A Visit to Middle Earth

So. Today. We did some things in Rotorua, but I’m not going to waste time talking about it because we went to Middle Earth today. For real. This was the part of the trip Tim was most excited to reach, and based on the expression on his face the entire time, it didn’t disappoint. Even for someone who isn’t quite the Tolkien fan that Tim is, the Hobbiton movie set tour in Matamata was really a pleasure.

I read in a few blogs that going to Hobbiton in the summer and trying to get photos without dozens of strangers in them was a lesson in frustration, so I had little expectation that we’d get very many good photos and a concern that we would be shuffled around the set like cattle. However, that was not the case at all. By booking the last tour of the day that included dinner at The Green Dragon, we were part of a group of around thirty, and we were the only group on the entire set. We were divided into two smaller groups with our own tour guide who made sure we had the full experience as we walked the surprisingly large grounds that made up the shire.

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As I said, I am not Tolkien’s number one fan, but I was totally geeking out walking around the 40ish hobbit holes. Each one had different little details that you missed if you didn’t look carefully. The baker’s hole had flour bags in the window; the fishmonger had fish hanging in the smoker to the side of his hole. Everywhere we looked there was some small detail that contributed to the overall story. This was one of Tim’s favorite parts.

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And the flowers! Summer is definitely the best time to come to experience the real beauty of the setting. The weather could not have been more perfect for our walkabout. The evening sun was gorgeous on the trees and hills as we walked toward The Green Dragon for dinner.

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Upon arrival in The Green Dragon, we were provided ales and ciders to wet our whistles while we waited for dinner.

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They were very careful to keep our view of the dining room obscured as people slid behind the closed curtain making final preparations. When the tables were ready, one of the guides asked for volunteers to pull back the curtain and reveal the scene. He picked two gentlemen, and to our surprise, announced that these gentlemen were not just any ordinary tour-goers. They were actually the great- and great-great grandsons of JRR Tolkien! They were on a visit to Hobbiton with a small film crew, and they ushered us into dinner.

And what a hobbit feast lay before us! Mountains and mountains of food, every bit as delicious as the bite before. We dug in and enjoyed conversation with a couple from Australia and a father and daughter from Germany.

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After dinner, we were provided lanterns to guide us back through the shire. We walked past lantern-lit hobbit holes toward the field where Bilbo’s party scene took place. The guide shared more stories about the filming, and then the group sang “Happy Birthday” to a gentleman on the tour whose birthday was today. And then we all danced like hobbits as the guides sang the Green Dragon song.

One of my favorite parts came next when the guide instructed us to turn off our lanterns, and we just looked up at the sky. The stars were so bright, and we could see parts of the Milky Way, there is so little light pollution out there. Really just breathtaking to see so many stars above and look back to see the hills dotted with lantern light.

We were given the opportunity to do what they called “the victory lap” and go once more around a portion of the set, admiring it lit up at night.

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The tour was advertised as being from 6:15 until 9, but we didn’t get back to our car in the parking lot until almost 11. So much time spent on the set was amazing.

Tim said he had high expectations of this visit, and that his experience actually surpassed his expectation. He was like a gleeful kid at Christmas. I had zero expectations other than that Tim would be geeking out for three hours, so I was surprised by how delighted I was by the experience and how much I really enjoyed it.

The Wayfaring Parkers give Hobbiton two big thumbs up! It’s a completely worthwhile experience whether you’re a fan or not.

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