I have never seen Game of Thrones. In the resources of my mind, I buried it along with all the other “sword and sorcery” pop-culture media that I neglected over the years, Lord of the Rings and Spartacus among them.
So that’s why when my brother and his girlfriend mentioned the possibility of going on a Game of Thrones bus tour in Belfast during our week-long trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland last month, I could hear my brain hum out a faint groan in the distance.
I couldn’t care less about Jon Snow trying to locate the fellowship of the ring and restoring peace to Hogwarts, let alone the behind-the-scenes CGI that made it all come to life. But, I wasn’t going to let my slight stubbornness ruin a perfectly good trip, so I of course agreed (Also, I had no choice). All disinterest of Game of Thrones aside, the tour offered itself as a glorified sightseeing trip of Northern Ireland’s natural wonders.
Our tour guide Adrian, a stand-in for one of the main characters on the show – a bald guy with an exquisite white beard – entertained us on the bus ride with our driver Laslow, as we traveled and stopped at sites in Northern Ireland that served as settings for the show. Our morning pitstop at dusky Carnlough Bay, for instance, has a sign boasting its involvement with Game of Thrones.
Adrian said one of the woman characters in the show was stabbed and thrown over into a river, filmed entirely in Spain. As that particular character was taken away by the currents, she miraculously found her way to shore and achieved some hope of salvation, despite being critically wounded. The scene in which she emerges out of the water is in Carnlough Bay, only shot specifically to capture the precise moment the character gasps out of the river.
Adrian quipped how fast of a swimmer she might have been – being stabbed in Spain and emerging in Ireland.
We traveled to our other destinations and, along the way, we briefly caught a glimpse of some of the cast filming for the show. A little bird had also told us some of the cast were staying at Belfast’s Europa Hotel, where we just happened to be lodging, as well. But, alas, not a peep of Mr. Snow was seen that day.
Laslow drove us to Cushenden Caves, Ballintoy Point, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Dark Hedges. Ballintoy Point and Giant’s Causeway were the most noteworthy for a multitude of reasons.
In both spots, the wind was roaring, almost teasing to whip us away into the Irish skies. And, of course, the whole week was filled with rain at about 30-degree weather. The atmospheric elements, although maybe a bit uncomfortable for some, wasn’t necessarily too bad, but clumsy ol’ me of course found a way to slip on some mud and have my feet sail right under me. I landed square on my head, but I luckily avoided landing on any sharp rocks. I suppose that was my punishment for not watching Game of Thrones.
More bad luck came at the Giant’s Causeway, one of the ancient wonders of the world that was mythologically formed by an angry giant. It was a sight to behold, but my colon had other plans – it needed to poop. So, we trekked back up to the visitor center and found a single restroom.
Eager for relief, I nestled my tush onto the toilet seat and did what I do best – make some human soil. My job done, I reached for the non-existent roll of toilet paper to my right side. I couldn’t believe it.
My Wi-Fi hotspot, not sending out a strong enough signal, prevented me from relaying an SOS about my crappy situation to my brother or his girlfriend. We were also on a time crunch – we had about five minutes to get back on the bus, or we were going to be left behind. By this time, two or three people had knocked on the door for their turn.
So, I sucked it up, pulled up my pants, imagining the cocktail of musty horrors in my rear end, and walked out to meet with the group. Fortunately, our next stop at Dunluce Castle had a restroom that I quickly took advantage of. It just so happened there wasn’t a lot to wipe, either. Yay?
Overall, the tour was a rewarding trip that complemented the other tourist visits, such as the RMS Titanic Belfast Museum, and the “God knows how many” pubs we visited, all of which were historic and dated back to at least the 12th century and beyond.
After an exhausting day of traveling – and destroying my body – we ate at one of the more delicious places in all of Northern Ireland, named Made In Belfast. We ate clams, helped ourselves to lamb and, of course, indulged in alcohol. We washed down our beers in the land of clovers, presumably with a leprechaun at a distance watching us with happy tears in his eye. Sláinte.
Photos by Denny Cristales