A Visit To Kings Landing #GameOfThrones

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 8 of Game Of Thrones, so if you’re not all caught up, read further at your own peril. Again, spoilers spoilers spoilers)

A couple of years ago, I shared two posts about visiting Dragonstone, the Targaryen island fortress from Game of Thrones. Of course, I didn’t really visit a fictional location – rather, I visited the two spectacular filming locations in Spain, Itzurun Beach and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a writing holiday with three fabulous friends to my third Game Of Thrones location, the beautiful medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, which stood in for Kings Landing in the show. All of us being fans of the show, we decided to book a two hour guided tour taking in many of the famous locations from the show.

Of course Dubrovnik, a World Heritage site, was a tourist draw long before the Lannisters came to town and, according to our fabulous tour guide, Eva, the hugely popular HBO show hasn’t really done much to change visitor numbers to Dubrovnik. As she put it, ‘the city was already at capacity.’

Eva was uniquely qualified to be our guide, having worked as the stand-in for Cersei, Danaerys and several other of the main female characters on the show, as well as being a Production Assistant to the showrunners, Dan and David. She’d been part of the show since the very beginning, and so was the perfect person to take us around the fictional Kings Landing.

We visited key locations such as Fort Lovrijenac, which was used for several key scenes, including one in the Red Keep courtyard when Cersei uttered her famous line, ‘Power is power.’

We also saw Blackwater Bay, and the long quay where Sansa, Bran and Arya bid Jon farewell in the final series episode.

We stood on the Shame steps, looking up to where the fictional Sept of Baelor stands in the show, and listened to bells ring out across the city from the towers used in the show to signal the Lannisters’ (ultimately futile) surrender.

The tour was two hours long, which, at the end of a very hot day, was enough. We’d done plenty of exploring already, walking the city walls (location for the House of the Undying as well as plenty of other scenes in the show), and taken in the extraordinary romantic views of islands and blue water.

We’d sat in the shade of a curving stone tower watching people swim as we chatted and rested our tired feet, and had snuffly wet kisses from a small black pug dog.

We’d wandered along the stone quays, marvelling at the amount of fish in the crystal-clear waters. Swallows darted above, their constant chirping part of the city soundscape, as were the bells from the many towers, striking the hours.

And, as we wandered the streets in subsequent days, along lantern-lit alleyways and curving flights of stairs, through sun-drenched courtyards filled with orange trees, I realised what Eva was telling us.

Game of Thrones has created a mythology around Dubrovnik, that of a city peopled with characters from fantasy. But Dubrovnik was already a place of wonder and magic, a city full of stories – Game of Thrones is just one of many. I’m sure it won’t be the last.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Monday Meander – Dragonstone Part 2

As promised, this is the second part of my Game of Thrones location visit, this time to the spectacular San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, on the coast of Spain.

San Juan de Gatzelugatxe is actually the name of the small hermitage located on the islet, a sanctuary dedicated to Saint John and dating back to the 10th century. The name of the islet, Gatzelugatxe, comes from the Basque language and translates roughly to mean ‘craggy fort,’ very appropriate.

The islet is joined to the mainland via a manmade walkway, which twists and turns up the rugged rock face to reach the monastery. There are two ways to reach the walkway – the first is a steep narrow trail, very rough underfoot, only wide enough for two people to pass. It starts at a restaurant perched high on the cliff, with excellent views over the small bay.

As we descended the kilometre or so to the walkway, the people coming uphill the other way looked completely wiped out, sweating and short of breath in the muggy weather. We found it easier going heading down, but our thighs still ached due to the steep and rocky nature of the path. It can be done in sandals (I did it), but I’d recommend runners and comfortable clothing.

As we descended we could hear the bell at the hermitage ringing. The tradition goes that if you ring the bell three times and make a wish, it will come true. Seeing the faces of the people coming uphill, I joked to hubby that perhaps they were wishing they didn’t have to make the climb back up again!

We reached the walkway quite quickly and paused, both to catch our breath and to take in the glorious views. The islet isn’t far along the coast from Zumaia and the spectacular rock formations of Itzurun Beach, so the landscape is quite similar.

With the mist looming low on the nearby hilltops, waves rushing, it wasn’t hard to feel transported to another time and place. The walkway and bridge have both been used in Game of Thrones as the entrance pathway to Dragonstone – it is on these stairs that Jon Snow ducks to the ground after seeing a dragon for the first time.

I saw no dragons, but it doesn’t mean the place is without magic. Aside from the beautiful scenery and wish-granting magic of the bell, there is also a statue of a saint sunk deep into the waters of the small bay. Tuna boats, before they head across the ocean to fish, all come here to circle the statue three times and ask for a blessing on their voyage and catch.

So, did I make a wish? Well, after the walk down, we decided that going all the way to the top wasn’t really for us. And, as we stood on the stairs, I wondered how on earth they’d got a film crew, equipment and actors in costume down the precipitous narrow path we’d just taken.

Then we noticed the road going back up. 😀

It made for an easier ascent, though it took a while. But much easier than we had thought. And I got to visit Dragonstone with my two favourite people. So perhaps my wish was granted, after all.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander – Dragonstone, Part 1

I’ve recently been away, doing a spot of wandering in Basque country. I am a big Game of Thrones fan and so, when I found out that two of the locations used for the show were not too far from where I was staying, I decided to take a look (and dragged the family along with me).

If you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, don’t worry! These locations are spectacular in their own right, and interesting even without their link to the most popular show in the world.

So, this week I am wandering to Dragonstone, otherwise known as Itzurun Beach, Zumaia. (Yes, I did go to the second location as well, but that will be in another post). Located on the rugged north coast of Spain, Itzurun Beach is notable for its spectacular geological formations, as it is part of the longest continuous rock strata in the world. The beautiful layered rock formations are known as ‘flysch’ cliffs, and are completely spectacular.

Zumaia is a lovely town, the streets lined with lowrise apartments. There is also an ancient fortified church, part of the original monastery that founded the town in the 1200s. Itzurun beach is a short walk from the town centre, along a walkway shaded by trees and a stone archway.

As you reach the steps leading down to the beach (also used in the show), you are greeted by a statue of two lions… or are they dragons?

The beach itself is no secret – the day was hot and sunny day when we visited and it was packed, the restaurant overlooking the water heaving with diners, the sand covered in towels and blankets and sunbathers. I tried my best to get shots without people in them, but it was difficult at times.

However, Game of Thrones fans will definitely recognise the cliff face and cave entrance, as well as this interior shot of the cave where they filmed Jon and Danaerys walking back to the light after visiting the Dragonglass mines. The iconic shape of the cliffs that surround Dragonstone itself are there too, though with a hotel at the top instead of a castle of stone.

And so what was it like to wander in the footsteps of the Targaryens? The rocks were beautiful, the layers of colour and rippling shapes like nothing I’ve seen. A young woman in a long black dress with flowing silver grey hair posed at the entrance to one cave, counterpoint to the many bikini-clad beach goers. Nearby a small child screamed, and I heard the flap of fabric as a towel was shaken out… or was it wings? Overhead sea birds soared, the waves crashing on the ancient stones, wind blowing cooler from the North as the tide came in.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the cliffs and cave entrance

We spent a couple of hours there, playing in the waves, wandering around the rock formations and lying in the sun. As we left, we headed up the stark grey steps used as the entrance to Dragonstone on the show and I could see why the location was so appealing, so much that they needed to create the magic of Dragonstone already in place.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

(And next time won’t be too far away – I’m hoping to post about San Juan de Gatzelugtxe, otherwise known as the second location for Dragonstone, before the end of the week.)


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Unpacking

I’m back 🙂

Been back a few days now, not quite a week. The suitcases are up in the loft, and I’m gradually emerging from under the approximately 7923 emails and 278 loads of washing (it’s amazing how much a family can fit into three medium sized suitcases).

It’s nice to be home, as it always is, the house welcoming, although I miss the sunny skies and sea of the Basque country – my home is too far from the ocean for my liking these days. I’ve travelled a bit in my life, as you may have noticed, and you would think, therefore, that I would be a dab hand at packing. The kind of person who can throw in a few key pieces and have enough outfits for three weeks and any occasion. Sadly, that’s not the case. Although I’m better at it than I was, I still somehow manage to pack several items I don’t need at all, while leaving other items I do need at home. Invariably I open my case at the other end and wonder what I was thinking when I packed, my carefully chosen outfits all seeming completely wrong, what seemed like a sensible amount of things at home somehow multiplying into far too much for the time I’m away.

However, I’m a dab hand at unpacking. Pull, sort and dispose of, either into the laundry basket or back into the cupboard. As for the rest of it, the memories of cliff bound beaches, misty coastlines and turreted houses, that will take a little longer to unpack. There are photos to download and definitely a few Wednesday Wanders to write. I did get to Dragonstone, visiting both locations used in Season Seven, and they were absolutely spectacular. I ate and drank and enjoyed time with family, danced in blue waves and wandered cobbled streets. It was fab.

So forgive me if I take a little while to get back into the swing of things again. It’s lovely to be home 🙂

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Caffeine Withdrawal and Game Of Thrones

Winter is coming...
Winter is coming…

*Note: This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, so don’t read if you haven’t seen the latest episode yet 🙂

I am, for some reason, a day ahead of myself. I thought today was the solstice, but the 21st is tomorrow. Although, the solstice seems to move around a bit, so it could be today.

Sorry. I’ve just given up caffeine so I’m a bit foggy, hence this rather random blog post. As to why I’ve given it up, health reasons blah blah blah boring. I’m interested to see how it goes, as that’s how I tend to approach most things in life – with a ‘let’s try it and see’ attitude.

I also just watched Game Of Thrones episode nine and SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN”T SEEN IT I’m totally overwhelmed. It was truly spectacular television. First Dany with her dragons taking control, then the Battle of the Bastards, then Sansa finally getting back into Winterfell and giving Ramsay his (very) just desserts. I sat there for a few minutes afterwards just taking it all in. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? After all, it’s only a TV show. But the beauty of GOT, the reason I think it’s so popular is that it is, at its heart, despite dragons and magic and castles, a soap opera. The characters drive the stories, and what started as a group of different kingdoms and families has now been woven together in ways unexpected, each twist and turn keeping the viewer hooked.

As a writer I can take lessons from the way the show pulls viewers along. We are made to care, to choose sides, to hope and fear and despair alongside the characters, to mourn (or rejoice) in their deaths. I realise GOT is based on the books by George R.R. Martin, and so reflect the world he has created – however, with his latest book delayed, the showrunners have had to forge ahead without a source document, and I think they have succeeded in keeping the story alive.

I’m not sure whether it’s caffeine withdrawal or dragons that has me so shaken up.  I have editing to get on with, plus some other work, so I really do need to get back to work. But for now my mind is filled with smoke and battles, and the feeling you get at the end of a really good story, when things turn out as they should.

Oh, and Melisandre? You’re in trouble. Ser Davos knows.

 

Clearing My Mind

What do you mean, I have work to do?

Most days I count my blessings as I sit down at my computer, happy to be writing, to have my family, to be living here.

And then there are days when really, all I want to do is sit on the couch and binge watch Avengers movies or Game of Thrones, or the Tudors. Or something. Just eat crisps and have endless cups of tea and ignore the washing and tidying that needs to be done. Sit in the sunshine and drink cider, go to the shops and spend money I shouldn’t. Be a bit naughty. Let it go.

That’s pretty normal, right?

And so it is today. I have work I should be doing. Work I’m supposed to be doing. But instead I’m fiddle faddling around with Homes Under the Hammer and Twitter, writing blog posts like this one and yes, the crisps have already been opened.

I’ve done some writing, sure. I’ve written a letter to a magazine about something I read recently. I commented on someone’s post. I’ve written this post. I’ve started another. I’ve even written the first sentence of some actual paid work (with plans to write a little more later, honest).

I think I’ve mentioned the fact that I like to meditate. I used to be really good at doing it every day without fail, and in fact it helped me sort out a whole bunch of stuff, clearing my mind in every way. These days I don’t do it as often as I should but I still find, when I do, that it’s a great way to clear the clutter and get set on what I need to do next. And I also think, when I have days like this, that it’s another way of clearing the clutter. As I potter about doing a bit of this and that, I’m actually clearing a whole bunch of crap out of my mind leaving it clear and ready to focus later. I have a deadline to meet, which I know I will do, and editing to work on. I have emails to write and parcels to send. There is laundry and cleaning and cooking to do, the day-to-day minutiae of managing a house and family. You know what I mean. And I’ll get it all done.

But I might watch some X-Men movies first.

(And yes, I know I’m lucky to work from home and be able to do this once in a while. Another blessing counted 🙂 So I’m not complaining, simply observing how my day is today. How’s your day going?)