Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas craziness

Tonight was the boys' night out. They took off to have burgers and chips for dinner and go for a ride on the Christmas santa train. It meant a late bedtime for Max but he took it all in his stride.

He came home full of stories about the funny man in the white car (who Charles hadn't noticed...I've no idea what he did), chocolates and a little girl. No mention of Santa Claus. The night time trip around Noumea in the little train ended with a visit to 'La maison de Pere Noel'. It's a regular house, not far from where we live, that is decorated by a lovely lady who is completely nuts about Christmas. Everyone here goes nuts about her over the top decorations!

I think this picture sums up pretty well why Max didn't catch a glimpse of the dude in the red suit. Mr Claus was at home but all of the kids of Noumea were out to visit him - we're be incredibly thankful that we don't live on this street. Chaos!

Three months old (et tres sage)

Our little New Caledonian is 3 months old. She's awesome. She's so big that she's off the top of the French growth charts. At 7.5 kilos (I kid you not), she gets a lot of attention and the top of her Michelin man-style legs get squeezed everyday by passers by. Her response? Well, she smiles of course!

I love all the new vocabulary that has to be learned when something new happens and you living in a non-english speaking country. A new baby as meant learning how to say that you're in labour, that it hurts (I knew that one), how to ask for an epidural...hmmm and that was all before she'd even arrived. One of the nicest things at the moment is the statement I've been getting lots lately 'Elle est sage' - literally that she's wise, but translated better as she's a good baby...happy, smiley and a good sleeper. And yes, very wise!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Coconut grasshopper

So, I was locking up the house the other day when I looked over my shoulder and jumped so high my head nearly hit the roof. What was checking me out? A coconut grasshopper. It was ginormous!

I actually didn't know what it was, but by the power of google I quickly learned that New Caledonia's grasshopper is one of the biggest in the world and, unfortunately, threatened with extinction.

Despite it's fearsome appearance, it gets its name from the fact that it eats the leaves on coconut palms and it blends in perfectly. It can reach up to 20cm long. It's not something you'd like to find snuggled up next to you in bed at night...

We let him be and he disappeared overnight. No doubt he's feasting on one of the nearby coconut palms!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A ten dollar cappucino...Noumea-style

This has to be the weirdest cappucino I've ever seen. I was served it last week in one of my favorite cafes here. It reminded me know why I basically don't drink coffee here and will be straight off the plane and into a cafe as soon as I get back to NZ.

Yes, it was hot. Yes, that is a straw. Yep, it tasted awful!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The very wonderful CNC

Although Max was pretty confident in the water last summer, that was with the help of his floaties. Given the amount of swimming that goes on here, it was time to get rid of the floaties and make sure that Max learns how to swim for real.

I dithered a bit before booking him into lessons at the Cercle des Nageurs Caledoniens. It seemed expensive - involving us all joining the club so we both Charles and I could swim with Max, but it means we can all go use the wonderful pool(s!) whenever we want and the lessons are fantastic.

Max looks forward to his lessons at the 'beach' every Saturday and has developed quite a soft spot for his lovely teacher (and especially the 'gommette' or sticker he gets at the end). Charles is in charge of Max and has done all the lessons so far. I have been the lady of leisure, enjoying a coffee in the great cafe beside the pool - very relaxed! Polly? Well she relaxes in her car seat and sleep through all the excitement. All in all, it's a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Greeny fingers

During the winter we got so sick of the uninspiring veges on offer that we decided to plant our own vege patch. In fact, Charlie's dad put most of the seeds in - which has proven interesting as he didn't mark things up so it's a great surprise when a plant starts to fruit and we have to guess what it is.

Max asks every morning if he can come out and water the plants. Hopefully the vege patch might entice him to actually eat some veges...but that might be asking a bit much!

Here are some pics of the tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and our wonderful bananas. Oh - and the two other little things we've managed to grow!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Et voila - notre jolie petite Polly

Here she is. She had a bit of a turbulent entrance into the world but she's perfect and very beautiful. Max loves giving our lovely little New Caledonian/Zealander cuddles.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Good value things to do here

It's expensive in Noumea. Some things are expensive and avoidable - like the NZ$ 20 loaves of imported kiwi bread (I'll admit to caving in a few weeks ago and relishing the having a vogels toast for a week or so) - but you need to buy toilet paper (NZ$18 for 9 decent rolls) and fruit (NZ$12 for a pineapple in the market) and the odd bit of meat (NZ$30 for a good sized non-organic chicken). I seem to blow most of our budget on food...


There are good value things here. Like champagne ($NZ40 a bottle from a small producer) and delicious cheese and yummy bread ($NZ 2 per baguette) - the list goes on. You can also have an introduction to windsurfing with a teacher and board rental for an hour down at Anse Vata beach and it only costs $NZ 20. Or you can head out to Kuendu beach (you can even catch the bus there from Anse Vata) and spend the day on the water slides.

A trip to the market is lots of fun and it's free - although you might be tempted to check out the little cafe and have a yummy fresh orange juice. If you're there in the weekend, you might also be tempted by the homemade sorbets that are sometimes on offer out beside the car park. The coconut ones are delicious and only a few dollars.

Of course - it's free to swim and snorkel and go for a stroll in the warm breeze on the beach. Ok - it's sunny outside and time for me to go and enjoy it. A la plage!

Duck Island

One of my favourite day trips in Noumea is Duck Island. Actually - it's not really a day trip, it's a five minute blat in a speed boat from the beach over there. Somehow it feels a long way from Noumea though. You jump off the boat, splash on to the beach and find yourself a good posi for chillin'. Ahhhhh bliss.

There's a little snack with funky carvings where you can buy a beer and a toasted sandwich if you feel like it - or a more substantial feed. If you want a deck chair with an umbrella you'll need to fork out some cash - I think it's 2000 per day and 3000 for a larger fare - but you can avoid that by bringing your own stuff and parking a bit further around the island. It's very laid back.

The snorkelling's great. It's protected from the wind and there's a nice array of coral. There's also a resident moray eel who I have enjoyed following around on a few occasion and lots of tame fish who will come up to you and just about tap you on the mask to say hey - come over here and check this out!

We went out a few weeks ago with my nephew. He enjoyed going for a snorkel with Charlie and I dipped the bump in the warm sea. The boys also tucked into some food at the snack. A good way to while away some time as we wait for this baby to make her appearance!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Spring is in the air, along with the kites

It's suddenly warmed up here. The evenings are warmer and the beach is getting more and more tempting.

The people who are making the most of the changing seasons though are the kite and wind surfers. At the far end of Anse Vata beach, behind the Meridien is the spot where all the gun kite surfers go. The afternoon winds are strong and it's cool fun to sit and watch them fly. When I feel like a touch of holiday buzz Charlie and I head to the Phare at the Meridien to sip on a yummy drink and watch the kites go.

Charlie did a kite-surf course a few months ago. The aim was to get it done before baby was due but in fact he was stymied by the lack of wind in winter. So he got to have a few goes out at the back of Ilot Maitre - the safest place to learn - with warm, knee deep water. Unfortunately, after too many weekends of waiting for the wind to pick up, he only got half way through his course and probably won't finish. So I don't think we'll be seeing Charlie down with the guns behind the Meridien any time soon. Now we know that it's worth waiting for Spring to learn to fly.

Noumea is one of the best places to world to kite surf. Here's a pic of the sun going down on the kites, with the Phare Amadee in the background.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Isle of Pines

Wow - it's been more than a year since we arrived here in Noumea. With baby two about to arrive, and Charlie's parents over for a visit, we decided to take a few days out over on the Isle of Pines. Which was stunning.

It's mid-winter here and when I booked the tickets and hotel the agency asked me if I was sure I wanted to go in the deepest, darkest, depths of winter. Well, being a good kiwi girl at heart that just seemed like a bit of a challenge...would the weather be ok? We did get a bit lucky - and winter here is pretty tame. We lounged beside the still blue sea at about 23 degrees and in the sun it was up around 25. It was fabulous. We didn't spend much time in the water - I only did one snorkel in the natural aquarium but it was the perfect temperature for walking around and lounging too.

The best parts of the trip were probably the walk up the river to the Natural aquarium. It's only a 15 minute walk, but it feels like an adventure because you can't the see inlet when you start. It's glorious walking out and seeing the water open up in front of you. We lunched at the Meridien afterwards (Laughing at the reaction of our guests to a $NZ 50 hamburger - it's amazing how you start to become immune to the silly prices!) and decided that our accommodation at Oure Lodge was way nicer.

Oure Lodge is at the far end of a beautiful sheltered bay. I loved walking through the gardens around the bungalows with Max, chatting to the cat and watching the butterflies come and play chicken with us and enjoying the shade of the banyans. We'll be back with bubba two, to show her this lovely place!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Putting roots down here

I always think it's nice to leave a house with a little more soul than when you moved into it...we're staring here early. A lemon tree was put into the garden a few weeks ago and Max loved digging the hole with daddy, watering the new tree and running around outside in his gumboots. Next on the list is a herb garden and vege patch. We just need to find a way to kill all the snails here first! It's wet and feels cold (17 degrees at night, 22/23 degrees during the day) and the snails are loving it.

We also welcomed ourselves to our new pad with a little housewarming brunch. There were probably more kids than big folks here and the resulting chaos of kids outside and adults inside watching the rugby (NZ lost...) was very entertaining. Hopefully there will be more little parties like that one - this place seems to just soak up lots of people.

Finally, we went to a wedding that had me scratching around in the wardrobe for something suitable to dress me and the bump. The trusty pregnant wedding dress did the trick - even covering this large little baby!

Things have been busy with the France-Oceania summit. I'd hoped for a little visit from Mr le President and his wife (I'd have been out at the parade checking out her chic clothes!) but it wasn't to be. For me, aside from having an absentee husband for a few days, the biggest impact has been all the protests, road blocks and even more strikes than usual. Hopefully our trip to the Ile of Pines next week won't be affected. Our fingers and toes will all be crossed!

Saturday, 4 July 2009


A few weeks ago I got very excited by the arrival of some dugongs at Anse Vata beach. This is right opposite work and a great place to watch the sun go down, so when we heard they were there (and almost up on the beach they were so close) we all headed down for a look. It was very cool to see these lovely big animals popping up out of the water to have a look and then getting back down to business on a tasty patch of seagrass. I planned to don a mask and snorkel for a closer look but moving house got in the way. Next time.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

What's the haps?

It's been a long time. With bubba two moving from a croissant to a brioche and now a great big loaf of molenberg....things have been a bit crazy. We've also bid farewell to our wonderful view and moved into a great new house that's in a new subdivision in Noumea. It's a big maze of houses, all built in a similar style, all with red roofs! Wonderful suburbia and I can almost imagine Kevin Spacey popping his head over the fence and singing 'Don't rain on my parade' a la American Beauty... it's great.

We love watching max run around the garden, take his ride-on out for a spin and generally enjoy all the space. The area's also very close to the beach so we can whip down there for an evening swim when the sun comes back...Coup de ouest today...bleurgggh (wind and rain)

Monday, 18 May 2009

Making the most of the space

We live on the third floor of this apartment building and I had a chuckle as I walked down the street the other day and turned around to see this. 

Max's swing seems pretty tame when you're on the balcony but I think this shot explains some of the amused expressions I've noticed on the neighbours faces during swinging sessions of late!

A weekend in Yate

A few months after we arrived in Noumea, we made our first trip to check out the Southern coast.  We drove down to a little place called Yate and stayed at the Gite Iya.  There's not much in Yate - a petrol station with a shop and a cafe (which is shut at the moment because of a dispute over the recent change of ownership) and a few little gites.  It's beautiful though - with a river running out to the sea and a coastline that runs from high hills straight into the sea.  It's pretty different to the much tamer west coast.

The Gite Iya has a little restaurant, a camp site with basic facilities and a few bungalows.  We had a little bathroom off the side of our bungalow but no hot water and the electricity seemed pretty intermittent.  It was all we needed though as the sea breeze kept us cool and the sea was gorgeous.  The campsite is right on a sheltered cove that had some good snorkelling.  The reef drops off at the end so you can be quite close in and still see some impressive critters.

We drove home the long way, taking our recently bought car over the mining roads.  That was a bit of a mistake...the map we had didn't show that the road was only packed down red dirt!  Actually - the road was fine, aside from a few scrapes to the bottom of the low-sitting Renault... We were treated to some magnificent views of the Pacific, the old mine at Goro that's now rusting into the sea and a few glimpses of the new, mega modern mine at Goro.  It still hasn't started production but will be mining and processing nickel on site.  A first apparently - and pretty controversial!  A while ago there was a sulfuric acid leak that apparently wiped out a river...I almost feel sorry for New Caledonia where the people will forever be weighing up the pros and cons of sucking out the minerals from their land.  Moolah vs nature...

Sunday, 3 May 2009

A trip to Ilot Tenia

This was a long weekend and we made the most of it by heading up the coast on Friday and jumping in a boat to go out to Ilot Tenia.  We started the day reasonably early and were on the road soon after 7am.  After heading up to Bout d' Brousse at Bourake (about 1.5 hours from Noumea) we got into a fast zodiac out to the island.  

Although Max and his good friend Murphy both had a bit of a squeal on the way out there - they soon chilled a bit and by the end they were both telling us stories about how the boat went WHEEEEEeeeee!

The island's a marine reserve and the snorkeling was great.  Lots of big fish and a beautiful coral reef.  I think the array of coral really showed what a healthy, living reef looks like.  We were pampered by Bout d'Brousse, with a great covered area to picnic in - they'll even turn the bbq and cook up a steak for you if you bring it up. 

Next time we'll bring our gear and camp up there.  It would be a spectacular place to wake up!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Anzac in the sun

Anzac Day's a busy time for Charlie.  On the 24th he took off early in the morning in a French military Puma helicopter to go up to Bourail for one of two commemorations.

The first was in Plaine des Gailacs, which sounded small and lovely and the second was in Bourail where the NZ war cemetery is.  I think that both were very moving things to have been involved in.  I didn't go - not being too keen on the 2-hour drive to get up there...lucky for some to get flown around New Caledonia in a heli!

I did go to the actual Anzac Day dawn service.  This year it was organised by the Australians and they decided to do a proper dawn service for the first time here in New Caledonia.  It was great - with lots of kids getting involved and a good spine-tingling last post. 

We took Max down and he was extremely well-behaved - led on by his good mate Murphy (who's got 5 months on him!).  We had an interesting chat with a lovely old French war veteran who's 88 and he got out his photos of the batallions he had fought with - he's now the last remaining man in the photos.

Let's hope these two little boys never have to fight in a war like he did...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

What's left of the old...

There's not much of the old colonial architecture left in Noumea.  Most of us live in newish, not very attractive (let's say 60s and 70s) houses and apartments.  Not everyone though.

Some little treasures remain, tucked into the valleys of Noumea and in the old part of town, the latin quarter - so named as it used to be a swamp - which had to be crossed to reach the more salubrious houses in Mont Coffyn.  So it was in Paris that you had to cross the Seine to get to the Quartier Latin on the Left Bank.  Hmmm - the link seems a little tenuous to me, but nevertheless the old area is still referred to as the Quartier Latin.

I enjoy a stroll around this little area because it's a mishmash of different styles and shops and the home of some great boulangeries!  I also like to check out some of the lovely old places that have survived here.  There aren't many places like these left in Noumea and I hope those that are left are protected.  They're just gorgeous.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Raining cords at Easter

Well,  I remember Easters in Dunedin when I was growing up being wet, wet, wet.  And here's it's monster wet, wet, wet!   It is the rainy season so it's to be expected, but we have quickly realised that without our no-fail amusement park for Max - the beach - we need to suss out some alternatives...pronto!

We took off this morning to check out the open day at a little farm called 'Le bonheur est dans le pre'  just outside Noumea.  There's a great network of farms, little B&Bs, cafes and restaurants here - that's an extension of the French network 'Bienvenue a la ferme'.  The one we went to today was very cute, with lots of animals to check out, a playground and a little tearoom.  Perfect.  Except for the rain!  We'll be back.  Max made me laugh when he spied a cow from the car and exclaimed 'Pig, pig'.  

Happy Easter everyone, enjoy the holiday and all the good food.  We just tore into a delicious poulet roti - Yum!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Escaping the Caillou

Finally, eight months after we arrived here, we left the Caillou for ten days of laxing and shopping on the Gold Coast.  We have family over there and although I have enjoyed previous visits, the most recent one was one of the best.  Why? Because it was cheap, cooler than here and taking a 2 year old to fun parks is absolutely hilarious.

We also giggled at ourselves and our fellow passengers as we checked in.  All the bags going onto the plane were curiously soft, light and clearly empty.  People head over to the Gold Coast from Noumea just to go shopping.  When we were doing the rounds of the shopping malls we were somewhat surprised by the amount of French we heard spoken.  Clearly a lot of New Caledonians shop over there...and that might explain the abysmal shopping here.  I guess that no matter how hard you try to protect your economy by taxing imports, people will just do the sensible thing and shop elsewhere - even if tickets for air travel are exorbitant.  I can assure you that we had to sit on our cases and wrestle with the zips on the way home!

But - aside from all that - the trip was great.  We loved Seaworld and Max is still asking for ELMOOO.  A few days chilling in Byron Bay were just lovely and I revelled in walking along a pristine beach with waves crashing beside me and a cool sea breeze in my hair.

So now we're home again.  It's been an interesting week with our first cyclone warning and a car that wouldn't start when we arrived at the airport at midnight and is still 'en panne'.  I have to admit that I'm loving driving the Subaru we're currently renting.  This will be the first and the very last Renault we own... vive les Japonais!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

He's Choo!

Max is two.  When we ask him how old he is, he holds two fingers up around his nose and says 'Choo'.  Very sweet.

Because he was two, and becasue we love him lots, he had two cakes - one at creche, and the other (the digger cake) at his digger party.  

For his party we invited some of his friends to a little celebration at Kuendu beach.  Everyone brought diggers to play with and went in for a swim too.  It was a lovely morning.  We even managed to make pass the parcel work with a small group of 2 and 3 year olds!

Monday, 23 February 2009

The lighthouse visitors and their lunch

Phare Amedee (or Amedee lighthouse) is one of the most popular and pushed touristy day trips in Noumea.  We'd been a little bit reticent about going - our imagined images of a screaming, overheated toddler and a crowded boat full of hot, bothered tourists put us off.

We're way too cynical.  We had a fabulous day!  It was hot and Max had one little tantrum - but a quick spin around the island in his mountain buggy (how can this iconic company be going bust?) with a dummy to suck on had him sorted out in no time.  

The lighthouse is a 45 minute boat-ride away.  Max spent the whole trip saying 'bateau' and pointing at each and every part of the boat.  We arrived and were amused by the massive fish that circled and thrashed about as they were fed bread from the wharf.  The water is a breathtaking range of blues and so, so warm.  

Perhaps the most surprising part of the trip was the way the trip's organised.  We have been frustrated and often angered by the lack of customer service and generally non-tourist friendly attitude here.  But this was fabulously well organised.  The team were full of smiles, helpful and the whole day was slick.  We were entertained by tahitian dancing, fire dancers, well fed and wined - with delicious prawns, salads and yummy treats.

Best of all, Max slept for 2 hours in the afternoon.  He was tucked up in his buggy in the shade of a few coconut palms.  The only thing that broke Charlie and my bliss as we swam, read and chilled out was the interesting visit of a friendly tricot raye...a very pretty little sea snake!