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Calling All Movie Buffs

With Avatar taking the #1 spot nation-wide, I decided that I must concede and go and see it.  I have refused for quite sometime now, but I am finally giving in.  I started researching a little bit about the movie –as far as I could tell, it didn’t have a plot—and was not only interesting in the avatars, but the beautiful backgrounds as well.  I found out that they were filmed in where else, New Zealand, home of the hobbits.  Something else I found out is, contrary to popular belief, New Zealand is not the only place movies can be filmed.  So here is a list of the highest grossing movies ever, and where each was filmed.

  1. Avatar— Wellington, New Zealand

James Cameron may be called conceited at times, but no one can say he hasn’t thought enough about this movie.  He used words of Moari, which he picked up years before filming even began in New Zealand.  These ancient words weren’t the only things New Zealand about Avatar: most of the battle scenes were filmed there.

2. Titanic (sorry study abroaders, to see these scenes you have to come home)

3. Lord of the Rings— Wellington, New Zealand

From the Shire where we first meet Frodo, to mountains of Mordor, the land of shadow.  There is no New Zealand; New Zealand is Middle Earth.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean—St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, Bahamas

5. The Dark Knight—Hong Kong China, and numerous places around London “As Batman readies to jump off the roof of the 90 storey ifc (International Finance Centre), Hong Kong’s tallest building, he takes a deep breath—partly because he’s looking down at magnificent Victoria Harbour.”

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone –-Glen Nevis, Fort William, Highland, Scotland, UK (Quidditch scenes: background landscape) Have you ever dreamed of being a spectator at a Quidditch match? Exactly, who hasn’t? Well if you go to this location in Scotland you can be one step closer to that dream.  If you are Russian, you are in luck because according to this website they already have formed their national team!  Down side? No brooms, no flying snitch, and -15 degree temperatures.

If you are asking yourself: how do I get to Scotland to see this place?  I have another Harry Potter response for you: take the West Highland Railway Line.  AKA the Hogawarts Express.  This train is where all of those infamous shots of Harry looking out the window take place.

If you happen to be in England and a huge Potter fan, go to Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucestershire, England, and you may get a glimpse of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine at Hogwarts.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

10. Star Wars Phantom of the Menace—Royal Palace, Caserta, Campania, Italy (Naboo Royal Palace) After Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia, Natalie Portman took on the role of Queen Amidala, and if you ask me, she alone made this place famous for calling it home.  Not only can Natalie Portman boast that she ruled in this magnificent building, but also Tom Cruise proved that hijacking something in this building is impossible.

Happy hunting movie buffs!


I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for almost two years now, and public transportation still makes me somewhat queasy. It takes a thorough review of bus routes and aerial maps before I can get near a bus. I can only imagine that a taxi ride in a foreign country would require months of planning. But, both here and in a foreign country, public transportation is often the best way to get around.

Experienced traveler and PBS personality Rick Steves would be my first source for taxi advice abroad.  While he says that “if you’re going to get ripped off in Europe, it’ll probably be by a cabbie,” he also provides reassuring advice: tipping protocol, how to avoid dishonest cabbies,  and cities with the most reasonable rates. In Rome, for example, it’s cheaper to take a bus or train instead of a taxi. These tips are a great resource for everyone–even you well weathered light rail commuters might need some help in a Prague Metro station.

Nothing dies in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, according to my co-worker Pricilla. “It’s spring and fall all year long. Everything is always green.” Melons, strawberries, and an abundance of other fruits grow in her family garden year round and she ate them all to her heart’s content.

Sound like heaven?

It did to me, so I decided to make a traditional Tanzanian fruit pie. The recipe calls for your favorite combination of papaya, guava, pineapple, orange, apricot and melon.

I used organic fruits—they have a slightly different taste than conventional ones. Pricilla said that when she first came to America, she couldn’t eat any fruit unless it was organic. “They don’t taste as sweet or as good.” I chose pineapples, oranges, and apricot nectar to make my pie since these ingredients are sold locally. I’m no desert connoisseur so I won’t do the pie injustice by trying to explain its taste, but what I will say is that in the mid-February Minnesota cold, the first slice was absolute summer.

Thirteen students of North Central College, Illinois traveled to Guatemala to learn a little more about that ubiquitous morning brew—coffee. Their project Mission Coffee Can (MCC) will begin airing a video series February 24th that documents the students’ research and experience.

As part of the Students in Free Enterprise competition, MCC’s pitch is to study sustainable business practices in the coffee industry. The students participate in all stages of the coffee bean’s life cycle, from sowing to harvesting, processing to roasting, grinding to brewing. In the end, they’ll know the recipe for a good cup of coffee.

Whether it’s a fix for neurotics, a tonic for sleep-wrecks, or a rite for adherents of the café cult, coffee is custom. Generalizations aside, I’ll add that students and coffee go hand in hand. I confess to my own dependency. Without coffee, both morning and I would remain amiss. There’s no pride in this condition, but I sip solidarity each week on campus where I pass multitudes of others bearing to-go cups.

The coffee industry must be keen on this too, given the proportionate number of cafés on and around campus:

If you savor coffee, a trip south to research the roots, like the MCC project, is a worthy cause. For those interested, the U of M’s Learning Abroad Center offers a similar coffee program in Costa Rica.

Singapore Sling, The Fall of Rome, Warsaw Waffle…these are not the names of bands or names of food. These drinks are originated in the countries and cities they are named after, but can you have one if you’re not 21 yet? That all depends on the drinking age of the country.

I just recently turned 21, so now I can have any kind of drink wherever I go. If you’re impatient to turn 21 to drink in the United States, and you’re in a hurry to get experimenting new things, just travel abroad.

If you find yourself travelling to Germany, Greece or Poland (home of the Warsaw Waffle) you can drink as young as the age of 16. Don’t travel with any younger siblings to Fiji or Morocco though, because there is no drinking age in either country, and you might end up babysitting in an unpleasant way. The majority of countries that you might want to visit have a drinking age of 18, so all you college students are already set to try a Chimay Beer or Pisco Sour when you arrive.

With the continued use of technology comes the continued hassle of booking hotels online.  I say hassle because we never know what we are realistically getting ourselves into when we book online at a hotel we’ve never visited.  I’ve experienced my share of hotels that promoted themselves fantastically online, but were duds in reality.  I specifically recall booking a room online for my trip to Chicago.  The well-lit spacious rooms turned into dingy cramped spaces, and neither the pool nor the continental breakfast existed.

But there’s no reason, or should I say less of a reason, to fear now that Trip Advisor has come out with their Dirtiest Hotels of 2010 list.  The list is comprised of the top ten filthiest places to stay in seven different regions.  Headed to France? Consider avoiding the Hotel Baudelaire Bastille.  Maybe you’re headed to Singapore instead.  In which case you might not want to stay at the Goldkist Beach Resort.  And that’s not all, Trip Advisor also supplies a list of traveler’s choice hotels so you don’t even have to sift through the bad ones if you’d rather not.  So keep in mind, before you book the hotel, check the list and maybe even a few customer reviews for added security.

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