Bastogne, Belgium

This will be a short, and late, blog post. I forgot it was Wednesday.

For those in the HBO Band of Brothers fandom, you probably already know about the event happening in Bastogne, Belgium in December. Tickets are almost sold out!

Image from WWII Foundation.
Image from WWII Foundation.

This event commemorates the Battle of the Bulge, and a bunch of the actors will be there providing insights on the filming of the scene and what the real people behind their characters told them about the battle. All proceeds will go to the WWII Foundation.

To read more about the event, past events, and to see which actors will be there, here is the link.

I have already booked one family’s travel to this event. If you’d like me to book any part of your trip, even if it’s only airfare or train fare, I can do that, no matter where in the world you are from. Please contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel.


As you may (or may not) know, I am finishing up my Tourism and Travel degree at Algonquin College. This is my last semester, and it promises to be a very busy one. I was not particularly inspired to write a post for today, so I decided to research the country that we had to study for Geography this week: India.

Obviously, there have been a lot (understatement) of Bollywood movies filmed in India. But several Hollywood movies also have filmed here. Here is a list of a few of them, organized by city, to make it simpler to follow.


Zero Dark Thirty, although set in Pakistan, was actually filmed in Chandigarh.


The Dark Knight Rises filmed the escape scene at the Mehrangarh Fort in this city.

The Darjeeling Unlimited filmed a few scenes in Jodhpur.


Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol filmed the climactic ending in Bora Bazaar.

Slumdog Millionaire ranged across various areas of Mumbai.

A Mighty Heart, another movie set in Pakistan, had some scenes shot in Mumbai.


The Bourne Supremacy starts out on a beach in Goa, and quickly moves into a high-speed chase through the city.


Octopussy involved the infiltration of a palace, the location of which is in Udaipur.

The Darjeeling Unlimited was predominantly shot in this city, including the airport.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel filmed almost exclusively in Udaipur and Jaipur.

If you’d like help booking a trip to India. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.



A friend may be travelling to Europe shortly, which reminded me I wanted to write about Croatia. Located on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, west of Hungary and Serbia, south of Slovenia, and wrapping around Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north and west, Croatia is considered part of Eastern Europe.

Also known as "The Pearl of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik is a World Heritage City. Image from Geece and Mediterranean Travel.
Also known as “The Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is a World Heritage City. Image from Greece and Mediterranean Travel.

Croatia is an up-and-coming fandom travel destination. Although several movies have been made there, none of them have made an impact on the Fandom community. Game of Thrones, however, has filmed quite a few scenes in King’s Landing Dubrovnik. There are plenty of choices for fandom travel. Viator offers several tours, including the cities Dubrovnik and Split. “Memorable locations from the series include the Minceta, Bokar, and Lovrijenac fortresses; the Dubac quarry; the island of Lokum, just off the coast of Dubrovnik; the village of Mlini; and the island of Mrkan just off the coast of Cavtat” (Viator). Dubrovnik is also a great place to soak up the sun in a Mediterranean climate.

Zagreb, Croatia's northern capital. Image from Lonely Planet.
Zagreb, Croatia’s northern capital. Image from Lonely Planet.

If you want to visit the interior of Croatia, the capital Zagreb has tons of geeky things to offer. The Technical Museum offers a planetarium, an underground coal mine replica, and Nikola Tesla’s laboratory, where you can become a test subject. There’s a bar called Tolkien’s House next to a monastery. There’s more, check out this link for short descriptions of all the cool things to do!

Koprivnica, Croatia becomes a Renaissance town in August for a festival. Image from Croatia Tourism.
Koprivnica, Croatia becomes a Renaissance town in August for a festival. Image from Croatia Tourism.

Further inland is the city of Koprivnica. What drew my eye is its Renaissance Festival, held the 25-28 of August 2016. Over ten European countries will be competing in this year’s events, the central theme of which is “Equestrian Knight’s Tournament”. Hundreds of performers from Croatia and the other ten countries will be in full costume, and welcome the chance to interact with tourists and locals alike.

If you’d like help booking this trip. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.


Travel to Mars

Although we cannot yet travel to Mars on vacation (or the moon, for that matter) there is a location on Earth that has doubled as the red planet in more than one movie.

Sunset on the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Picture from
Sunset on the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Picture from

The barren red desert in the South of Jordan, near the border of Saudi Arabia, certainly doesn’t look like it belongs on Earth. Several filmmakers have agreed, and shot no less than three movies with the desert as the landscape of Mars, including Red Planet (2000), The Last Days on Mars (2013), and The Martian (2015). It has also been used as an alien planet in Prometheus (2012), and the Egyptian landscape in several other movies, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Aqaba and Petra are nearby (at most a full day trip), and you can camp out under the stars on this desert. There are tours that include all of the above.

If you want to feel as though you are on Mars, Jordan is the place to visit. No spacesuit required.

If you’d like help booking this trip. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.


The Pyramids of Giza

Image from Wikipedia article.

This will be a shorter post than usual. I promise to go into more detail about the geekiness of Egypt in the future.

Image from Wikipedia.
All Giza Pyramids – Image from Wikipedia.

These three structures are old, and the Great Pyramid is the last remaining Ancient Wonder of the World. They are named for Egyptian Kings: Khufu, named for the second king of the 4th dynasty (2,575-2,465 BC), is the Great Pyramid. It is the northernmost pyramid, and the oldest. Khafre is the middle pyramid, named for the fourth king of the 4th dynasty, and is the only pyramid to still have the original limestone at the top of the pyramid. The last, and smallest, is called Menkaure, and is named for the fifth king of the 4th dynasty.

One of the most researched topics is how the ancient Egyptians built these pyramids. Levers, sloping sands, aliens? We know that they have accomplished a pretty amazing feat of architecture, no matter how it was done!

And now we’re learning even more about the pyramids than ever before. A team of researchers from Egypt, France, Canada (woo!), and Japan are scanning the three pyramids (and others, including the pyramid of Tutankhamun) with infrared thermal cameras, radiography, and 3D reconstruction. They are registering the temperature difference as the sun rises and sets, and from this data, they are building a picture of what the pyramids look inside. This project started on October 25, 2015.

They are already finding new information about them! The eastern side of Khufu, at ground level, has a large anomaly that indicates that there might be a secret room! The scan of Tutankhamun’s pyramid also found a hidden section, which might house Queen Nefertiti’s remains.

This is only the beginning of the research. Who knows what we’ll find by the end of their project, projected to finish at the end of 2016.

If you’d like help booking your train or airline tickets. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.



If you’re involved in any sort of Harry Potter community, you’ve probably heard about the LARP (Live-Action Role Play) that ran for four days in Czocha Castle, Poland. It was organized by the College of Wizardry, and the first event was so popular, that they opened up several more weekends. They currently (at the time of this article) only have a few spaces left April 21-24.

This idea was so well received in Europe that the Americas wanted to host one of their own.

Enter Magischola. A Kickstarter to get tickets for two weekends in summer 2016, that only launched on November 23, 2015, has already reached $161,640 (at the time of this article)! Last night (November 24), they opened a third weekend in July 2016, and I bet it’s already sold out as well. (Predicting the future! I should study Divination, if I’m correct.)

University of Richmond campus. Image taken from
University of Richmond campus. Image taken from Magischola Kickstarter

For those of us who are not going, the stretch goals include a 15 minute documentary (already reached) and a 30 minute documentary (reached at 180K). I’m excited to see this. We will have a guest post in late 2016, written by one of the attendees, about their time at the event.

Do you have questions? They have answers! I learned that the University campus is wheelchair accessible, and will accept service animals. Currently, they only offer this event for ages 18+, but if they make enough money through the Kickstarter (300K), they will offer a family-friendly summer camp type event in summer 2017, that will include children ages 11-17.

Magischola will be offering their LARP on the campus of the University of Richmond, in Richmond Virginia on the Eastern coast of the United States. You can only buy tickets through the Kickstarter, and these tickets will cover your accommodation and meals during your intended stay.

But how will you get there?

People who are close can travel by car, or by AMTRAK train, but if you’re further away, flights will probably be best. The organizers will be looking into getting a shuttle from both the airport and the train station, once they know how many people will be travelling from each.

If you’d like help booking your train or flight tickets. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.


Normandy is an approximate 2h30 drive from Paris. It is located in North Western France. There are lots of little towns, grassy fields, hedgerows, beaches, and cliffs. It is also the perfect location to visit if you are a fan of the Band of Brothers miniseries on HBO.

A description of Normandy during D-Day Celebrations on June 2015 by a Canadian tourist:

Every town is decorated in flags from England, France, the States, Germany, Poland, Canada, etc. The store windows are all painted with murals of paratroopers and flags and soldiers. And everyone is dressed up in either 1940s clothing or re-enactment military outfits. As you drive on the highway, you can be passed by WWII jeeps. They have organized dances with swing music, and fireworks displays. They have military camps set up with authentic gear, and parade displays of military vehicles. They have parachutes jumps in full WWII outfits, including the parachute, and from the original C47 planes! Everyone partakes in the celebrations – tourists and locals alike. Although tourists aren’t allowed to jump out of the planes…

Paratroopers jumping out of a C47
Paratroopers jumping out of a C47

Utah Beach has the Utah Museum. There is public access to the beach, and they have several monuments and statues. The beach had extremely fine sand, and it was surprising how vast and shallow the beach was at low tide, which shows how far they had to travel under fire (500m from the U-boats to the shore!) before reaching the banks. It carried an atmosphere of serenity. The museum overlooks the beach, and focuses on American military vehicles, uniforms, and more of the logistics of D-Day. On the way to the beach, they have a specific monument to Denmark, and the Danish soldiers, and they have the Dick Winters leadership memorial (Major of the 506th Second Battalion of the 101st Airborne).

Utah Beach
Utah Beach

Juno Beach is the Canadian beach. The museum is called Juno Beach Centre. This beach was different in that it was still being used as a beach. Full of sunbathers, and the waters were peppered with sailboats. People are living and using that beach, which is rather symbolic of Canada’s involvement. “We went over there to liberate France in order for people to be free and live, and that is how they are using that beach.” The beach sand had lots of rocks, and the water was almost green. Beach was much less wide, less distance to travel under fire. The area near the memorials was solemn, but the beaches themselves were full of joy. The Centre itself focuses on the people, the stories of the soldiers and of the home front in Canada. All of the employees from the Centre are Canadian.

Juno Beach and sailboats
Juno Beach and sailboats

Carentan is a small town (all roads lead to Carentan) that was a strategic location in the war, because of the roads, and was liberated by the 101st Airborne, a fact that is still celebrated today. Notre-Dame de Carentan Church started being built in the 11th Century, the stained glass windows that got blown out during the war were replaced with some of the original designs, but some had added homages to the soldiers that liberated them, with depictions of paratroopers and saints holding the Screaming Eagle crest (the 101st Airborne’s crest). They also have a war memorial from the First World War, which is now dedicated to both wars.

Stained glass window in Notre-dame de Carentan
Stained glass window in Notre-dame de Carentan

Near Carentan is the Dead Man’s Corner Museum, which has the D-Day Experience, where you can board a C47 fuselage that is operated by hydraulics and has virtual screens in the windows to make it seem like you’re flying, then get hit, and then crash.

Interior of fuselage of C47 at Dead Man's Corner Museum
Interior of fuselage of C47 at Dead Man’s Corner Museum

Bayeux is a really cute little town, with cobblestone streets and watermills in the creek. The Bayeux Cathedral hosts the famous Bayeux Tapestry that was created in the 11th Century. There are lots of really nice cafés.

The streets of Bayeux
The streets of Bayeux

NOTE: Sundays are VERY limited in the Normandy region: all food serving places are closed, but you should be able to find a grocery or bakery that is open.

If you are interested in visiting Normandy. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.


Recollections of, and pictures by, Lindsay,+France/Normandy/data=!4m8!4m7!1m2!1m1!1s0x47e66e1f06e2b70f:0x40b82c3688c9460!1m2!1m1!1s0x47e1bd6c23f8c087:0x26f2f1561148e202!3e0?sa=X&ved=0CDYQ-A8wAGoVChMI6s__jfqfyAIVhgWSCh2Migz0

Band of Brothers Miniseries


Halloween fun

This weekend is Halloween, and if you’re looking for something last-minute to do, I’m sure there’s a Halloween party just around the corner. In Ottawa, Can-Con will have Trick-or-Treating in the vendor’s room all day, and it’s free to the public, so be sure to stop by!

But if you’re looking for something a little further from home and off the beaten path, here are some great last-minute options!

Ithaca, New York

Do you like Harry Potter? Would you be interested in visiting Diagon Alley? For five hours on Halloween, Ithaca NY is transforming Press Bay Alley into Diagon Alley and I desperately want to go!! There will be a House Cup Competition, a Horcrux Hunt, a costume contest, presentations on magical creatures, wizarding chess, Quidditch re-enactments, wizarding duels, and so much more! This is their first event, so maybe I’ll be able to go next year…

A real-life Diagon Alley in Ithaca! I want to go!
A real-life Diagon Alley in Ithaca! I want to go! Image from

The Catacombs of Paris

You would have had to enter the contest with Airbnb, but two lucky (or unlucky?) winners will be the first people to spend Halloween night in the Catacombs under Paris – the home of seven million corpses. Dinner, a private concert, breakfast, and a storyteller will put them to sleep with creepy bedtime stories “guaranteed to produce nightmares”. Who would like to participate in this? Certainly not me!

Hope the winners never saw the terrifying horror movie As Above, So Below or it’s trailer.

Creepy! Image from
Creepy! Image from

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado

The Stanley Hotel is one of the most haunted hotels in the world. It was the setting for Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Reportedly haunted by Lord Stanley and his wife, as well as kids who run along the fourth floor halls at two in the morning, and many others, this would be the place to go to test yourself. It is open for business, and hosts a Ghost Adventure Package as well as standard room packages.

Just don’t order the Redrum…

The Stanley Hotel. Image from
The Stanley Hotel. Image from

If you are interested in going on any of these cruises, or others. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.

Happy Haunting!


Skara Brae – Guest Travel Article by S.M. Carrière

In the Bay of Skaill on the north-west coast of the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Islands sat a large mound known then as Skerrabra.  A storm in 1850 washed part of the mound away, revealing part of village that was inhabited 5 000 years ago.  A local by the name of William Watt began an amateur excavation of the site, which was abandoned in 1868.  After another storm, in which some of the site was lost to the weather, earnest excavation and preservation began in 1925.

It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of four sites that make up “The Neolithic Heart of Orkney”.  And my goodness is this place beautiful!

Skara Brae. Image courtesy of
Skara Brae. Image courtesy of
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of

Inhabited in the Neolithic (literally, the “new stone age”) the village, which has since been renamed Skara Brae, is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.  It is a fantastic example of the sophistication of the Stone Age inhabitants of the island of Britain, replete with stone furniture and even toilets!

Tolkien fans will be pleased to note that the dwellings of Skara Brae were dug into the ground and covered over with earth and sod.  These were the original hobbit holes!

The site is a brilliant playground for both learning and fun, boasting not only the ruins of the village which you can wander around, but also a visitor’s centre (with games!), a café and a gift shop with locally made souvenirs.

If you’re an archaeology or prehistoric anthropology nerd like I am, Skara Brae and the entire Heart of Neolithic Orkney should definitely be on your must-see destination list.

For more information on Skara Brae and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, see and don’t forget to book with Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel for a trip full of magic, wonder and learning!

This article brought to you by our guest author S.M. Carrière. She is a local Ottawa speculative fiction author and prehistory of Britain enthusiast. She has a degree in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies: Ancient Cultures with a Celtic Studies concentration and is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Human, this month.


Fandom Cruising

Are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Star Trek? Music, comedy, and general nerdery? There are three cruises that might peak your interest that are about to set sail.

The Norwegian Pearl in Minecraft scale. Image from
The Norwegian Pearl in Minecraft scale. Image from

The Walking Dead

This cruise is completely booked, with a waiting list, however, it is one of the first of it’s kind, and thus deserves a mention. For three days, January 15-18, 2016, you would sail from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas with four stars from The Walking Dead, on board the Norwegian Pearl. The website contains all sorts of interesting information, and if you think you might be interested, check out The Waiting List requirements – you have to be on it before December 1st!

Star Trek

The Norwegian Pearl is busy with Fandom bookings; it is also the ship for the Star Trek cruise! January 9-15, 2017, you can sail from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico, to Nassau, Bahamas, and back to Miami, with legendary actors like John de Lancie and William Shatner. Check out the itinerary – it looks fantastic!

Music, Comedy, and General Nerdery

The JoCo Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is a convention at sea! Jonathon Coulton, Paul and Storm, Imogen Heap, and others are performers and featured guests on this cruise, which is taking place February 21-28, 2016, departing from Port Canaveral, Florida. Ports of call include CocoCay, Bahamas; St Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and St Maarten.

There are many other geeky or Fandom cruises. Let me know what you’re interested in, and I’m sure we can find something for you! There’s even a crochet cruise! 😉

If you are interested in going on any of these cruises, or others. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel.