At the crack of dawn, my alarm screeched, and I slipped out of bed to gulp down some coffee. We headed off to the Arcadia Center, and the streets were nearly deserted on the clear Saturday morning. I was very excited for the excursion to Northern Ireland. Our amusing tour guide, Eric, was an actor from Game of Thrones and Vikings, which he attributed to his marvelous beard. On our way up the countryside, we watched documentaries about the huge production that the Game of Thrones has become. We stopped at Tollymore Forest Park for a gorgeous hike in full garb (see the pictures for our stunning cape fashion). In Tollymore, they filmed the opening scene of the White Walkers, the discovery of the direwolves, and when Jon Snow first goes to the Wall with Tyrion Lannister. If this was a bunch of gibberish to you, no worries, I had not yet seen the show either! Even for those of us who hadn’t seen the show, the hike was completely worth the early morning. You don’t need to know the show to appreciate the elegant old trees, little creeks and grand rocky hills. Our stroke of luck with the sun shining all day eased our walk through the woods – and no one slipped in mud this trip!
Next, we headed to lunch and saw one of the Game of Thrones Doors, delicately carved out of some fallen trees from the King’s Road, as well as some old costumes worn by the cast. After lunch, we headed to see the Twins, which I found out is only one castle – with the aid of CGI we are able to visualize two castles, both three times as grand as the original. Here we took the group picture you can see above. Our last stop was Castle Ward, better known as Winterfell Castle (this is the stone castle with the clock). Once again, while it was a gorgeous old building, was nowhere near as large and full as the show leads us to believe. Still, we enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the city and relish in the surprisingly sunny and warm weather.
The best part of the day, however, happened just before lunch. Eric promised us a surprise for the afternoon, and he brought us the best kind of surprise: dogs! We met the direwolves, Summer and Grey Wind (their real names are Odin and Thor). They were adorable, and very well behaved. Their owners were also in the Game of Thrones series as extras, and carried an entire book of pictures they took on set or screenshots of them on the show itself. I could hardly think of a better surprise to encounter than beautiful dogs, so my day had been made!
By the time we made it home that night, exhaustion kicked in and I posted all my scenic photos and goofy selfies before drifting off with thoughts of adventure. Although we don’t have to fight wars and we have busses to travel on, studying abroad has been by own adventure. Here’s to two more months in Dublin!