Alert Level 3 is a step in the right direction but travel lovers are still grounded. While we wait to take off again, be transported to these top destinations - here are the best ways to read, watch, listen and eat your way there.
Prague, Czech Republic
Kafka is everywhere in Prague. Darkly comic and sometimes unsettling, the city and its history can feel warped by his books. However, if you peer under the surface you'll find stories and mysteries worthy of Dan Brown and romance for the easiest page-turner.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984): A story about two women, two men, and a dog in 1960s Prague.
Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (2011): - Move over Da Vinci Code. An epic mystery tying together the city's seen and unseen mysteries.
The Other City by Michal Ajvaz (1993): Could be titled "In the Shadow of Kafka". Ajvaz's story functions as a surreal guidebook to the city.
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Little Otik (2000):
Jan Svankmajer's fairytale about a wooden child who won't stop eating.
Kolja (1996): Avowed bachelor finds himself lumbered with a child in post eastern block Prague.
Amadeus (1985): Prague's playboy composer Mozart: undeniable genius, bit of a dick.
Dušené zelí - A spiced Czech Cabbage that adds Bohemian flair to the most basic meal
Saute onion in bacon fat or oil. Stir in bacon and cook before adding cabbage and caraway seeds. Mix well. Add vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and pepper. Simmer for 40 mins or until soft.
Serve with Czech beer.
Visit Prague Castle, with this virtual tour. hrad.cz/en/prague-castle-for-visitors/virtual-tour
The City of Prague Museum's website has four virtual tours available. en.muzeumprahy.cz/virtual-tours
All right. You can stop carrying around Ulysses, pretending to have read it. Try these more lucid Hibernian books.
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle (1987)
About unemployment and soul music in Dublin's working-class Northside.
The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007)
A family split between Dublin and London gather for the wake of a lost brother.
Dublin 4 by Maeve Binchy (1982)
More modern and perhaps more enjoyable than Joyce's Dubliners - a rich cross-section of the city.
Listen to this
For a city that loves a good hooley, most songs about Dublin are uncommonly sad. Song is an unpretentious part of city culture. Even local pop star Dermot Kennedy sounds like he's busking on Grafton St.
Rocky Road to Dublin - Anon (1901)
All My Friends - Dermot Kennedy (2017)
Roisin Dubh - Thin Lizzy (1978)
Boxty or "Tattie Farl" The comforting potato pancake is made from these staples.
Ingredients: 4 potatoes. ¼ cup flour. Pinch of salt. 1 tablespoon butter.
Method: Boil and mash the potatoes. Mix in the flour, then shallow fry the mixture in butter till golden brown.
Finally cut the cake into quarters or "farls" to serve.
To mark the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Google built a virtual tour of the heart of Dublin that jumps between revolutionary Ireland and today. dublinrising.withgoogle.com
For all London's pretence as a modern cosmopolis, in books it somehow never escapes the fog conjured up by Dickens and Conan Doyle.
The Untold Lives of Jack the Ripper's Women by Hallie Rubenhold (2019)
The historian shows a rarely told side through the five famous Victorian murder victims.
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892): Pursue Baker Street's most famous detective to city landmarks and implausible conclusions.
The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi (1993): A story of split life between the city and London's commuter belt, bathed in 70s rock n' roll.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998): Guy Ritchie's Cockney slick London gangster flick is as full of characters as the capital itself.
Notting Hill (1999): Kiwi writer Richard Curtis' love letter to the folksy London borough.
28 Days Later (2002): The surreal opening from a deserted Southbank is still spellbinding. Careful what you wish for, London.
Listen to this
From Abbey Road to the grimy East End, London's been an inspiration to musicians the world over. The Kinks capture a feeling of finding a place in a city of 10 million, as does "George the Poet" Mpanga for a more up-to-date take.
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks (1967)
LDN - Lilly Allen (2006)
My City - George the Poet, Bhodi (2014)
Get a 360 city view over from the London EYE Ferris wheel and beyond. 360.visitlondon.com
Get a behind-the-scenes look at Buckingham Palace. royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace
For some cultural immersion, visit the English National Theatre for their live programme. youtube.com/user/ntdiscovertheatre
San Francisco, USA
San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore has inspired almost as many books as it stocks, and was a second home to the beatniks Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Here's our pick from the shelves.
The Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (1962):
The roving beatnik's semi-biographical West Coast adventure to the beautiful Bixby Canyon.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929): A moody description of foggy, 1920s San Francisco was almost made for film-noir adaptation.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener (2020): It's impossible to escape the distorting influence of the Silicon Valley, home to the wealthiest companies on the planet.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006):
Single dad Will Smith chases the American dream, really hard.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019): A San Franciscan moves back into his family's old neighbourhood. At least, it might be this one.
The Rock (1996): Before saving the city Sean Connery has one question: "How did Alcatraz become a tourist attraction?"
Listen to this
If you're going to . . . aforementioned city, be sure to be playing this music in your ears.
Piazza, New York Catcher - Belle & Sebastian (2003. And yes, it's about San Fran)
I left my heart in San Francisco - Tony Bennett (1962)
San Francisco – Foxygen (2013)
Cioppino - A Mediterranean broth that found a home in the city's Fisherman's Wharf.
Saute 1 large onion, 1 fennel bulb, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil.
Add seafood, the more assorted the better, and 4 cups of fish stock and 1 cup of white wine.
Season with chilli and a bay leaf.
Serve with a big glass of Napa wine and a crust of Frisco sourdough bread.
Golden Gate Park turns 150 this year but celebrations are, understandably, on hold. Instead, the website has a whole host of virtual experiences, including concerts, webcams, tours and videos. goldengatepark150.com
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966): The Devil himself runs amok in 1930s Moscow.
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev (2014): A UK-born Pomerantsev discovers the cultural challenges of making reality TV in Russia.
Listen to this
Symphony 5 - Dimitri Shostakovich (1937): A subversive tour of Moscow's musical history - smuggled under the noses of Soviet censors.
Skbidi - Little Big (2018): It might sound like a siren but Skibidi is the song you need right now. A Russian pop phenomenon to tide you through lockdown.
Doctor Zhivago (1965): David Lean's epic, based on Boris Pasternak's 1957 novel, is as vast and varied as Russia, spanning from 1917 to the 1950s.
Borscht: The red beetroot soup is the lifeblood of western Russia.
Roughly slice 1 onion and fry in a deep saucepan
Add 4 beetroot, 4 carrots and 1 potato, peeled and cubed
Cover with either vegetable or beef stock.
When vegetables are soft, and soup is deep red, add lemon juice and fresh dill.
Top with sour cream and serve with white bread.
Optional - add meat trimmings, of either beef or bacon for a richer soup.
Moscow Underground: a virtual tour of the Moscow metro.
Moscow overground: the Russian Geographical virtual tour of the city skyline.
Married to a Bedouin (2006): New Zealand author Marguerite van Geldermalsen recalls falling in love with a Bedouin.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989): The Rose City plays a starring role as the temple housing the Holy Grail.
Listen to this
Amateur Traveler Podcast: Chis Chistensen on his impressions of Jordan and swimming in the Dead Sea.
Mansaf - Jordan's national dish
A salad of mixed rice, cooked lamb and spiced yoghurt sauce. Serve over flatbread.
Trek through Petra from home with Google's Street View tour of the stone city. google.com/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/petra/