Being the travels of a family on sabbatical, there and back again.
We arrived in Rotorua Tuesday evening, after a long drive north. Typically Jeremy and I split the longer drives, with me doing the bulk of country driving while he takes the cities. We settled into the Top10 at Rotorua for the next three nights, noting the faint smell of sulphur as we carried in our bags from the car. Rotorua is most famous for its geothermal properties: geysers, hot lakes, and mudpots abound. The city also has the highest population of Maori in New Zealand: 75% of the city residents.
On Wednesday we planned a very low-key day, with just one outing to a nearby city park to see some of the geothermal features. The bright green lake and smoky waterfall were quite something, but the footbaths were empty, alas.
In late afternoon, after some schoolwork and Skyping with grandparents, we headed back to the car for the hour long drive to Matamata… and HOBBITON. It’s not actually written in all caps, but I wanted to capture my emotion for you. 🙂
Last August when I booked our trip to Hobbiton, I chose the Evening Banquet Tour primarily because it was the longest tour option—and I wanted to be in Hobbiton for as long as possible. So it was early evening when we arrived at the Hobbit Movie Set gift store and café. We checked in for our tour, browsed the gift shop, and then boarded the bus for the actual movie set, about five minutes away. There were only about forty people on the tour, with two tour guides, and—best of all—no one else. No tours before or after, which I think made the experience feel more special.
We toured the whole village (forty-four hobbit holes!), marveling at all of the amazing detail, before walking over to the Green Dragon Inn for dinner, dress-up, and dessert, then a lantern-lit walk back to the Party Tree, and the bus ride back to the carpark.
I took hundreds of photos, of course, but I’ve distilled them to my absolute favorites below. I think I’ll let them speak for themselves. But I will tell you now that when we rounded the corner and first saw Bag End perched on top of the hill, with all of Hobbiton spread out below… well, I couldn’t help it. I just melted into tears. An older English gentleman caught sight of my joyful tears and walked over to pat my back, saying, “I feel just the same way.” Truly one of the most wonderful, most magical moments of my life.