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National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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national lampoons european vacation

Image credit: National Lampoon’s European Vacation, 1985

Sure, we all had fun on that trip to Walley World. And Christie Brinkley will be missed. But when the Griswold’s go to Europe, hilarity ensues. There have been a lot of sequels made to National Lampoon’s Vacation, but my favorite will always been this week’s Cinema Sips pick, National Lampoon’s European Vacation (DVD/Download). For anybody who traveled to Europe before the internet or TripAdvisor, you’ll get it.

With a new Audrey and Russ, but same old Clark and Ellen, the Griswolds embark on a free gameshow trip across the European continent. They find tiny, bathroom-less hotel rooms in London, rude waiters and hookers in Paris, and car thieves in Rome. Plus- Eric Idle on a bicycle. Everywhere. Directed by Amy Heckerling, with a script written by John Hughes, this is 80’s slapstick raunchy comedy at its finest. This movie isn’t trying to be anything more than a satire of international travel, and in that respect it succeeds beautifully. Even now, in the age of websites and online reviews, it’s still possible for a boorish, entitled American to be stuck in a tiny European closet of a hotel room, wondering where they put the real shower (not the little phone booth in the corner with the trickling water feature). And by entitled American, I mean myself of course.

If you’re attempting to travel around the world by alcohol, the easiest solution is beer. All of Europe seems to have a firm handle on good beer, so instead of a cocktail this week, I’ll be drinking a European Beer Flight*.

 

European Beer

*(note, Trader Joe’s had ZERO British beers so I had to improvise….)

I think the reason these Vacation movies have always worked so well, whether it’s the 1st or 4th, is that despite the dumb jokes and sight gags, there’s a little bit of truth in all of them. I may not have backed my car into Stonehenge, but I have nearly collapsed on museum steps from sheer tourist exhaustion. And I KNOW I’ve eaten a microwaved frozen dinner at a Roman café. It paired really well with Campari. Cheers!

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Photo Credit Warner Bros. 1989

Photo Credit Warner Bros. 1989

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a viewing of my favorite childhood holiday movie- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I can think of no other film that totally captures the joy and the stress of family holiday get-togethers quite like this movie. National Lampoon movies have always been pretty low-brow, but out of all of them I think Christmas Vacation is by far the best. Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold is the everyman in all of us- the person who has such high hopes for a wonderful, sentimental holiday surrounded by friends and family and hot cocoa, only to see those hopes dashed by uninvited guests, financial woes, and tangled piles of non-working Christmas lights. He tries so hard to make it all perfect, not realizing that a perfect holiday is impossible when in-laws are involved.

Christmas Vacation was always an annual movie in my house, along with A Christmas Story. In fact, I liked Christmas Vacation so much that I can remember watching it several times during July! We didn’t have huge holiday gatherings like the one in this movie, but there were still a lot of things that rang true for me. Just the opening scene of a station wagon traveling on a dirty, slushy, salt-covered highway is enough to make me shudder in memory of my childhood in western Pennsylvania, where the winter weather never fluctuates much from “grey”. Then there’s the bickering amongst siblings, the grandparents stressing out the parents, overheated department stores, and hours spent checking twinkle light strands for the ONE bulb that isn’t working. When Clark fantasizes about an afternoon by the pool as Hawaiian Christmas music plays in the background, I think we can all relate to that need to escape by the time Dec. 25th rolls around.

For my pairing this week, I decided to play on Clark’s fantasy of a sunny Christmas, while mixing in a dash of Cousin Eddie’s preferred beverage- eggnog. I’m not a huge fan of eggnog, but when mixed with enough other things, it becomes tolerable. I particularly like this recipe because it reminds me of a tropical drink- sort of a vacation in a glass.

Mele Kalikimaka Eggnog

2oz eggnog

1.5 oz pineapple juice

1 oz spiced rum

Combine eggnog, pineapple juice and rum in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

*Note- If you want to make this for a crowd, these quantities can all be upped pretty easily for punch-bowl serving. Also, if you like coconut, feel free to use Malibu rum for an even more tropical flavor.

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This Christmas, before you get yourself all stressed out trying to make things perfect, sit back with a glass of this eggnog, watch Christmas Vacation, and remember that things could always be worse. You could have a redneck cousin emptying his RV’s sewage line onto your street, a squirrel loose in your house, a turkey drier than Texas in August, and the SWAT team arriving at your door on Christmas Eve. What this movie shows us is that Christmas is really all about family- the good, the bad, and the Cousin Eddie’s. Cheers!