelier underwater cams.

Sites and landscapes

Watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Recommended by New Zealand specialist Katie

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

When I first visited New Zealand for the first time in 2014, what really struck me was how remote the countryside was. Even on the more well-trodden routes, such as those in Milford Sound, I didn’t see a single soul.

These remote landscapes are celebrated in Waititi’s 2016 movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The story follows Ricky Baker and his bad-tempered foster father, Uncle Hec, who are on the run in the New Zealand bush.

Uncle Hec says ‘pretty majestical, eh?’, as he and Ricky are sat overlooking a lake at sunset. Hec then goes further to say that the word ‘majestic’ isn’t special enough to describe the view — something I think is true of all New Zealand’s vistas.

The director includes several sweeping helicopter shots over some of these ‘majestical’ landscapes, showcasing forest-carpeted mountains, snow-capped peaks and serene-blue lakes. For me, the movie captures the country’s natural beauty as well as a sense of adventure.

You might also like:

  • Petra, Jordan: explore the well-preserved remnants of the Nabatean Empire.
  • Yosemite Falls, USA: one of the world’s tallest waterfalls cascades endlessly on this webcam from the national park.
  • Russian Ark: this dreamlike experimental film has no plot, but really, we watch for chance to drift slowly through the glorious Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.

Art and History

Tour the Uffizi, virtually

Suggested by Kimberly from our Italy team

City views, Florence
Florence, Italy

Many will disagree with me, but I think the Uffizi is perhaps the best museum in Europe.

I first visited Florence when I was studying art in Italy. I’d seen many of these pieces reproduced as posters, prints, even refrigerator magnets: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Caravaggio's Medusa and Raphael's Madonna of the Goldfinch. But viewing them in person was a revelation. For the first time, I could comprehend both the massive scale and the minute details — individual brushstrokes, finely crackled glaze and the translucence of the pigments.

While it’s not quite the same thing as a visit, Google’s Arts and Culture project offers a virtual tour of the gallery that you can take from your own living room (with a glass of Chianti, perhaps). The resolution is fine enough to zoom in and see the brushstrokes that first floored me as a student.

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