The Gusty Weekend

Hey all,

Looks like my Beeminder bot decided to stop emailing me because I ignored it for too long (that’s a great system, though– wish newsletters and promotions would do that!), and I’m a day late with this post. Whoops. Not in the red yet though!

Some of you were aware, but I had a rough week last week, for a variety of reasons. The one before it wasn’t that great either, but the end of last week really took the cake, work-wise. I accumulated a massive to-do list full to the brim of “urgent” items that needed to get dealt with by the end of the work day Friday… with the result that the end of my Friday workday was at like 7:30pm, after starting at 9am. I don’t recall feeling that exhausted in a long time, not even when I was trying to get over 18 hours’ worth of jetlag in February. I didn’t even manage to finish everything, but I resolved to not touch it over the weekend, and I didn’t– and today wasn’t too bad in terms of things to do, although I’m still trying to finish things off.

The good news is that after all of that, I was determined to have a relaxing weekend! I didn’t want to sit at home and laze around though– firstly, because where’s the fun in that, and secondly, because my flat is freezing. Outside wasn’t much better though– as you can tell from the title of the post, it was EXTREMELY WINDY. Wellington is windy to begin with, but it was truly gusty. I nearly got blown off my feet several times (stop laughing, it’s not fun for a small, thin person :P), and to make matters worse, Saturday was also rainy. Gusts + rain = horizontal rain which feels like needles blowing into you and which makes your umbrella and hoodie spectacularly useless.

So I ended up spending Saturday morning at the Backbencher, which is the local eating establishment. I should actually give them a plug here, because I’ve eaten there several times– it would be a classy bar (it’s frequented by the parliamentarians and government workers who work at the massive government building opposite the street), except that in addition to its floor-length curtains and black-topped bar, it’s also got really big and highly detailed bobblehead/puppet versions of the members of parliament mounted on its walls. Here’s a picture (not mine- from the Backbencher website):

They also have really good brunch and coffee. It’s one of the few really good eating places on this end of Thorndon (I can’t speak for the other end; I haven’t visited yet). I ended up getting a second cup of coffee, which is unusual for me– and the server even joked: “trying to avoid going outside, eh?”

In the end, I did manage to get out– and nearly got blown down the street. I grabbed the first bus downtown with a sigh of relief, and headed in the vague direction of Courtenay Place. I’d heard of a cool gallery I wanted to visit, and figured I might as well go find it and spend even more time avoiding the outdoors. I didn’t end up finding it (I found it by accident, the next day, when I wasn’t looking– figures), but what I did find was the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Excellent!

WCF is pretty new in the neighborhood, and it prides itself on being a fully ethical bean-to-bar solution– the cocoa beans are bought through direct trade with farmers, and then roasted and… something something… and made into chocolate all in Wellington. Most of its chocolates are single-origin, and each one has distinct characteristics of the country and/or region it’s from. One tasted flowery, one tasted like honey… etc. They even had a fully vegan bar, made with coconut milk and two different origin beans. It was like eating a coconut– delicious! The guy giving me the rundown was also really knowledgeable. I ended up getting a really rich hot chocolate (made with single-origin cocoa powder– my choice of origin) and reading my book at their little seating area.

Once I had no more reasons to linger, I bought some chocolate (of course!) and headed across the street. I’d recalled there being a brewery in the area– and there was! Black Dog was not only open, but was empty. I was given a rundown on their beers (three of which had just won awards at the Australian beer awards), and quite a few tasters. Really good stuff. I spent a good bit of the afternoon there with a pint and my book, waiting out the weather. I was also introduced to the Wellington Craft Beer Trail, which is a booklet of local breweries and pubs which carry craft beers– you can get a stamp for every place you visit, and you can redeem a completed booklet for swag. My first stamp came the next day (more on that later).

I took the night easy, relaxing at home. I’d had a lot on my mind the past week, and it was good to just not think about it for a while.

Sunday was a really interesting day– I keep forgetting the actual name of this event, but I want to call it Open Doors Wellington, because that’s what it was (there is an Open Doors event in Ottawa, which I’m thinking of– same idea). Basically a bunch of venues would waive their admission fees and others would be open to the public (where they’re ordinarily not), and you could get into any of them for a “gold coin” fee ($2). I thought of going to the Zoo, but… the wind was really off-putting, even on Sunday. At least the sun was shining, though!

What I did end up doing was going to the Holocaust Museum of New Zealand. It was a little out of the way, and although I knew it was part of a larger community centre, I hadn’t figured on it being so small. It was literally one room. But I caught two DVD showings of the experiences of two survivors who eventually came to New Zealand, and it was a really interesting perspective on the whole thing. There’s also a small exhibit for this at the Auckland Museum, so some information was the same, but this one focused more on the stories of the survivors. Some people might think this is a very heavy way to spend a morning, but I have always had an interest in the Holocaust, and this was very interesting to me.

I wandered downtown for a bit after that, regrouped at the local Kapai (it’s a coffee/gelato/brunch/healthy snacks place), and then went in search of the first location on the Craft Beer Trail– the Hop Garden. I’d hit them at the perfect time– right in between their lunch and supper rushes– and they were empty. What a place, though! I’ve never been in a pub which was decorated like a greenhouse before. Definitely lived up to its name. It was actually probably the most peaceful-feeling pub I’ve ever been in. At the bar, I tried a few tasters, but one sticks out in my mind– it was a hand-pulled stout, and it reminded me of Robitussin. No joke! It was like beery Robitussin. I told the bartender, and she laughed– it wasn’t a bad tasting beer, all things considered, but I could see the sweet cherry aftertaste getting really overpowering after a while, so I avoided it :P. I got a really nice ParrotDog ale and read for a bit.

I think I talk about beer a lot, so I should probably mention at this point that I don’t actually drink very much, in the sense that I don’t normally have more than one pint at a place, and I seem to have built up a bit of a tolerance to the point where unless the beer is on the stronger side (like over 7%), I don’t feel much of an effect from that pint. I also stretch it out over a period of time, and drink water afterwards. That being said, I really like beer (if you couldn’t already tell, I mean), and I feel at home in pubs for some weird reason. Maybe it’s because my first experiences with beer were in pubs, with good friends and coworkers, where the aim was to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company and not to get drunk. Those are some of my best memories from the jobs I held and the friends I had in Calgary when I was 18-20, and apparently they were pretty instrumental in forming my current appreciation for both beer and pubs.

On the topic of pubs, if you’ve never walked into a pub alone, I recommend it. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Use your judgement (not all pubs are “walking-in-alone”-types of pubs), but generally speaking, most are fine– especially at, say, 4pm on a Saturday (if you’re nervous). When I was in Ottawa, I used to go to the local pub in Sandy Hill alone on weekends, just for the practice (and the food). If you take a book or a paper or something, no one will bother you– it’s the initial 5 minutes of getting in the door and getting a seat which is the nerve-wracking part. It takes quite some practice to get comfortable doing it. I’m still working on it myself, especially here, but it’s one of those things I feel most people my age would benefit from doing.

The rest of my weekend was non-eventful. I went to the gym, went home, did my laundry, vacuumed the flat (chores are split between my flatmate and I), and got ready for the week. Tomorrow I’m seeing James Blunt live, which will be cool– always wanted to see him in concert. But really, the best part about the weekend was just the relaxation. I read books, walked the city, and visited a bunch of cool places– what else can you ask for, really?



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