If you happen to follow me on tumblr, you may already have seen that I got the last highlight in yesterday. It was a long way coming. 33 days in fact, and 5000km. The latter in NZ alone. It didn’t disappoint. I am talking about Hobbiton.
We arrived in Matamata at 10 am yesterday, and I got myself on the next tour to the movie set. No journalist discount, but I had acquired a discount card for a particular chain of holiday parks along the way, so I got the tour for 68 NZD instead of 75. Off we set in our tour bus.
At The Shire’s Rest we changed bus drivers and took our guide on board, and off we went.
That’s part of the drive up to the movie set and you will see that the location is idyllic – rolling hills, dotted with sheep, the occasional tree, and a mountain range in the distance. You can also hear the driver babbling away 😉
And then we arrived. The set was instantly recognizable and looks the way we saw it in the films: an idyllic little village of Hobbit holes, built into the softly rolling hills. I had picked a gorgeous day for the visit – the sun was splitting the stones, and the whole place could not have looked any better. The gardens were full of butterflies, the flowers were in bloom.
It was lucky I was on an early-ish tour because the interval between my group and the previous one was not too short. That changed soon after us, and you could hardly get a shot in that didn’t have people in it.
There were 44 individual hobbit holes and they came in different sizes – built to scale, for the different shots they took of them with the various actors/stand-ins. All of the hobbit holes were beautifully decorated. The attention to detail was staggering – flower gardens decorated every hole, there were little props such as wheel barrows, chairs, sometimes tools. A bakery had a stall outside, you could see shelves full of cheeses in the cheesemonger’s hole, and Samwise’s house had a washing line where a few garments were merrily fluttering in the breeze. Chinese lanterns hung beside the party tree, and the gardens were full of pumpkins, courgettes, rhubarb and all manner of edible, real “vege”.
Our tour took us past plenty of hobbit holes, and we were allowed to step into one of them and pose. It wasn’t Bag End, but here I am, with Pop Thorin, after I had guided him along so that he didn’t get lost…
Pop Thorin drew quite a few laughs and looks when I brought him out.
I couldn’t wait, of course, to bring Thorin back to Bag End. To the door, where he knocked – and where *he* knocked us out.
Yeah, I think it’s time to insert *that* gif again. Apologies to the creator – I’d love to credit you, but can’t remember who you are. Splendid work.
Curt, the nice tour guide, was quite taken with him and snuck into a picture of Thorin in front of his good pal Bilbo’s house.
*hmph* Thorin doesn’t really look impressed, does he? Here’s a view of Bag End across Hobbiton:
After the tour past the holes we went across the bridge, past the mill, to the Green Dragon Inn where we were offered a free drink. There was a choice between four different beverages, among them Amber Ale. I opted for a refreshing tankard of Cider, however.
Thanks to Pop Thorin I made the acquaintance of a lovely French girl who recognized him and we got chatting. She knew the films – and even Richard Armitage. No, she was not a fellow well-wisher, but she congratulated me on my good taste *ggg*. We spent the remainder of the tour together, so – yet again – I may thank Mr A for facilitating acquaintances/chats/friendships/contacts/whatever you want to call it.
After two hours in Hobbiton we set down Curt at The Shire’s Rest and had 15 minutes in the gift shop where I bought a few souvenirs before we were ferried back to Matamata. I said bye-bye to Hobbiton with a celebratory last photo of the porn dwarf… Oh, how I will miss nipping into post offices and eye-sores i-sites to get my daily fix…
To conclude my post – here’s a review of the tour as a tourist experience: Admission prices in NZ seem quite steep. 75 NZD translate into 50 Euro after all. But you get transport to and from the movie set and a tour that includes a free drink. The tour guide was knowledgable and really friendly, the tour itself fun. The site itself is extremely well-maintained. Gardeners were busy cutting the grass and planting/pruning flowers. There were detailed decorations everywhere, lovingly arranged to make the place look lived in – as if the hobbits had only just left to go to the fair. I can’t find any fault with it at all. If anything, then the only drawback is that there are so many tours going through the site that you will always have someone walking into the picture. The tour is a definite must for all Hobbit fans – it is magic to be in the place where they filmed, and when you are there you almost feel as if you are in the film itself. You’ll invariably think “this is where Frodo meets Gandalf on the cart/the children run through the garden/Bilbo sits outside his home/Frodo nails the sign on the garden gate”, and that just feels great. And if you happen to have someone on your party who hasn’t seen the films – it’s still worth seeing, just because it’s cute and simply a beautiful spot. Five stars from me.
PS: I am not too sure, btw, whether Mr A ever filmed in Hobbiton. His scene at the beginning of AUJ was probably done in studio, not on location. But I hazard the guess that he took the opportunity to see the place, too. After all, he needed the back story to Thorin losing his way *twice* – I wonder what he came up with…
And a last PPS: As ever I am indebted to Richard and his army. You see, I am writing this from Auckland. Day 37 and we have completed the circle. We arrived back in Auckland this afternoon. And ever since we have arrived, my heart has been feeling heavy. This is the end of the journey now, and I am sad to the point of being distraught at having to leave. But I have just spent all evening here in my hostel, going through my images, editing them, uploading them, writing my blog post – and effectively ignoring and forgetting that I am at the journey’s end. My thanks to you – for reading, for commenting, for entertaining my usual irrelevant b’shit. And my thanks to Mr A – for providing many a focal point for me while travelling in NZ. I can well understand that he felt at home here – but maybe I’ll get into that in a later post. For now – good-bye from Auckland.
I promise, this is the last PPPS: There is one more NZ post scheduled for tomorrow – written many days ago.