Myth, Magic & Mileage: Traveling The World With MoPOP
Thanks to COVID-19, instead of making fun summer vacation plans with friends and family, we’re left staring longingly out the window like we’re in a sad music video feeling jealous of the squirrels and birds that roam free (for those of you under age 25, a music video was what MTV used to play before it was all reality shows; think TikTok, but longer and by professional musicians). But even though our exciting travel adventures must take a back seat to the health and safety of our communities, there’s no harm in fantasizing about a dream vacation somewhere very far “off the beaten path.”
Here are three ideas for an imaginary vacation you can take anytime based on three of MoPOP’s favorite fantasy locations.
For the Low-Maintenance Nature Lover: The Shire
If your ideal vacation involves relaxing strolls across lush rolling hills, temperate weather, and fun-loving locals, take a journey to the northwestern region of Middle-earth and experience all the Shire has to offer. Which...isn’t much. Aside from the beautiful landscape, the Shire doesn’t provide much in the way of excitement, and that’s just the way the locals like it. The friendly Hobbits that inhabit the land live a simple life of farming, food, and socializing. The locals can be shy at first, and some visitors might interpret this as stand-offish or cold. The best way to bond with them is around the table. Head into the Green Dragon Inn and buy a round (or five) of ale and practice proper “pipe-weed” etiquette, and you’ll be part of the gang in no time. Pro tip: when exploring, save yourself the headache and don’t forget to duck!
Visit the Shire by watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and be sure to add Matamata, New Zealand to your travel bucket list to see it in real life. In the meantime, check out this behind the scenes look at how filmmakers brought Tolkien’s words to life.
For the Culture-Seeking Influencer: King's Landing
If a vacation to the Shire sounds like a snooze-fest, you might be inclined to check out the bustling city of Kings Landing. Here you’ll find plenty of opportunities to collect likes on Instagram as you peruse cafes, bars, architectural monuments, sweeping staircases, and waterfront vistas. Although it’s surrounded by walls, King’s Landing is not unlike other major cities; it can be unsafe if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. Keep a map handy (avoid wandering into Flea Bottom) and find the embassy of your home country as soon as possible (leadership and police here are notoriously corrupt). History lovers will want to check out the Red Keep (the royal castle and government house), Maegor’s Holdfast (a huge tower housing the royal apartments), and the Godswood (wooded sanctuaries) for a little nature.
**UPDATE** I recommend calling or emailing these sites before you go, apparently the city is going through a “rebuilding phase” that could affect your ability to get around to see the sites.
Check out our oral history with author George R.R. Martin on the creation of King’s Landing and the many regions of Westeros
Visit Hogwarts by watching your favorite Harry Potter film (though why not watch them all), and make your way to Gloucester Cathedral someday to witness the stunning architecture up close.
For the Low-Budget Occultist: Hogwarts
Due to high demand for low-budget hostel accommodations in the Highlands of Scotland (some speculate an economy-saving post-Brexit measure), the magical charms and spells around Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will soon be lifted when classes aren’t in session. Muggles (non-magic folk) will have access to the common rooms and grounds of the castle, as well as transportation on the Hogwarts Express (the steam train that runs through London). Serious backpackers will be pleased to learn that electronic devices don’t function in and around the castle. Fans of the occult are welcome to interact with the ghosts, trolls, house-elves, and other magical creatures (at their own risk). Lodging may be exchanged for work duty, which could include polishing crystal balls, landscaping the Herbology gardens and Quidditch pitch, and scrubbing dung in the Owlery. Be advised when returning from a night of drinking at the Three Broomsticks or Hog’s Head Inn, the staircases throughout the castle are known to change position.
Take a look at the cathedral’s cloisters-turned-restrooms in this clip from 'The Sorcerer’s Stone.' Don’t worry, the site is now troll free!
*Bonus* For The Museum Lover: MoPOP
Once we reopen, be sure to visit our exhibition, Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, where you can find costumes and props from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and many more of your fantasy favorites (take a sneak peek below!). We can’t wait to see you there!
[Frodo Baggins’s Blade “Sting”. Allen Family Collection]
[Aragorn's Strider Sword from The Lord of the Rings (2001) and The Return of the King (2003). Allen Family Collection]
[Gryffindor student scarf from the later Harry Potter films, 2007-2011]