ELLE (Canada) - - Travel Special -

As the sun set over the har­bour and the long streaks of red on the wa­ter mir­rored the drips of cho­co­late ice cream run­ning down the cone in my hand, I felt happy in the way that peo­ple are at the end of a ro­man­tic novel. In many ways, my en­tire day felt ripped straight from the pages of a Ni­cholas Sparks novel— which it kind of was. South­port, N.C., the tiny town in which I spent this per­fect day, was the film­ing lo­ca­tion for Sparks’ novel turned ro­man­tic block­buster Safe Haven, star­ring Ju­lianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. I sipped drinks at the bar where Hough’s char­ac­ter worked (Old Amer­i­can Fish Co., a.k.a. “Ivan’s”), ate life-chang­ing crab dip at one of Duhamel’s favourite restau­rants (Fishy Fishy; he al­ways or­dered the Brunswick clams) and strolled down the board­walk where the last scene of an­other Sparks clas­sic, A Walk to Re­mem­ber, was filmed (sob, sob). I even had my own lit­tle brush with the nec­es­sary Spark­sian tragedy, con­tem­plat­ing death among the salt-eroded stones of the town’s his­toric grave­yard—al­though the clos­est I came to heart­break was when I couldn’t find the grave of an in­cred­i­bly tall man ap­par­ently buried there.

But the mo­ment when I tran­scended set-jet­ting and ac­tu­ally felt like a Sparks hero­ine my­self came to­ward the end of the af­ter­noon. Wear­ing high-waisted shorts not un­like Al­lie’s inThe Note­book, I found my­self ped­alling an old-school bike through the town’s leafy streets, whizzing by gra­cious old homes with swings on the porch and crape myrtle in the gar­den. If a (shirt­less) Ryan Gosling had stepped out from be­hind the his­toric court­house and con­fessed pas­sion­ate love, I’d hardly have bat­ted an eye­lash. (Al­though I would have told him I was on my way for a cone at Flava’s Ice Cream Shop and could we talk later?)

And, even bet­ter, this story could have a se­quel! The town and other lo­ca­tions in North Carolina are the back­drop forThe Long­est Ride, yet an­other Sparks movie, cur­rently be­ing filmed. I’ll be wait­ing for the cast­ing agent’s call.... h

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