Simon Calder: Go west for screen gems – but not too far

The man who pays his way

Widcombe Hill in Bath is a road so steep that all but the most dedicated cyclists will be checking the bus timetable (you want the No 18, every six minutes or so). At the top, you find the city's original university. A short walk beyond lies Claverton Manor – an early 19th-century mansion presiding over 120 acres of grounds and offering fine views over the Limpley Stoke Valley. The perfect setting for a wide-screen period drama. Yet instead, starting today, it celebrates the monochromatic days when America existed, for the vast majority of British people, only on celluloid.

The manor is the location for the American Museum in Britain, which awakens this morning after its winter break – and celebrates its first 50 years. In 1961, when the collection first opened, the average wage-earner could only dream of the US; it would have taken about six months' pay to fly the Atlantic. But frustrated travellers could glimpse the cities, highways and beaches of the promised land at the cinema, often as a backdrop to a Marilyn Monroe movie.

The "Marilyn – Hollywood Icon" exhibition presents the studio costumes and personal effects of the woman born in Los Angeles, 85 years ago this summer, as Norma Jeane Mortenson. The extraordinary display has been assembled by a private collector, David Gainsborough Roberts, who resides on the island of Jersey.

Now, the American Museum is more usually devoted to folk art, from portraits to embroidery. So to feature risqué gowns that scandalised postwar America, plus bottles of pills prescribed during the filming of The Misfits, represents a transformation. I asked the museum's erudite director, Richard Wendorf, what a respectable chap like him was doing dallying with Marilyn?

"I'm trying to do what is best for our museum, which is to update the collections through temporary exhibitions and entice more people to make their pilgrimage to Bath and up the hill."

Some like it hotter than a breezy mid-March morning in the West of England, and may be tempted to explore the beach resort featured in Some Like It Hot – which, in the film, is Florida, but in reality is the marvellous Hotel del Coronado outside San Diego, close to California's border with Mexico.

San Diego is where surfers, scientists and sunseekers converge on an oasis of indulgence. As luck would have it, BA makes its third attempt to fly profitably to San Diego, starting 1 June. But while transatlantic fares this summer look more affordable than half a century ago, they are higher than in the past couple of years: using the benchmark date of the first Saturday in August for a week's stay, the fare to California is £858 (a fortnight's hard labour for the average British worker in 2010).

Add the airport indignities that were inconceivable in aviation's innocent age half a century ago, and perhaps you need go no further west than Bath to discover an America that is gentler and more profound than the one you might be able to find in reality.

Mr Wendorf puts it rather differently: "We can provide an absolutely first-rate introduction – not a replication of the variety of American culture you will find in a visit to the US, but a keen sense of what America can offer."

Marilyn – Hollywood Icon runs from today to 30 October; 01225 460503; americanmuseum.org

Mad dogs, Englishmen and August flights to Florida

Orlando represents the all-you-can-eat buffet for British travellers. We feast on its theme parks and over-indulge in the Florida sunshine. Some may fondly believe that they have seen America – even though, Las Vegas excepted, central Florida is about as far as you can get from the real US.

This summer, something of a bidding war appears to have broken out between Englishmen and their families desperate to get there at almost any cost. Plenty of us like it hot. Non-stop scheduled flights from Gatwick to Orlando on the first Saturday in August, coming home a week later, have soared to what can only be described as Mickey Mouse levels.

The cheapest economy-class fare is on Virgin Atlantic at £1,105. BA, flying the same route, is even more expensive. You could switch to Delta's new non-stop flights from Heathrow to Miami, for which you will pay £858 return, and drive from there. Better still, use that exact sum to fly to San Diego, the Some Like It Hot location whose noonday sun in August is far more benign for mad dogs and British tourists.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?