So today is the day. The day I’ve been waiting for. Pretty much 99.99% of the reason I wanted to come to New Zealand in the first place (apart from, you know, visiting New Zealand itself.)
TODAY. IS. HOBBITON. DAY!
Considering I got zero sleep last night due to pure unadulterated (literally, I have regressed back to childhood at this point) excitement, I skipped my way downtown and bounced into the pick-up centre over an hour early. Between that and the coffee you can imagine how much I was physically vibrating by the time the massive green bus rolled around. The very lovely staff shop staff did have to gently remind me that I didn’t need to take photos of the information guide or the merchandise - I was about to see the real thing after all.
Now this may be slightly spoilerish but I’ve got to guess that I’m not the only crazy-as Tolkein-head they’ve ever had on this tour, as the first look reveal of the Hobbiton film set is way too perfectly timed to be anything other than exquisitely planned to get the most emotional reactions; all throughout the drive down to Matamata I was watching the signs along the road count down, mile by mile, as we edged ever closer to the site. Then you turn off onto this dirt side road, surrounded by nothing but hills, that gets you craning your neck in all manner of impossible positions just to sneak even the tiniest peak of nerdvana.
By now you can almost smell it. Your heart is pounding in your ears. Clawing out the window and running up the road genuinely feels like a fantastic decision as the bus has slowed to a crawl…
Then ‘The Shire’ music comes on. Gently playing over the speakers. As the sun came out to part the grey skies away.
Just in time for literal fucking HOBBITON to come gliding into view.
Yes. Yes I cried. Like a big, blubbering 25-year-old baby.
By the time we got off the bus I had just about managed to compose myself - or at least make it look like I didn’t have mascara running down my face. We were then taken down to the set itself, where we were excitedly told that the path we were on was the same one from Bilbo’s “I’m going on an adventure!” scene in The Hobbit (cue tears again) before finally making it down to the vegetable garden right in the centre. Real vegetables growing and everything!
Now some movie or television sets, if you ever get the chance to visit one, can completely ruin the magic of the big screen - they’re still fun to go and visit, but up close you can see a fake cardboard house from a real one. But standing there in that vegetable patch, with a 360 degree view of great green hills and hobbit holes, makes you feel like you’ve walked through the television screen and discovered Middle Earth was a real life place all along.
It was very nice of the tour guide to give me a couple of minutes to compose myself before beginning our journey around Hobbiton.
And before anyone asks… yes there is video footage of my nerdy, blubbering face.
So the first thing we got taken to see were the hobbit hole doors that are scattered throughout Hobbiton – or more particularly, to a selection of three in a row that were all the same colour but in significantly different sizes. These were used during filming to help force perspective and make the characters look different heights than what their actors truly were; for example, they’d film the hobbits in front of the big door to make them look smaller, and the likes of Gandalf in front of the small door to make him look waaaaay taller.
Whilst most of the doors throughout the set are simply there for aesthetic purposes (ie: there’s nothing behind them, they’re simply just doors in the hills) there are a couple that actually have a little bit of interior built in behind them. Perfect for those scenes where they are entering or exiting their homes. Also, equally perfect for us to get a photo opportunity, and for me to live out my fantasy of actually living in a hobbit hole!
Which is not as ridiculous as it sounds – apparently, they’re thinking of making some properly inhabitable ones back in the UK!!
After a while we finally make it to the top of the hills (that sounds more dramatic than it is – the walk is actually quite gentle, and the pathways, although rustic, are quite wide and easy to traverse. So, if anyone out there has trouble walking or needs aid to get around, you should be able to do this tour with absolutely no problems) to THE hobbit hole we’ve all been itching to see; Bag End! Complete with the iconic ‘No Admittance Except on Party Business’ sign nailed to the gate!
Excuse me whilst I do a Happy Hobbit Dance over here…
Now I’m not going to spoil all of the tour for you all on here (although I could quite happily just write and write and write about this place and create the longest blog post of all time) as this is one of those places that you NEED to experience first-hand, but one of my favourite facts that you’ll learn is about the tree that looms above the Bilbo and Frodo Baggin’s home; it is completely fake! The original tree from the Lord of the Rings movies was cut down from another area and placed there specially, and naturally it had died by the time Peter Jackson et al decided to film The Hobbit. So the crew recreated it exactly, piece by piece, even individually hand painting hundreds of thousands of leaves. Ttwice, if my tour guide was to be believed – apparently Peter Jackson thought the first green they used was too fake looking so he asked for them to be redone.
And how long was this tree in the movie for? SECONDS!
If that’s not dedication to your craft, I don’t know what is.
Finally, we found ourselves in the warmth and comfort of The Green Dragon; now turned into a fully functioning pub, I grabbed myself a sandwich and some cider, settled into one of the plush leather arm chairs and rested by the fireplace. The perfect place for feasting, and reminiscing over a wonderful day. Considering it was still winter in New Zealand we had beautiful blue skies all day, and the whole experience was everything I wanted it to be and more. If I could somehow get my entire family across the other side of the world, get married and have my reception here at Hobbiton, this would be my ultimate destination wedding venue. Trust me, between the gorgeous views, the pretty bunting and the masses of dancing space, you could put on a party that a hobbit would be proud of.
But for now, I’m happy with the fact that one of my childhood dreams has finally come true.
And now there’s only one place left to visit before we go… TO THE GIFT SHOP!
Lesson Number 25: Be prepared to spend money in the Hobbiton gift shop. Like, a lot of money. And maybe even consider purchasing a second rucksack or suitcase if you fancied bringing it all home with you!