One of the most frequent questions I get from friends and family is, “Have you seen any Hobbits yet?” but to their surprise, the next time they ask I will have a different answer for them.
James surprised me with tickets to the Hobbiton Farm and Movie Set Tour down in Cambridge, New Zealand – almost 3 hours drive outside of Auckland. We rose bright and early (way too early for me – I am a serious night owl) and clambered into the car. A few days ago I bought an adorable dress from Save Mart (a local thrift store) and was determined to wear it, but the sun these days has been very deceiving. It is almost as if the Summer weather drastically turned to Autumn overnight. The sun is just enough to keep you comfortable until you step foot in the shade and then you are scrambling to put your sweater on. Not only is the shade chilly, but the southerly winds are picking up and seem to find a way through your skin to your bones.
I am Canadian. I should be a proud patriot and scoff at the above 0 degree weather. I must have been born in the wrong country, because I cannot stand the cold or the snow. Figures. A Canadian that doesn’t like snow.
I folded my little dress sadly and opted for jeans and my new favourite plaid top and we were off (almost with my house slippers still on, too!) The scenery was strange to me, almost like driving through the northern states of America. The rest stops, farms, and little towns triggered memories from my California road-trip some years back. The bustling town of Cambridge put a few speed bumps in our directions when the road we were looking for was not directly off the main drag. After the 4th time up/down the road we pulled off to turn around, only to find it was the road we had been looking for. More scenery, hills, farms and sheep later, we made our way to the Hobbiton Tours.
In 1998, Peter Jackson discovered the Alexander farm during an aerial search for film locations. The farm was perfect, and even came with it’s own “Party Tree” right by the lake. The farm was almost completely untouched by modern technology including power lines and roads. The set took 9 months to construct and filming began shortly after in December of 1999. A total of 37 Hobbit holes were constructed out of Styrofoam and untreated timber. The set has since been reconstructed out of wood, brick and other more weather-resistant materials. All the hobbit holes had to be constructed at different heights depending on the actors that would be using them. For Gandalf, the houses and decor had to be small to give the illusion Gandalf was taller than the Hobbits.
Overall I was completely astounded at the detail and thought that was put into each tiny thing. Even while we were touring there were staff members tending to the set, pruning and repairing. Over 100,000 people were estimated to have visited Hobbiton this year, and they are predicting another 150,000 next year for the Hobbit movie premiere. They are even constructing a wedding chapel! What I wouldn’t give to photograph one of those weddings!
An hour and a half flew by so quickly, but there was a good allotment of time to see everything and take photos. Of which of course, I will share with you.
Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?
This tree cost 1 million dollars to build. Each branch was numbered and chopped up and sent from Matamata to be put back together again above Bilbo’s house. Fake leaves from Taiwan were flown in and attached to the branches one by one. They even blow in the wind! The tree is now completely lifeless, but you’d never be able to tell.