MY DAY AS A NICHOLAS SPARKS HEROINE
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