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Real Stepford: The Truman Show's Seaside

Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Truman Show, the1998 film directed by Australian Peter Weir starring Jim Carrey and Laura Linney, was set in the hypothetical town of Seahaven. It chronicled a man who didn't know his entire life was constructed reality designed for a television show. He grew up wanting to be an explorer, but was strongly discouraged.

Everyone except the central character, Truman Burbank, was an actor. He was unaware that he lived for the entertainment of those outside, all of whom — including his wife — faked friendship. The film followed his discovery of the situation and his attempts to escape.

Eventually Truman picked up on little details which lead him to think he was being watched and that those close to him weren't what they seemed. His mother, wife and "best friend" pressured him to stay in Seahaven when he talked about leaving town. When he tried to escape things happened to prevent him — choreographed traffic jams, a bus breakdown, an artificially created hurricane-force storm, etc.

In case you've not seen the film, we won't give anything more away. Once you know more about its intriguing background, you may just want to rent it out.

Seaside is midway between Fort Walton and Panama City on 32 hectares of Florida panhandle. It is a walking community with paved streets and very few of its 100 residents own a car. The population swells to well over 1500 in summer. There are around 350 homes and cottages (270 of which can be rented), a stretch of white sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico and a town centre with fifty-five shops and restaurants.

Long pathways link it all together, porches face each other and there are three pools, six tennis courts, a croquet lawn, fitness centre, children's camp and many activities.

Seaside is an example of the "new urbanism". Some love it, but detractors say it is overly rigid, with strict limitations on external aesthetics creating a manufactured fantasy or conformity over creativity and individuality. Those who live or visit there say it's the best place on earth and their friendliness seems proof of their contentment.

It certainly is chocolate-box pretty. Pastel-hued buildings, white picket fences (there can be no two alike in the same street) and groundcover rather than grass. Beautyberry, verbena and loblolly pines grow well, as do Carolina jessamine, wax myrtle and wild rosemary.

Sarah and Charles Modica, who had cameo roles in the film, opened their grocery business in Seaside over twenty years ago. Modica Market is a gourmet's delight. It is stocked floor-to-ceiling with fine foods and wines, kitchenware and barware. You can enjoy a coffee while wandering around the store. The Market has become one of the county's leading sources of gourmet lines and their picnic hampers and postal service are thriving.

There are lots of delightful things to do in Seaside. Join in a game of petanque with locals at Church Green, the green in front of the chapel; watch the sun set from Bud 'n' Alley's roof deck; or rent bicycles to explore the town.

Taste a delicious ice cream in the Cinderella Circle. Visit the open-air market, which features bohemian beach styles for women, and browse one of the many galleries in Ruskin Place.

Location

Florida, the south-east of the United States.

More information

Seaside
11 East Ruskin Place
Santa Rosa Beach FL 32459

Rosemary Beach
PO Box 611040
Rosemary Beach FL 32461
Ph: 0011 1 850-278-2031
Website: www.rosemarybeach.com

Beaches of South Walton
PO Box 1248
Santa Rosa Beach FL 32459
Ph: 0011 1 850-267-1216
Website: www.beachesofsouthwalton.com

Modica Market
109 Seaside Central Square
Santa Rosa Beach FL 32459
Ph: 0011 1 850 231 1214

Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months' validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.

Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.

Time Zone: GMT -8.

Currency: The American dollar.

International dialling code: +1.

To find out more about the hot deals mentioned on the show, check out Holidays for Sale.

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