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Galaxies not so far, far away in Ireland and England

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On the anniversary of Star Wars (2017) and Harry Potter (2018), I went in search of my favourite fictional worlds. And no, I didn’t travel light-years or use any kind of sorcery to get there!

Feeling the Force in Ireland

“She may not look like much‚ but she’s got it where it counts.”

Han Solo’s famous words echo in my head as we race across the waves in a repurposed fishing boat not unlike the Millennium Falcon. Moving far slower than lightspeed‚ the jagged outline of Skellig Michael takes shape. The closer we get‚ the more I feel the Force. Yes… the Force is definitely strong here.

The isolated rocky island of Skellig Michael rises dramatically from the deep blue sea off the southwest coast of Ireland. Before we know it‚ we’re sitting in its looming shadow. Although it looks like we’ve crossed over into the Dark Side‚ a feeling of awe and serenity washes over me. I begin humming John Williams’s iconic soundtrack. This is exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find a lost Jedi master.

The journey to Skellig Michael has become something of a pilgrimage for hardcore Star Wars fans like myself. It’s here that the heroic Rey presents Luke Skywalker with his old lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s a moment that represents the multigenerational appeal of the franchise‚ which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017‚ as new and old characters are brought together.

Stepping onto Skellig Michael is like falling through a portal into a universe of X-Wings‚ Wookiees and droids that speak six million languages. The sense of isolation is overwhelming‚ and I can feel the mystical energy that binds our universe to the universe of Star Wars.

I catch a glimpse of the sixth-century monastery atop the mountain‚ and I completely get why director J.J. Abrams chose this sacred place for such a momentous encounter. I make my way up the countless steps carved into the rocks and look out from the peak. We may as well be in another galaxy. Only the most devoted followers, be they of religion or the Force, would make this journey.

In that moment‚ I am one with the Force and all I can think is… I wish I’d packed my lightsaber. Fortunately‚ the galaxy doesn’t depend on my training with the last Jedi!

Magic in London

In London‚ I embark on yet another pilgrimage‚ to a world that’s just as thrilling but not so far‚ far away.

Part of the magic of the Harry Potter series‚ which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018‚ is the discovery of a hidden society of witches and wizards living among us. Luckily for fans like me‚ this makes the locations much easier to get to‚ as they’re located in the heart of London. No seasickness inducing boat rides needed here; just a sense of adventure and belief in magic.

I make my way to the Millennium Bridge. London’s only pedestrian bridge‚ linking St. Paul’s Cathedral with Tate Modern museum in Southwark‚ the 320 meters Millennium Bridge looks like it’s from another world. And it kind of is. It appears in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince‚ swirling with villainous black smoke before collapsing into the river below.

As I walk across the bridge‚ surrounded by my fellow Muggles‚ I look out over the River Thames hoping to see some evidence of this hidden world. Is it me or is the bridge moving? It twists and turns‚ and I look to the skies in hopes of seeing members of the Order of the Phoenix swooping in on their broomsticks‚ and not the dark shadows of Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

“Watch out‚ mate!” I’m snapped back to reality by a passerby‚ and continue along the bridge… the same bridge I could’ve sworn was alive a few moments earlier. Sadly‚ no wizards or house-elves are in sight‚ and all motorcycles and Ford Anglias remain firmly grounded. For now‚ anyway…

I guess you can take the boy out of the magic‚ but you can’t take the magic out of the boy.

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