Author: amyairlines

Maryanna Hoggatt: The Amazing Artist Who Inspired Me To Sculpt

Loomie // Dream Guide

This is one of those instances where one click on the internet can really change your life…my life, to be exact.

It all started about a year ago when I was on WordPress Reader (you have to know that I’m rarely on WordPress Reader, so this story starts off with an unusual occurrence already), and I just happened to notice the ‘recommended blogs for you’ bit on the left hand panel of the page.

Usually I ignore those things, but there were about three recommended blogs listed there, and I suppose one of them caught my eye, so I clicked on it. That one fateful click took me to Maryanna Hoggatt‘s old WordPress blog, which she doesn’t use anymore but she keeps accessible anyway (thank goodness!) and then I saw her artwork:

Ness // Eyes + Hands

Her Animal Battle maquette sculptures was what really got me. I’d never seen anything like them before -it was pure imagination in three dimensional form.

Art that is the most inspiring to me always has to take me to another realm, another world of rich stories and possibilities, whether it be through traditional art form, music or books. And Maryanna’s work did just that.

LeeLoo // Dream Guide

I loved the story line she had created for her characters and I could imagine their individual personalities with ease. It was awe-inspiring and it probably would have stayed at just that level for me, if she hadn’t also posted how she had made her first few sculptures.

The Making of Tolly

This was the real catalyst for change within me. Maryanna had written with such detail on how she had made her first character Tolly, with what tools she’d bought and how she’d gone about making him with photos at every step, that by the end of it I just knew I had to try this out for myself.

Mr. Sleepy

I had such an overwhelming feeling that I needed to do this – like it was a sudden and unshakable call of destiny or something, that I researched more about sculpting right away and gathered all of the materials that I would need for it as fast as I could.

Maryanna is now working on Tolly The Book – coming out this year!

And so Tama and my Kimono Cat Collection were born. I love artists who are generous enough to share the process of how they make their work and I’m especially grateful to Maryanna. She provided me with an invaluable insight into something new like sculpting, which I had never even considered doing before, but now love to do.

It is so strange how life can lead you to big things with the smallest of starts – as small as one click onto an internet link.

Thank you, Maryanna – you changed my life!


For more information on Maryanna’s work:

Offical website (

Instagram (@leetlewolf)

Twitter (@leetlewolf)

Ello Blog

(All images in this post are borrowed from Maryanna’s website – click on the photo to follow the link!)


So, did you love Maryanna’s work as much as I did?

Has anyone ever inspired you to do something you’d never done before?





Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Tsubasa The Graduation Cat



Name: Tsubasa (翼)

Height: 22cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Furisode and hakama (振り袖と袴)

Occasion: University graduation ceremony

Time of year/season: March/Spring

Name meaning: Tsubasa means ‘wings’ in Japanese and it symbolises the ‘wings’ she has gained from completing her education to fly off freely into the adult working world. 

Her Story: After three years of university studies, Tsubasa is proud to graduate dressed in her furisode kimono and hakama. She’s unsure of what the future holds in her new full time job that she’s due to be starting soon, but for the moment she’s enjoying the graduation ceremony with friends and excited about their graduation trip around Europe!















Hakama (袴) – Tsubasa is wearing a hakama, which are wide pleated trousers worn over kimono for formal occasions. A lot of women wear the hakama for their university graduation, but they can also be seen at the Coming of Age Ceremony. The hakama can be worn by both women and men, and other occasions where hakama are worn include weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, shrines and martial arts like kendo and aikido.

Me wearing my mum’s furisode kimono and hakama for Japan Day

At university graduations, women typically wear their hakama with either black boots with a slight heel (like Tsubasa’s) or the more traditional zōri (草履) sandals. Men’s hakama are usually stripy in design while women’s hakama are one colour or dyed in different hues.

University degree, graduation ceremony sign and bag

The book that Tsuabasa is proudly showing off is a booklet containing her university degree which she received on stage at the graduation ceremony. Traditional books in Japan still tend to open from right to left but the majority of modern books now have adopted the Western way of left to right.

The graduation ceremony sign reads: ‘Congratulations on your graduation.’

Tsubasa and Ageha


So, did you like meeting Tsubasa? Which Kimono Cat is your favourite so far?

Feline number four is already underway so keep your eyes peeled for updates!




Copenhagen: Tivoli, Danish Royalty And The Little Mermaid

Tivoli Amusement Park

After spending New Years in Hamburg, my family and I headed up to Denmark by bus to visit the spectacular capital city of Copenhagen (København).

Copenhagen City Hall

The first thing I noticed about the city as we drove through were the neat and tidy geometric brick buildings and the prevalent use of bicycles on the road. Copenhagen is proud to be known as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.


Our hotel was right by the central station, so we went to explore the surrounding area with the help of my mum’s Danish friend who showed us around. There was an eclectic mix of modern and old going on in the centre, like these fancy new buildings under construction near the station.

Copenhagen Cathedral

The Copenhagen Cathedral or The Church of Our Lady is the national cathedral of Denmark. It looked more like a palace inside than a church and for good reason – there has been many Danish royal weddings and events held here.

The Little Pharmacy

We had lunch at Det lille Apotek or The Little Pharmacy, which claimed to be the oldest restaurant and coffee house in Copenhagen. In 1720, a pharmacist converted his pharmacy into a restaurant after his unique home distilled spirits became popular with the locals.

The Round Tower spiral walk

The Round Tower or Rundetaarn is one of the most famous landmarks of the city since 1642. University astronomers used the tower as an observatory and the old Library Hall is used for gallery exhibitions and concerts.

View from the Round Tower

To get to the lookout at the top, you have to walk up the long spiral ramp which winds seven and a half times around the tower core – so no stairs until the very few at the end!

Frederik’s Church

Frederik’s Church or the Marble Church is located west of the winter home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg Palace. The royal mansions surround an octagonal plaza manned by guards – we saw a lot of tourists taking candid photos with them!

The Little Mermaid

Denmark is also home to famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who penned stories like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Snow Queen. On Copenhagen’s harbour promenade is a small statue of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which is a famous tourist spot and also notorious for being painted over and beheaded twice by artists.

Tivoli Gardens

On our last night in Copenhagen, we went to Tivoli which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Usually theme parks are far away from the cities, but this one was located smack bang in the city centre next to the station!


The night was bitterly cold but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. My brother went on The Demon roller coaster ride in the Chinatown quarter, which looked terrifying but only lasted for under two minutes (the price tag was also terrifying at 75 DKK).


My dad and I went on the somewhat tamer but more famous wooden roller coaster called Rutschebanen, which is one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters still operating today.

The Rutschebanen wooden roller coaster

Although we only had a few days in Copenhagen, we all enjoyed ourselves a lot – much more than we expected. Denmark’s capital is such an interesting place steeped with a lot of history and there was so much we didn’t get to see this time around, so I hope we can go back for more soon!


So, did you like Copenhagen as much as I did?

Has anyone else been here or would like to add it to their travel list?






Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making Of Tsubasa


My third feline of my Kimono Cat Collection is nearing completion and I can’t wait to show you all! This cat hasn’t taken nearly as much time to finish as the other two, and the construction has been smooth sailing compared to the drama and frustration with my second cat Ageha. So let’s begin with the making of Tsubasa..!

Armature skeleton

As always, I started off by making the armature which is the skeleton of the sculpture. I used 2mm aluminium wire for the main frame and 1mm wire to wrap tightly around the arms and tail. This allows the clay to have something to grip onto later. Then I lumped some Apoxie Sculpt around the torso and wire ends to make the frame strong and secure and left it overnight to cure.

Bulking up with foil

Now it was time to bulk up the sculpture with tinfoil. I already knew the shape outline I needed, which was to have the foil gradually flare out from the waist to the feet (you’ll see why later!). It looks rather bizarre at this stage, doesn’t it?

First layer after oven

Now it was time to start the best part: sculpting. As usual, I used Super Sculpey Firm and made the first layer, and then put it in the oven at 130 degrees Celsius.

Second layer after oven

After that it was time for the second layer, which was always much more interesting because it included the clothes and more detail on the face, like eyelids.

Unlike the other two cats, Tsubasa was going to be wearing a hakama, which are pleated formal trousers worn over kimono. I was unsure as to how I was going to make the hakama pleats, but it was easier than expected when I just cut long, thin strips of clay and layered them over each other. I loved how it turned out!

Third layer (kimono sleeves) after oven

Normally I would have been done after two oven bakes, but I wanted the hakama to cure before I did the long kimono sleeves (this one was a furisode again) so I put her in the oven before making the sleeves, so they wouldn’t get in the way.

Apoxie whiskers, paws and tail

Now that we were all done with the oven, it was time to get the Apoxie Sculpt out again. I inserted nylon thread into the Apoxie to make whiskers, and then made paw pads and smoothed out the shoulders. I even made the whole tail out of Apoxie this time!

Ready for some colour!

So, with all the main things done, it was white out time! I always enjoy this step of painting a few coats of Acrylic Gesso (even though it ruins my brushes because it’s so gritty) and then a few coats of white paint to prepare the sculpture for colour.

Nose dilemma

A detail that annoyed me was this inverted nose that Tsubasa had, so after the Gesso and white paint (great timing for adjustments…not!) I decided to fashion her a new one.

New nose

After reconstructed nose surgery – much better! (Voldemort may have been in need of this service too…)

Shake that tail feather

The painting process of Tsubasa didn’t nearly have as much agony as Ageha’s did, but there were still times when I left Tsubasa on the shelf untouched for days on end. Asides from that though, everything went according to plan and I got her finished quicker than the other two, even though it still took the course of over two months.

Tiny accessories!

As I was nearing completion, I made the accessories for Tsubasa which included a book, a bag and a bow for the front of her hakama.

I wanted the book to be able to open, so I cut out a small rectangle of tinfoil and then pressed thin squares of Super Sculpey to either side. I left a thin strip of foil untouched down the middle, so it would be able to open and close and to my great delight, the idea turned out perfectly after the oven!

The painting process definitely takes the most time and as any artist could tell you, sometimes it can be really hard to know when to just stop and call it finished. I could probably keep painting over little details of the sculpture forever, trying to get it ‘perfect’, but I’ve learnt from these last two cats that there comes a point where I have to put down the paintbrush once and for all, and say that it’s finally DONE. So I did!


So, did you like the making of Tsubasa?

Click the button below to meet the finished version!




Les Diablerets: The Glacier 3000 Ski Field In The Swiss Alps


While we were staying in Les Diablerets in Switzerland, we went up the mountain for a day trip to the Glacier 3000 Ski Field…and what a breathtaking experience it was!

Top of the cableway

We took a shuttle bus from the Les Diablerets village to Col du Pillon and from there we went up the mountain in two massive cable cars which could fit more than one hundred people in each. We were packed in like sardines into the cable cars, along with people in full ski gear – helmets and boards and all (we stuck out like sore thumbs).

Peak Walk by Tissot

Once we disembarked the second cable car, we were at the Scex Rouge (‘Red Rock’) station which had a fancy restaurant with panoramic views, a self-service canteen and a souvenir shop. It also had the Peak Walk by Tissot which was a 107 metre suspension bridge to the Scex Rouge peak itself, at an altitude of 2,971 metres above sea level.

On top of the world!

The bridge walk was free and offered a breathtaking 360 degree view of the surrounding Swiss Alps – we could even see the famous Mont Blanc and Jungfrau peaks from there!

Looking out over the glacier ski field to the Quille du Diable

After we’d clambered down from the bridge, it was time to start what we’d come all the way up the mountain to do, which was the Glacier Walk. As you can guess, the Glacier Walk entailed going across the Tsanfleuron Glacier, most of which is used as the Glacier 3000 ski field.


We went down the ski lift from Scex Rouge onto the ski field itself, and then walked the three kilometres across the glacier to the Quille du Diable. When I’d heard we were doing the Glacier Walk, I’d been imagining perilous heights and rough terrain, but the whole walk was surprisingly flat and very easygoing (with amazing views to boot!).

Quille du Diable

Our end goal was the Quille du Diable, which was a famous rock formation resting on a sheer cliff face, where the Refuge L’espace Cafe sat directly in its shadow. My cousin and his father (who were snowboarding on the ski field) met us there for lunch and we all enjoyed hot meals (scrumptious beetroot soup) and stunning (if rather terrifying!) scenary.


We had unseasonably warm temperatures while we were in Les Diablerets, so a lot of the ski routes on the mountain were closed, but with more snowfall it’s possible to ski or snowboard all the way from the peak to the very bottom of the mountains. They also have the world’s highest Alpine Coaster up at the Scex Rouge station which runs in the summertime.

View over the ski field from the Scex Rouge sun terrace

Although it felt rather strange to be walking on a ski field rather than skiing on it, the Glacier Walk was an easy expedition and well worth it – especially with those million dollar Swiss Alps views!


This was definitely a top highlight (haha so punny) of our family holidays and I can see why people harp on about the Swiss Alps so much now. Maybe next trip there’ll be time for some skiing up there too!

The Glacier Walk


So, did you like the Glacier 3000 ski field as much as I did?

Is this somewhere you’d like to add to your travel list?




Düsseldorf: Delicious ‘Japan Town’ And Europe’s Biggest Buddhist Temple

EKO House of Japanese Culture

When I told people that after Switzerland, we were going to Hamburg via two nights in Düsseldorf, people scoffed: “Düsseldorf. What are you going to do in Düsseldorf?

They couldn’t believe we would use precious family holiday time in Germany to stay in Düsseldorf for two whole nights. But we knew something they didn’t. We had a hidden agenda with Düsseldorf…a hidden Japanese agenda.

Gateway into the temple and gardens

Düsseldorf is located on the Düssel and the Rhine rivers and was a city long known as an international business and financial hub. Something that is less known about the city is that Düsseldorf has the biggest Japanese community in Germany (about 11,000 residents) which is also the third largest in Europe – after Paris and London.


It is also home to the biggest Japanese Buddhist Temple in Europe, with an adjoining study and event centre called the EKŌ House of Japanese Culture. After getting a little lost in the sleepy suburb of Niederkassel, with some local help we finally found the front gates to the place…only to find them locked.

Stone basin to wash your hands (the kanji says ‘pure water’)

My family were disappointed, to say the least, after coming all of this way and finding it closed. As they started walking away, I obnoxiously pushed all of the buttons on the gate intercom in frustration. A loud buzzing sound suddenly came from the gate and we blinked in surprise as the doors swung open. We were inside – with the whole place to ourselves!

The temple gardens

The whole complex was built in 1993 and is well maintained as they host a number of Buddhist festivals, tea ceremonies and events every year.


Düsseldorf also puts on a Japan Day every year around May or June and it is the largest festival of its kind in the world – attracting more than a million people. They have Japanese food stalls, kimono fittings, Japanese musicians, calligraphy and always finish off with a fireworks show. (I’m determined to go to this year’s one!)


Since the 1950’s, Düsseldorf has housed more than five hundred Japanese companies and the workers and their families include both temporary and permanent residents.

Lines of patrons waiting for Kushi-tei of Tokyo Grillhouse

The main Japanese quarter in the Düsseldorf city is called Immermannstraße, a long road lined with Japanese book stores, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, bakeries and even a Japanese hotel called Hotel Nikko. Before going there, I was envisioning a typical China Town sort of street overflowing with tourists, food stalls and noise but this ‘Japan Town’ was completely different. If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t even realise it was there.

A shop dedicated to just Onigiri – I was in HEAVEN

This Japan street came alive out of necessity to the Japanese business workers, so everything was practical and functional – not a tourist trap at all. Walking the streets and hearing Japanese people go past made me feel like I was back in Japan. We had lunch at a ramen place called Takezo, which had the best ramen I’d had in a very, very long time.

Japanese Consulate General on Immermannstraße

The problem with living in a tiny town like Passau is that there aren’t many Japanese people living here, which means I can’t get my hands on Japanese food or products – something I was used to getting easily in New Zealand. So I’ve craved for Japanese food since being in Germany. Like really, really badly. So badly that my mum has had to send me Japanese food products like udon and curry packs in the mail from NZ!

Japanese kindergarten

Düsseldorf also has a Japanese school, supplementary school and even a kindergarten. I really wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the vibrant Japanese community of Düsseldorf. I went to Japanese supplementary school when I was younger too, but that was in Christchurch where we don’t have a fraction of the Japanese population!


Even though people doubted our choice in going to Düsseldorf, we were so glad we did. We all had the best Japanese food and shop experiences that we’d had in ages and it was most definitely on our list of travel highlights! I want to go back just to eat there!


So, did you like Düsseldorf’s Japan Town?

Would you like to visit here too? 




Les Diablerets: Christmas Winter Wonderland In The Swiss Alps

Les Diablerets

In December 2015, my family came over to Europe from New Zealand and we had a magical Christmas together in the Swiss Alps. First we went from Munich to Lausanne and met up with our relatives who lived there, and they took us up to their best kept secret: Les Diablerets.

Les Diablerets township

Les Diablerets was a small alpine village and ski resort in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. We got there by a 40 minute train ride from Lausanne to Aigle, and then we switched to the Chemin de fer Aigle-Sepey-Diablerets; a historic little mountain train that took us up to the altitude of 1,160 metres where the village was located.

The little devil of Les Diablerets

Les Diablerets means ‘the abode of devils’ in French and the symbol of the village was a little devil playing a flute, which was everywhere. The village legend says that when rocks fell down the sides of the mountains, it was the fault of the little devils that were throwing rocks at the Quille du Diable, or the devil’s skittle on the mountain.

The little devil motif on houses

Besides the little devil, the real charm of the village were all of the old wooden chalets. Every chalet had different designs in the beams, balcony and woodwork and the result was just beautiful – I’d never seen houses quite like it before.

A typical Swiss mountain chalet

There was already snow on the ground when we got to Les Diablerets, and we had clear blue skies the whole time we were there with an average temperature of about 12 degrees Celsius! I had been dreading how cold it was going to be up there, but we ended up having the best of both worlds – snow and warm days!

Kids playing in the snow

The township had everything we needed in walking distance: a supermarket, cafes, souvenirs and ski supply shops. My family had been staying in Munich for the past few days and they said it was a relief to get away from other tourists. And they were right – most chalets belonged to Swiss families so everything felt very local indeed.

Beautiful timber chalet


Local transport

A lot of people were cross-country skiing across the village as a faster means of transport, which amused me because it wasn’t a sight I was used to. There was also a lot of ice skating and ice hockey games going on within the village.

Symbol of Switzerland – the Swiss cow bells

A lot of the chalets had the year it was built painted on it and some even had the Swiss cow bells hanging from the banisters.

Chalets up the hill

Our chalet was down in the valley, so we would only get direct sunlight until about 2pm, after that the sun was hidden behind the mountains and we would be left in shade. The chalets up on the hill were placed better and got a whole lot more hours of sun!

Snow bunny

My cousin and I spotted this cute rabbit hopping around our chalet more than once and it turned out to be the neighbour’s pet. (I would have been quite happy to adopt it!)

Our humble abode

The inside of our chalet turned out to be even better than the outside with warm wooden interiors with an authentically rustic feel. There were nine of us together in this chalet but there was plenty of room for all!

Garden view

We went up to the glacier ski field on the mountain for a day, but the rest of the time was spent opening presents, playing games and eating far too much. We even had a classic Swiss dish for dinner one time – a mouth watering cheese fondue!



So, did you like Les Diablerets as much as I did?

Stay tuned for the next installment of going up to the Diablerets glacier!





Vienna: A Midsummer Day’s Dream At Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace

On our last day in Vienna the capital of Austria, we took a train from the city out to the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace and what a sight it was! The Baroque style castle was a former imperial summer residence of the Habsburgs where the beloved Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Josef spent a lot of their time (the latter was born there and also died there). It is now an insanely  popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Horse drawn carriages in the entrance court

The name  Schönbrunn means ‘beautiful spring’ and was believed to be named after an artisan well used to collect water for the court. The palace (which has more than one thousand rooms) and its gardens were humongous, complete with a maze, orangery, palm house and even a zoo.

One of many fountains in the entrance court

Once we went through the gates at Schönbrunn into the entrance court, we realised that our stomachs were growling so we promptly went on the hunt for food.

Apfel Strudel und Vanilla Eis

We went into the first café we saw by the entrance (I had an apple strudel) but what we didn’t realise until later was that there were much nicer places to eat in the complex, complete with an original Viennese style apple strudel making studio (and that is why I should do some research before visiting places!).

Back view of the building

It’s free to enter Schönbrunn’s magnificent gardens but you have to buy tickets to go inside the palace itself. There were a lot of different tours to choose from but the main idea was that the more you pay, the more rooms in the palace you got to see. We went on the ‘Imperial Tour’ which had the cheapest tickets at 12,90 Euros each.

Great Gallery of Schönbrunn

Before going in, we got handed audio gadgets which meant we could listen to explanations about the rooms at our own pace in whatever language we needed (we also had these on the Sisi Imperial Apartment tour so we were used to the drill). Technically, we weren’t allowed to take photos of the rooms (there were a lot of staff members patrolling the corridors to make sure people didn’t) but I managed to get this sneaky one in of the gorgeous Great Gallery lined with mirrors, chandeliers and frescoed ceilings.

Vienna Zoo

After the tour we entered the gardens behind the palace, where the Vienna Zoo was also located. The park was built in the 1700’s and claims to be the oldest zoo in the world. They even have some Giant Pandas living there at the moment!

Panoramic view of Vienna from the Gloriette

Behind the zoo was a hill where the Gloriette structure was located. It was a stifling hot midsummer’s day when we climbed up to the Gloriette, so you can imagine our relief when we realised it was a café/restaurant inside and not just an empty viewpoint as we’d first thought it was! (Again, some prior research would have been handy).


The Gloriette was bombed during the war, but has been beautifully restored since. The panoramic views of Vienna from up there were just breath taking.

Inside the Gloriette

After some refreshing Himbeer Sodas  (raspberry sodas that we were obsessed with during our time in Vienna) we headed back down the hill and meandered through the extensive gardens of Schönbrunn, admiring the views as we went.

Garden pagoda



We ended up spending the whole day there and although there were a lot of tourists around, it was clear that locals used the grounds too – for jogging, picnics and relaxing – which was really nice to see.

Viennese cuisine at Café Residenz (with Himbeer Soda again)

For dinner we went to Café Residenz in the entrance court, which was much nicer than the place we went to for lunch.


They served traditional Viennese cuisine and my Schnucki had super scrumptious Kaiserschmarrn, which is like fat chunks of fluffy pancakes with apple sauce and jam, which was apparently a favourite dish of the Emperor.


As I’ve mentioned before, Vienna was my favourite place that I’ve visited this year so far and Schönbrunn Palace was definitely the highlight of the trip. If you ever go to Vienna, you MUST visit Schönbrunn!

Daydreaming on the palace balcony

The Palace was a sight to behold and it makes anyone visiting feel like absolute royalty – it was so much fun imagining the imperial courts of the past having their parties and balls there in the very rooms we walked through!


So, did you enjoy Schönbrunn Palace as much as I did?

Is it somewhere that you would like to visit? Let me know!





Hobbiton: The Movie Set Tour Of The Shire

Bilbo’s hobbit hole in Bag End

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to tag along with my Schnucki and his parents to the Hobbiton Movie Set whilst on our road trip around New Zealand – and what fun it was! This was somewhere that I’d wanted to visit since its completion and I was so excited to finally go there. So let me take you on the grand tour of Hobbiton!

The Shire’s Rest Café

The Hobbiton Movie Set is located on farmland nestled between the rolling hills of Matamata in the North Island. Driving into the tiny township of Matamata, you would never guess a world famous movie location was nearby until you’ve followed the signs and turned a corner on a hilly country road and then BAM! You’re suddenly faced with a noisy explosion of tourists, buses and cars out of the middle of nowhere.


What many people don’t realise about Hobbiton is that you can’t just waltz in there on your own terms – you have to book a tour time in advance. The tickets are surprisingly expensive at $79 NZD per adult and $39.50 NZD per child/youth, but well worth it if you’re a big Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit fan.


The Hobbiton village is built on private farmland which you can’t enter unless you’re on the movie set buses, so you’re expected to wait for your bus at The Shire’s Rest Café, which is a café/restaurant in a converted wool shed. The souvenir shop was also located there, which was packed full of official LOTR and The Hobbit merchandise.


Once it was time for our tour, we hopped on our big green bus which took us across the road onto the Alexander family’s 500 hectare property, which they have owned since 1978. Peter Jackson and his crew found the farm during their location search for Lord Of The Rings and after getting permission, built a temporary film set there in 1999.

The fishmonger’s outdoor work table

The original film set was made out of plywood, scaffolding and polystyrene and was taken down after filming was finished. In 2011, Peter Jackson and his crew were back to start filming for The Hobbit trilogy and this time the set was rebuilt using permanent materials. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand.

The beekeeper’s honey

Our bus drove through farmland and gates for 20 minutes while the driver told us facts about the set and then we were finally dropped off in Hobbiton. A tour guide was waiting for us as we got off and took us and about fifteen others on a walking tour through The Shire, telling us behind-the-scene facts and stories along the way.

Matching front door and letterbox (cute!)

The Shire was spread out and took up a lot more land than I expected, but the real stars of the show were of course the hobbit holes. Every hobbit’s home was designed and painted differently with everything aged and faded to look like it had been there a long time. The whole village was overgrown and bursting with flowers and vegetable gardens (the proud work of the Hobbiton full-time gardeners), with props abandoned as though the hobbits had abruptly left to hide from us Big Folk.


Everything was small, cute and so homey. It was all set up for practical and  comfortable living – nothing was overdone – exactly the sort of humble life hobbits would live. The landscape was beautiful and so peaceful that I could imagine myself happily living in a cosy hobbit hole in The Shire (I’d be small enough for one too!).

My favourite hobbit hole

The attention to detail and design really blew me away. You could tell the occupation of hobbits by the props outside their doors like fish of the fishmonger, cheese of the cheesemaker, honey of the beekeeper and sculptures outside the clay maker’s place. Every letterbox, garden and gate was of a different design – I really envied the set designers that got to make this world come to life. It would be so much fun!

My favourite letter box

We started off at the bottom of the hill where the ‘poor’ hobbits were said to live and their hobbit holes were plain with not much decoration. The further up the hill we went, the hobbit holes had more detail and more luxuries, with the biggest and most luxurious hobbit hole at the top of the hill of course belonging to Bilbo Baggins.

Samwise Gamgee’s hobbit hole

We also got to see Sam’s hobbit hole – the one that is in the last scene of the last LOTR (although this one is a reconstruction). Some of the hobbit doors can be opened but even if they do, there’s nothing inside (sorry to shatter your hopes).


We went on a lovely Summer’s day in January, which was in their peak season that attracts a lot of tourists – I could hardly believe we were in rural New Zealand with the amount of people around when we went. Autumn or winter would probably be better times to go, in terms of crowds and people walking into your photos. It took real effort and timing to take photos with no one in them!

The famous ‘no admittance’ sign

After getting photos taken in the human sized hobbit hole which we could pose in, we were finally at Bilbo’s hobbit hole. I bought a replica of the classic ‘no admittance’ sign ($20 NZD) at the souvenir shop, which is hanging up in my room right now.

Bilbo Baggins’ home

Unfortunately, the front gate was as far as we could go in front of Bilbo’s hobbit hole and our group took turns getting photos taken in front of it. The oak tree above Bilbo’s home was man-made (which you would never have guessed by looking at it) and the leaves were shipped in from Taiwan and put on the tree one by one.

The lake and the water mill

After Bilbo’s, it was time to go down the hill and across the lake and water mill to The Green Dragon Inn. This was a fully functioning pub with food and drinks, which sold South Farthing beer – an original Hobbiton brand. This was also where our tour ended and we got a free ginger beer on arrival and a place to sit down and relax.

The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon is a replica of the one used in the films and behind the building was a huge marquee tent that was based on the one at Bilbo’s birthday party. The tent seats over 200 people, and can be used for events, functions and even weddings.

The party marquee

Just imagine having a wedding in The Shire! (I’m sure it would cost megabucks to hire the place, but still, how magical would that be.)


The Hobbiton tour lasted about two hours and after resting at The Green Dragon, we were free to meander back to our bus in the car park.


All in all, the home of the halflings was a picturesque, magical work of art and I’m so glad I got to see it! I think one visit is probably enough (especially with that price tag) but I’m happy to wait for the day where there will be a human-sized Hobbiton village where I can live in my comfy and warm little underground home with a round door.

Map of Hobbiton

So, did you enjoy my Hobbiton tour?

Is this somewhere that you would like to visit?




Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Ageha The Seijinshiki Cat



Name: Ageha (亜蝶)

Height: 22cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Furisode (振り袖)

Occasion: Seijinshiki (成人式) – Coming of Age Ceremony

Time of year/season: January/Winter

Name meaning: Ageha is a type of butterfly in Japanese and it can also be used as a girl’s name. Ageha has butterflies on her kimono – which could also symbolise the metamorphosis of ‘coming of age’.

Her Story: Ageha is dressed up in her furisode kimono and is ready to head off to the Coming of Age Day celebrations. She knows the formalities at the town hall to receive her certificate might be a little tedious, but she’s excited to get photos and celebrate with friends afterwards. It’s going to be a great night on the town where she can buy drinks herself (finally!) with some good old karaoke. Being an adult never felt so easy!













Ageha and Tama




1.Furisode (振り袖) – Ageha is wearing a furisode kimono, which is a lined kimono and it literally means ‘swinging sleeves’ because the sleeves are so long. The sleeve length can range from 85cm to 114cm. The furisode is the most formal type of kimono a young, unmarried woman can wear in Japan and it is usually rented or bought by parents for their daughter(s) to wear on the Coming of Age Day.

The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday held every year on the second Monday of January for those that have turned 20 in the past year. The day is to congratulate and celebrate their journey into adulthood and they receive a certificate at their local city office or town hall. The majority of young women get dressed up in furisode for the occasion, while most young men wear suits or sometimes the hakama. Turning 20 in Japan means that you can vote, purchase alcohol and marry without your parents’ permission – so you officially become an adult in the eyes of the law and society.

2.Haneri (半衿) and kasaneeri (重ね衿)- is the type of collar the furisode kimono typically has. The thin green fabric aligning the white collar (haneri) is called the kasaneeri. The green fabric tucked in behind the obi but made to be seen is called the obiage (帯揚).

3. Obijime (帯締め) – The obijime is a thick cord tied around the waist over the obi that helps the obi shape stay together.

4. Ohashori (おはしょり) – When putting on a kimono or yukata, you must always leave a folded portion of fabric hanging out from under the obi.


5. Obi (帯) – The obi is the long sash tied around the waist and is the focal point of womens’ kimono. It is usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and it can be tied into hundreds of different knots for different occasions. Ageha’s obi is tied into a knot known as the fukura suzume (ふくらすずめ) or ‘chubby sparrow’ knot which is used exclusively for furisode and is commonly used for Coming of Age Day festivities.

6. Zōri (草履) – Zōri are the formal sandals worn with kimono, along with the white one-toed tabi  (足袋) socks. The zōri are typically a matching colour to the obi or kimono.


The accessories typically worn with the Coming of Age Day festivities include a matching small handbag and the rather iconic fluffy white shawl which looks like a fur scarf.

The furisode kimono and obi is difficult to put on by yourself (although it is possible) and most people don’t know how to do it anymore. A lot of young people rent the kimono at specialised shops where they can get all of the matching accessories, get dressed by professionals and also get their hair and make up done. It is also typical to get professional photos taken at the studio while you are dressed up in your furisode.

Me wearing my mum’s seijinshiki kimono

Ageha’s kimono was actually inspired by my mum’s furisode kimono which she wore to her seijinshiki when she was 20. It’s an insanely gorgeous  kimono which I have also worn on a number of occasions. The obi knot shown here is an even more complex style than the fukura suzume knot.





So, did you like meeting Ageha?

Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?

Watch this space for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!