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Wellington: undisputed cultural capital

I’m a proud Aucklander. I’m into art, culture and eating out. But on Saturday morning I happened to be in Wellington, and as I was sipping on a strong flat white, browsing The Dom-Post, I stumbled across Metro’s claim that Auckland was New Zealand’s cultural capital.

Auckland is a lot of things, but cultural Goliath it is not.

We’re great at showcasing (and picking over) international events. We rock up at the Vector Area to be wowed by pop (and metal, if that’s what you’re into). We host great music in parks (the bFM Summer Series is one of my favourites).

We’ll get our fill of performance at the Auckland Festival.

But we can’t get it all at once, and we’re embarrassingly self-conscious when we do show up. We’re all Gucci, while Wellington is an eclectic op-shop ensemble that manages to look effortlessly fabulous.

Effortlessly fabulous. Picture: Snapstar.co.nz

A scene from the Cuba St Carnival

I finished my flat white and strolled along the waterfront, following the writers walk, where quotes from international and Kiwi authors are proudly displayed. I ended up at Te Papa and spent an hour perusing the Monet exhibition (couldn’t see that in Auckland, ditto the Giant Squid, which is disgustingly fascinating). Then I headed up Cuba St, where the Cuba St Carnival was gearing up.

I browsed market stalls, ate mussel fritters, Indian bhagi, and locally made chocolate, washed down with a cool manuka beer.

I listened to the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, watched a mural being created out of duct tape, and observed a group of angst-y ladies graffiti a copse of trees by knitting.

Fabulous effort. Picture: Snapstar.co.nz

A scene from the Cuba St Carnival

I veered away from the madness into The Matterhorn for a world-class meal. The evening arrived and I donned a peacock-feather mask to watch an eclectic mix of costumed locals gather on Courtney Place (actually there were 150,000 of them) for the illuminated parade. Fireworks, batucada, local dancers, a Chinese dragon. A burlesque troupe. Samba dancers, tango, drag queens, a space ship. Mojitos all round. Then I was swept up in the dancing crowd to one the many stages, past a Brazilian drumming competition, to a mellow crowd grooving to Lady Six. All in the name of Wellington. When’s the last time you did that, Auckland?