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  1. It’s October and that means it’s fright time. Not just because it’s Halloween in two weeks, but because the latest instalment of American Horror Story is now on our screens. Acclaimed by critics and worshipped by fans, the show has become a favourite with TV fans obsessed with the macabre. Many of the season’s standalone storylines (that fit into a wider universe) are based or inspired by real-world events, such as New Orleans voodoo queens and disappearing colonies. The producers have brilliantly brought these storylines to life with some of today’s finest actors, impeccable special effects and location scouts who spent weeks looking for the perfect filming sites. Fans of the show have made it their goal to not only track down every filming location used, but also the real-life locations of the stories some of the seasons were based on. Ready for a pop culture guide/history lesson? Let’s get started. Season 1: Murder House The Harmon residence might not have been the friendliest or happiest home in the world, but there’s no denying that the house was beautiful. In real life, it is known as The Alfred Rosenheim Mansion and can be found on the wealthy Westchester Place in Los Angeles. Its real history is also fascinating (but a lot less gruesome). Rosenheim was an architect by trade (as well as a roller-coaster designer!) and built the house in 1902 for himself and his family. They sold it after eleven years to California’s richest man, A.J. McQuatters (the then president of the Alvarado Mining and Milling Company). The house then switched hands in the early 1930s to actor Edward Everett Horton. After that – believe it or not – the house was sold to Catholic Order of Nuns who used it is as a convent. They built a chapel on its grounds, and all the attic scenes were filmed here. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1994 and the nuns put it on the market for an impressive $3 million. The producers of American Horror Story weren’t the only film-makers to choose the house as a backdrop. Spiderman, Seabiscuit, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Six Feet Under, Bones, Dexter, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have also filmed here. Season 2: Asylum While Asylum was set in gloomy 1960s New England, the series was mostly filmed in sunny Orange County. The exterior shots of the asylum were the Santa Ana Courthouse – an imposing Romanesque structure that was perfect for bringing the frightful Briarcliff Mental Institution to life. Season 3: Coven Die-hard fans will want to visit the Lalaurie Mansion - and we mean the real one. While the Gallier House was used for exterior shots, and the Hermann-Grima House was used for interior, this isn’t where everything went down in 19th Century New Orleans. On Royal Street, near the waterfront, you’ll find the real Lalaurie House. Purchased in 1832 by Doctor Louis Lalaurie and his wife Delphine, it became the location of many lavish parties and gruesome crimes. The couple was well-respected among the New Orleans elite but the slave trade began to notice the high-turnover of their house slaves. When a fire broke out, their secret was no longer safe. When law enforcement got to the property they discovered the missing slaves in the attic - many of them disfigured, mutilated and amputated. Some were also dead and never disposed of. The couple had already fled the city and it's widely believed that they moved to France. Many believe it was a slave who started the fire in the kitchen in the hopes of attracting attention from law enforcement. Over the years the building has been used as a saloon, barber and furniture shop. It was even owned by the actor Nicolas Cage at one point. For somewhere more light-hearted, remember to pop by Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies aka the Buckner Mansion in NoLa's Garden District. You’ll also find Maison Vitry in the Treme District stepping in as Marie Laveau’s Cornrow City Salon. Season 4: Freak Show While this season was meant to be set in Jupiter, Florida, the producers kept to New Orleans. The circus camp was a purpose-built set that is longer there. But fans can still stop by Dandy’s home. The real location is Longue Vue House & Gardens in the Lakewood neighbourhood. The diner in the series is Camellia Grill in the French Quarter. Die-hard fans might also want to make the trip to Philadelphia. Specifically to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia to learn more about the real-life Edward Mordrake. Season 5: Hotel Welcome to Hotel Cortez, aka the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. While not used as a filming location by the producers, this infamous hotel and its shady past inspired the series. It opened in 1927, and since then has there has been over a dozen deaths caused by suicide, accident or murder. Its name changed in 2013 to Stay on the Main. The deaths that have taken place on the property are not the only thing that’s a bit off-putting. It was also the reported residence of serial killers Richard Ramirez in 1985 and Jack Unterweger in 1991. It is also rumoured that the Black Dahlia (who was actually portrayed Season 1 Murder House) made the Cecil Hotel her last stop before her death in 1947. For filming, the producers used The Oviatt Building at 617 South Olive Avenue for its exterior shots. The lobby and hotel rooms were a purpose-built film set inside Fox Studios, but there’s one place you can visit. The ornate wood-panelled ballroom is the lower level of the Los Angeles Theatre at 615 South Broadway! Season 6: Roanoke If you’re looking for the farmhouse where Matt and Shelby stayed, you’ll be disappointed. The house was purpose-built for the show in the Calabasas area of California. But you can still visit the real Roanoke (sort of). The modern-day Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in North Carolina is where the Roanoke colony was established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. At the same time, a native Croatoan tribe also lived on the island and not everyone peacefully co-existed. Colony leader John White travelled back to England for more people and supplies. But between the harsh winter and the Anglo-Spanish war, he didn’t return for three years. When he did, there were no people or buildings, only the word Croatoan carved into a tree. Many historians, archaeologists and conspiracy theorists have tried to work out what happened to them. While you won’t find any remains in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, there is a visitor centre with information. Season 7: Cult We’re only half-way through the current season and we’re not sure how many locations we might be introduced to. But eagle-eyed fans picked up from the trailer alone that the house the ice cream truck drives in front of is the same house that belonged to the Doyle’s in the 1978 Halloween slasher flick. The real-life location of these houses is Orange Grove Avenue in West Hollywood (the Myers House was 707 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena, California.) Now that the show is running, we’ve discovered that the show’s main characters Ally Mayfair-Richards and Ivy Mayfair-Richards live in the Doyle’s former house. And a murder has already taken place across the street – in the same house where the Wallace family lived in Halloween. Oh, and the murder took place while a bit of babysitting was going on. Coincidence or homage? You decide. What is your favourite season of American Horror Story so far and can you name any locations that we’ve missed?
  2. Where are the best places to visit in May?

    May isn’t your typical holiday month. There’s no longer the desire to book a summer break to escape the wet British winter, but it’s not officially summer yet either and if you have children, they’ll still be in school. But in turn that’s what makes May a great month to go abroad – it’s the low season almost everywhere and you won’t be followed by crowds wherever you visit. So if you’re looking for a last minute break or want to make 2018’s holiday a May getaway here’s our top destinations for the last month of spring. Japan The best time of year to visit Japan is spring or autumn. Between March and May the country is illuminated with the soft pink hues of cherry blossoms, with the southern regions the first to reach full bloom. The air is still slightly cool at this point and the ski slopes still have enough powder to include a day of skiing in your itinerary. Caribbean December to April is largely considered peak season for the Caribbean, but with May just after popular holiday times you’ll be treated to similar weather but won’t have to fight for a deck chair. Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Grenada are all great islands to visit in late spring. Peru If it’s a bucket list destination you’re looking for – the South American country of Peru is in its peak during May. The dry season runs from the start May until October and boasts sunny days, bright blue skies in the Andes and chilly nights. Peru isn’t the kind of destination you can book last minute though, so get planning now! Algarve If you’re looking for somewhere that doesn’t require a longhaul flight, then the Algarve in the south of Portugal is the perfect option. Temperatures begin to increase at this time of year as summer rises across the Atlantic, with daily temperatures in the capital of Faro typically sitting pretty at 22ºC (and 12ºC at night). Indian Ocean Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives are all pleasant to visit in the month of May. The Seychelles, in particular, boasts daily temperatures of 28 degrees and visibility off the coast can reach 30m making it a great month for snorkelling. California This western USA state boasts a Mediterranean-like climate and in May temperatures usually hover about 25 degrees Celsius (and very rarely fall below 10 degrees). This lends a hand to creating picture-perfect landscape of hillsides that are draped in lush green grass and the deserts are in bloom with poppies. The high season is still school holidays, so May has the added benefit of smaller queues and lower prices. Tuscany Tuscany is a great place all year round for an authentic Italian break, but is at its best in May. This is when the weather is comfortably warm with lows of 10°C and highs of 22°C, and the countryside is coloured by bright-green grass, yellow-tinged *****-seed flowers and red poppies. Locally-grown strawberries and cherries are also in season. Marrakesh During the summer Marrakesh reaches scorching temperatures, and May is the last time to visit before they set in. The atmosphere is hot and dry with average daily temperatures of 29ºC, which drop to a cooler 14ºC at night. Bali Traditionally May is a transitional month for most of South East Asia and doesn’t typically attract many travellers. Bali, however, is different. Its dry season runs from May to November when winds are also quiet creating a great environment for watersports. Nepal If you’re looking for a trekking holiday in May, you’ll be hard pushed to beat Nepal. Precipitation and humidity are low, while visibility is high. Also, the birthday of Gautama Buddha falls on the 23rd of May and festivals are held across the country (the cities Lumbini and Kathmandu are especially vibrant).
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