Sunday, 30 November 2008

The sunsets just get better

The shepards will be rubbing their hands together with glee...

Sunday swims

There's too much choice!  Most Sunday afternoons Max wakes up from a sleep and we head off to the beach.  But before we leave, it often gets a bit tense - which beach should we go to?  There's the Baie des Citrons - which is sheltered, warm,has a delicious icecream shop to visit after a swim but can get a bit busy.  Or, there's Anse Vata - a bit windy, but less busy and another delicious icecream shop nearby.  Then there's the Meridien beach - more sheltered than Anse Vata and it has fantastic kite surfers to watch. Finally, there's Kuendu which is a little drive away but is a wide shallow bay where you can just let kids go.  We love to wander over the pathways that link up the overwater bungalows there.  It feels like we go on a little holiday without leaving home when we go to Kuendu.

Most often the icecream wins.  Here's a selection of pics from some of the beaches.  Recently Anse Vata has been our beach of choice.  Max seems to be a magnet for the local kids and some of these little girls taught him how to do the perfect squeal a few weeks ago.  Long 
after we've washed off the warm, salty water we're being regailed by that squeal!

Monday, 24 November 2008

My favourite place in Noumea

Coming into the Tjibaou centre is like taking a deep breath and then slowly breathing out.  It's quiet, calm and really does feel like a blessed little place.  The trees seem to lean over it and say  'yes you can walk through here around my ankles and my tall branches will keep anything bad at bay'.  

It's a cultural centre, a venue, a cafe, a picnic spot, a's lots of things,  and it's my favourite place.

The centre is named after, and built in remembrance of, Jean Marie Tjibaou who was instrumental in the development of Kanak identity during the 1970's and 80's.  He was killed by an independence fighter in 1989 while taking part in a ceremony to remember those killed in the 1988 Ouvea massacre.  I'm still learning about the history here.  Here's a very interesting article if you'd like to learn more about what happened.

But the Centre - Wow!  It was designed by Renzo Piano, who also designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris (You know the one - it's all pipes and inside on the outside).  It's beautiful, impossible and just about perfect. Sitting on a peninsula, the buildings almost seem like huge wings, rising up out of the mangroves.

The Centre was built as part of the Noumea Accords - the agreement between France and New Caledonia that secured a certain amount of peace in the late 1980s and lays the foundation for New Caledonian independence. It's a showpiece for Kanak culture - with a lovely Kanak path, beautiful Kanak cases from each of the provinces and it's full of stunning artifacts from throughout the Pacific.  There's even the Te Papa cow made out of corned beef tins!  You've got to love it.


Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sunset in paradise

Charlie took this photo from our balcony of the sun going down last week.  For those of you who are dithering about coming over to visit us - does a G&T with this view tempt you?

The roundabout that isn't

Whenever I give people directions to our place, I tell them to come up the hill and turn right at 'the roundabout that isn't a roundabout'.  It looks like a roundabout, it has arrows that tell you to go around it like a round about, and has five roads leading onto it - but isn't a roundabout.  Why not? Because you don't have the right of way on it - which means you have to give way to anyone on your right who isn't on a stop sign.  In France, you give way to all traffic on your right (unless they have a sign telling them that they don't have the right of way) even if you're cruising down a straight road.  It's a bit nerve-wracking.

The roundabout that isn't, is clearly confusing to everyone here and there's a lot of stop-starting and hand signalling (not always so polite) as people work their way around it. There's also a fair amount of glass strewn around it at least once a week so it pays to be careful.  The only ones who seem to be happy with it are the taxi drivers - don't get the rules wrong in front of one of them or you'll definitely get tooted and sworn at!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Surfing on the Caillou

A few weeks ago we headed up to La Roche Percee for a weekend of surfing.  Well, Max and I were the support crew - Charlie headed up the surfing.  The spot we went to is about 1.5 hours north of Noumea.  It's one of the few places that's not completely protected by the reef so, when the swell's right, it's a beach break.

We stayed at Nekweta surf camp.  It's a chilled little place run by Manu (and his girlfriend) whose family has lived in New Caledonia for generations.  He's passionate about the environment and has put an enormous amount of energy into raising awareness about the fast-disappearing turtle population (an 80% drop in the number of turtles coming ashore in the past 10 years) and will talk to you about the current threats to our environment.  But he's not all doom and gloom, and the Nekweta surf camp is a beautiful example of a culturally and environmentally sensitive place to stay.  Manu also provided us with a fascinating take on the social situaiton in New Caledonia - he told us stories of taking food up to the villages when people couldn't get into town during the events of late 1980s.  In Bourail there were no shots fired - a stand-off took place with the disputing factions at opposite ends of the bridge.

But aside from that - the surf.  Charles had a great time.  It was big ask for him to get surf-fit in one trip but he loved being out at the reef and did catch some waves.  Max and I got a little frustrated by a rainy weekend but loved exploring our beautiful case (Melanesian style house) and the river behind the beach.  The only really annoying part of the whole weekend was the mosquitos!  I lost count of the number bites I got.  Three weeks later, I still have scabs to remind me the importance of finding some good insect repellant!  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Summer and ciggies

Summer's finally come to Noumea!  It's hot and surprisingly non-smoky.  Why the lack of smoke?  With the arrival of summer came the departure of cigarettes.   The 'Regie du Tabac', the government department that buys the cigarettes for New Caledonia and then sells them on to the shops (taking some money for tax on the way) is on strike.  All over town the shelves in the tabacs are empty and there are signs outside bemoaning the lack of ciggies.  Maybe this, and the fact you can no longer buy booze after 4pm on Friday and Saturday is the explanation for the crazy 5pm driving... Or maybe it's just the heat.   I've been chuckling at the face of the odd tourist in the supermarket who tries to buy beer - and is refused;  and then tries to buy ciggies - and there are none...Qu'est ce qui ce passe dans ce pays qui est 'presque' la France?  

Good job we don't smoke.  Now - time for a swim!