Simon Calder: The Man Who Pays His Way

Hollywood's 'The Holiday' is just plane awful

According to movie folklore, Hollywood has just two basic movie plots: someone goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. The Holiday, the Hollywood blockbuster for this festive season, tests this maxim to the maximum with its basic premise: an Englishwoman named Iris and an American named Amanda exchange homes over Christmas.

The characters, played by Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, reside in Surrey and Los Angeles respectively. Thus, each goes on a journey, and each arrives as a stranger in the other's locale.

Once relocated, both shrug off their excess emotional baggage of burdensome men and meet ideal replacements - and look set to live happily ever after.

Another Hollywood law states that if an unconvincing plot is matched by banal dialogue, the film will flop. The main surprise (besides amazement that a talented cast should tackle so leaden a screenplay) is that the film manages to make South-East England look far more alluring than Southern California. When scenery proves more interesting than dialogue, it's time to leave the cinema - and, perhaps, to take a holiday. Anyone watching The Holiday might opt for Surrey. But where, exactly?

Location hunters will have their work cut out. As with Local Hero (where a village in the north-east coast of Scotland was liberally inter-cut with the west coast to create the optimum port), Kate Winslet's "charming cottage in the English countryside" is in a location that straddles Shere (a village near Guildford) and the commuter town of Godalming - a 40-minute, £3.80 train ride away.

According to the movie's production designer, Jon Hutman, "combining the square in Shere with Godalming's Church Street made for the perfect village". A shame this celluloid ideal should be squandered on a perfectly awful film.

EVEN SO, this "romantic comedy" (to use both words loosely) provides ideal in-flight entertainment: it functions in the opposite fashion to good wine. Appreciating the subtleties of wine diminishes with altitude. In contrast, your enjoyment of trivial transatlantic travelogues is heightened as your aircraft climbs and your critical faculties are dimmed, possibly aided by a drink or two from the trolley. One flaw prevents The Holiday from winning an in-flight movie award: Ms Winslet flies to LA in BA's World Traveller Plus, a premium cut above basic economy, while Ms Diaz sleeps her way to Heathrow in business class: not what you want to watch from the cheap seats.

ECONOMY-CLASS travel is a useful trump card in the problematic debate about "my flight is more eco-friendly than yours" (or, more accurately, less damaging). Those paying for premium travel may be doing themselves a favour, but are responsible for consuming more resources and producing more pollution than those squeezed into economy. Airlines avoid boasting about their environmental record, in the same way that they don't brag about safety. But Britain's leading regional airline, Flybe, has started promoting itself as "The UK's low-fare, low- emissions airline" operating "the world's most environmentally friendly aircraft".

Flybe's main plane is the Bombardier Q400, a propeller aircraft that "burns half the fuel of a 50-seat jet", according to Flybe. It is, asserts the carrier, "a true five-star eco aircraft". In terms of impact per passenger, per mile, the new products from Airbus and Boeing have better claims to this title. But I can't see either manufacturer having the gall to award itself five stars for services to the environment.

A MORE robust solution to the environmental problems caused by air travel is to holiday at home - if you can afford the train fare, after this week's steep price rises on Britain's railways. Despite the £4 cost of going one stop on the Tube in central London, the capital remains the leading city break for UK travellers.

The British Museum is appealing to our consciences to entice more visitors to its exhibition "The Past From Above". "A journey over the world's greatest archaeological sites through Georg Gerster's aerial photography," promises the publicity. "See them without leaving a carbon footprint," exhorts the museum. Yes, but what about the photographer's imprint?

A HITCH IN MY TRAVEL PLAN

As the story over the next few pages reveals, I have not been treading gently upon the planet of late. By way of meagre mitigation, I have operated an unusual carbon-offset scheme: for each flight taken, I hitchhike at least once.

Before Christmas, I was invited by BBC1's Breakfast News to take part in a discussion in Birmingham about "green travel". Fine, I said - and, to minimise my environmental impact, I shall hitch.

Thumbing is the least harmful form of motorised transport. Unlike buying a ticket for a bus or train, hitching creates no extra demand. So I cycled to the M1 in London on my folding bicycle. Within minutes, a heating engineer named Andrew picked me up and took me to London Gateway services. This forlorn location is usually the hitcher's springboard to the Midlands and the North. But after a freezing hour by the side of the road - during which a procession of almost-empty and undoubtedly very warm vehicles drove past - I gave up. Before hypothermia set in, I hitched a ride back into London with a derivatives trader named Terry. Then I cycled to Euston station, caught the last train to Birmingham and arrived at New Street at 1am, having taken six hours to cover 120 miles.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
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
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
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

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    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