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Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

5 Countries Where Game of Thrones is Filmed

UPDATE: We hope everyone enjoyed the Season 7 Premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones and doesn’t if feel like this season is just zipping by?! But we digress… this post is long, and full of spoilers through the end of Season 6.

ORIGINAL POST: Now, down to business. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones then we don’t need to remind you that season 7 kicks off on Sunday July 16. Last we left our lovable band of ambitious thrones seekers, Daenerys Targaryen was on her long awaited journey back to Westeros with Tyrion (and dragons) in tow, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were reuniting the North, and Cersei Lannister had wrested power from the grips of all challengers. But there’s still so many questions to be answered (like who are the three heads of the dragon?). Unfortunately, aspiring Maesters won’t find much resolution in the lines of this ponderous tome. But what we can offer is a look into the actual filming locations and sets of many of the iconic GOT settings; and while we’re at it, give you some insight into how you can visit some of these places on our tours.

The Dark Hedges ©HBO (Left) ©Paul Bowman/Flickr (Right)

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is to GOT as Kings Landing is to Westeros – that is to say, the buzzing capital of the entire operation. Paint Hall studio in Belfast, located on the original Harland and Wolff shipyard where parts of the Titanic were built, holds the interior sets of Winterfell, Castle Black, Daenerys’s throne room in the Great Pyramid and so much more. But it’s the broad sweeping landscapes and grand castle exteriors that really shape the settings of the show and define the stories of its characters, and it’s here where the country of Northern Ireland steals the show.

The entire series opens in Tollymore Forest Park in County Down where a Night’s Watch scouting party discovers that White Walkers are no longer the stuff of ancient lore beyond the Wall. This same forest is where the Stark children discover six orphaned direwolf pups. Not far from the forest sits 1,000 acres of land belonging to Old Castle Ward. On these lands is Audley’s Castle which serves as the exterior of Winterfell. And who can forget when Ned Stark beheaded a deserter of the Night’s Watch, performed against the backdrop of moors and hills of Cairncastle in County Antrim. Also in this county is Shane’s Castle, whose cellars serve as Winterfell’s crypts, and Cushendum Caves where the Red Priestess Melisandre gives birth to the shadow creature that assassinates Renly Baratheon. But perhaps the site that is most iconic to Northern Ireland and the show is the Dark Hedges, a countryside avenue flanked by beech trees that serves as the Kingsroad leading North to Winterfell and the Wall.

While we don’t visit any of these particular sites on our Best of Ireland, you do spend plenty of time in Northern Ireland’s countryside drinking in the rolling landscapes and ancient ruins that inspired GOT show makers to set their show primarily here. Plus, when in Belfast, you’ll visit the Titanic Belfast Experience, which is located along the same dock complex as Paint Hall studio. And Bonus: on your way to the Giant’s Causeway, from the road you may be able to make out the silhouette of Dunluce Castle, the ancestral seat of the Greyjoys!

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Experiencing the real Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle © Highclere Castle Enterprises LLP
Our Product Development Manager, Judy Poliva, traveled to London and Iceland as the tour leader of our Downton Abbey Christmas Ball passengers, and here is her account.

Being a true Downton Abbey fan, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer to lead our Downton Abbey Christmas Ball with London tour two years ago. In fact, the only hesitation I experienced was selecting my outfit for the ball. So many options! So many accessories to consider! After months of planning, and brushing up on my Downton knowledge, our departure day finally arrived.

On our way

The true Downton experience started right away, on the flight over the pond, with episodes from seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey on the in-flight entertainment. What a coincidence! It felt like even the airline wanted to make our tour the memory of a lifetime. I got to experience great moments of the show again, like Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley meeting for the first time, as we made our way. During our layover, we all reminisced about our favorite scenes from the show, and of course discussed what we’d be wearing to the ball (a very common conversation on the tour!). The buzz of anticipation was palpable, and the common thread of a love for travel and Downton Abbey was on full display. I already knew it would be a great trip. (more…)

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Ice-land challenge

I hope you’re not traveling anywhere too cold this weekend. Happy Friday!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Why save your vacation days for the summer? Travel during the off-season!

Forget springtime in Paris and summer in Santorini. Off-season is the new hot time to visit your favorite European destinations. More and more travelers are ditching their summer vacations and opting to visit their favorite cities throughout the winter months.

From November to March, Europe takes on an entirely new persona. Gone are the large crowds, humid days, and high prices — leaving only the true cultures, histories, and sights of each destination for you to enjoy. If you’re interested in experiencing some hidden, off-season gems of Europe, here are just some of my reasons why the off-season is the perfect time to travel.

Sightsee at a fraction of the price. It’s no secret that off-season travel often means lower prices. Not only will travelers save on airfares, tours, and accommodations, but they’ll often find that restaurants, shops, and bars in high-tourist areas are also less expensive. This can help significantly pare down a tight travel budget. Also keep a lookout for bundled tours that take place during the off-season. Tour operators often make the most out of seasonal pricing and share the savings with travelers. By saving on the essentials, travelers can splurge on extra special events, like enjoying a Champagne dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower or taking a dip in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, making their trips even more memorable.

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What is your Icelandic name?

Among many of the wonderful eccentricities of Iceland are the names of the Icelandic people. The Icelandic naming system is unlike any other in the world. To create surnames, Icelanders take the first name of their fathers, and then add son for males and dóttir for females to show possession. For instance, if your father’s first name is Paul, and you are his son, then your last name is Paulsson. If you are his daughter, then your last name is now Paulsdóttir. Fun, right? Try it for yourself. My Icelandic last name is Samuelsdóttir.

Not only that, but strict rules regulate name selection. All new first and middle names must be approved by the Icelandic government, so there’s little chance of ever meeting a Gagasson or Gagasdóttir when visiting this island nation.

But there are plenty of other reasons to visit Iceland, a country that is quickly becoming a hot international travel destination. First and foremost are the worldviews of its people. It’s a land that sounds like it could be frozen in time, yet it’s remarkably progressive. Approximately 85 percent of the country’s energy comes from green sources, thanks to an abundance of hydrothermal and geothermal energy pools. Additionally, the nation has one of the lowest incidences of violent crimes around the globe, keeping in line with its peaceful and accepting perspectives.

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Friday’s Friendly Funny: Secrets of the northern lights

It’s time to laugh into the weekend with our newest Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friendly Planet erupts with activity after Iceland volcano blows

As I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t have to tell you about the travel disaster that hit so many people in Europe and elsewhere. I thought you might find it interesting to know what we, at Friendly Planet, did after the volcano in Iceland erupted.

As soon as we heard about it, we called all hands on deck because we had travelers that were crisscrossing Europe, and as far away as India, as part of their travel. We had to try and make sure that we knew where they were, what they needed, and had a steady stream of information going to them about what to do.

We started calling airlines, but that turned out to be a waste of time. The lines were absolutely overloaded and it was impossible to get through. So, we went online in order to reroute as many of our travelers as we could.

We started on Friday and we worked straight through Sunday, getting everyone we could back to the United States. I was impressed and inspired by how hard the Friendly Planet team worked to accommodate everyone and how appreciative many of our travelers were of our efforts.

Mandi Fulk of our air department deserves a special mention here. She became a whirling dervish, simultaneously handling calls, finding odd seats, and piecing together amazing itineraries to get people home quickly. Thanks to her efforts, most of the people who got home in a timely way avoided the extra days and weeks of waiting to get on later flights.

The traveling public probably doesn’t realize that in a crisis, travel agents, like travelers, are forced to slog through on their own. Our industry is fragmented, and full of rules that make things difficult.

It isn’t easy to sift through thousands of flights. When every flight is booked solid and there are literally thousands of travelers competing for those odd seats, finding the seat or two that will bring Mr. and Mrs. Jones home is very difficult. While we didn’t succeed 100 percent, I am very happy to say that we got pretty close. Who is it that said, “the enemy of very good is excellent?”