Kristina Fazzalaro

Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

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Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

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The Golden Age of Hollywood has come and gone. While Los Angeles once had a firm grip on all film-related business — movie and television alike — the industry has expanded well beyond the Hollywood Hills. In the last forty years especially, we’ve seen emerging markets in Louisiana, Toronto, and Atlanta increasingly cut into La-La Land’s share of the filming world. Where Hollywood once hosted a commanding 64 percent of the live-action films being made in the early 2000s, today that figure has dropped to around eight percent, according to a study by FilmLA. It’s a big departure from the norm — and it is only good news for people looking to get their fifteen minutes in front of the camera. We’ve rounded up the top six destinations outside of Los Angeles for aspiring actors to book their first gig, or adoring fans to potentially score some time as an extra. And we’ve included some movie star-worthy accommodations in each spot as well.

1. New York City 

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but in reality NYC only became a film industry hot spot in the 1970s when prolific directors Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen shifted their films’ focus to the Big Apple. Since then, NYC has become the clear challenger to Los Angeles’ filming supremacy. Just this year, NYC officially surpassed Hollywood for the number of TV pilots filmed in town, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Atlanta slowly creeping up behind the two industry giants. This week alone HBO’s Martin Scorcese-directed drama The Long Play begins filming its pilot in the city, as do over sixty other returning network programs. USA’s White Collar, CBS’s Person of Interest, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and HBO’s Girls are just some of the projects currently in play across the five boroughs. Plus, NYC has one thing Los Angeles doesn’t when it comes to acting: the Great White Way. For actors looking to pursue a career on stage, there is nowhere else to be but Broadway. Daniel Radcliffe and Neil Patrick Harris are both currently headlining shows, and Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston just wrapped All the Way, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play.

Stay: Mercer Hotel

The Mercer‘s 75 loft-style guest rooms, beautiful staff, personalized service and swanky SoHo location make it a go-to choice for celebrities and other fashionable members of the entertainment industry — from Leonardo DiCaprio, to fashion designer Calvin Klein, to oddball rock star Marilyn Manson, to Russell Crowe (who made headlines in 2005 for allegedly throwing a telephone at a Mercer check-in clerk). If you want to stay in a movie star-approved hotel, you can’t do much better. 

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

As much as we would all love to pack our bags and fly off to some remote corner of the world, the reality is that the majority of Americans won’t be leaving the “Land of the Free” any time soon. In fact, as of last year, a study showed that more than half of Americans have never left the country. A full third does not have a passport. When asked why, many of those Americans who participated in the study said they felt everything worth seeing was already in their own backyards. While we’d like to contest the veracity of that statement, we have to give credit where credit is due. The States DO have lots to offer travelers. From crystal clear waters that rival those in the Caribbean, to insurmountable mountain peaks that wow even the most experienced adventure traveler, the geography of America is as varied as the citizens that call it home. By that logic, you technically don’t have to leave the States to feel miles away. This summer, explore the far corners of America and discover just how diverse your country — you won’t even know you’re still on your home turf.

Getaway: The Florida Keys 

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The Florida Keys are as close to the Caribbean (and its nice weather) as you can get in the U.S. Formerly thriving on the loot from wrecked ships, the Keys now thrive on tourism. Visitors flock to the area during the winter and spring to soak up the year-round heat and swim in the beautiful, calm waters. Situated on the third largest barrier reef in the world, the Keys are a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, and there are tons of other outdoor activities, too — tennis, golf, kayaking, fishing…the list goes on.

Stay: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island where wild key deer roam. It includes 30 luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas. A favorite getaway for celebrities, it provides a secluded place to unplug from the world (use of technology is discouraged) and experience a romantic vacation in a lush, tropical environment. Read More »

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Hyatt members received excellent news this month: The Park Hyatt has opened its first ever hotel in Vienna, Austria. The luxe brand has taken up headquarters in Vienna’s First District, a quiet part of the bustling European city that’s focused less on tourism and more on history and shopping (so, not surprisingly, tourists are nonetheless focused on it). The First District is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the hotel itself is housed in a 100-year-old bank building overlooking Am Hof square. The hotel is elegant and impossibly grand, even when taking Vienna’s high standards into consideration. Read on after the jump >>

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

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The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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It’s a dream vacation: Staying in an Italian farmhouse amid Tuscany’s rolling hills or Campania’s stunning plateaus, surrounded by rows of olive trees and sunflower blossoms. Italy was one of the first countries to successfully promote the agriturismo phenomenon, in which vacationers stay in a working farmhouse to truly immerse themselves in the culture and natural beauty of the nation. The results have been spectacular. Charmingly rustic resorts call to couples, families, and friends looking to explore Italy beyond its bustling cities. Discover seven of Oyster’s favorite farmhouses here.

1. Ripa Relais, Umbria 

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This farmhouse resort is nestled in the Umbrian countryside on the slopes of Ripa’s ancient castle. The resort has 16 elegant rooms arrayed in three of four buildings, surrounded by landscaped gardens, cobblestone paths, and cypress and olive trees. An outdoor pool offers views of the surrounding fields, and the on-site restaurant, set in a former church, serves Umbrian and Tuscan cuisine. A stay here means utter relaxation in a rural environment. It’s a 20-minute drive to Perugia and Assisi.

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It’s rare that a hotel surprises us anymore. We’ve visited castles and manors, towering skyscrapers, and cozy B&Bs. But when we heard that one of the hottest new hotels in New York City lay across the East River in a converted door factory, we had to pause for a second. Because, really? Yes, really. Tucked away next to the Pulaski Bridge in Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood of Greenpoint, The Box House Hotel is wowing visitors with its 57 apartment-style rooms that epitomize Brooklyn cool. Designed by local Brooklynite Kip Jacobs, rooms feature a mix of modern furnishings and antiques, with special touches such as filament light bulbs and gorgeous kitchens. This is a hidden gem with tons of history — just a stone’s throw from Manhattan.

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The entrance of this cute and boxy (pun intended) property is framed by three vintage checker cabs — lined up like ducks in a row — from the 1970s. It’s clear even before stepping inside that this hotel has personality, and the lobby delivers with cozy seating arrangements, interesting antiques, and vibrant colors. Though it’s trendy, don’t expect a Brooklyn hipster crowd or party scene; he industrial neighborhood is chic, but quiet. Plus, the apartment-style accommodations make for calm, family-friendly surroundings. All-in-all — for an authentic Brooklyn stay — you can’t do much better than The Box House Hotel. See more photos after the jump!

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tate londonArt enthusiasts take note: The luxe hotel brand Le Meridien has released eight new short films in conjunction with the Tate London. Each film is narrated by a different pop icon; the roster includes Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming, Academy Award-winner and the BBC’s 12th “Doctor Who” Peter Capaldi, and indie rock duo The Kills. Created as part of Le Meridien’s “Unlock Art” program — which grants hotel guests access to some of the world’s top art institutions free of charge — these brief films show off some of art’s greatest historical movements, from surrealism to pop art.

Read more after the jump >>

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BulgariHotelDubai-001In the hotel landscape of Dubai, luxury tends to take on a whole new meaning. Top brands have pushed the boundaries when it comes to gorgeous designs and stellar amenities here, where the best of the best seems to be expected at all times. Continuing this tradition, it was announced last week that another jewel would be added to the Emirate’s startling hotelier crown: Italian fashion house — and designer hotel extraordinaire — Bulgari has plans to open a new hotel in Dubai in 2018. Read up on more details after the jump. [Hotel Chatter]

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world cupOne country. 12 stadiums. 32 teams. 64 games. The FIFA World Cup — the world’s most popular sporting event, which draws over three billion viewers — kicks off (who doesn’t love a sporting pun?) June 12 in Brazil. And though soccer is the very life-blood of South America, this year’s tournament marks the first time since 1978 that the games will be held in a South American country. Now, American fans may have a dismal reputation among the world’s soccer fanatics (except for our friends in the Pacific Northwest — we see you, Seattle), but that just means that now is the perfect time for redemption, especially considering that this year’s World Cup is bound to be a particularly electrifying tournament. Here, Oyster lets you in on some trade secrets for watching, cheering, and attending the games. Pack up your jersey — but, please, leave your vuvuzellas at home — and get ready for a month of offsides, red cards, penalty kicks, and goals. “Ole ola!” Read More »

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