Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Zealand Trip, Part 3: Hobbiton

From Auckland, we set out early morning on our third day in New Zealand to the Hobbiton Lord of the Rings Movie Set tour. We took the South Motorway, the big highway, so the view was not very scenic at all. I was a tiny bit disappointed. But we went inside the small towns on the way back to Auckland from Rotorua, and the roads were definitely a lot more scenic, albeit, longer than usual. I noted that we did not pay any toll fees at all.

I booked the tickets online, more than a month in advance. There are three pick-up sites for the tour, one in Rotorua, where we are actually heading after the tour, one in Hamilton and another one in MataMata itself, where the movie set is located. I chose the MataMata site since it's the shortest drive from Auckland, and also offered the cheapest tickets because of the proximity to the Shire.

This is the i-Site, at the MataMata city center 
The i-Site is located at Broadway Street, which is right at the city center, conveniently littered with restaurants and bars and lots of parking lots. There is also a souvenir shop inside the i-Site. I bought a few more postcards to send to myself and my relatives because they have such beautiful postcards and stamps. And they conveniently have a post box outside of the shop.

Waiting for our bus to bring us to the Shire
We arrived at the i-Site just in time for lunch. Our tour did not start until 3:30 PM. I think we arrived at around 1PM. Plenty of time for lunch and browsing the shops.

Lunching at the MataMata City Center at a nice and friendly place called Redoubt Bar and Eatery
They also have free WIFI

We found a cozy little restaurant, called Redoubt Bar and Eatery, with friendly staff and chatty owner. Hubby had a nice time chatting about rugby while we waited for our lunch, which took quite some time to arrive. They also have free WIFI, which is very convenient for Instagram addicts like myself. I had a light lunch of scallops and watermelon salad. It was very fresh and palatable.

The Map of the Shire
The bus arrived right on time. We were first in the queue. I wanted to sit right in front of the bus so I could see everything. And I did. The bus driver was very chatty and very funny. Before coming to NZ, I thought I would have trouble understanding people because of the accent, but surprisingly, I didn't. He was talking about how the Hobbiton movie site was built, how the director, Peter Jackson (I didn't know that he's Kiwi) discovered the Shire, etc. He also imparted lots of interesting trivia about the film.

It was about half an hours' drive to the movie set. The road to the Shire was interesting -- hilly and picturesque. I can see why it was chosen for a movie set. There were some areas that reminded me so much of Tuscany, except that there were no vineyards or sunflowers. And most of the shrubbery and trees in the areas were uprooted from somewhere else, apparently.

This is where the tour starts! :)

The very first Hobbit House on the path... picture-taking frenzy ensued

All excited to take a selfie after the paparazzi crowd decided to move along
It was a really hot and sunny afternoon, and most of the Shire is not shady. I wished I had brought or bought a hat. Thankfully, I brought some water with me. There was also a bit of climbing and slippery slopes. I wished I wore more sensible shoes. And thankfully, it was not raining.

Our tour guide was really friendly, but he seemed a bit tired. Unfortunately, I was too distracted with the picture-taking that I did not really listen much to what he was saying during the trip. And there were too many people with us. It took a lot of effort and time to not incude them in the pics.

Hello from Frodo's House! :)

Bilbo Baggins' House is at the topmost area of the Shire. That huge tree on top of it is fake, would you believe?
According to the guide, each leaf was painstakingly glued onto the branches.

The little one having a wonderful time playing with all the set props

The last part of the tour was at the Green Dragon pub. Inside, we all got a free drink. The beer was quite refreshing. They also serve non-alcoholic drinks for kids. And they apparently have some Hobbit costumes that you can borrow, I think I heard the tour guide saying.

I did manage to hear and see for myself that all of the Hobbit Houses are empty inside, except for some boring shelves. It's because the insides of the houses were shot at the studio in Welllington, which really makes sense, if you think about it. Also, it's worth noting that only Bilbo and Frodo's houses have big doors where big people fit in. All the other houses have small doors where only children fit in.

Crossing the bridge to Green Dragon... I had to make a mad dash for this picture before everybody else followed suit.
I'm such a professional and competitive camwhore.

Inside the Green Dragon -- this is a carving detail at the top of a small stall that serves some snacks

Inside the Green Dragon, after waiting for most people to leave

Beautiful window -- every inch of every detail is well-thought out to perfection

Right outside the Green Dragon, in front of the lake

The last bit of our tour, just before heading to the car park to take the bus to bring us back to the i-Site
The afternoon walk at the Shire was truly magical. I wished there were less people though. It was often very difficult to take pictures without the people hovering in the background. All in all, it was a time well-spent and thoroughly enjoyed, especially by the lovely little one. I think, like most theme parks, I wouldn't really have enjoyed it so much, if I weren't with a kid. Everything is always more colorful and more enjoyable being seen through the eyes of a child. And I am thankful for the most fortunate experience of having one.

Have a good weekend, everyone! :)

Up next: Waiheke

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