OMG HOBBITON

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. 

At the welcome sign, before seeing any of the hobbit holes.
Weepy me in front of one of the first hobbit holes.
Look at the wee mailboxes!
All of the hobbit holes were made to different scales (to be filmed with hobbits vs wizards or dwarves), so some are quite small and others larger.
Penelope at the baker’s house. Many of the hobbit holes had details that suggested the owner’s occupation… baker, artist, potter, blacksmith. And the stands were often perfectly Penelope-sized.

First glimpse of the Dragon Inn, with the Party Tree from Bilbo’s 111th birthday on the left.
Family of hobbits at the artist’s house.
One of the tour guides invited Penelope and Jeremy to stand where we’d end up with a perspective shift. Or as he put it to Penelope, “Do you want to be bigger than your dad?”
Ahhhhhhh! Look at Bilbo’s pipe!
Bag End, readying for the party.
Yes, that’s a real pumpkin. And all of the gardens and fruit trees are real, cared for by a team of more than thirty gardeners.
Gorgeous flowers!
Looking back up one of the hills.
A closer view of the Green Dragon Inn.
Selling cheese at the cheesemonger’s house.
Sam and Rosie’s house.
Signs outside the Inn.
The pub! The ales and ciders here are specially brewed on site.
Or if you prefer water, they have that too. 🙂
A handy place to store your walking sticks and wizard staffs.
“It comes in pints?!?” (note: child is enjoying a flagon of ginger beer, not ale)
Trying out the harp in the corner. After she played for a bit, she went to ask the tour guide if the harp belonged to Thorin.
Gorgeous decorations in the courtyard outside the Inn.
Beautiful details everywhere inside…
And Penelope was delighted to spot this parchment copy of Thorin’s song. Note too she is wearing the One Ring. But she says to tell you that she was careful never to put it on.
A feast fit for hobbits! The food was gorgeous and delicious–and there was lots of it.
After dinner, while the plates were cleared and dessert was prepared, they laid out Shire clothes for us to try on. I seized my chance to become a Hobbit barmaid.
Penelope joined in, posing by the fire.
But what I really wanted, of course, was to get out from behind the bar and go on an adventure. Must have been the Tookish part of me.
Dessert was equally lavish. My favorite was the pavlova, with whipped cream and strawberries–so delicious! Penelope and Jeremy favored the cheesecake. And we all liked the raspberry bakewell with butterscotch and cream on top.
At the end of our lantern-lit stroll back through Hobbiton, we found that the guides had set up a studio light in front of the gardener’s hobbit hole. And so each of us in turn bid farewell to this magical place.
Until next time!

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