Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hobbiton. Or, An Unexpected Journey, Really.

I had put off taking the kids to Hobbiton long enough, and I realized we are running out of weekends, so it was time to go. Part of my hesitation was the price tag given that I am not a fan, $75/adult seemed very steep, and I would rather buy a sundress or something else with that kind of cash! Fortunately the kids 10-and under were $10 a piece, so the total damage was $105 and strict instructions to Charlotte that she is NOT 11 (youth ticket was $38), because I am cheap like that.

I booked online the evening before for a 10AM tour, because the days are really warming up and any of the later tours could be pretty hot going - it is a walking tour the size of a couple of farm paddocks. So we departed home around 8:30 and arrived at the farm with 25 minutes to take our 1-parent-with-three-kids sweet time about getting out of the car, putting on sunscreen, making a toilet stop, etc... We had 5 minutes to spare before boarding our bus.

Hmmm, I didn't take a picture of the bus. The bus ride is short, but very hilly and windy farm terrain. Everywhere outside the movie set boundary is still the farmer's working sheep farm. The site was chosen due to fact that you can't see any signs of human development such as power lines, farmhouses or buildings, or roads. You're taken deep into the farm, 2 miles from the main a refurbished old white bus, definitely not worthy of a photo. I am sure there is plenty a tourist wary, at this point, at what standard of tour they have just paid big bucks for!

Whomever the film studio big bosses are, they require that the tours of Hobbiton be guided tours. Our guide's name is Dan, and he quickly tells us he is the most fun guide, and it seems that the bus drivers genuinely agree with that self assessment, so off we go. With plenty of "come and see this bro' ", and "sweet as"-es thrown in, he is doing a good job of being a typical kiwi bloke, and the kids lap it up!

So the tour walks you around the entire shire, countless hobbit holes, especially manicured 'natural' gardens, including vegetable grades, washing on the lines, the Party tree where 111-teenth birthday takes place, and ends at the Green Dragon Tavern where drinks are included in your ticket price.

Originally the set was not built to be permanent. But after the LOTR, when they were preparing for the Hobbit trilogy, they realized there was a lot of tourist interest to visit the deserted set. It was decided to build out of bricks and mortar, and wood this time around. The hobbit holes have all passed structural inspection, so you can visit for the next 50 years. The 'genius' of that decision is certainly paying off! I really couldn't believe the amount of people visiting! Really? This many people like Tolkien?! The guided tour was probably the best way to manage the hoards in the end, you only have small groups at any one address, at a time. With tours starting at 30 minute intervals you never run into the other groups. It is possible to take photos without featuring screeds of tourists, and lets face it everyone is here to take snapshots!

I recommend Hobbiton tours for anyone, even if, like me, you are not a fan of the book or movies.

I am just going to post the pictures now, because I didn't learn any trivia that will impress you.

Carson was selected to be the model hobbit, along with the tall gentleman, who was to model Gandalf. Standing in front of differently scaled hobbit holes they show how human actors were made to appear so different in size.
This one is a 60% scale (above).
It is such a fun place to visit for kids, even if they only force themselves to watch movies because they are supposed to love them, like all their friends do. Two out of three admit it is too scary for them.
So many hobbit holes! With such sweet landscaping. Full time gardeners are employed to keep it all looking so perfect and lived in.
One of these is Sam's house. Watch the movies to figure it out. (If you pay 100% attention to what the guide is telling you, you would know).
This is the home of Bilbo Baggins. It is the hardest one to get a photo of because it is up all those stairs, and you can't go behind the gate. Too many people were carving their names on it, and writing 'Kilroy was Here' etc. The tree above it is completely fake. It is the only completely fake tree here, and I can't tell you why they needed it. Carson received a twig of fake oak leaves, similar to the ones wired onto this fiberglass tree, for his help as model hobbit. He is very proud of it, no one else got one.
The party tree, on the left. Real. (Above)
Bilbo's view across the lake to the Green Dragon Tavern. It is human size, and serves real food and beer. You tour ends with a complimentary ale or ginger beer, and about 25 minutes to sit, relax and take in Hobbit hospitality. Of course you can take more photos, too:
It had cleared out because everyone was now sitting at outside tables. Sweet as! I didn't want them on my photos!
This photo was taken by someone 7, or younger.
My little hobbits:

So, we went to see 'Catching Fire' last night. My favorite of that trilogy. Loved it! Big fan! Tour of districts 11 and 12, anyone?