Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘2017 New Caledonia’ Category

10 Best Things about New Caledonia

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 10, 2017

Now that I’m back home again, here are my 10 11 12 Best Things about New Caledonia.

  1. It only takes three hours to get there if you get a tail wind.  (It takes four to come home).
  2. It was lovely to wake up in the morning and see the endless vista of the lagoon from the bedroom window.  It’s a bit like being on a ship, where all you can see is the sea, except for the rock pools and the reef.  Very restful for the eyes that read a lot,  to effortlessly exercise long vision.

    View from Chateau Royal Noumea

    View from Chateau Royal Noumea, lovely even with a bit of evening cloud.

  3. Museum staff ask incredulously if you really are over 60 because you look too young, and say very flattering things when you produce the Seniors Card.  (This is especially nice if you are in Noumea to celebrate the next birthday after that, the one with a five in it.)  40% of New Caledonians are under 20 so maybe they don’t get much practice at recognising baby boomers).
  4. The food is interesting. Sort of French, but with tropical flair.  Unexpectedly, venison features quite often in entrees, but not in main courses.  The Spangled Emperor is especially nice, and so is the Red Snapper (which is not the same fish as the Red Snapper that you might accidentally buy instead of real snapper in Australia).  Seafood is expensive, but delicious.  We avoided the yams.

    Lunch at Le Roof1

    Lunch at Le Roof.

  5. It’s multiracial.  I don’t have a clue about the politics of independence, but on the streets and across all sorts of occupations (including positions of power on the telly and in their local newspaper which I read in French) you see New Caledonia’s history in the faces of people from China, Vietnam, Europe and the USA, and Polynesia, as well as the original Kanaks and many people of mixed race.  As a Melburnian, I feel comfortable in multiracial societies, it’s how the world should be IMO.
  6. It’s colourful.  The Kanak ladies wear beautiful long dresses in bright colours, and they often wear flowers in their hair; the Kanak men wear shirts with tropical flowers and don’t look silly in them like Europeans do.  (Local people of European origin seem to go for pastels and blend in).  Cars in Noumea are not boring white and silver (like ours increasingly are because to buy anything else you have to order it specially and wait for months).  Buildings are painted in pristine white with bright aqua or blue trim, or they are painted in bright colours like orange and green.  (If there were plain boring brick buildings I didn’t see any).  There are three kinds of bougainvillea in different colours, and the vegetation is gorgeous.  The sky was a beautiful blue, for us, every day.  (Clouds which ventured across the sky at dusk vanished overnight). Bougainvillea (1024x768)
  7. Their cocktails are colourful too! That one on the left was mine, and it started out yellow until they poured something blue into it. I wasn’t quick enough at photographing it to capture the effect. Cocktails at Le Warai (Chateau Royal)
  8. I did not once hear anybody hooting a car horn.  We walked a fair way along the tourist strip and its side roads, and a good long way from the maritime museum to the war museum and then around the city centre, and we drove around a couple of times in taxis too, and not once did we see or hear the kind of road rage you can see any day on the roads in Australia.  I got the impression from the size of the vehicles that The Male Sexual Identity in New Caledonia is not bound up in The Car.
  9. We loved their museums.  The Maritime Museum is the best – we spent ages there, but the WW2 museum is good too, not too sombre, and very informative (with swing bands playing in the background).  We liked the aquarium as well, and we probably should have gone to the cultural centre too, but idleness overcame us.
  10. You can practise your terrible French and they patiently help you learn the words you don’t know instead of scornfully answering you in English like they do in Paris.  (Unless you get really stuck).
  11. Their airport has short, easy-to-read Pocket Editions of novels in French.  I bought two.
  12. The best breakfast of the trip was at the airport where I had a proper French croissant.  No sticky things added to it, not heated up, just buttery pull apart with your fingers deliciousness.  At the airport! (We came back down to earth, figuratively as well as literally, at *sigh* Melbourne Airport.  Is it just post-holiday blues that makes it seem so embarrassingly awful??)

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Last post: dinner at L’hippocampe, Noumea, New Caledonia Friday 8/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 8, 2017

Our last meal in Noumea was at L’hippocampe at Le Meridien, next door to our hotel.

From the picture of the seahorse on the restaurant menu, I at last realised why it was called L’hippocampe, and also why there is a part of the brain called the hippocampus!

It was all very nice, and although all the senior waitstaff spoke English well, it was especially nice to be able to speak French with a very nervous young waitress who had only a very basic grasp of English.  It reminded me of the smile of relief from a young Russian waitress in St Petersburg who had only the most rudimentary of English at her disposal, when I was able to order in Russian.  What I’ve learned on my travels is that it doesn’t matter if my French/Russian/Spanish/Italian is terrible: it only matters to them that their English is terrible, and that is because it’s their job and they are judged on it.  It must be so very hard to have to struggle with English in your first job, so no wonder they are anxious about it.

Anyway, thank you to Laura, my teacher at the Hampton Community Centre, you smoothed our way many a time on this short trip!

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WW2 Museum, Noumea, New Caledonia, Friday September 8th

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 8, 2017

And in the afternoon, we went to the WW2 Museum…

It’s interesting to see the ‘same’ history from a different perspective.  In Europe, if Britain’s Commonwealth allies get a mention, they often forget about the Anzacs, and New Zealand in particular.  But in this museum, the Aussies and the Kiwis were welcome allies against the Japanese, especially before the Americans joined the war.

Can you spot the difference?  Hint: there’s more difference in the hats than in the flags.

IMG_2701 (768x1024)It was interesting to learn that when France capitulated, New Caledonia came under Vichy law but – not keen on that at all – they had a coup toute suite and joined the Free French under De Gaulle.   And say what you like about De Gaulle, he knew how to do a rousing call to arms and heaps of New Caledonians including tribal Kanak chiefs enlisted and fought bravely against fascism.

I learned all this and much more from reading the signage, which is much more detailed in the French version.

They didn’t really have much in the way of actual exhibits, but there were two jeeps:

and IMG_2711 (768x1024)

and some bits and pieces from a soldier’s kitbag (including a book on how to speak ‘Egyptian’ in a few days…

IMG_2704 (1024x768)

and what appeared to be a genuine army issue washbasin (with modern facilities discreetly behind the doors!

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Maritime Museum, Noumea, New Caledonia, Friday 8/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 8, 2017

We’ve had a great day today, starting with the Maritime Museum…

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Noumea, New Caledonia, Thursday 7/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2017

Well, we finally made it to the aquarium!

But not without a small calamity or three first…

Our first calamity was that there is no ATM in our hotel (we thought there was) and the second calamity was that taxis are hard-to get.  There was a party of eight in the lobby waiting for two taxis and we could expect to wait a while since maybe the taxis were busy.  We interpreted this correctly as ‘you’d be better off walking’.

So, ok, off we went on foot to the bank with the ATM and calamities no 3 and 4: the ATM wouldn’t accept Tim’s card and the bank wouldn’t change my dollars into local francs.  (I am not sure what this bank actually does do, but the customer before us took a very long time to do whatever it was).

So there we were, stranded, with 1000 local francs which is about enough to buy four small bottles of water.  Not enough cash to get into the aquarium, which doesn’t take cards, or for taxis, which also don’t take cards.   But lo! there was a friendly Hilton Hotel, which while not able to solve the cash problem or tell us where a Travelex might be, was able to tell us where there was an ATM into which I could put my Australian dollars and voila! out would come local francs.

I was a tad sceptical about this but in the event when we found this ATM (well hidden among some restaurants) it happily took Tim’s card and gave us some cash and all was well.  Yes, exactly the same brand of bank, exactly the same kind of ATM and exactly the same card.  Go figure.

We are not very good at tropical strolling so by then we were hot and tired and in need of a restorative G&T… at Uncle Ho’s Vietnamese Restaurant…


So, we had a jolly nice lunch – simple but tasty  and ridiculously cheap compared to everywhere else – and paused only for a photo opportunity with Marilyn Monroe, before tackling the next part of our walk to the aquarium.

The aquarium was, as you’d expect, full of fish.  The best ones hide, or they swim fast, so they aren’t in any of my photos.  But there were some massive turtles in a big pond by themselves on the roof and all in all it was well worth the effort to get there… even if we did have a long, hot walk back because no, there weren’t any taxis to be had.  We did see a couple, but they all had smug-looking passengers inside them.   We need a Plan B if we are going to get ourselves to the cultural centre tomorrow…

(We are now quite relieved that we have a pre-booked airport transfer because our hotel is 45 minutes from the airport by car, and that is a bit too far to walk, eh?)

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Noumea, New Caledonia, Wed 6/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 6, 2017

Idleness has crept upon us, and we have done nothing but go to nice places for nice meals, admire the views and read books.

Shameless, yes I know, but it is too hot to do anything else.

Here are today’s photos from a restaurant called Le Roof:

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Noumea, New Caledonia, 5/9/17

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 5, 2017

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Bonjour from Noumea!

Voila les photos de Hotel Chateau Royal – from the balcony in the very early morning.

(We had to be up early yesterday for our flight here: it’s only a three hour flight with a tailwind, but these days we have to allow three hours to check in at Melbourne Airport, so it was a long day).

So… we arrived last night in time for dinner at the hotel restaurant. They have a fine cocktail menu, and some jolly nice wines but I haven’t brought my phone with me so there are no pictures. We had an early night, our only adventure so far being that I locked us out on the balcony and had to call for help to get back into our room again! (I am paranoid about mosquitoes at the best of times, but they have the Zika virus here, so #BigMistake I was being doubly careful not to let any into our room.)

The photos above are views from the balcony just after dawn. I’m impressed by the helipad landing place at the Hotel Meridien next door – no wonder I saw so many of them flying around last night as we drove in from the airport.

I was also impressed by the cruise ship that was docked at the marina you can see in the photo. It was the size of an aircraft carrier! Apparently they only come for the day, can’t quite see the point myself…

Anyway, we are going to do some exploring today, starting with the aquarium.

PS This post is supposed to be on my travel blog! WordPress has changed something, I will have to work it out so my travels are where they belong at Travels with Tim and Lisa.

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