The Ultimate American Movie Marathon

I can’t remember the last Fourth of July I WASN’T traveling to see friends or exploring somewhere new, but I can also see the value in a good old staycation. This year I’m laying low, staying in New York with a friend’s little pupper, and taking a little time to relax. A coworker who’s new to the US joked about putting together a American Movie Marathon. True to form – I accepted the challenge, and came up with four mini-Marathons, that build into one majorly patriotic marathon. I won’t get to all of these myself, but maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll get through the entire list. What are your favorite movies revolving around the great U S of A?

 

The Best of the Fictional Presidents Marathon

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“Get Off My Plane” (Air Force One)

Dreamiest President Ever: Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglass) – The American President

Swoons, humor, and some of the best of Aaron Sorkin’s writing. Fun Fact: extra pages from The American President were adapted and became material for The West Wing (which shares a writer, TV, set, and large amount of the cast with The American President)

Funniest President Ever: Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) – Head of State

A Presidential candidate in it for the humor and publicity of it all? Could NEVER happen in real life!

Best President (Peace Time) Ever: Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) – The West Wing

Technically a TV show (only the best one ever written), but written with such mastery that it deserves placement on this list. Have a marathon if it makes you feel better

Best President (War Time) Ever: James Marshall (Harrison Ford) – Air Force One

OK – I cheated a bit and the US is not really “at war” in this movie. But I fully believe James Marshall demonstrates solid Commander-in-Chief behavior here. BONUS: Appearance by Sirius Black… I mean Gary Oldman

 

The (Mostly Factual, Maybe) American History Marathon

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(Pearl Harbor)

 

The Patriot

True there’s Mel Gibson… but there’s also Heath Ledger. Shouldn’t we all take more time out of our day to look at Heath Ledger?

Hacksaw Ridge

Little known piece of American History, smattered with scenes of Vince Vaughn being his hilarious self

Argo

How am I so amped up and brought to the edge of my seat by a movie based on non-fiction?

Pearl Harbor

Beautiful people falling in love and shooting things. But really … So handsome. 

 

The Guns n’ Running Around Marathon

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“We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt.” (Stripes)

Top Gun

Tom Cruise doesn’t really do it for me, but this is just such a cinematic classic, that it’s a must see. Plus, you gotta love You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.

Stripes

Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are Comedy Couple Goals. Fair warning, this is a Jankowski Family classic. Don’t bring it up with me unless you’re prepared for at least 20 minutes of quotes thrown at you.

National Treasure

A true Cinematic National Treasure. Because who doesn’t wish there was a map on the back of The Declaration of Independence?

 

The Summer Goofs Marathon

 

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“Well guys, we’ve made it to the end of the summer in one piece, except for a few campers who are lepers.” (Wet Hot American Summer)

Meatballs

Bill Murray (love of my life) as a lovable camp counselor teaching the Counselor-In-Trainings (“We are the CITs so pity us!”) how to be bad

Dirty Dancing

Have the Time of Your Life. Don’t be Put in a Corner. I jest, but this is one of my ALL TIME favorites. BONUS POINTS: watch the ABSOLUTE ATROCITY that was the 2017 ABC Remake. No disrespect to Debra Messing or Sarah Hyland, who are gems in their own right, but I was SCREAMING at the TV throughout the entire thing

 

Wet Hot American Summer

Absolutely INCREDIBLE cast including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks and more… plus worth a rewatch before the Netflix release of Ten Years Later in August

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London: Libations

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London is a wonderful place to just wander and stumble into any bar you come across. Pubs seem to just spill out on the sidewalk, and it’s really easy to fine a good time just walking down the street. Many of my favorite nights (and more than a few Friday afternoons, when my team took a ‘London lunch’) were spent in bars I completely just happened upon.

One I can speak highly of (but is in one of the most touristy areas imaginable – Soho/Theater District) is The Coach and Horse. My friends and I wandered in after a show, and found an energetic crowd singing the hits accompanied by a piano. Hearing my American accent, the bartender asked where I was from. “New York” I admitted (being the easiest answer at the time – I’d never pretend to be a life-long New Yorker). “OI WE HAVE A NEW YORKER” he yelled at the pianist. A minute later, a packed bar in London was belting “New York, New York.” It’s one of my favorite London memories.

My favorite bars/clubs in London are mostly in two areas: Chelsea, and Camden Town. These two areas are a bit touristy, depending on where you go, but also have pockets of hidden gems!

Chelsea: Chelsea is one of the wealthiest areas of London, and the nightlife here has that feel to it. In New York language, I would say it’s most parallel to going out in Meatpacking. Girls in dresses and heels, guys in slacks and button downs, even a suit jacket if the weather’s cool enough.

Most of the nightlife in Chelsea is off of one street: King’s Road. Conveniently also on the same street: a Pizza Express. My friend Cena and I would get dinner and share a bottle of wine at Pizza Express, carb-load before going out at two popular spots on King’s Road: Raffles and 151 Club.

Camden Town: Camden Town is a bit more casual. Relative to New York, I would equate it to an East Village feel. Jeans and a fun top with booties is more the trend for girls; guys would be comfortable in jeans and a t shirt.

There are multiple bar crawls you can buy a wrist band to – usually these are HUGE groups that wander some of the highlights of Camden together (and maybe get a free drink at some of the bars). I did one when I studied abroad, with some friends that were visiting, and it ended up being a cool way to see Camden’s highlights, but it was a bit touristy.

My favorites in Camden:

Proud Camden: this is an old horse hospital, that has been converted into a bar space (with the stalls made into VIP rooms). There are 5 bars spread out throughout Proud, which means shorter lines

Koko: this is an old theater (think balconies and ornate ceiling and curtains) that has been converted into a five story club. The orchestra is a dance pit, and the live music here is pretty good! If you’re not into dancing, the mezzanine and balcony also have their own bar spaces

An important end of the night staple in London: Kabab. Either on a sandwich, or in a platter – it’s always amazing and delicious… The London equivalent to Dollar Slice Pizza!

Important to note: The Tube doesn’t run 24/7, so have a plan to get home (either cab or Uber/Gett is my suggestion if you’re just visiting, although the busses run 24 hours).

London: My Favorite Walks and Wanders

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Primrose Hill on a Fall Day

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for London lately – five years ago I was just beginning my two months of working abroad during college. Ever since, it’s been one of my favorite cities in the entire world.

I have a few different posts that I want to write about London, but the first will focus on my favorite areas to walk and wander in the city. My favorite thing to do in just about any new city is just walk around and take in the scenery. It’s free, it brings you to beautiful parks and landmarks, and leads to great people watching.

Note: London has a great public transportation system, but it’s also lovely to walk around. It’s full of winding streets and mews, which are stunning, but can be a bit confusing. My favorite mobile map is on an app called Ulmon London – highly recommend you download as you wander through this stunning city!

Camden Town: Just GREAT for many different reasons. The area is very “funky” (it’s even more hipster than Brooklyn), and has a huge market selling lots of food and handmade goods. On Saturdays it’s bustling — so much fun to shop there for ANYTHING from jewelry to photography, etc. Head all the way down to the old horse stalls for the REALLY good stuff. The food is also divine — my favorites: mini pancakes that you eat on a stick with nutella and whipped cream, and some AMAZING paella. There’s also a “cereal bar” nearby that has vintage cereal – all of those themed boxes from back in the 90’s, during the hayday of Saturday morning cartoons.

Regent’s Park: My favorite park in the city — has lots of really nice gardens and places where people play cricket and soccer. It’s also very close to the London Zoo! Two ways to get here – from the south at the Euston tube stop, OR… my favorite view of the city is at the top of Primrose Hill, which is reasonably close to Camden Town tube stop. My perfect Saturday morning: wander through Camden Town, down to Primrose Hill, through the Park to the Rose Gardens.

Southbank: THE BEST place to hang out after work on a sunny day – lovely dinner spots to people watch and just a nice place to stroll. Some of the oldest pubs are along the South bank, and there’s a really good one that starts with an H (helpful, I know) where I had some great Fish & Chips. East of Trafalgar: There are a few tourist attractions — The Globe Theatre (rebuilt since Shakespeare’s time, but still cool), the Tate Modern, The Eye, St. Paul’s (from across the river), Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, The Strand, Tower Bridge. There’s even a TINY little beach to hang out on if it’s REALLY nice. Plus, once it gets dark enough, about half a mile east of the Waterloo tube station there are trees that have white Christmas lights up year round. West of Trafalgar: Westminster & Big Ben (from across the River), Vauxhall, Battersea.

South Kensington: My favorite tubestop if I didn’t know what I felt like doing. This tube stop also has a Hummingbird Cupcakes and Ben’s Cookies (both of which are TO DIE FOR) and a little ice cream shop. There’s a Chinese place where you can get a main dish, an egg roll, and some fried rice for like £5. Plus, about a mile up the road (past the museums) is the Albert Memorial, which I found a nice place to sit and eat my dinner. Right next to the Albert Memorial is Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

Sloane Square: Chelsea was my favorite neighborhood when I was working abroad – beautiful white houses and well-groomed gardens…(and Harrod’s!) so I just liked to get off the tube at Sloane Square and look at all the old-money, well-dressed people. It’s also extremely close to King’s Road, which has shops, restaurants, and clubs. One of the more popular clubs is called Raffles – but my favorite club there was called 134 (or something like that… it was the street address of the club). When I was abroad, my friend Cena and I would get dinner and a few bottles of wine for CHEAP at a Pizza Express across the street, walk for a while, then go to that club.

Covent Garden: Great on the weekends, boring on week days. On the weekends there are street performers, and crowds… you can grab some Ben’s Cookies (another location) and hang out there all day. There’s a great wine bar nearby called 10 Cases, and a great restaurant called Belgo Centraal.

Hampstead Heath: Just a nice little neighborhood, with provincial-style cottages. Sasha Barron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter live up here, and so do a couple other celebs, so the people watching is fun. The Heath itself is beautiful. I really liked to head up here just to play with all the puppies, but some of it is wild (read: tall grass) so you may not want to wear anything super short. One of the best views of the city is here, at the top of Parliament Hill — North of the tennis courts.

6 (Less Obvious) Necessities for a Long Flight

Travel Necessities

There’s a lot about a big trip that can be stressful, but literally the most daunting part of my trip to Australia was the flight situation. The longest flight I’d ever taken was only about 9 hours, and I was about to spend TWENTY ONE hours in the air. But I was completely shocked by how easy it was! A layover in San Francisco definitely helped, but there were a few other things that definitely made it bearable.

1) My Favorite Sweater: My biggest advice: dress comfortably! This is probably a given for my fellow Millenials out there, but there are still a lot of people who dress up for a flight. I boarded the 14 hour leg from San Fran to Sydney behind a girl in pumps with, no joke, a 4 inch heel.

Especially for a flight like this I’d recommend wearing leggings and sneakers (plus sneakers take up so much space so it’s a bonus to save on luggage room!). I’m always cold on flights, so I like to wear layers – usually a long sleeved tee and my favorite Patagonia pullover. An added bonus of the pullover: the huge pocket in the front. I had an emergency exit row, so I wasn’t allowed to have my bags at my feet for takeoff and landing. I packed that pocket so full that I felt like a kangaroo. I’m talking water bottle, phone, headphones, a snack, anything I would need for the flight in case I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get up.

On my trip I ended up buying a pair of authentic lamb’s wool socks, which were awesome for the flight back!

2) Compression socks: You would be shocked at how sitting upright can make you feel after such a long time. My boss at work is used to long flights and told me that her biggest advice was to get some compression socks (which you can grab at drug stores and super markets). It made me feel a bit like a pro because the businessmen in my row all pulled them out too.

Basically, these help with your blood flow so that all of your blood doesn’t end up in your feet, which can make them swollen and painful. This does make them really hard to pull on (picture yourself pulling on like TWO layers of Spanx). It seriously took me like 10 minutes each time. But it definitely helped – I had no soreness when I arrived, and since I had big plans for a LOT of walking on my first day of Sydney (post to come!), that was crucial!

3) Sleep Aid: I’d never used a sleep aid before – I don’t know why, but it just freaked me out a little. But I knew that to be functional and make the most of my time in Sydney that I would need to sleep a lot on my flight and be fresh when I arrive. And sitting upright is not exactly my favorite sleeping position. So for this trip I planned out my sleep schedule ahead of time (more on that later), and took some Zzzquil. It really did knock me out for a bit – not in a “I’m totally dead to the world” way that could be concerning if you need to be aware of your environment… more so in a “decent sleep” way for about 9 hours. Would definitely recommend.

4) J” Pillow: OK so I know this thing is shaped a little funny, but it was really comfortable! With normal travel pillows, I feel like I have to bend my neck over so far that I end up in a lot of pain. This “J Pillow” sort of surrounds your head, so you don’t have to bend your neck as much. It’s definitely more supportive and it’s also inexpensive! I grabbed mine from Amazon.

5) Skin Mask: I would challenge anybody to say they have drier skin than I do. Especially after being on a plane, I feel like my skin is unbearable, so I knew I was going to need some skincare for such a long flight. One of my coworkers actually recommended the Clarins Hydraquench Cream Mask, so I bought a tube off of Amazon. Usually I think of masks as something I need to remove, but this one goes on so thin and doesn’t leave my skin feeling gunky. I just put it on every few hours throughout the flight, and honestly feel like my skin might have been better moisturized when I arrived than when I left.

6) S’well Bottle: Speaking of hydration — staying hydrated is so important on a long flight because it helps you feel fresh and relaxed, and can help fight exhaustion. I personally really hate having my tray table down – I feel like I’m going to kick it when I cross my legs (maybe even knock it while I’m sleeping). So instead of relying on those tiny cups of ice water from the flight attendants, I just kept refreshing my S’well. It kept the water colder than a plastic bottle I could have grabbed at the airport, but still could be sealed and thrown anywhere out of my way.

Long flights will never be a super fun experience, but the things I listed above definitely improved my experience a lot. A few other tips:

  • If you can bear it, go for the aisle seat and walk around as much as you can. I had an exit aisle, so I was lucky and could extend my legs all the way, but that’s not always the case, and it can be really difficult on your knees
  • Get on the local time of your destination as soon as you get on board. Try to sleep when it’s night time there. For example on my flight back, we took off at 2 PM in Auckland… but it was about 11PM in New York, so I went to sleep as soon as possible.
  • The food isn’t as bad as you would think! If you’re awake, at least try it. I usually do pasta, because it’s safer than meat, but I’ve really had some good airplane meals!
  • FYI: In-flight entertainment in March is full of “Oscar season” releases, because most of these hit theaters in December/January