Through the international time barrier we went, and a day was lost without the aid of alcohol. We stayed at the Hilton Auckland, situated right on the harbour where the cruise ships dock, offering amazing views over Auckland and crisp clean air beyond description.
Hot Tip: The Hilton Auckland was über modern and had a stylish cosmopolitan feel to it. You simply must try the restaurant FISH, as the Head Chef Simon Gault is somewhat of a celebrity in New Zealand, and his menu offers exquisite food that will create delicious memories of Auckland. Also, when in Auckland I can highly recommend a company called Bush and Beach. They arrange city tours, vine yard tours, and trips to Hobbiton. They are very proud of NZ and they want to show it off in all of its glory, and I learnt some fascinating things along the way that are fueling my desire to plan a return trip.
We were treated to a trip to Hobbiton by Bush and Beach, a place where at last 5ft 3″ me felt at home!
For Non-Lord-of-the-Rings-Fans: Hobbiton is a film set used for the filming of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Film Trilogy. It is set in farm lands in the North of NZ, in a place called Matamata – AKA Middle Earth.
The story goes that Peter Jackson was looking for a lake with a tree by it (which would later become the party tree) in the middle of a landscape that was untouched by the modern age. After much flying around in a helicopter they came across the Alexander Family Sheep Farm. They knocked on the door and in typical New Zealander style were told that there was a game of local rugby on the television and to come back after it had finished! The rest, as they say, is history, and the farm owners even asked that the set designers to leave the Hobbit holes intact so people could come and enjoy them.
We drove for 2 hours from Auckland to get to Hobbiton, and the spectacular scenery was like the rolling green hills of home but on a much grander and more impressive scale. The drive itself was a sight to behold!
It is fascinating to go to Hobbiton even if you’ve never watched the films or read the books, as it is amazing how much detail went into the making of the film set. There are working mini mail boxes, native trees wrapped in birch to make it look authentic, and you can even open the door and look into a Hobbit house before eating lunch in the Green Dragon Pub.
Hot Tip: Just like the carrot cake in LA is a must, so is the Green Dragon’s apple crumble. Your life is not complete until it has been sampled!
Fun New Zealand Facts:
1. The accent of New Zealand is fairly consistent throughout the country, except for areas in the South where they roll their R’s. This is because it is colder in the South, and when the Scottish went over to NZ they settled were happy to settle where they landed, hence the slight deviation in accent.
2. The word “Manchester” in New Zealand dialects means “bedding” or “linings”. It derives from cotton being sourced from cotton mills in Manchester.
3. New Zealanders are not massively creative with the names of their National Sports Teams, but their naming convention is delightfully amusing! Their rugby players wear all black so they are called the All Blacks. Their Football team wear all white so they are called the All Whites. Their Cricket team wear black caps so they are called the Black Caps and their basketball team wear all black - but that name was taken, so they are called The Tall Blacks.
4. The Maori call Auckland Aotearoa, meaning Land of the Long White Cloud.
We did not even touch the surface of New Zealand but time and tide wait for no one and Sydney was calling…
Keep an eye out for more of Gemma’s diaries from her round the world trip!