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".

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?

23 May 2007

Video: Nouméa, Isle of Pines and the South Province

For a quick two-minute overview of Nouméa, New Caledonia's capital; the neighbouring Isle of Pines; and a mention of the Southern Province, take a look at this video from "caledosphere". The commentary is in English and the images are quick and varied.

21 May 2007

Colours of the South Pacific

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

We are spoiled for colour in New Caledonia. Okay, so we don't have New England's beautiful fall colours (we don't even have a real winter or snow). But the locals sport colours in such a joyous way in New Caledonia. Gone are the blacks and greys of London and Paris and New York. Bring in the oranges, the reds and the bright greens. Bring in the yellows and the blues and the purples.

I am convinced colour changes everything. Colour and sun. The colour and the warm winds of the South Pacific make of this place a veritable paradise. Gone are the worries, the stress and the low-level pain of having to live too much life in too little time. With colour and warm winds, or at least to me, one breathes more deeply, loves more slowly and completely, enjoys what is, instead of worries about what is (or is not) to come.

Happy Monday, everyone.

18 May 2007

1st Trimester of Lycée: Done!

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

This post goes out to Sophie, our amazing 16-year-old daughter. She just finished her first trimester in "second" (equivalent to 10th grade in the US school system) - which is the first year of the French lycée.

I attended the "conseil de classe" on Wednesday at which all the professors, two parent representatives and two student representatives discuss the global and individual progress of the class. It is an honour to attend one of these meetings: one learns so much.

I was very excited to learn that Sophie is third in her class, almost second. Her overall average is 14.07 (out of 20). Her strongest subjects this trimester were English (19.67) and Earth Sciences (15.50), followed by German (15). Great work, Sophie! We're so proud of you.

16 May 2007

Moving to New Caledonia with a Pet

When we were thinking of moving to New Caledonia in 2005, I had two burning questions. Call me silly, but among the most important to me were:

1. How we were going to bring our cat to the island.

2. Did New Caledonia have high speed Internet access.

Never mind that we did not have a place to live up to about a week before we arrived - and so did not know where Sophie would be going to school (or where to have our mail forwarded) - these details eventually worked themselves out. Figuring out how to bring our cat and get Internet access up and running were other major priorities.

I started the process of exporting our cat to New Caledonia eight months in advance of our move. For animals from Europe, the process is pretty straightforward, though a bit long. There are vaccinations to update, tests to take and proof to provide. Then our cat was assigned her place on the one flight a month. Then she stayed 40 days in a quarantine.

Then while we were still in France, I receive an e-mail to come and pick her up. But we were still in France, arriving a few days later. They couldn't wait. Things got complicated. And then we found a way. An ex quarantine employee could take our cat and keep her until we arrived. It was fun organising this from 22 000 km away (and 10 hours' time difference), but we did. And everything worked out perfectly.

If you are looking for how to bring your pet with you to New Caledonia, I recommend this site: The process is very clearly outlined. To translate the page from French, you can try an online translation site, such as

As for Internet access, yes, we got that set up too. But it took six weeks from the date we requested it for the phone company to switch it on (we were told this is a normal wait period in New Caledonia). The positive side? Nouméa does have Internet cafés, so with a little patience and a little flexibility we found that despite the obstacles, life in Nouméa was not as hard as we thought it might be.

14 May 2007

Wednesdays at 5:15 pm: Sailboats

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

One of the things I love most about living in Nouméa is the view - which you can get from just about anywhere. We are very lucky to have large sliding glass doors looking out onto the sea (lagoon). For me, this is the definition of heaven. To top things off, every Wednesday at 5:15 pm, we have a parade of sailboats that sail through our little bay. I am generally working at 5:15 pm, but I always look up to see the boats. They remind me of the freedom we all have, to live our dreams on a Wednesday at 5:15 pm.

10 May 2007

New Zealand: From the North Island to the South Island

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2007.

One of the highlights of our recent trip to New Zealand was a ferry ride from Wellington (on the North Island) to Picton (on the South Island, pictured above). My friend Melissa tells the tale beautifully and provides a host of pictures of the views on her blog at "Petit Sojourn". Suffice it to say the views truly were breathtaking.

In addition, the 3.5-hour journey flew by what with all the entertainment provided onboard. Pablo enjoyed himself immensely, Sophie and I successfully avoided seasickness, Laurent and Melissa went out on deck to take in the views of towering mountains and deep blue waters.

Of all the travel we did on our trip, I think this (Interislander) ferry was our most pleasurable - we heartily recommend it!

08 May 2007

Sarkozy Wins 62.9% of the New Caledonian Vote

New Caledonia made it clear on 6 May that Nicolas Sarkozy was their president: 62.9% cast their vote for him. Sarkozy, France's newly elected president, gleaned his greatest support in New Caledonia. He succeeded on a margin of 26 votes in Wallis and Fortuna, for example, and lost La Réunion to Ségolène Royal.

It is said that Sarkozy won New Caledonia because of his views on New Caledonian independence (and because of the move on the island to remain French). Sarkozy has said that though he understands the wishes of those who want independence in New Caledonia, he does not agree. He will do what he can to ensure that New Caledonia remains a part of France. The far-right National Front branch in Nouméa instructed supporters to vote for "Sarko" though the instructions from Paris were to abstain. They stated that voting for Sarkozy was the only way to stop the pro-independence movement.

New Caledonians will vote on independence some time between the years 2013 and 2018.

06 May 2007

Lifou: Amusing Sights

We just loved certain things about Lifou - trees growing out of houses, "houses" going up over night, the optician's being signposted (when very little else was), and roadside welcome (?) signs. We were struck by the ease of living and the local humour. Could it be that we are simply easily amused? Me thinks it is simply easy and wonderful in Lifou.

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

03 May 2007

Lifou: The Largest Loyalty Island

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

Covering 1196 square kilometres (81 km long and 16-24 km wide), Lifou is the largest - and most culturally diverse - of the Loyalty Islands. Bigger than both Tahiti and Martinique, this raised coral atoll is also geographically diverse, with limestone caves, bleached white sand and rich sea life. It does not have any hills or rivers, however.

Lifou is also the most populated Loyalty Island, with some 10 000 inhabitants. 20% of the population live off the island in Nouméa (New Caledonia's capital), though, for employment or education reasons. Tourism is the major industry on the island, though Lifou also exports copra, rubber, vanilla and sugarcane.

The native language on the island is Drehu. French is also spoken as is a tiny bit of English.

01 May 2007

Lifou: Picture Paradise

Photo by Julie Harris, 2006.

Close your eyes and picture paradise for a moment. What colour is it? What do you hear? What do you smell? Who is with you?

Our very own version of paradise is right here in New Caledonia. The photo above was taken in Lifou, on Christmas day. Lifou is one of the Loyalty Islands - islands located just off of New Caledonia's mainland (or grande terre). It takes an hour or so to get there by plane (photo left, just over Lifou), about four hours by boat.

On Lifou, you'll find the perfect combination of beauty, things to do and see, not too many people, friendly islanders, good food and a range of places to stay.

Would we say Lifou is our favourite Loyalty Island? Quite possibly. A very close second is Maré ... but then Ouvéa is gorgeous as well. And there is the lovely Ile des Pins ...