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".

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 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: 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: Now we just need to get it translated into English ...