50 dogs and 48 cats

Well I had a lovely weekend in the capital with my mates. It was just a chilled affair with great company, lovely food and some fabulous purchases. What else do you need? Firstly, we stayed at the newly opened Sofitel which was just wonderful. I can highly recommend it. The rooms were dark and moody, the service polite and generous and the gym hidden away in the dungeon where every good gym should be. I felt I should do some cycle practice so after waking on Saturday, looked in the hotel directory for where the gym was situated. Having failed to find it under G for gym and F for fitness, my heart jumped for joy because this meant there was no gym… Sadly I was wrong. It was listed under S, obviously – for Sofit, a play on words of course which, grudgingly I admit is quite clever. I even took a selfie next to the sign which I doctored. I hope you enjoy it. The best bit about the Sofit cycling experience was that there was a screen on the bike which took you on a journey through the French countryside so it seemed a teeny tiny bit like actually cycling. Not that I would know as I have not cycled in the real outdoors for almost a decade.

Shopping mainly consisted of frivolities – some beautiful knee high suede navy boots, some smart reading glasses as you can’t have too many, 2 identical lipsticks so that I would qualify for the free gift for spending $x, 2 Christmas tree decorations, 3 hats and a skateboard. You read that correctly.

Dining was top notch – Loretta’s (OMG the salad with tahini, the orange marshmallows and the raspberrycello), The Larder (lamb meatballs with mint), Floriditas (a new wine for me called something I’ve forgotten), Shepherd (wow, the savoury custard with bacon and eel), Museum Hotel (cava at a favourite old haunt) and probably several other places I’ve forgotten. However the real highlight was on Saturday evening when we took ourselves off to the Welsh Dragon bar. This gem has been a highlight of visits to Wellington in years past and sadly we’d got wind of the fact it was closing down. Originally some public conveniences and situated in the middle of the road such that its address is “middle of such and such street”), it has been the southern hemisphere’s only Welsh bar for a long time. Run by Mike and Jo, ex-pats from Swansea, it is full of Welsh memorabilia – flags on the ceiling, tea towels on the walls, rugby souvenirs, Welsh maps with pins to show where visitors have come from and so on. It is nothing fancy. Your feet stick to the floor and sometimes you get a faint whiff of urinal. But, they have the warm hospitality you’d expect of my compatriots, they stock Brains beer and Penderyn whisky and they even sell Welsh cakes. I have very fond memories of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 when we gathered there before the opening match for Wales against South Africa (we were robbed by the way when the refs deemed James Hook’s high penalty kick out). We all dressed up and even my mother hit the bar that day!

So what a shame it is that Mike and Jo are relocating to Featherston. But Mike was there and, as usual came around to chat to everyone and told us that they are opening a wine bar called The Dragon Inn. It will serve tapas which will be Welsh themed and called taffas (for those who don’t know, Welsh people are called Taffs). It just so happened that Wales were due to play the All Blacks in Cardiff this morning so the plan was to see the bar off in style with a lock-in to drink the bar dry and watch the rugby. We weren’t up for an all-nighter but we did grab a Merlyn cream liqueur and signed the visitors book one last time. The new owners are rumoured to be planning “something Celtic but not necessarily Welsh”. What a shame, but how fabulous to be in town the weekend the dragon roared for a final time. As much as I love where I live and have no plans to return to the UK, it was a little piece of home and I feel like I’ve left a small sliver of my heart behind there. I will definitely try to get to Featherston at some point.

So, I’ll leave you with a Mike joke. The answer will be in the next blog, although do feel free to put the answer in the comments. By the way, if you enjoy the blog, please sign up to follow me and share to your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Thanks!

Here goes: “There were 50 dogs and 48 cats. How many didn’t?”


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