|Note Justin has the Precious, which looks oddly like his wedding ring|
|WE WANTS IT PRECIOUSSSS|
Hobbiton? Really go to Hobbiton? The Hobbiton, of the Shire, the symbolic heart of the books which my father read aloud to us kids when I was in sixth grade? Hobbiton, of the films, which were the defining post-midterms celebration of my college career? Hobbiton, where they eat seven meals a day, where beer does not come in pints, and where the plural of Proudfoot is Proudfeet? There is no font large enough to write YES.
We didn't know how much would be left, since typically movie sets are dismantled after filming - many of the other New Zealand sites consist of things like "This is where Edoras used to stand." But we were hopeful, and we had an afternoon to spare. And we are soooo glad we did, because if you've ever wanted to go to Middle-Earth (and who hasn't???), going to Hobbiton is the next best thing.
|It's pretty damn bucolic.|
The set for Hobbiton was discovered by a film crew touring New Zealand by helicopter, looking for a large tree next to a large lake for the filming of the party scene. They identified the Alexander family sheep farm. When they came to ask for permission to tour the site, they legendarily were only admitted because the rugby match the patriarch was watching was at halftime; otherwise, he wouldn't have gotten up to answer the door. And the rest was history.
What can you still see in Hobbiton?
There are half-size hobbit holes, built so Gandalf could stand in front of them and look tall.
|Everything is so freaking adorable!|
|AAAA ROUND YELLOW DOOR!!!|
|AAAAA TINY BROOM AND BUCKET!!!|
|AAAAAAAA STUBBY FIREWOOD!!!!|
|AAAAAAAAAAA MINIATURE BENCHES BUCKET WATERING CAN NET MILK PITCHER WINDOW CHIMNEY |
TOTAL CUTENESS MELDOWN
|Welcome to the neighborhood!|
|Come on in!|
|Mi hobbit hole es su hobbit hole.|
The Alexander farm site managed to give me the exact right feeling of the Shire. The mild air, the perfect blue sky, the faint gold in the light... it was just how I'd imagined the Shire. Sheltered and gentle, comfortable and cozy, and bursting with plant life. The only difference is that we went in the winter, so the trees weren't as full and the plants weren't as lush, and of course we weren't as warm. I wish I could go back in summer for a perfect Bilbo's Birthday Party feel.
Speaking of Bilbo's Birthday, how about some famous Shire landmarks from the party scene at the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring?
|The double-arched bridge|
|The tree with the overhanging branch, where Gandalf shot off the firework for the little hobbit children|
|The Party Tree! (It's a bit sparse, but it was winter)|
And which way to Bilbo's house, Bag End, at 1 Bagshot Row? First, head towards Hobbiton.
|Although the Green Dragon is also a tempting destination.|
As you come into town, you'll be able to see the house in the distance. It's the one with the big tree on top.
Follow signs for Bagshot Row.
Arrive at Bilbo's house! *Ding* Thank you, Middle-Earth GPS!
|He wasn't home. We should have called ahead.|
|We're like hobbit paparazzi|
|No wonder the poor fellow emigrated to the Grey Havens.|
The tree above Bilbo's house is another interesting story. The tree itself is, I believe, natural, but from the nearby town of Matamata. Being moved like that is understandably traumatic to the tree, especially since I think it might have been cut apart, and hence the leaves on the tree now are entirely synthetic. Not just the leaves on the tree, but the leaves on the ground, as well. I answered some trivia questions correctly and got to keep some leaves. Yes, that's right. THE SHIRE IS COMING HOME.
|This is the same look Gollum has as he falls into the lava.|
I've saved my personal best for last. Bilbo's house was awesome. Oak leaves, which are now framed in my bedroom as well as gifted to my siblings and dad, are sweet as heck. But for me, nothing, absolutely nothing, beat walking up the hill to a pale yellow house with a round red door.
The tour guide, "Does anybody know which hobbit lived here?" I looked for a second, and then all of a sudden my jaw dropped, and I said, in a mild and ladylike manner, "Oh my GOD, that's SAM'S HOUSE."
Just kidding. I screeched it like a Nazgul who just felt Frodo put on the Ring. Because I love no fictional character from any fictional universe the way I love Samwise Gamgee. If I ever have a son, his name will be Sam, and I don't even care if you tell him why.
One random turn for lunch, and it resulted in one of the best travel experiences of our lives. We are the luckiest travelers in Midde-Earth!