How could you visit New Zealand and not stop for a cider in the Shire?
Unfortunately, I woke up congested… assuming that I picked it up from all the people in my room that were coughing and blowing their noses. Another downside of staying in a hostel. We all dragged ourselves out of bed as quietly as we could and then got ready to leave for the day. Checkout was at 8 and that’s exactly when we needed to hit the road to make it in time for our next reservation in Hobbiton.
I took longer to get ready so I met up with SJ and Victoria at the bakery down the street where they had gone to grab breakfast. Victoria greeted me with a bacon and egg flaky pie and a chai tea that had “Happy Birthday, Elyse” written on it. Oh yeah, it’s my birthday! That lifted my groggy spirits.
Driving TO the Shire felt like driving THROUGH it. Before we reached the movie set itself, it was as if we were driving through an extension of the picturesque scenery they conveyed so well in the LOTR films.
We arrived to Hobbiton with only 10 minutes to spare. Our GPS told us we had 20 minutes to go for about an hour and a half, so we had no grasp on how far away we actually were. Sure enough, we missed our check-in time but fortunately they were able to move our booking from the 11AM tour to noon. To kill time, we checked out the store and perused different souvenirs to find anything we might be able to afford. Then it was time to line up for our bus.
The bus drove us to the movie set and we hopped off to a five-minute introduction from our tour guide. We were a very diverse group with people from the US, China, Hong Kong, Sweden, France, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Romania, England and Australia.
Then suddenly we were in world that took Sir Peter Jackson and his team 2 years to create.
Jackson’s attention to detail blew me away… you could stand in one spot and find something new for every minute longer you stood there.
For anyone curious on fun facts, here’s a few we learned:
- Peter Jackson’s team scouted the land with a helicopter to find a place perfect for the movie. They found the Alexander farm – 1,200 acres of rolling green hills – and decided to pay the family a visit. When they knocked on the door, no one answered because they were watching rugby (THE pastime in New Zealand… don’t mess with their rugby). In fact, no one came to the door until halftime. Peter Jackson and his crew just had to wait. When they asked if they could tour the farm with Mr. Alexander, he said nope, I’m watching rugby – feel free to look around but close the gates behind you. That was so classic to me, I love it. Be your own person and prioritize the things that matter to you.
- Peter Jackson wanted the Shire to look very English so any plants or scenery that didn’t fit this description was removed. Here are some details:
- A large tree was cut down and transported to the top of Bagg’s End. Then, all of the leaves were removed and replaced with 200,000 oak leaves that were individually painted and placed on the tree. The original color was not the exact shade of green that Peter Jackson wanted, so they had to re-paint every. single. leaf.
- A pond was created in the middle of the shire and a family of frogs took up residence. This became an issue when their croaks were so loud that they interfered with the actors’ microphones. So they hired a frog-catcher who got into the pond, caught all the frogs and transported them across the farm. (Who wouldn’t want to tell their family and friends about that job?!)
- Some of the trails they wanted to look well-traveled (by foot specifically) so they made everyone get the laundry and walk the path every single day to create this.
- The original set was made with temporary materials but when demand to see the shire by tourists became so high, they re-created the set with wood and brick and other long-lasting materials. This was done when constructing everything for the Hobbit movies.
A perfect finish to our tour was a stop at the Green Dragon Tavern. Tickets for the tour included a complimentary drink – choices of ciders only found in the Green Dragon Tavern. Min was delicious. After snapping as many more pictures as our tour guide would let us as he tried to herd our group to the exit, we hopped on the bus. We ate lunch at the café, bought a few souvenirs and hopped in the car to go to Raglan.