We allowed ourselves a slow, easy start to the day. I woke up early even so, which turned out to be a great opportunity for me to have a video chat with my daughter, her boyfriend, and my best friend, who was kind enough to fetch them off the Arizona trail as a large storm was approaching. After that I figured I’d make some breakfast, but could I get the cooktop to work? No. Had to text the homeowner. I forget that it seems every outlet and appliance is connected by a switch and if it isn’t on, then nothing. Ah, well. Finally, I had my happy chicken eggs and toast.


Once we got ourselves moving we headed out for Matamata, the town near Hobbiton. It was only a 45-minute drive, but we were on a very narrow, very winding road for miles, with no signs confirming we were heading in the correct direction. I was getting worried and started fussing that perhaps I had entered the wrong address for Siri when finally a sign appeared. We had to report in at The Shire, which we did though we were early. Once again, as luck would have it, they asked if we wished to go early. Well, yes! Within 15 minutes we boarded a bus for a short ride over to Hobbiton. When the Trilogy was filmed they had built the sets but did not make them permanent. When later they came to film the Hobbit they decided to make them a permanent thing, with the permission of the farming family who owned the land. We were led around all the different hobbit holes, about 40 different ones, being told some of the story and the background about their building of them. Above Bilbo’s house, they had to build a fake tree that has over 200,000 leaves attached! We were given the opportunity for pictures galore ending up at the Green Dragon where we were offered either beer or ginger beer.

Back at The Shire we sat and had lunch before moseying along. This will surprise many who know me but the plan was to stop by the Mormon Temple, as Dian’s older brother did his mission here 60 years ago when they were building the Temple. Turns out the Temple is under a major three-year renovation to strengthen it, so it was closed. We drove around to see if there was anything else when we saw a few people walking by and Dian declared “oh, they’ll be able to help”. How she knew was a mystery to me. Turns out they were an older couple on a mission here and lo and behold, the woman recognized Dian from her days on TV and was a raging fan! Well, after her fawning a bit she told us we should head over to the new museum across the way. Onward we went. Dian looked at me and said “would you like to go in or not?” Heck, in for a penny, in for a pound. In I went. We were met by a very welcoming woman who began to show us around. It’s really nicely done with beautiful artifacts and amazing electronics. I know Dian was concerned that they would do a typical LDS hard press on me but that did not occur. Everyone we met was beyond gracious and welcoming and not at all pushy. We had just begun going through things when the new director’s wife met us. Turns out she, too, knew Dian. The fan club was growing! She showed us around the rest of the place and then said “You need to hear Sister Parker sing”. Hmmmm. So we went into an office where an older Maori woman sat at a computer. Turns out not only was she quite famous here and in Australia as a singer she’s done an astounding amount of research on missionaries who came here, as in the early days they were the only ones who had pictures and films of the older Maori generations. We sat and heard amazing, tear-wrenching stories from her as well as a song. Beautiful. Dian so enjoyed meeting her and her husband that she invited them to join us for dinner. Then she looked at me like “oops, is that ok?” I had so enjoyed hearing her that I thought it was a great idea. Off we went for a delicious Thai dinner and great conversation. We ended the evening at their house so she could share some of her music with us. Totally delightful.

And with that, we ended a most unexpected but fascinating day.