Tag Archives: new zealand

There and Back Again

Song Lyric of the Day:

Many places I have been / Many sorrows I have seen / But I don’t regret / Nor will I forget / All who took the road with me

Billy Boyd / “The Last Goodbye

Last year I was ridiculously fortunate to be invited by my friend Nan to accompany her on the trip of a lifetime. She won a trip for two to New Zealand in the Hobbit Fan Fellowship contest. I had suggested she enter, and she said that if she won, she’d take me with her (I posted her winning movie at the end of this post). Clearly, she made good on her word, for which me saying thank you again to her (for the millionth time) still doesn’t seem adequate. Still: Thank you, Nan. You are forever my Hobbit boo. I knew when I first met her that we were going to be great friends, but I could never imagine how much and in how many ways I would come to treasure our friendship, and she knows that extends much deeper than the trip. Although that is some really fantastic icing on the cake.

Last week some of our Fellowship friends got together for the one-year anniversary. Neither Nan nor I could afford to fly to London, but we were with them in spirit. It would have been great to see some of our new friends again and reminisce about the trip as well as make new memories. Maybe next year we can manage to join them again.

It’s a strange beast to be a part of something like this. I can only speak for myself (and Nan, to an extent), but the Hobbit Fan Fellowship trip was a truly life-changing thing. Even before we set off on our first flight (of three) on the long journey to New Zealand, Nan and I knew we were going on the trip of a lifetime. Not only was it an all-expenses-paid trip, but New Zealand 100% Pure, Air New Zealand, and Warner Bros. went all out with the events, surprises, excursions, chartered flights, special guests, and even meals they planned for us (open bars rule!). It really was the kind of vacation experience most of us can only dream of. My only regret is that Nan and I couldn’t share it with our family and other close friends, a regret I imagine some other members of our Fellowship might also have.

We did, however, get to experience this with 148 other people from all over the world, 74 of which were the lucky “plus ones” like myself. We got to know the sweet, kind, funny, smart tour guides, Air New Zealand flight crew, Warner Bros. reps, and camera/sound crew who led, accompanied, spoiled, and documented us every step of the way. While we didn’t get to know or talk to everyone on the trip, those we did were like us: eternally grateful to have been invited on this journey. The Fellowship is made up of a really good bunch of eggs.

I hope and will do my best to save up so that Nan and I can join them for another reunion, one I would love to bring Rich and Coraline along for. Because after hearing about the magic of New Zealand and Rich reading her The Hobbit, Coraline can’t wait to experience it all herself someday.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to treasure my memories of that magical week in the Real Middle-earth, and be happy I have 149 other people who know exactly what it was like to be there.

I made sure Nan was right next to Peter Jackson for our group photo following the screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

I made sure Nan was right next to Peter Jackson for our group photo following the screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (she’s to his right, and I’m right behind her).


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Photoblogging: You Go Squish Now


This is me pretending to get stepped on by a troll in the courtyard of the WETA Cave in Wellington, New Zealand (11/06/14). Thanks to my new friend Lauren for taking the pic.
And yes, soon I will finish posting the trip recaps. I find myself in the same boat as my Fellowship friends in that by stretching out the sharing of events and photos, it’s a little easier to admit that the trip of a lifetime is, in fact, over.

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New Zealand Day 1 Recap

After an epic LAX layover, Nan and I had an equally epic 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. Air New Zealand more than lived up to its stellar reputation, and the plane had what is by far my favorite in-flight entertainment console ever. In between several naps I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Housebound, the season finale of episodes, and most of Bad Neighbours (aka Neighbors in the U.S.).

This made my limited periods of consciousness between naps fun.

This made my limited periods of consciousness between naps fun.

Even wearing compression socks and taking short aisle walks, I got off the plane in Auckland with the cankles I never got during pregnancy.

Nan and I claimed our luggage and immediately encountered a camera crew doing interviews with Hobbit Fan Fellowship contest winners and their guests. Even though we had left Knoxville 30+ hours ago, Nan and I were more than happy to oblige and talk about how she won, where we were from, what we were most looking forward to.

After the interview we followed our fellow hobbits across the street to the Novotel Hotel, where rooms had been booked for all of us to freshen up. After a half hour we took our luggage to a conference room area where we checked in, got our badges, and were given Hobbit-branded T-shirts, windbreakers, and luggage tags as well as a swag bag. After check-in we met everyone in a big conference room with a buffet and The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey playing on two big screens.

Nan with the swag bag we received at check-in.

Nan with the swag bag we received at check-in.

We were welcomed by reps from 100% Pure New Zealand and then divided into groups based on where we came from. Nan and I are in the Hobbit group with everyone else from the Americas, with the other groups being the Wizards, Dwarves, and Elves.

Once sorted, we were bussed to the airplane tarmac — which apparently took jumping through a lot of hoops — to be photographed in front of the Hobbit-branded Air New Zealand plane that most of us flew in on.

We were featured in the local paper in Rotorua using the plane photo op. Nan and I are somewhere on the right toward the back.

We were featured in the local paper in Rotorua using the plane photo op. Nan and I are somewhere on the right toward the back.

Once the photo op was over — the local and international media coverage has been unreal — we hopped on a bus for the three-hour drive to Rotorua. We had a brief period for refreshing ourselves (again), then it was back on the bus to go to Te Puia, a living Maori cultural center. We saw mudpools and the Southern hemisphere’s largest active geyser (Pohutu), learned about Maori culture, and were treated to dance/musical performances in the meeting house, which were so much fun to see. After the performances were over, it was time for a huge buffet.

After our evening at Te Puia, it was back to our hotel where Nan and I passed out by 10PM. Which was a good thing, since we had to get up early to tackle day 2: Hobbiton.

Created with flickr slideshow.

*I have not had good luck with Wi-Fi while here, and after a whopping phone bill post-Toronto, I now leave the Cellular Data option turned off so I’m not racking up excessive charges by using Instagram and Twitter. Tonight has been the best Wi-Fi connection I’ve had since we got here.


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Next Stop: New Zealand

Song Lyric of the Day:

We’re a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea / But as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be

Clean Bandit / “Rather Be

Today is the big day: My friend Nan and I are at the airport right now waiting to fly out of Knoxville on our way to NEW ZEALAND. I admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the country, other than it’s beautiful and has more sheep than people. Which is a fact one of my favorite horror comedies, Black Sheep, really hammered home; the tagline is “the violence of the lambs,” and with good reason.

New Zealand is also one of the top countries I’ve always wanted to visit — and we’ll be soooo close to Australia, another dream destination.

In the spirit of Googling and learning more about New Zealand, I came across this fun list from Buzzfeed, 69 Facts About New Zealand That’ll Blow Your Mind. I’m especially fond of this fact: #6. Only 5% of NZ’s population is human- the rest are animals.  I’m hoping that means I have a better time with Wi-Fi than I did in Toronto last month. Unless the sheep there have smartphones. Then we’re pretty much screwed.

Nan has this to say:

#HobbitContestWinner Nan here. Who’s excited? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count! NEW ZEALAND, look out — Pattie and Nan are on the way!

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“I’m Going on an Adventure” – Bilbo Baggins

Song Lyric of the Day:

What was before, we see once more / Is our kingdom, a distant light / Fiery mountain beneath the moon / The words unspoken, we’ll be there soon / For home a song that echoes on / And all who find us will know the tune

Neil Finn / “Song of the Lonely Mountain

I’ve mentioned my friend Nan in assorted posts over the years. We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, and she is someone I feel like I was meant to meet and get to know. She’s been a wonderful friend to Rich and I over the years, and Coraline is her #1 fan (she calls her Miss Nan). So when I heard about the Hobbit Fan Fellowship contest — with the grand prize being a trip to New Zealand — I told Nan she needed to enter. Because for as long as I’ve known her (8+ years now), I’ve known of her deep and abiding love for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and all things J.R.R. Tolkien. The woman is basically a hobbit at heart, in the best way possible. It was a multiphase contest, beginning with entrants creating a postcard and then ending with the creation and submission of a short movie. Everyone who’s seen Nan’s movie has loved it. Behold:

I am so proud of her for creating such a beautiful and heartfelt short movie. And I was touched and honored when she said that if she won, she’d take me to New Zealand with her. Well, guess what? SHE WON!!!! Nan is one of the lucky winners from the United States — there are multiple international winners, too — and I am beyond thrilled that she is letting me tag along with her halfway across the world. Contest winners — and us lucky plus-ones — will get to visit filming sites for the LOTR and Hobbit movies and, best of all, get to watch the new movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, with none other than the series’ phenomenal director, Sir Peter Jackson.

To say this is surreal is an understatement. This will be the farthest I’ve ever traveled in my life (New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of our time zone), and it will be to visit filming locations for one of my favorite-ever movie series. Basically, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. This will also be only my second time away from Coraline, but I’m pretty sure once she knows I’ll be going somewhere with Miss Nan, she’ll be OK with it. That and when she sees the movies someday — she’ll really appreciate it then.

Did I mention how wonderful Nan is and how grateful I am to her for letting me tag along to FREAKING NEW ZEALAND? Because let me tell you, if she ever needs a kidney, part of my liver, a lung — whatever — I’ve got her covered.


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