Although we’re starting to see lockdown easing and things tentatively tiptoeing towards normal, it still seems like carefree holidays where your only concerns are conversion rates and language barriers are a way off. So, if we can’t jet off to exotic climes just yet, why not enjoy a vicarious holiday right from your sofa? Here are ten Netflix options to help you see more of the world and remind you of that holiday feeling.
10. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
For many of us, the best way to get to know a place is through its food. This four-part series sees chef David Chang take a celebrity pal out to – well, breakfast, lunch and dinner – around the world. A perfect watch for lazy mornings, each episode is fun and offers a real insight into local food scenes. It’s part travel show, part chat show, part buddy comedy. The series begins with a tour around Vancouver with everybody’s favourite lovable stoner Seth Rogan. Then we head to Marrakech, where model/professional Tweeter/cookbook author Chrissy Teigen joins Chang for a tour of the famous city. The Los Angeles episode with filmmaker and actor Lena Waithe focusses more on LA’s culinary identity than physical locations, demonstrating the city’s amazing diversity. Then there’s the series’ best episode starring SNL’s Kate McKinnon exploring the jaw-dropping sights of Phnom Penh.
9. National Parks Adventure
Another one that pretty much does what it says on the tin, this is a beautiful documentary celebrating America’s natural crowning glory – its network of vast, rugged National Parks. Narrated by Robert Redford, this is a gorgeous tribute to the US government’s Park system that really stirs the senses. For those of us who’ve been cooped up indoors for so long it’s truly awe-inspiring to see these majestic landscapes, and will surely tempt even the most keen indoorsman to dream of a holiday to Yosemite, Yellowstone or Niagara Falls. The film was shot at dozens of Parks, so you get a really great guide to the variety of landscapes on offer in the US, as well as some of the adventures available. The immersive cinematography really does make you feel like you’re there in the heart of this natural wonderland.
8. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
The late great Anthony Bourdain was one of the world’s most beloved ‘celebrity’ chefs, thanks to his no-nonsense attitude, sardonic sense of humour and open-minded approach to the world’s many cultures. His acclaimed and multi-award-winning Parts Unknown series follows him around the world to discover lesser known locales and explore their food, culture and traditions. There are 12 seasons to work your way through (some of the final one is more of a dedication to Bourdain), with each episode dedicated to a different place. Bourdain made a point to get to know the real nature of each destination, so you’ll find yourself with a proper local’s understanding each time. If you’ve not got time to eat your way through the whole catalogue, some of the unmissable episodes include Lyon (Season 3, Episode 3), Iran (4, 6), Houston (8, 5), Rome (8, 9) and Kenya (12, 1).
7. Master of None
There are certainly problems with Master of None – its smug tone and dedication to portraying Aziz Ansari as an unfailingly perfect man for a start – but you can’t deny it does ‘sense of place’ well. The first season is set in New York, and does a great job of showing off some of the experiences that make the Big Apple the place that it is. Whether it’s a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, a line outside an audition for some quirky new movie, an over-crowded midtown bar or street food culture, Ansari and Alan Yang’s beautifully shot quippy comedy drama evokes New York perfectly. Then there’s season two, which transports us and Ansari’s character Dev to Italy for an adventure in pasta making (and romance). The Italian episodes are memorable, funny, beautiful and generally enjoyable, so even if you don’t fancy sticking around for the return journey to New York it’s work tuning in for a quick weekend in Modena.
6. Our Planet
No one does it like Attenborough. Our Planet is basically Planet Earth on steroids – it’s just as beautiful, just as affecting, just as technically marvellous, but this time carries a serious message and even deeper meaning. Following the team’s cameras as they track humpback whales, orangutans and spectacular jungles is like being on the most perfect wildlife holiday imaginable. In fact, it’s better, bringing you closer to natural marvels than would ever be possible in real life. The sound design is truly immersive, and there can be no one in the UK who doesn’t immediately sink into a state of soothing reverie at the sound of David Attenborough’s dulcet tone. He reminds us in no uncertain terms that our planet is being destroyed by pollution and other dangers, but the show is the perfect reminder for these times that the world is still out there (maybe even healing) and deserves exploring.
5. Wild Caribbean
Who amongst us wouldn’t fancy a little sojourn in the sun-soaked Caribbean right now? While you can’t board a flight just yet, you can travel through your TV screen to the sunny isles via this excellent BBC four-part documentary, narrated by Steve Toussaint. Showing off the islands’ remarkable and perhaps underrated natural wonders, each episode of the series offers a deep dive into a different amazing aspect of this part of the world. This is the perfect way to tour multiple islands at once, without having to unpack your suitcase multiple times (and without even having to pack it in the first place). Episode one provides a wonderfully illustrated overview of some of the islands’ natural histories, from Cuba’s limestone caves to Barbuda’s mangrove lagoons. Further episodes carry us on underwater diving adventures, through devastating hurricane season and along the exquisite Central American coast – this is the dream holiday itinerary.
4. Conan Without Borders
Conan O’Brien is best known for his lively late night talk show, famous for its Paul Rudd feud and Andy Richter sidekick bits. One of the offshoots of the late night genre was the travel segment, which O’Brien has developed into its own series. Conan Without Borders comprises the best of all worlds – it’s a far cry from the sanitised, highly regimented world of US network TV, but retains the improvising, charm and wisecracks O’Brien became known for. There are six episodes available on Netflix, in which the host visits Cuba, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Haiti and Italy. Each is filled with irreverent comedy and plenty of insight into real local culture. It’s like travelling with a buddy who knows where all the ‘must-visit’ spots are.
3. Lost in Translation
Few movies are as synonymous with a city as Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece. Lost in Translation was conceived after the director herself fell in love with Tokyo while promoting her film The Virgin Suicides and, as well as being a story about loneliness and connections, is unquestionably a love letter to the Japanese metropolis. It’s easy to feel as though you’ve visited Tokyo after gorging on Coppola’s scenes of inky black skies illuminated with flashing neon. Bill Murray’s Bob and Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte traverse the city with differing perspectives that allow us to be taken right into Tokyo to see its different sides. The perfect place for a story about cultural disconnection and discord, the Tokyo of the film is so vivid, realised and visceral that it really does seem familiar as seen through Coppola’s lens.
2. Travels With My Father
Though obviously not quite off-the-cuff, there’s something endearingly realistic about Jack Whitehall’s travel show, in which he visits various destinations around the world accompanied by his father, Michael. The duo have the expected culture clashes, and differences of opinion, and little annoyances, and even when the joke is obviously set up or the activity is not exactly available for the average tourist, it’s still really good fun. The show was partially engineered – Netflix scouted out interesting locations and then provided the camera crew – but the rest is all natural rapport between the father and son, and shows the duo’s real reactions to experiencing places like Siem Reap, Kiev, Budapest, Bangkok, Los Angeles and Tombstone. At a time when lots of us are separated from loved ones as well as the opportunity to explore the world, it’s a nice way to remember all the pleasure (and pain) of travelling with family.
1. The Terminal
It wouldn’t be a holiday without a little bit of airport stress, would it? When it comes to airport stress, being a kilo over on your baggage allowance or having to ditch your half-finished Lucozade at security is nothing compared to the famous plight of Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) in The Terminal, which saw the Krakozhia national stranded in JFK airport for nine months after he becomes officially stateless. Naturally, one hopes that such a disaster wouldn’t befall anyone in the real world, but the concept of being seemingly trapped inside a soulless airport where officials are out to get you and the outside world seems lightyears away truly is the universal air travel experience. Relive the worst parts of holidays past by placing yourself in Viktor’s shoes. No airport politics… that’s one plus to the worldwide travel ban, right?
Are there any go-to shows and movies that help transport you to exotic climes? Let us know in the discussion thread what your favourite holiday-from-home watches are?
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