Welly weekends: Garage Project & Somes Island

This was our last weekend in Wellington for a little while… this weekend coming is a bank holiday so we’re heading down to Nelson on the South Island, and the weekend after is the half marathon (!), oh, and my birthday (!!). And then we have visitors – woohoo!

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It was quite chilled out by our standards – no 30km bike rides this time! Saturday morning we made a point of relaxing and went to the cinema up the road which is also a cafe / restaurant during the day. I’ve spent a lot of time there the last few weeks as it’s a really nice atmosphere to sit and scribble for a couple of hours . We saw First Man there on Thursday night after absolutely demolishing 2-4-1 pizzas at a bar up the road called Brewed. The cinema itself is really cool, it only has room for about 20 people and the seats are comfy two-seater sofas, like the Everyman in Bristol.

(Quick pause for film review – loved it! It’s arty and moving and while I’m sure it wasn’t 100% true-to-life, I genuinely feel like I learnt something. Have made a note to have a good old chinwag with my parents about What The Moon Landing Was Actually Like. I really want to see A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody next!!)

The main event on Saturday was something R has been excited about since we got here: Garage Project in Te Aro. In a city of craft breweries, this is the place to try! It first made its way on to our radar in Melbourne, when R had a can of its BEER beer in Chuckle Park – he’s wanted to check it out ever since.

I often find myself turned off something if everyone’s raving about it (previous examples include Avatar, Love Island and La La Land) – the sceptic in me just doesn’t believe something can be *that* good. But Garage Project definitely lives up to the hype! We were warned that it gets busy, especially at weekends, so we arrived about 4pm. They have a brewery and tap room on one end of Te Aro Street and a bar at the other. Te Aro is about 15 minutes walk from the top of Cuba St and it reminded me of Pontcanna; it’s got an older, village-y feel compared to the rest of the city.

The brewery is in a derelict petrol station – hence the name. Oh, and it’s very dog friendly!

Knowing less than nothing about beer, I was worried I might feel like a bit of an idiot, surrounded by serious aficionados. Probably wearing skinny jeans, hipster moustaches and nary a pair of socks between them. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Well – about the atmos, not the hipster facial hair (I couldn’t assess the sock situation; the bar was in the way). The staff were super friendly and we got stuck in tasting the taps on offer.

They had 5 or 6 to try, free of charge, though like with the wine tasting in Napier, you only get a mouthful each time. The girl serving us told us a bit about each of the beers we were tasting and why/how it looked, smelt or tasted the way it did. She also filled us in about the drinking laws here, which are much stricter than the UK (i.e., the country that invented binge drinking). All bars have to serve food, it has to be available at all times and one option has to be veggie. They are also really strict with selling to anyone underage; one of the big supermarkets lost its liquor licence last year in a sting. Hence why I’m getting ID-d all the time! (That and the fact I look about 12).

I knew you could get different types of gin or whiskey or coffee or even honey, based on the plants you use and how you use them, but I had no idea there was so much variety in beer!

She also gave us tips on how to fly it home (go for cans, not bottles, and let them settle for a bit before you open them). R wants to save one up to open on his 30th next May!! My fave was the Fresh October and R liked the Red Eye Gravy. We both loved the Verbohten Fruchte (forbidden fruit), which was so strong they only sell it in half pints, and tastes like Black Forest Gateaux!

We headed over to the bar where you can have a tasting flight of 4 x 100ml serves. The weirdest one was the Cereal Milk Stout – not so keen on that! It’s clearly super popular – there were groups of all ages in there (not just hipsters!). I am so excited to take my bro when he gets here (Robert, spoiler alert!).

We may have been slightly in need of some food to soak up all that beer, so wandered down to the Cuba St Night Market. Like the market in Napier, we thought it might be a bit bigger, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good!! And it was pretty reasonable as trendy street food goes. After scoffing sharing some veggie dumplings, I super-predictably went for a steaming plate of Mie Goreng (spicy Indonesian noodles, i.e. STG dinner of dreams) and Rob’s had the most enormous wrap stuffed with crunchy veg and Chinese pork belly.

So far, so normal – beers, food, standard Saturday night, right? Herein lies the twist. Rob’s colleague’s partner plays for the NZ Symphony Orchestra, and offered us some mates-rates tickets. I’ve grown up watching my brothers in various bands and orchestras and whatever else, but R had never seen a live orchestra – and hey, my bros are great, but I’ve never seen anything of that standard! So we checked it out!

It did feel a little strange to be sat in a sumptuous, beautiful, softly-lit concert hall, not that long after being sat in a graffiti-covered craft beer bar… but the music really was wonderful! I don’t think we appreciated it on quite the same level as the people around us (we were also the youngest people there by about 30 years!), but we really enjoyed the performance.

And then went for another beer on the way home. Culture clash!

Sunday we were back to normal: a quick 4k run first thing while Mr TG had a lie-in, then we headed down to the harbourside to get the ferry across to Somes Island. I’d not heard of it before we got here, but it’s fascinating. It’s slap-bang in the middle of the harbour and has over the years been everything from a Maori settlement to a quarantine station to a detention centre for “aliens” during WW2. It was restored, replanted and finally reopened to the public about 20 years ago as an animal sanctuary and it made for a beautiful (if blustery!) Sunday stroll.

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We had to have a biosecurity inspection when the boat arrived as it is completely predator-free, and understandably, they want to keep it that way. It doesn’t take long to walk around the whole island, but there’s plenty to see: a little visitor centre (which used to be the detainees’ hospital), the quarantine station (creepy), NZ’s first harbour lighthouse, and of course amazing views back over the city!

We got lucky wildlife-wise too: we saw seals on the way out, plenty of kakariki and oyster-catchers (though sadly couldn’t spot the tuatara, a prehistoric lizard species they’ve successfully reintroduced on Somes) and – a penguin on the way back!! They have Little Penguins nesting on the island, though we only saw the nest boxes while we were walking. But then about 10 minutes from the dock we saw a little guy splashing about in the water. My first wild penguin!

Home in time to finish The Two Towers – the second and, arguably, best (OOOOH CONTROVERSIAL) Lord of the Rings film – I hope we can finish the third one before we leave this Airbnb as we can’t take the DVDs with us!!

Some exciting plans this week: last night we met up with the lovely Abi, our friend Jo’s sister, who gave us some more top brunch tips that we’re keen to get stuck into! It’s my last long training run on Wednesday, we’re going out for food that night, then flying down to Nelson on Friday after work.

We also move to Lyall Bay next week – I’m going to miss Island Bay! I really like this little neighbourhood. You’ll hear a lot about LB back home I’m sure as it’s one of the places Harry and Meghan are visiting on their NZ tour. They’re even going to the surf cafe we loved last time we were in NZ.  She’s obviously been reading my blog…!

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