Hello all you Game of Thrones fans! I’ve been known to shush and shoo you away because you’re all annoying in a powerful way. But today I am one of you.
I’m in Ireland for one reason, and one reason only. And it’s to see the Dark Hedges. If you aren’t familiar, I happen to have a thing for trees. They’re basically living dinosaurs and are also creepy, which is a winning combo for me.
I had this long-winded, elaborate, expensive and possibly impossible plan to get from Dublin, where I flew in, to Ballymoney, where the Dark Hedges live.
Then, I took the walking tour of Dublin and the guide mentioned that a company he used to work for did tours of the Northeast Irish coast. You hit places like Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Giant’s Causeway and even the Dark Hedges.
My heart skipped.
Well I got online to book my tour. This is way better than flying to belfast, renting a car and going up to stay at the Causeway, then driving back down through the hedges. Quicker, cheaper.
I pull up the website. They’ve got tours of central Ireland, they’ve got ones of just the North coast. And then they have one trip that takes you to the Dark Hedges. It just so happens that it’s the Game of Thrones filming tour.
My initial reaction of course was, “Oh. Well, no. I’m not doing that,” because again, I’ve never watched the show, but honestly know every buzz word because of how fierce the fans are. Yo, I’m not into rape and beheading and stuff. Everyone says, “Oh it’s not like that the whole series,” and then the Red Wedding happens. So, yuh huh, leave me alone I’m not watching it.
I was one of two people on the bus who had never seen the show. One could even say, “you know nothing Jac Rose.” (See what I did there?)
The other was a man who’s wife was obsessed with the show and came along with their daughter. There was a Welsh couple, a man from Canada, a girl from Sweden and two guys from Korea. Small group.
Our guide, Pete, clearly loved the show. He was an extra, he knew all the details and nuances. We watched clips of the scenes of the places we were en route to.
Yo. Ireland is beautiful.
First major stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It reminded me so much of the Oregon Coast, where I spent every new year of my youth with my family. The bridge was new-ish, but the winds didn’t mind. It was blowing us all over the place. Out here, Winter Has Come, ya know? You’re quite high up, but once you cross onto the other side, you get beautiful views of the ocean and the cliffs.
Next up: The Dark Hedges.
Being a fan of tress, I was thrilled, thrilled to be there. 250 year old Beech tree, so creepy in all their bare glory. Originally 150 trees planted, about half are still standing after a massive storm in 2016 that wiped them out. It was devastating to the locals who loved the history (decorative trees planted for visitors of the long abandoned Gracehill House). The trees were also famous because of the show, and brought a lot of tourism to an otherwise quiet part of Ireland.
So, a team got in there to chop the fallen trees down. They were then used to carve doors with Game of Thrones scenes, ten in total, that were scattered over the whole island of Ireland. We ate at one restaurant that boasted one of the ten doors. There’s really no better place for a “Hold the Door!” scenario.
Y’all. These trees are WILD. They’re massive, and old and so creaky because they’re hella not going to live much longer. It was a beautiful, windy day and the magic was there. I could just live in a little hole in the ground right in the middle there.
Alas, we had to leave, and on we went to the Giant’s Causeway. Slightly underwhelming after hearing the lore, but nonetheless beautiful. The Swedish girl, Johana and I hiked up to the top of the cliff to get a sprawling view of the ocean. It was insane, so beautiful, so magical. We could see the wall of rain coming in from the ocean, looking so much like the edge of the world.
It was a quiet ride back, but I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride. Of course I was just happy to have seen some old, cryptic looking trees, like I am on any day. But I was also utterly in awe of the fact that I’d had that destination on a list of mine for years. And finally, I got myself there and I saw them.
Just like all my destinations, they’ve lived on a list I’ve amassed for over ten years, but I’m here. I saved for a year, and I got myself on a plane and I’m here, crossing things off that list. I’m amazing! I never, ever would’ve thought myself capable in my previous lives.
I’m in Galway, Ireland now and I was walking along the bay at sunset last night and the song “Vienna” by Billy Joel came on my ipod. It threw me back to when I used to listen to that song while going to college in Portland, Oregon. I was so depressed. I felt old, and wasted. I’d pass by the water every day, on the bus or walking to school, and just want to be in it, to float away, to be free like the water. I felt like my whole life was wasting away when in my soul I wanted to run wild, to be so free.
“You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.”
No words have been truer in my life. I was so happy, sitting on the rocks on the shore at sunset in Galway. So proud of myself, so proud of everything I’ve overcome to be here. All the things I’ve accomplished in my life that meant nothing in the moment.
I don’t know how long this lasts, friends. I know that life is real and you have to participate and currently, I’m pretty much carving my own path. It’s not forever. But for now, it’s good enough. It’s actually great.
The Dark Hedges were just one of many, many places I’ll find myself in awe of what I’ve accomplished. And another will be coming up in just under three weeks. It’s a doozy, friends. All I’ll say now is that it’s a tiny island, and requires an unconventional, yet possibly too soon to mention, mode of transportation to get there. To get there and possibly have no communication with the outside world.
Cue the movie The Lighthouse.
On another note, I’ve extended my stay in Galway not only because I believe it’s the most beautiful town in Ireland, but also because Galway was been awarded the Culture Capital of Europe this year, and the opening ceremony is this weekend, boasting up thousands and thousands of visitors from all over the world. It’s a huge honor, and well deserved, so I’ll stick around for the wild events to ensue. Stay tuned.
See you soon for another weird one.