Carrie Bradshaw and Tony Soprano fans join tours to relive TV shows
Followers of Sex and the City and Sopranos join tours of locations where series were filmed
Fancy a cosmopolitan à la Carrie Bradshaw or titillation at the strip club favoured by Tony Soprano? TV tourism is whipping up a storm in New York, where fans can live as their heroes.
Twice a day, a Sex and the City bus fills up outside the posh Plaza Hotel with gaggles of young women desperate to tour filming locations, and to shop, drink and eat like their small-screen heroines.
Travelling around Manhattan, the bus plays clips of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha from the hit series and a guide narrates anecdotes and vignettes about the show and the city.
For several hours, delighted fans blur the line between fiction and reality, taking photographs at every stage.
The Plaza? It's where Carrie froze when she saw on-off lover Big leaving with another woman, says guide Stephanie Schweitzer. The bus heads down Fifth Avenue, passing jewellers Tiffany.
In Greenwich Village, the bus stops at a pizzeria featured in the series, near a sex shop visited by Charlotte. Some fans want pizza; others come out of the shop with a little ribboned package.
"I don't want it to end. I am completely obsessed with Sex and the City," says Kristi Tanghare, 28, an American nurse studying criminal justice and stationed in Germany with her husband. "To me it's coming to life now." She came as a treat for a friend's birthday.
Back on the bus, everyone's given a cupcake like those that Carrie or Miranda sometimes consoled themselves with when their love lives hit a blip.
Frenchwoman Aurelie Maheux, 26, is one of the few women accompanied by a man. She said she had recently re-watched all 94 episodes in just 10 days.
She is planning to have dinner in a restaurant featured in the series and says she loves her heroines because "they are modern women, free, who talk about sex with complete openness".
In recent years there has been a spectacular growth in specialised cinema and television tourism, particularly in New York, which has been a backdrop for countless shows and flicks.
Georgette Blau, 39, is the director and president of On Location Tours, which offers seven bus tours in New York devoted to cinema or television, including the Sex in the City itinerary.
"To be honest, I really started as a kind of a side weekend hobby. I was in publishing and my big dream was to write for television," Blau said.
One of the company's other popular draws is a five-hour bus tour through New Jersey for cult TV show the Sopranos that starred the late James Gandolfini as the depressed mobster.
Guide Marc Baron, a former extra on the series, narrates the tour, and even gives out little presents.
Highlights of the tour are Holsten's restaurant where Gandolfini's character Tony Soprano ate during the last episode, and the Bada Bing strip club, which in real life is called Satin Dolls.
It's almost deserted. Two young women, one in a thong and a sweatshirt, shimmy without conviction. But the fans are delighted.
Blau says about 90,000 people go on her tours each year, half of them from overseas, most often Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
When she started in 1999, she says three companies in the world offered such tours. "Now there are over 100."