As we continue on into self-quarantine and social distancing, the newness of the situation might be wearing off. It is, however, vital to remember that it is now more important than ever to stay home and away from others to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus as the number of cases and deaths rapidly increases. That’s especially hard if you’re the restless sort who always feels the urge to go out and explore new places and cultures. For those itching to travel agian, here are a few suggestions for making your time at home a creative staycation filled with armchair travel. From movies and music to food and drink recipes you can whip up in your own kitchen, hopefully these themed staycations will mentally transport you to wherever you wish to be.
If Paris, France is beckoning to you as the weather warms and spring flowers begin to bloom, then you are not alone. There’s something magical about Paris in spring that makes it all the more alluring. From Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Briget Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, Paris has been immortalized in song by so many great musicians. So, to kick off a Parisian night, start with a champagne hour or make yourself a French 75 with a French playlist playing in the background.
Take a cue from Julia Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking as you select a few French dishes to make for dinner. After dinner, head to the television for your pick of movies that take place in France. From Julie and Julia and Moulin Rouge to Amelie and An American in Paris, there are so many great options to suit any mood.
There’s never a bad time to watch Casablanca, so why not center an entire night around the country? As the anticipation for warm weather builds, there’s no better place to find it than the desert. So, put a kettle on the stove to make a pot of mint tea in Moroccan fashion. Make a playlist ranging from Bing Crosby’s Road to Morocco to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Marrakesh Express.
Explore new recipes online for a meal of tagine and couscous, Moroccan-spiced eggplant with mint yogurt sauce, or perhaps a green shakshuka. With a belly full of delicious food, play Casablanca for the perfect end to the night. It’s hard to go wrong with Nicole Kidman in Queen of the Desert, too, and even the infamous Ishtar will help scratch that Moroccan itch.
The lush, green fields of Ireland are another great escape to recreate. There are seemingly endless musical opportunities for a playlist to play at home. Bands like U2, The Pogues, The Cranberries, Two Door Cinema Club and Hozier all hail from Ireland. It’s also entirely possible there’s a bottle of single malt Irish whiskey hiding in your bar that’s stashed away for hot toddies in the winter. Pull out the bottle and serve it neat for a change.
You could also go all-out by making Irish stew, colcannon or cottage pie. Irish soda bread is also an easy side to make to accompany any recipe. For something simpler, stick to a grilled cheese made with Irish cheddar for a tasty and easy break from intensive isolation cooking. Bonus: grilled cheese is a couch-friendly meal. So park it and play movies like Leap Year with Amy Adams for a light and breezy romantic-comedy to lighten the mood. The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Once are also great options.
Sure, there are plenty of scenes from Game of Thrones filmed in Ireland too, but Dubrovnik, as well as other locations within Croatia, are also very well known from the television series. Dream of the deep blue Adriatic as you settle in for another night of social distancing and binge-watching the incredibly popular series.
Before the marathon begins, however, explore some Balkan musicians while you make black squid ink risotto for dinner. Start with bands like Gypsy Hill, Boban i Marko Markovic (which is Serbian), or Gramatik (who are Slovenian). Sip on brandy, which is similar to rakia or make gemišt on warmer days, which is a white wine spritzer. Make a cheeseboard too with Pag cheese if you can get it, or stick to the pepper and eggplant spread Trader Joe’s sells for some Balkan influence. It’s very close to ajvar or malidzano, though that is a traditional Macedonian spread.
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist. You can often find her on the highway somewhere between Florida and North Carolina or taking life slow in Europe.