Top 5 Countries I’ve Traveled To

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I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of my traveling achievements. To date, I’ve been to 11 countries all around the world. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, and I’ll be counting down my top five countries I’ve traveled to. (So far!)

These countries are in no particular order.

France

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(c) clarebearhh

You’re sitting in the airport lounge between your yawning parents. It’s early, but that doesn’t matter because today you’re going to Disneyland Paris! You’ve never been on a plane before, never been outside the UK before, and you can’t contain you’re excitement. Next, you’re on an art trip, admiring the beautiful architecture of Paris, eating baguettes and sharing a room with your best-est friend in the whole wide world, thinking it can’t get much better than this. But lastly, you’re on a beach in Nice, watching the sun go down, having spent nearly a month on the road with the same best-est friend. They say everything comes in cycles, and this one might just be your favourite.

Italy

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(c) clarebearhh

Once again, you’re sandwiched between your parents, this time in the back of your brother’s car, driving through the rolling hills of northern Italy. You admire the vineyards, the mountains, how everything is so green. Ten years later, you come back, with a heavy heart and minus your parents. You try to relive every memory you ever had here, trying to search for your lost loved ones as if they had come here to escape their illness. It’s your own little patch of heaven, and in some ways, you can still feel them with you in every step. It’s not just northern Italy that captures your heart. In your Europe Road Trip you glide through the cities, eating pizza, pasta and gelato, enjoying the country in true Italian style.

Hungary

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(c) clareberhh

You’re sitting in the bay window of your hostel, looking down on the locals whilst you read. You’re reading Looking for Alaska by John Green, which you picked up for less than a pound in an English Bookstore. You marvel at how a book can perfectly summarise the grief you feel, and capture the wunderlust you ache for. You carry it with you through the rest of the trip, and for a long, long time after that. Budapest is the perfect rest stop, with the famous bathes to sooth your aching shoulders, goulash to settling your stomach and roommates who really make the stop exciting and fresh.

Austria

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(c) clarebearhh

Your inner child is squealing with joy, as you sing the songs from The Sound of Music and marvel at the filming locations. They even have a Julie Andrews exhibition, as if you weren’t excited enough. Salzburg is filled with deja vu, as is Vienna, which inhabits the stereotypical big city high street stores you would find at home. But if you look hard enough, you will find the back alley authentic Austrian gems, like the Naschmarkt, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, meat kebabs, and accessories and other trinkets made by the locals.

America

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(c) clarebearhh

Your J1 visa dictates a cultural exchange, you must work to earn your keep, but also have some adventures in equal measure. New York City is your favourite, the concrete jungle whisking you up in it’s frenzy. Times Square dazzles you with it’s bright lights, Broadway theaters and levels upon levels of shops. You celebrate the big 22, wearing a long, glamorous dress and having cocktails at TGI Friday’s, a burger a Planet Hollywood and a matinee show. You feel like a Princess, making it one to remember, and flying bright and early next day to Florida. Harry is waiting for you at the Islands of Adventure, where Ollivander gives you your wand, Willow with Unicorn Hair, ten and three quarter inches.

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That concludes my top five. It was really difficult to choose from all of the wonderful places I’ve been to, and as you can tell some hold incredible memories for me. In the second part to this post, I’ll look at the places I really want to visit and haven’t yet. Are there any you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 10 Movie Musicals

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The “movie musical” is a genre that has become increasingly popular over the years. With West End shows more popular than ever, it seems every director is jumping on the all-singing, all-dancing bandwagon. Recently, classics such as Les Miserables and Into the Woods have taken the leap from Stage to Screen starring big names like Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep. I’ve watched a fair few myself, taking pride of place in my illustrious DVD collection, so I’ll be ranking my favourites from ten to one. As always, I’ll only include films I’ve seen and can vouch for, and I’ll only include titles that have appeared on both the stage and the screen.

10

Sweeney Todd

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The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical. – from IMDb

The Burton/Depp/Bonham-Carter conglomerate has been a bit hit and miss (let’s not talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but Burton definitely got a hit with his re-imagining of the Tale of Sweeney Todd. The cinematography is sufficiently creepy, with fantastic performances from Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, Jamie Campell Bower as Anthony, Ed Saunders as Toby, and Alan Rickman (RIP) as Judge Turpin.

9

Les Miserables

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In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever. – from IMDb

One of the more recent movie-musicals to hit the screen, and one of the most incredible all-star casts since Love Actually. The only reason this film doesn’t chart higher on the list is because it’s so long! The stage musical itself is generous in length, but I often don’t watch the DVD because I don’t have time to watch it in it’s entirety. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks give standout performances, and it’s interesting to observe these stars singing live, which has never been done in a movie-musical before.

8

The Sound of Music

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A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower. – from IMDb

On paper, this film shouldn’t work. Singing nuns, seven children, clothes made out of curtains, yodeling, goats and Nazis! But there’s something familiar and warm about the Sound of Music, and Julie Andrew’s portrayal of the naive and feisty Maria. In my house, it’s practically tradition to watch this ever Christmas.

7

Love Never Dies

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10 years has passed since a fire broke out in Paris – leaving only a mask behind… As the love story continues in Coney Island, NY. – from IMDb

This musical is my guilty pleasure. It seems like someone has turned Phantom of the Opera into a sticky soap-like fan-fiction, and is loosely based off of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, the unofficial sequel to the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I’m not quite sure what Andrew Lloyd Webber was on when he wrote this musical, but there’s something beautifully bizarre that keeps me coming back.

6

Billy Elliot

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A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval. – from IMDb

So this is a slight cheat here. Billy Elliot the original film had music in it, but wasn’t necessarily a musical. It was adapted to stage in 2005 and most recently, the live production was streamed out to hundreds of cinemas around the country, and was released on DVD. I’ve seen Billy Elliot in London four times, and I love having a piece of it to watch at home.

5

The Phantom of the Opera

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A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves. – from IMDb

Okay, slight cheat numero dos. I haven’t ever seen The Phantom of the Opera film starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum (can you blame me? I’ve only heard bad things), so I prefer to watch and listen to the 25th Anniversary Live performance with the Holy Trinity (Karimloo/Boggess/Fraser). I know some parts were tweeked from the stage version normally shown in London, but I really enjoy watching the Holy Trinity at their best.

4

Into the Woods

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A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. – from IMDb

This film was my most favourite of 2015, with another all-star cast, all of whom had fantastic voices and an imaginative reworking of Sondheim’s classic tale. Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch particularly stands out, and Corden and Blunt’s chemistry leaps off the screen, perfectly complimented by Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. The list is endless for reasons why I love this film.

3

Rent

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This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America. – from IMDb

This film was what kick-started my love for Rent. I know this ensemble doesn’t contain entirely the original cast, but having most of the originals there made it so much more special. The screenplay was also written by one of my favourite writers Stephen Chbosky who famously wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book and screenplay).

2

Jersey Boys

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The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. – from IMDb

My Jersey Boys obsession has been a recent discovery, as last year I saw the musical for the first time when it came nearby on tour. There’s something so electric and charming about these four guys and their dynamic that keeps their story timeless. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and instead of casting well known actors in the roles, Eastwood decided to cast actors who had played the roles on the stage, including John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his performance as Frankie Valli on Broadway.

1

Mary Poppins

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A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. – from IMDb

Mary Poppins is probably one of the greatest musicals ever written. Originally adapted from the book written by PL Travers, into the Disney Classic we know and love today. The story was then adapted onto the stage, starring a young Carrie Hope Fletcher, and closely resembled the book, rather than the sugary-sweet practically-perfect Mary that we were closely affiliated with. To me, Julie Andrews is at her best in this role and is my all time favourite movie-musical.

What do you guys think about my top ten? Have I missed any out? And do you agree or would you rather see a different film take the top spot? Let me know in the comments.