This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

28 November 2007

New Caledonia Newcomer's Guide: 2008 edition

If you are looking for good, solid information on moving to and/or living in New Caledonia, I highly suggest the New Caledonia Newcomer's Guide. This free 26-page guide was updated, researched and compiled by a team of local English-speaking expatriate contributors. The guide touches on such topics as:
  • Recommended Reading
  • Getting Around New Caledonia
  • Driver’s Licence
  • The Magnificent Mobilis (mobile/cell phones)
  • Learning French
  • Do’s and Don’ts
  • Carte de Sejour
  • Finding a Place to Live
  • Health Concerns
  • Medical Care
  • Childcare
  • Culture Shock
  • How To Handle Culture Shock
  • Shopping For Food
  • Recommended Pastry Shops
  • Shopping For Home
  • Shopping For Clothes
  • Saving Money
  • Local Expressions
  • Useful Tips for Tropical Transformation
  • Creepy Crawlies and Other Tropical Delights
  • Poverty
  • Hobbies and Clubs
  • Places to Volunteer
  • Fun Places to Spend the Day
  • Vacations
  • Who Succeeds Abroad?
A 1997 Newcomer's Guide also exists, but this 2008 edition is a much-needed addition to the limited information you will find on living in New Caledonia (many thanks to Jo Ann for sharing this!).

Happy reading!

07 November 2007

Setting up House in New Caledonia

Are you wondering what it is like to move across the world and set up house on a remote island in the South Pacific?

Do you have specific questions about moving to New Caledonia?

It's been a couple of years since we did it, but our friend David and his family are just now moving in in Noumea, and David is doing a marvelous job describing the process on his blog at Trekking Greener Grasses.

Take a look at his tales and see his photos of market life, hiking in Noumea and the trials and tribulations of transitioning into a life of palm trees, early mornings and things going right - and wrong!

Bienvenue en Nouvelle Caledonie, David and Gang. Welcome to New Caledonia!

28 October 2007

Horseback Riding in New Caledonia

Little did we know, one can (and should) go horseriding in New Caledonia. The terrain and the weather are perfect for it - and there are clubs for all levels. Plus, New Caledonia has what is left of the real outback cowboys, or so it seems to me.

Our last weekend in New Caledonia, we indeed went horseback riding - at Yala Ranch in Dumbea, just outside Noumea.

I had been up on a horse once or twice at school when I was younger and had been traumatised (as I am wont to do by anything bigger or faster than myself). Laurent had ridden a few times before.

Yala Ranch turned out to be the perfect place to go. We spent a couple of hours on the horses, riding through the river, climbing a gentle hill, getting a lay of the land. The guides were very friendly and reassuring - and though Laurent was nearly thrown (he loves to tease the horses), I managed to stay on my horse.

There are several options for horseriding in New Caledonia. I would encourage you to give it a try - for those days when it feels a little too cool (under 20 degrees) to go scuba diving.

26 October 2007

Kitesurfing Season in New Caledonia

Now is about the time of year when one sees a million and one kitesurfers in Noumea (right next to the Meridien Hotel). This video was shot in 2005 by Laurent Guiader, the year we stumbled on an International Kitesurfing Competition.

Watching this makes me want to take the next flight to Noumea, whether it takes 40 hours to get there or not!

video

21 October 2007

New Caledonian Music Featured on "South Pacific Islands"

For those of you who are wondering what New Caledonian music is like, I'd highly recommend "South Pacific Islands", a Putumayo World Music compilation.

The three New Caledonian songs featured on the CD (Nengone Nodegu, Co Era So, and Watolea) are those you hear frequently on the radio in New Caledonia and they are certain to get you up out of your chair away from your screen, or at least a toe-tapping.

For a snippet of these songs, go to the Amazon site and click on one of the songs under "Listen to Samples".

Added bonus: "Co Era So" is available as a music video on the album: you can get a glimpse of our local culture.

I do recommend buying the CD - not only for the New Caledonian music, but the other music from places like New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. On grey days, no matter where you are, this CD will brighten your day.

*My thanks to Caitlin for sending this to me in Paris ... we listen to it nearly every day!

19 October 2007

Looking to Buy or Sell Something in New Caledonia?

Try one of the various free online classified sites available in New Caledonia. You can buy or sell anything from a car to a boat to a baby bed to a computer. Okay, eBay and Craig's List are still to come to the South Pacific, but these sites proved very helpful to us a few months back:

As the population turns over every couple of years (military rotation), you can often find great deals. Definitely worth a browse, as most things on the island are expensive, purchased new.

Occasionally you will find things described in English, but if you need help translating the French, try any of the available online translators to give you a general gist, e.g. Babelfish.

And for currency conversion, try http://www.xe.com/ucc/

Now, speaking of things for sale in New Caledonia, anyone interested in buying our Peugot 206? :)

16 October 2007

Video: An Afternoon in Noumea

Many people ask me what New Caledonia is really like and are often surprised to learn that we have modern, French hospitals, good schools and a few big supermarkets. Life is not as backward on this little island in the South Pacific as one might think ...

For a snapshot of the New Caledonia's capital, Noumea, watch the 7-minute video below. It captures some of the main sights, shows our views, and even pictures our slums (yes, we do have people who live in wooden shacks). You'll also find pictures from our famous Tjibaou Cultural Center, an architectural marvel.

My thanks to "crankycross" for filming and posting this on YouTube in May, 2007.

14 October 2007

Missing Anse Vata

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

We miss this, of all places. This is the Anse Vata ... I've written about it several times before on this blog. This is a long stretch of beach in Noumea which is particularly windy, and particularly beautiful - with its turquoise waters, white sands, and green slopes.

Pablo and I used to walk it frequently. Just after he was born, we walked it nearly every day with our friends Caitlin and Dorian. When they moved to La Reunion, we continued to walk it, but less frequently. I occasionally ran along it, and his father ran along it three times a week.

This is where Pablo really learned to walk (I would bring him down here to walk in the sand), this is where I sometimes went at 7 in the morning when Pablo wasn't sleeping, this is where we met friends, and where we often walked on the weekends.

Do we walk as much in Paris? I wish we did, but it is not nearly as warm and inviting in Paris. We are not used to the palava of having to bundle up, dodge other people and pushchairs, or navigate narrow sidewalks. We are not used to the sounds of the buses and cars and beeping horns. But never fear, we do walk, and even find ourselves at the base of the Eiffel Tower, on the Champs de Mars.

24 September 2007

Writing from Across the World

I was so used to writing to you all from the edge of the planet, from a tiny island in the South Pacific, hours before you awoke (9-10 hours ahead of Paris, 18-19 hours ahead of Los Angeles).

Now I am writing to you from Paris, about life in New Caledonia, having left it a month ago. I feel as if I am hovering above it, as if our two years in Noumea were a dream.

I am back on Paris time and wishing at times that I were ahead again, in New Caledonia, walking the beaches, enjoying the spring, planning our summer outings.

Alas. Life moves on, and so do we. But the good news is that I still have things to finish up on New Caledonia and will be posting them here over the next few weeks ... (so if you have any questions about life on this little island, now is your moment!).

And then ... a new blog ... from Paris, about life in Paris, among other things. When the blog is up and running, I'll post its link here.

In the meantime, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and living your dream.

09 August 2007

New Caledonia's Local Art and Souvenirs

"Les couleurs de Tina" is one of our favourite little market stalls in Noumea. A local artist sells his superb island paintings for next to nothing (1000-1500 francs - or EUR 8.38-12.57) here.

He reminds me of all the portrait artists in Montmartre at the Place de Tertre. The difference is yes, his subject (island scenes and animals), and the fact that he is one of the only artists displaying his paintings in a public place (unlike the millions in Paris' Montmartre).

For the little he charges, I would definitely recommend his paintings as souvenirs to take home. They are both original and beautiful - and definitely better than a postcard!

07 August 2007

Far-Flung Roots in New Caledonia

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Ah, some of my favourite trees here in New Caledonia: the banyan trees. You'll find these right in downtown Noumea, next to the police station, on "bank street" (where all the banks are). I marvel at them every time I pass them - how is it that one can live with one's roots above ground?

Laurent was kind enough to take photos of them for me - as in some small way they seem to symbolise us and our short visit on the island. Roots far-flung and above ground: I was born in America, but have lived abroad for years; Laurent has lived outside of his native France on many an occasion; Sophie was born in France, but has travelled the world - and is half American; Pablo was born on this island, soon to live in Europe, a mere 22 000 kms away.

We are uprooted by our own choice this time (okay, poor Pablo has to follow along for the moment - and okay, we would all rather stay), but like these majestic trees, we will continue to grow and prosper.

Every time I pass these trees, I thank them for the reminder.


05 August 2007

Sophie Update

Sophie is as wonderful as ever. Here she is with glasses! Yes, her eyes were hurting - and watering and itching and the whole hoo-ha - and so the eye doctor thought we might try glasses. Besides making her look incredibly cool and sophisticated, they have also stopped her eyes hurting. A definite plus!

Grades for the second semester will end on Friday, 10 August. Sophie has been working hard and has an average of 16.2 in French (out of 20). We are still waiting on the other grades, but the official report card will be released after we leave New Caledonia. We have a friend who will fax them to Paris for us.

Cross your fingers for Sophie that she will be able to skip ahead to the next grade in Paris in September. She will have missed the last semester of 10th grade, but she has taken classes on the side in math and physics with the hope that there will be no hiccups in skipping ahead. Sophie would like to specialise in science (BAC S) these next two years - a lot of hard work, but infinitely interesting!

Think of Sophie, too, over the next few weeks - she will have a very brief break from 21 August to 4 September and will be leaving her many friends and terrific boyfriend, Max, on 21 August. New Caledonia is so far away from France!

Of course we know time will fly and we will see Max again soon - won't we, Max? :)

03 August 2007

Garden Fun

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

2.5 weeks left in our beautiful house with our beautiful garden on the bay.

Pablo and I are taking full advantage of our last few weeks. Outside nearly every day, we explore the bushes (he climbed the hibiscus last week - and a tree this week, with my help), the hills (sliding down on our hinies), the flowers, the mud and under the car. Oh the fun we have scaring Mommy half to death looking for that special pebble just underneath, right there, just out of reach ... under the middle of the car.

Pablo is in heaven here in our garden. He explores to his heart's content. His little legs have the scratches to prove it, but no matter, that's what being a little boy in New Caledonia is all about.


01 August 2007

Harry Potter Arrives in New Caledonia

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", the last of the Harry Potter series, arrived at our house Monday night, 30 July. Sophie and I jumped up and down, screamed and hollered, shook the house and both Laurent and Pablo thought a catastrophe had struck. But no: pure excitement!

Pre-ordered from amazon.co.uk back in March, it was shipped on the release date, 21 July, and arrived a mere 9 days later! That is fast for mail to New Caledonia!

Sophie is already 100 pages in - and I've read the first chapter (we are switching off: normally we buy 2 copies, but we won't have a lot of room in our luggage when we leave in 3 weeks, so 1 copy it was). I just finished rereading Harry Potter 6 ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince") and so my memory is refreshed and full of fun Harry Potter facts.

Now - the question is: how many other HP7s are there in New Caledonia? Must go see if they are selling them at the grocery store ...

30 July 2007

New Caledonia's Online Phonebook

A resource we use all the time here in New Caledonia is its phonebook. It contains helpful maps that show all of Noumea's one-way streets (no other maps seem to do so!), restaurant advertisements (it is hard to know about them otherwise, strangely enough) and of course professional addresses, like doctors and dentists.

I had never been much of a phonebook user (I seem to look everything up on line), but moving to New Caledonia changed things. New Caledonians are from the old offline world - and living here one realises how much faster a simple phonebook is (find it, open it up, figure out the French for "doctor" - medecin- and away you go).

As our phonebooks are packed up and on a slow boat to China (they make great souvenirs - and serve as proof that we were here!), I am now using the online version of the phonebook. Though helpful, it is somehow not as good.

With a paper version, you can see tangential and yet relevant companies and services. Online, you have to know the name of the company or the category -- and the categories are bizarre here. I can never seem to get my category right. Plus, you cannot type in an address to find a company (which is very useful as you may know the street but not the company name).

Maybe the online version just isn't user-friendly enough yet - or maybe I expect too much.

In any case, if any of you are looking for friends, family or companies in New Caledonia, go to www.opt.nc, right-hand side.
  • If you are looking for a person, type in the last name under "nom", the first name under "prenom", select the city and click on "rechercher".
  • If you are looking for a company, click on "pages professionelles" and you will be taken to a page where you can type in the name of the company, or a category and the city.
Have fun - and let us know if you find the online version easy or not.

27 July 2007

Rock of Contention: Free French and Americans at War in New Caledonia, 1940-1945

For those of you interested in the American influence on New Caledonia (which was, in truth, a bone of contention with the French government), I recommend Kim Munholland's "Rock of Contention: Free French and Americans at War in New Caledonia, 1940-1945".


The following excerpts are from a review of the book by Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney in H-France Review Vol. 6 (April 2006), No. 47:

Rock of contention

"The Americans, under the command of General Patch and then Admiral Halsey, overwhelmed New Caledonia with their men and machines. The presence of tens of thousands of soldiers and their matériel, the demands they made on local accommodation, the largesse of American dollars and the military exigencies they imposed all grated on the French. De Gaulle and his comrades in London reacted angrily to what they saw as the bossiness of American officers and to what they feared was Washington’s aim of taking over the French colony at the end of the war.

The French governors, in the American perspective, placed obstacles in their way, even to the point that an American official thought that one governor ought to be charged with abetting the enemy.

The French, on their side, sometimes said that the Americans posed more of a threat to New Caledonia than did the Japanese.

In fact, as Munholland justly points out, two priorities clashed: the American determination to take whatever measures necessary to win the war in the Pacific, the French determination to keep control over New Caledonia and to retain sovereignty over their overseas empire."

The American influence on the ground

"The American presence could not but bring great changes, at least temporarily, to New Caledonia. 'One might have said the Martians had landed' one Kanak student is reported as remarking.

The population of Nouméa soared, especially as the Americans put up Quonset huts, built an airport and constructed a “mini-Pentagon” at a beachside suburb. GI’s spent dollars lavishly for food, drink and other entertainments--86 bars opened in Nouméa during the war, and by 1944, the Trade Winds bar (*) alone sold 18,000 beers and 5,100 hamburgers a day ...

Many Melanesians were astounded at the sight of African American troops in positions of responsibility (despite the segregation practiced by the US Army). Many Kanak, and Asians, found employment with the Americans, and were even paid for their work--Kanak had been required by the French to donate free labour for public works projects. Although only a quarter of the Melanesians had held paid jobs before the war, during the American years two-thirds had such an experience.

Similarly, many of the Caldoches benefited from the American presence and the opportunities it provided; the Spanish-born head of the local Communist Party (and a Republican in the Spanish Civil War) sold bootleg liquor to US soldiers for what they claimed were exorbitant prices."

* Readers may recall that we know of someone who worked at the Trade Winds ... Lucie Agez.

My thanks once again to Marc ("Le Cagou") for sharing this with us.

25 July 2007

President Marie-Noelle Themerau Steps Down

The President of New Caledonia, Marie-Noelle Themereau, resigned yesterday, 24 July.

Elected president of New Caledonia in 2004, Ms. Themereau had given plenty of warning she intended to leave politics.

The resignation means that New Caledonia's Cabinet is now dissolved, and its members will form a caretaker government.

Within 14 days, the national congress has to decide which of the country's politicians will make up the new government, and who will hold which portfolio.

The new cabinet then decides who amongst them will be president.

23 July 2007

Consequences of the American Presence in New Caledonia

A bridge built by the US army, Poya, New Caledonia

On 12 March 1942, a large convoy of 17 000 American army soldiers, under the orders of General Patch, landed in Noumea - which then became Pacific headquarters (to stop the advance of the Japanese during World War II).

Airports were built (Tontouta, Gaiacs Plain). Amunition and gasoline filled all possible ports, medical clinics were installed at Anse Vata, Conception, Dumbea, north of Bourail, on the coast and in the far north.

What tremendous upset to the country's daily life! After having endured a period of food rationing, here is what was distributed all over the island:
  • Chocolate.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Ice cream.
  • And, last but not least, whiskey!
The Americans also introduced modern farming. They cleared land with a bulldozer and planted crops with machines. They also worked with the tribes - who received salaries in dollars for the first time.

In 1944, military operations began to distance itself from New Caledonia. 1946 marked the departure of the last GIs and the return of the volunteers.

- Translated loosely from a text used in a 2005 BEP history-geography exam in New Caledonia. The subject: "What are the consequences of the American presence in New Caledonia?" (Source: Bulletin d'accueil, Vice-Rectorat de la Nouvelle-Caledonie)

Special thanks to Marc ("Le Cagou") for sharing this with us.

21 July 2007

New Caledonia: Seven Things We Will Miss

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Officially one month left in New Caledonia, time is slipping through our fingers. Two years have flown - where have they gone? New Caledonia is a part of us now and as some readers know, will always be a part of Pablo (who was born here). I think it will always be a part of all of us (and perhaps a small part of all of you).

So what will we miss, you ask?
  1. The sun, the light, the warm weather.
  2. The coral, the shells, the white sands.
  3. The trees, the flowers, the fish and the birds.
  4. The ease of life, the ease of living.
  5. The silence and the wind.
  6. The smiling people, the women who take your baby in the post office when he gets bored, the people who help you in grocery stores.
  7. The blue, blue, blue of sea and sky, the transparent waters of the Loyalty Islands, and the visions of sailboats on Wednesdays at 5:15 pm.

18 July 2007

Trekking Greener Grasses: A New Blog on Living in New Caledonia

Photo by David Giustizia, 2007.

"Trekking Greener Grasses" is a great new English-language blog on moving to, and setting up life, on a tiny island in the South Pacific - yes, in New Caledonia. Authored by Canadian, David Giustizia, with input from his wife Alana and sons David and Nathan (and technical expertise provided by son David), this little blog promises to be an interesting look at what it is like to leave the snowy mountains of Canada for the coconut trees and breezy bays of New Caledonia.

David and his family will be living in Kone - which is about half-way up the island - and is home to about 2000 inhabitants. Their adventures will differ from those you have read here (life in a capital city is far from life in the outback!) ... I wager they will be much closer to what living on a tiny island is really like.

Thanks, David, for taking over the reins of "Sojourn in the South Pacific" - and have fun, everyone, reading about life in New Caledonia, from a different angle.

16 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Kunie Scuba Center

Kunie Scuba Center on the Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) is a well-run, professional and friendly operation.

My father and stepsister, Livia, dove with the Kunie Scuba Center recently and were very impressed with the care and attention they received along with the professionsalism of the staff.

The dive itself was wonderful - among the best you can find in New Caledonia.

13 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Oure Lodge

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Our favourite place to stay on Ile des Pins is Oure Lodge. It is a beautiful hotel on the Baie de Kanumera - made up of bungalows right on the lagoon as well as nested in a tropical garden (pictured above).

Here is what we love about Oure Lodge:
  • The staff are very friendly and helpful.
  • Kayaking and snorkelling equipment is provided free of charge.
  • The American breakfasts are both delicious and generous.
  • The restaurant provides a range of dishes, including delicious fish.
  • The bungalows themselves are spacious and come with every comfort (including a bathtub and shower).
If ever you do end up at Ile des Pins in the rain (as we did this last time in June), we highly recommend Oure Lodge.

10 July 2007

Ile des Pins: Grey in June

Photo by James D. Harris, 2007.

One cannot live in New Caledonia and not visit Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) regularly. It is a heavenly place - far from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

Characterised by blue skies, towering pines and silky white sand, a visit there returns one - or helps one find one's - home, dream, paradise.

At the end of June, we returned to Ile des Pins to show it to my father and stepsister. Laurent, Sophie and I had been there for the first time in December, 2005. We returned again in October, 2006 with our friend Sheila. This June trip was grey - but still beautiful. We were there during one of Noumea's greatest storms, safe from flying chairs.

Livia and Jim got to go diving, Pablo played in the water, and Laurent and I drank in our last time at Ile des Pins.

07 July 2007

Blogging: A Home Away from Home

Photo by Julie Harris, 2007.

This blog has brought many unexpected pleasures. When I started blogging almost 2 years ago, I did so to try to provide a service for those looking for information on New Caledonia - in English. A secondary (and no less important!) reason was to keep family and friends abreast of our little adventures half way around the world.

Today, this blog has brought me many new friends. I have spent time with them on line and off. My friends Jo and Sean generously hosted us (as well as our friends Anne and Melissa) in New Zealand. Jo and I came to know each other through our blogs. What a marvelous person she is!

I have really enjoyed coming to know the Lucie Agez family, descendants of New Caledonia, living in the United States. Again, marvelous people. Very kind, generous and loyal readers.

I have enjoyed hearing from readers such as "Le Cagou" (Marc) in Liverpool and Dave Thompson in the United Kingdom as well as many others.

I have come to know David and his family from Canada, who will be moving to New Caledonia (Kone) in the fall. They are currently visiting Noumea and it is an immense pleasure spending time with them.

Finally, most recently, a fellow blogger in the United States named Anthony has featured "Sojourn in the South Pacific" on his blog, "The Lives and Times of ... Anthony McCune" (Do go see his blog - it is full of interesting posts and beautiful photographs). Anthony scans literally hundreds of sites and took a generous liking to this little space.

I'd read recently that blogging is about community - connections, linking, commenting, forming a world on line. I have to say I agree.

Thanks to all of you out there who have made this funny online world a "home away from home".

05 July 2007

Enjoying New Caledonia's Winter

Cooler days during New Caledonia's winter (July and August) mean dips below 20 degrees (at night). During the day, however, temperatures can cascade back up as far as 22-26. This last weekend the sun enticed us out for a long walk along the bays (with visiting dad and stepsister, Livia). And nothing, but nothing, stopped Pablo from going for a dip of his own - and a taste or two of the ocean.

03 July 2007

All Packed Up and Ready to Go

Photo by Julie Harris, 2007.

The movers have come and gone. After a month's preparation and 40 boxes later, our container of 10.5 cubic metres is packed, sealed on its way. The boat will take about 8 weeks and our books, clothes, toys and coffee maker will all land on our doorstep in Paris on or around 3 September.

Never fear, we've kept darling Pablo with us, along with Sophie and Tjiba and Laurent.

We will leave New Caledonia on 21 August, via Auckland, Los Angeles, and London. Final destination: Paris, 29 August. On beautiful sunny days such as those we have today in Noumea, we are praying for an Indian summer in France ...

19 June 2007

Appreciating the View

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

Though these last few days have been busy with planning our move to Paris, I stop myself on occasion and drink in the view. We have had a magical time in Nouméa. We have been very, very lucky. We have lived in a house with a garden (Sophie's first ever), we have had the sea right in front of us all along, we have heard nothing but birds (parakeets) and the wind. I am so thankful for the time we have spent here - and for the glorious taste of paradise we have had.

15 June 2007

How the Mail Works in New Caledonia

Have something urgent to send to a major developed country from a tiny island in the South Pacific? Sit back, relax, and above all, take a deep breath.

The fastest the post office can actually guarantee that your mail will reach Paris from Nouméa is six days. New York or Los Angeles or Toronto? Probably eight to ten days.

Our experience is that it takes 10 days to reach Europe and 14 days to reach the United States.

Why is that, you ask? I recently asked and the answer is: because the mail actually only leaves the island on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. And if you want your mail to leave, you have to get it to the post office the day before. So, for a Saturday flight, stop by the post office on the Friday (before 15:30 - in Nouméa: for other cities you might have to stop by sooner). If you make the mistake of going to the post office on Wednesday and thinking your mail will leave (same day service - who would have thought of such a thing?), think again. Your mail will leave on Saturday.

Which is why, with the wait time, they can only guarantee six days (via priority service or even a courier service such as DHL). Heavens!

12 June 2007

Child Stricken with Strange Shoe Fetish in the South Pacific

Photos by Julie Harris, 2007.

Young Master Pablo was stricken with an overpowering shoe fetish last week and has not fully recovered. A native of the jewel of the South Pacific, New Caledonia, Pablo learned to walk like the Melanesians - barefoot - everywhere.

Today, a power walker of 14 months, Pablo goes nowhere without shoes - Sister Sophie's shoes, Papa's boots, Mama's flip-flops. As feet are not often wont to co-operate, Pablo has developed the technique of grabbing each foot with both hands and forcing it into the nearest shoe.

Where next, Pablo? And are you sure those boots are made for walkin'?


10 June 2007

New Caledonia: Leave Your Silk and Wool Behind

If you're thinking of moving to New Caledonia for a few months or a few years, "Leave your silk and wool behind!" advises the local dry cleaner.

New Caledonia is so humid that in a short time your leather will show signs of mildew and later mould. Your silk will turn yellow (never to be repaired) and your wool will either sprout funny little holes and/or smell bad for the rest of its life.

I recently discovered a whole closet-full of damaged clothes. I'd left a lot of my wool behind, but had been told that I would need the nicer (silk) pieces for special soirées. Alas, the dry cleaner was only able to save but a few pieces.

"Bring cotton and light fabrics," she advises. "The humidity in New Caledonia will ruin your other European (or American or South American or what have you) clothes.

We live and learn!

08 June 2007

RFO Radio Debate on Blogging in New Caledonia

RFO Radio hosted a short debate on blogging in New Caledonia at noon today. I was lucky enough to be included on the five-person French-speaking panel (thanks to Sébastien of "5 minutes en Nouvelle Calédonie").

We spoke live on the radio here in Nouméa about who visits our blogs, why we do them, how they have changed our lives - and if we should be censored/regulated. The debate was hosted by Thierry Rigoureau, whose questions were pertinent and thought-provoking.

To hear the fifteen-minute debate, click on the file below. Warning: it is in French. Warning number 2: I make a number of silly errors in French! Alas. My thanks to Franck and Denis for recording this and making it available on the web.



My panel members were:
They were all very well spoken - it was a privilege to be seated among them.

07 June 2007

Peet's Coffee: An Expensive Addiction in New Caledonia

Do you have a coffee addiction? Are you considering moving to a desert island in the South Pacific? Hmmm. Do. But you'll pay dearly for your addiction.

One of the wonderful things about New Caledonia is it is devoid of the Starbucks and McDonald's of this world (Nouméa does have two McDonald's, but that's it). It is charming, not being surrounded by big multi-nationals. It is charming, buying locally. It is charming, supporting the local economy.

And then, one day, you want a really strong, really good espresso. Life on a desert island gets just that little bit less charming. Okay, I admit it: I'm a Peet's lover. I discovered Peet's coffee in San Francisco a long time ago, and I have not found a better, stronger, richer coffee since.

On occasion, I order Peet's on line. I just picked up a pound last week, and here is what I paid:
  • $12.95 for one pound of Peet's Espresso Forte
  • $0.00 US sales tax
  • $21.04 in shipping (standard international rate - all they offer as a shipping possibility)
  • $16.62 local New Caledonian taxes
  • $50.61 TOTAL (or €37,49 or 4 474 CPF, depending on your currency)
Gulp. I should mention that if you can keep your online order under $33.93, including shipping, there is no tax here in beautiful New Caledonia. My order came to $33.99 - 6 cents over the limit. And so I paid 33% in additional tax.

I've mentioned life being expensive in New Caledonia, and I should know better. But sometimes you cave - for a really good cup of coffee.

04 June 2007

Ilot Maitre: A Day Off-shore

Ten to fifteen minutes away from Nouméa (by boat) lies a little island called Ilot Maitre. We decided to take Sophie to spend the day there a few weekends ago. Laurent, Pablo and I had been once (for my 40th), and we wanted to show Sophie.

I didn't pick the best day. It was cloudy. It rained a little. And Ilot Maitre is about doing water sports (jet ski, canoe, paddle boats, snorkelling, etc.), lying by the pool, and soaking in the sun. When there is no sun, it can be a little sad.

However, we did manage to enjoy ourselves. We had a little visitor: a tricot rayé - who left us well enough alone (Sophie and I did keep our eyes on it, just to be sure).

Laurent and Pablo got in a nap.

Sophie caught some rays in the afternoon when the sun came out.

Pablo and I had a bit of a play.

And we all caught the end of a
beautiful sunset.

01 June 2007

Tikiwaka: Stunning Photos of New Caledonia

If you are looking for images of New Caledonia - from its north to its south, from its islands to the mainland, from its beaches to its mountains, from the air or in the sea, from its people to their customs - you must see www.tikiwaka.com by Sébastien Mérion. If you really want to dream, lose yourself or just escape daily life for a moment, go there now.

Tikiwaka is an image bank that contains thousands of unedited photos of New Caledonia and its people. If you are a professional, looking for high resolution photos of New Caledonia (or South Pacific island life, for example), this site is a boon. If you are an individual interested in seeing what New Caledonia is like, you will not find a better collection of photos. Easy and fast to use, you can search the site by keyword or category.

Sébastien is also working on another project: photos taken from an ultra-light aircraft. To see these breathtaking photos, see: www.tikiwaka.com/editing1/ They remind me of Yann Arthus-Bertrand ... if you look closely enough you'll even find the "Coeur de Voh".

Sébastien Mérion's work is well known in New Caledonia and France. He has been involved in big French network interviews and served as the subject of articles. Recently his beautiful photos were used for the covers of the New Caledonia phone books.

His blog on New Caledonia attracts tremendous traffic for its beauty and professionalism from visitors around the globe. I personally think it is the best blog on New Caledonia out there: www.5minutes-caledonie.com Now we just need to get it translated into English ...

30 May 2007

Fall and Winter in New Caledonia

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

Our seasons are "turned around" in the South Pacific (depending on your perspective). When all of you in the northern hemisphere are gearing up for summer, we in the southern hemisphere are gearing up for winter, which will be here around the 22nd of June.

Right now it is fall in New Caledonia and the days are still warm and sunny. We do have a little extra yard work (and a little extra help), but other than that it is hard to tell that it is fall.

What is winter like? Winter in New Caledonia is cooler than the rest of the year, but one cannot really call it winter. It is warmer than Paris' warmest days most of the time! Temperatures hover around 20°C, the days end earlier (around 17.30) and start earlier (around 5.30), but we have no snow, we have a little rain, and yes, we can manage without coats and hats and scarves.

Now - must get back to that yard work before someone pokes an eye out ...

28 May 2007

Views from Ouen Toro, Nouméa's "Mountain"

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2007.
Click on the photos themselves for close-ups.

Nouméa, New Caledonia's capital, offers the most magnificent views - from mountains to beaches, from turquoise blues to deepest greens. One of the places we always take our visitors is "Ouen Toro", Nouméa "mountain". From the top of Ouen Toro you have views down over Nouméa's beaches, Anse Vata and Baie de Citrons. From the other side, you have New Caledonia's mountains.

On a clear day, you can see Nouméa's paragliders and kitesurfers, and Phare Amédée in the distance.

It goes without saying that Ouen Toro is one of our favourite places to visit. Being only 15 minutes away, we enjoy its views regularly (and pinch ourselves, "Is this really a dream?").

Thanks to Ruth for inspiring this post ... this one is for you!


25 May 2007

Windsurfing or Kitesurfing Anyone?

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2007.
Click on the photos themsleves to see close-ups.

Nouméa is blessed with a mighty wind on its beautiful long stretch of beach at Anse Vata. Whenever the wind is up (which is most of the time), you are likely to find a host of windsurfers and kitesurfers. On clear blue-sky days as warm as 30° C, it makes one want to have a go. No?