Gotta-Go Go-To Go-There(s) – WIF Travel

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Tourist Destinations

Made Famous

Through Pop Culture

Someone who is enjoying a book, a song, a movie, or a television show is enriching his or her inner world by imagining new physical, intellectual, and emotional possibilities. Sometimes, however, the world a person creates in his or her art isn’t imaginary at all. All of the places on this list are actual places that a tourist could visit. All of them have been popularized because of their associations with certain books, music, movies, and television shows.

10. Graceland (Home Of Elvis Presley)

When the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, bought his Memphis estate, Graceland, in 1957 it was one of the most costly properties in the area. Unable to afford the expense of caring for the estate after Elvis’ death, Elvis’ former wife, Priscilla Presley, opened it to the public in 1982. Now, roughly 600,000 people visit Graceland each year to pay homage to their favorite rock and roll royalty.

Graceland is a tourist destination because of its sociocultural significance. Elvis spent 20 years of his life there. However, Graceland also has artistic significance, as it has served as a muse for successful songwriters. In “Walking In Memphis,” singer/songwriter Marc Cohn sings about seeing the ghost of Elvis Presley while touring Graceland. In “Graceland,” a song from an album of the same name, singer/songwriter Paul Simon sings about the creative and personal redemption he finds while visiting his idol’s home.

9. Lyme Park And Sudbury Hall (Pride And Prejudice)

Mr. Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, was mentioned more in 1995 than at any time since 1900. This is partially because when screen and teleplay writer Andrew Davies adapted the novel into a six hour miniseries for the BBC, he put a handsome face to the famous name.

When the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle in the miniseries) tours the estate of Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth), whose marriage proposal she has rejected because she thinks him haughty, she realizes that the man she has turned down is very well endowed… with property. His estate, Pemberley, consists of lush woodlands and a stately manor. When they unexpectedly meet at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Darcy better understand both each other and the nature of their own romantic feelings.

The Pemberley of the 1995 miniseries is actually two places. The exterior shots of Pemberley were filmed at Lyme Park in the Peak District in Cheshire. When the cast and crew were ready to film the interior shots for Pemberley, Lyme Park — which is open to the public — was no longer available. The interior shots for Pemberley, including the elegant, long gallery, were shot in Sudbury Hall, an estate in Derbyshire. Tour guide Maddy Hall says that when she takes tourists who are using P and P Tours to Lyme Hall, she doesn’t go inside herself. She wants to keep her vision of Pemberley (literally) intact. Says Hall, “In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle [as Elizabeth Bennet] looking out of the windows and seeing the lake [on the grounds of Pemberley] – but in fact it’s all down to skillful editing.”

8. Middle-earth (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy)

While he was writing the The Lord of the Rings, British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien meticulously created the vivid details of Middle-earth, the setting for his trilogy. Tolkien produced a colorful, annotated map of Middle-earth, now housed in the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University. Tolkien also made sketches of his fantasy realm.

When movie director Peter Jackson acquired the rights for his movies based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he knew exactly which location would best represent Middle-earth: Jackson’s homeland, New Zealand. Jackson used 150 locations in New Zealand during the making of his movies. Each movie in the trilogy grossed an average of $970 million, and the third film was the highest grossing film for 2003. New Zealand embraces its identity as Middle-earth in its tourism marketing. On its tourism website, it’s called “the perfect Middle-earth.” Many people must see New Zealand’s sloping hills, majestic mountains, and limpid bodies of water as the perfect features for Middle-earth. Roughly 47,000 Tolkien fans per year visit film locations in New Zealand.

7. The Empire State Building (King Kong)

Since it opened in 1931, the Empire State Building has been featured in over 250 movies. One of the building’s earliest scene-stealing cameos was in the 1933 movie King Kong. In the film, the behemoth ape King Kong escapes from an exhibit and kidnaps the character portrayed by Fay Wray, with whom he is smitten. He carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, where she’s rescued when the gorilla is shot repeatedly by airplane gunners.

In 1933, the scene served as an homage to the sociocultural relevance of the (relatively new) Empire State Building. In 2019, the Empire State Building paid an homage to the film. As part of $165 million worth of renovations, designers built a gallery with interactive exhibits on the second floor of the world-famous tower. As visitors walk through a 1930s newsroom, King Kong’s fingers pierce the walls as he dangles from the rooftop, dodging airplanes. In another exhibit, visitors can step into King Kong’s arms.

6. The Iron Throne (Game Of Thrones)

A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series author George R.R. Martin began writing in 1991, hasn’t been completed yet. The HBO series based on Martin’s books, however, premiered in 2011 and ended in 2019. The series earned 12 Emmy awards for its final season, the most wins for any individual show. The finale was watched by over 13 million viewers, the most viewers for any HBO show, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Since the show was filmed in 10 countries, fans of both the books and the miniseries have many tourist destinations from which to choose. Arguably, the most contested site in the series is King’s Landing, home of the Iron Throne that inspires the brutal succession “game” that gives the series its title. In 2019, HBO hid six Iron Thrones throughout the world and awarded prizes to fans who found them using clues posted on the Game of Thrones Twitter account. The scenes in King’s Landing featuring the “real” Iron Throne — the one built by the show’s set designers — were filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In 2015, the mayor of Dubrovnik claimed HBO was gifting the Iron Throne to his city. HBO denied the mayor’s claim. Dubrovnik does not have the Iron Throne yet, but it does have a museum honoring Game of Thrones.

5. Llanddewi Brefi (Little Britain)

One of the recurring characters on Matt Lucas and David Walliams‘ 2003 BBC sketch comedy television series, Little Britain, is Daffyd (a misspelling of the Welsh “Dafydd”) Thomas, a flamboyant, inexperienced youth who doggedly insists he’s the only gay man in his village of Llanddewi Brefi, Wales.

The sketches are actually shot in Buckinghamshire, England. Still, the popularity of Lucas’ character has strengthened the tourism industry in Llanddewi Brefi. Shop owner Neil Driver, who owns Siop Brefi in partnership with his wife, Glesni, says tourists come to have their photos taken while they’re standing in front of the sign at the town’s entrance, and sometimes they steal the signs. In 2005, Driver told Wales News he had sold roughly 40 shirts with a line from one of Daffyd’s sketches on them to visiting tourists.

4. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

Sam Wallaston, a television critic for the British newspaper The Guardian, called Julian Fellowes’ series Downton Abbey “a posh soap opera [but] a pretty bloody splendid posh soap opera.” The series dramatizes the interpersonal relationships of the Crawley family, the owners of the estate Downton Abbey, and the servants who attend the Crawleys. The Crawleys’ story also intersects with important sociocultural and sociopolitical events in England at the turn of the 20th century.

Highclere Castle is where the interior shots (most notably the dining hall, the entrance room, and the staircase) and the exterior shots for the series were filmed. In a way, Highclere Castle is the titular character, since the show is named for the Crawleys’ estate. The popularity of the show has increased the popularity of Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey’s real world counterpart. George “Geordie” Herbert, the eighth earl of Carnarvon and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, who own Highclere Castle, say the tourism created by the show has assisted them in paying for the castle’s necessary repairs. As of 2015, 1,250 tourists per day visited Highclere Castle. In 2019, Airbnb offered two sweepstakes winners an overnight stay in order to promote the newly released Downton Abbey movie.

3. King’s Cross Station (Harry Potter)

In 2018, author J.K. Rowling’s seven book Harry Potter series became the bestselling book series in history. Rowling’s series has sold over five hundred million copies worldwide. Rowling’s work is appealing — especially for her most devoted fans — partially because of how deftly she depicts Hogwarts, the wizard training school where Harry seeks to master his craft.

In the book, Harry travels to Hogwarts by taking the train at platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Boarders must reach the platform by running through a brick wall between platforms nine and ten. At the actual King’s Cross Station, platforms nine and ten are separated by tracks. Luckily for Harry Potter fans, there is still a platform 9 ¾… sort of. A luggage trolley is embedded in a wall in the station concourse. Above the trolley is a sign that says Platform 9 ¾. Tourists may have professional photos taken grasping the trolley. A nearby gift shop offers tourists the option to further personalize the photo by wearing a scarf in the Hogwarts house colors of their choice. The photo and the scarf are available for purchase. King’s Cross Station’s platform 9 ¾ welcomes over one million visitors each year. Rowling, for her part, said she immediately knew she would locate platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station, because it has emotional significance for her. Her parents met on a trolley there.

2. The Hollywood Sign

In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler invested in an upscale housing development. The housing development was called Hollywoodland. In order to advertise, Chandler bought 45-foot high white letters that spelled out the name of his development, located on the south side of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. He anchored the letters to telephone poles, and attached a total of 4,000 illuminated lights to his lettering.

The word “land” was removed from the sign in 1949, long after Hollywoodland had gone out of business. The sign has received regular maintenance checks since the 1970s, and its sociocultural significance continues to be confirmed. The Hollywood sign, or at least a studio set replica of it, has appeared in over a dozen movies.

1. Abbey Road (The Beatles)

When rock and roll’s most famous quartet, The Beatles, crossed Abbey Road in the cover photo for their 1969 album of the same name, they elevated the significance of their recording studio, Abbey Road Studios. Now linked inextricably with the success of a band ranked Number One in the 2010 Rolling Stone list “100 Greatest Artists,” Abbey Road is a symbolic home for any musical artist who desires creative freedom.

Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and Adele, for example, have recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios. While Abbey Road Studios isn’t open for tours, Abbey Road Crossing — the crossing on The Beatles’ album cover — is usually crowded with tourists taking photographs.


Gotta-Go Go-To Go-There(s)

WIF Travel

BS or Truth – WIF Confidential

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Facts That Sound

Like BS

bs

When you’ve been doing this job as long as we have, you get used to the idea that truth is stranger than fiction. History, science, art… they’re all full of factoids that seem implausible on the surface, but turn out to be true underneath. Still, there is a limit to this implausibility. It’s not like we’re going around claiming lightning magically gives you tattoos, or that you can survive jumping off the top of the Empire State Building, or that the Muppets were inspired by a porno, right?

 Wait, you mean that’s exactly what we’re about to do? And all of that is true? Yeesh…

10. Lightning Strikes Give You Sweet Tats

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Getting hit by a bolt of lightning is not fun. Aside from knowing that you’ve angered almighty Zeus, you suffer horrifying agony, terrible burns, and (possibly) a stopped heart. Oh, and you might just wind up getting a sweet-ass tattoo.

‘Lightning Flowers’ (also known, less-romantically, as ‘lightning trees’) are strange, fern-like, spiraling figures that can be flash-fried into your skin if a lightning bolt explodes nearby. Essentially burns that are caused by static electric traveling along the tiny blood vessels under the skin, they can last anywhere from a few hours to months and months. A type of Lichtenberg Figure, they’re weird, almost plant-like, and, to be honest, kinda cool.

See, unlike most burns, lightning flowers look intentional. The tiny little whorls, the way they radiate out from one central point… it all looks like some ink artist has spent hours agonizing over the design. Usually appearing on the arms, back, neck, chest or shoulders of lightning-strike victims, they might make you look like a tat-loving hippie, but they certainly don’t make you look like a burns victim.

They’re also useful. If paramedics bring your unconscious body in and the doctor sees your magic tat, he’s gonna know immediately that you need treating for a lightning strike.

9. The Muppets Song Mahna Mahna Came From a Porno

Even if you think you haven’t, you’ve heard Mahna Mahna. The song has appeared in everything. It was made stupendously famous by the Muppets in their 1976 TV premiere, having already featured on Sesame Street and the Ed Sullivan show years earlier (complete with Jim Henson puppets). So, where did this globe-striding, era-defining ditty come from? Err… a softcore Italian-Swedish porno.

The year was 1968, and Italian films were routinely flouting censors by filming softcore porn and dressing it up as ‘arthouse cinema’. In this instance, the titillating subject was ‘Scandinavian sexuality’, which gave the Italians plenty of excuses to include shots of hot Norwegian girls kissing, and even-hotter Danish girls posing as nude models. But the piece de resistance was a scene set in a Swedish sauna, in which a bevy of buxom blonds stripped off, giggling, for the camera. Composer Piero Umiliani was tasked with coming up with a catchy ditty for this mildly-erotic sauna centerpiece. He came up with Mahna Mahna.

The producers evidently knew he was onto something. The same year the porno came out, they released Mahna Mahna as a single. It got to 55 on the US Chart, caught the attention of Jim Henson, and the rest is (unlikely) history.

8. F1 Drivers Have Their Weight Monitored More than Catwalk Models

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Quick, what’s the most-restrictive profession where eating is concerned? Most of you probably said ‘catwalk models’, and it’s true that agencies routinely get their girls to starve themselves. Some of you also said ‘jockeys’, who often take diuretics to keep their weight down. Both professions are crazy-bad for weight watching. But there’s a less-likely profession that may be even worse: Formula One.

F1 racing is a scarily-precise science. Winners and losers are declared on fractions of a second, and cars are so streamlined that they carry absolutely no unnecessary weight. An extra 5 kilograms can wipe out 0.2 seconds on every lap; a horrendous setback in F1 terms. As a result, drivers are pressured to lose weight in order to compete. Over the last few years, this has gotten insane.

Drivers now have to be between 60-65 kilograms if they want to compete in the big leagues. In 2013, Jenson Button admitted that he has to starve himself, compete in triathlons, and avoid carbs like the plague to stay F1-ready. Others develop bulimia or anorexia. Some drivers have said they’re monitored and restricted even worse than catwalk models in what they can eat, despite eating disorders in F1 getting almost no airtime whatsoever.

7. Selling Sand to Arabs is a Lucrative Global Business

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“He could sell sand to the Arabs!” is one of those classic, slightly-racist expressions beloved by old, slightly-racist uncles the world over. Just like “he could sell snow to the Eskimos,” it uses a seemingly-unlikely situation to big up the persuasive powers of its subject. Although, in this particular case, its subject isn’t all that impressive. Selling sand to Arabic countries is a lucrative global business.

Australia, for example, shifts tons of the stuff to Dubai every year for construction projects. Germany recently signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to supply the Wahhabist Kingdom with sand. Altogether, the global market for sand is thought to be worth over $89 billion. There’s so much money in the stuff that mafia groups have moved in and started stripping tropical beaches under cover of night. And the Middle East is one of the biggest market drivers.

The trouble is that wind-blasted desert sand, such as that found in the Gulf, is too fine to be used in construction. So Gulf countries are forced to import the stuff; a lucrative market when those same countries are trying to outdo one another with insane construction projects.

6. Female Hurricanes Kill More People than Male Ones

hurricane

If we asked you to name a deadly hurricane, we’re betting most of you would have a female name pop into your head (likely Katrina or Audrey). There’s a good reason for that. ‘Female’ hurricanes are more-likely to kill people than ‘male’ hurricanes.

Since about 1979, hurricane names have alternated between female and male. However, even when hurricanes were exclusively female (1953-1979), how masculine or feminine their names were varied. In 2014, researchers at the University of Illinois crunched the data of all hurricanes to make landfall in the USA, separating them out into names that sounded masculine or feminine. They then divided them into hurricanes that hit populated areas, and those that didn’t.

 For non-destructive hurricanes that missed population centers, names made no difference. But for those that hit areas full of people, the results were staggering. The most ‘male-sounding’ hurricanes killed on average 11 people. The most ‘female-sounding’ hurricanes killed an average of 59.

The researchers theorized that this is because we’re all hilariously sexist. We tend to think women are unthreatening and less-powerful than men, so when we hear a female hurricane is coming, we kick back and refuse to evacuate. When a male one with a testosterone-fueled turns up, by contrast, we run for the hills.

5. Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees Can Literally Save Your Life

Oh, come on. This is getting ridiculous now. How could a 1970s disco song that just happens to be called Stayin’ Alive possibly help you, well, stay alive? We’re glad you asked. It turns out that this particular Bee Gees song averages 103 beats per minute. That’s pretty much exactly the rhythm you need to be hitting if you’re giving someone emergency CPR.

This isn’t us pointing out a wacky coincidence. Emergency medical courses (like, say, for lifeguards or whatever) frequently train their students using Stayin’ Alive. The American Heart Association (AHA) has official advice which says, in event of a heart attack (we kid you not) “call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

The song was chosen because it hit the right beats, and also because it’s famous enough to be known to the general public. In countries where the Bee Gees are less-popular, songs such as the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da are used instead.

4. A Woman Survived Jumping Off the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building

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Stepping off the top of the Empire State Building is pretty final. You plunge 86 stories onto hard, unforgiving concrete. That’s not something anybody survives… unless their name is Elvita Adams. In 1979, the Bronx resident decided to end it all. She took a ticket to the observation deck at the top of the Empire State building, climbed the security fence, and jumped. When she arrived at hospital, she was still alive.

If you’re wondering how the heck this is possible, we’ll end your suspense. Adams did jump off the Empire State, and she did go crashing down onto concrete. But the concrete in question wasn’t the sidewalk far below. After despairingly leaping out into the unknown, Adams was buffeted by a freak gust of wind. It just happened to be strong enough to blow her onto the ledge of the 85th floor, fracturing her hip. Before Adams could try jumping again, security guards had grabbed her and dragged her back inside.

Although no-one else has ever survived leaping off the Empire State Building, freaks of nature occasionally do save those plummeting from great heights. In 2007, a window cleaner plunged 47 stories and managed to survive thanks to pure luck.

3. Soccer Has Ended Multiple Wars (and caused one)

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Passions run high at soccer matches. Heck, Europeans consistently beat each other into comas while watching the sport. But could they run high enough to change the entire fate of a beleaguered nation? The answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’. In the past century, soccer has been the driving factor in ending three separate civil wars.

Two of those civil wars took place in the Ivory Coast. The first Ivorian Civil War lasted from 2002-2007, and killed nearly 2,000 people. The reason it stopped? The local soccer team qualified for the World Cup.

On the back of their qualifier win, the Ivory Coast soccer team dropped to their knees on live television, and begged the nation to put aside their differences. They then arranged for a qualifier for the African Cup to be held in a rebel-controlled city. This led to dialogue between the two sides, leading to a peace agreement. When the second civil war erupted in 2011, killing 3,000, soccer player Didier Drogba was instrumental in helping reach peace.

The third incident took place in Nigeria. In 1969, during the worst of the apocalyptic Biafran War, Pele brought his Brazilian club to the country to play the Nigerian national team. Both sides agreed a 3-day ceasefire to watch the match.

On the other hand, soccer has also directly caused at least one war. In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras faced each other in three grudge matches. Blood was so bad that the final 3-2 to El Salvador culminated in Salvadoran troops invading Honduras.

2. The Digit 1 Starts Most Significant Numbers

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Random numbers are the bane of the trivia aficionado. Go to a quiz, and you might be asked to guess the liters of wine Moldova produces, or the weight of each planet in the solar system, or he population figures for random counties in Louisiana, or whatever. By nature, these questions are designed to be impossible to answer. But if you want a head start, you should make sure your guesstimate begins with the digit 1. There’s about a 30% chance that any random, significant number will start with a 1.

Logic tells us that this is plainly nuts. The chances of 1 or 2 or 3 or so-on starting any randomly-selected longer number should equal around 11%. In practice, this doesn’t happen. After 1, the chances of a 2 starting the number are 18%, and so-on until 9, which has an infinitesimal chance of showing up. This means that you can go combing through any random set of significant data – baseball batting averages, the length of the world’s longest rivers, the number of McDonald’s in a certain area – and your figures will be significantly more-likely to start with a 1.

No-one knows why this should be, but it happens. It’s even got a name: Benford’s Law, and it has real-world purposes. People faking tax returns tend to insert too many figures from the mid-range (4,5,6), instead of figures starting with 1, giving their game away.

1. Cleopatra Existed Closer in Time to the First Pizza Hut than the Pyramids

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We all know the Pyramids are old. They were built around 2,500BC, over 1,000 years before Moses is thought to have lived. But few of us realize just quite how old they are. When Cleopatra was queen of Egypt, she was closer in time to the building of the first Pizza Hut than she was the first Pyramid.

Cleopatra reigned between 69-31 BC. The first Pizza Hut was built in 1958. That means the gap between Cleo and a great, big pile of disappointing pizza was 2,000 years. By contrast, the gap between the queen and her ancestors building the first pyramid was 2,450 years.

 Look at other comparatives, and this factoid just gets crazier. Julius Caesar (whose own namesake pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, was founded in 1959, in case you were wondering) famously got involved with Cleopatra, and probably spent some time admiring the Pyramids. At that point, the pyramids were to Caesar older than the oldest Roman ruins are to us now. Makes you think, huh?

BS or Truth

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– WIF Confidential