Saturday, 18 December 2010

After work swims

A swim and a spot of SUP at 5pm. Perfect!


The other day I swung past the Market to see whether they're open on Christmas Day. For me, Christmas Day is the 25th - here most of the celebrating (and more importantly eating) happens on the 24th. Yes - the market's open on the 25th. We will be deciding on our meal on the 25th, it will depend on what goodies have come in on the boats that morning.

As I was there, I couldn't resist buying some prawns for dinner. This time I made a delicious nasi goreng. My prawn-shelling speed has increased enormously since we arrived. Now I can get a kilo done in under 10 minutes.

This year the prawns are a bit late and somewhat smaller than usual. I'm not sure why, but they are still absolutely delicious!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Shades of blue

The sea and all the shades of blue really are gorgeous here. I was just looking over my blog and realised it had been a while since I'd included some lovely sea pics. So here we are.

The Ile of Pines, the Marina beside the Market in Noumea and Lifou. If I had a few more free minutes every day I would find myself a good little possy to settle down and watch the changing shades of blue of the ocean. Some days I have to stop and savour the colours and just revel in the delight of living in this little corner of the Pacific!

I particularly like the one of Charles on the beach in Lifou. Yes, he's in his work gears. This was taken on a work trip - not a bad day in the office!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Quickies and Fast Food

Before we came to Noumea I struggled to imagine what it would be like. Everyone told me that it was super expensive and the shopping was awful - but the brochures described Hermes and L'Occitaine en Provence shops. Hmmmmm....

And to be honest my first trip to town was a bit of a shock. Beaten up old pavements, decrepit looking buildings. I remember telling my sister that I felt like I'd got off the plane in a tropical version of Gore. Yes - Gore in Southland, NZ. A friend's son had a small tanty when he realised his parents had brought him to a place with no...get this...escalators, and asked him to live there!

Two years on and I really enjoy my shopping trips in town. I've got used to it. There are no big malls which is great. I know the shops I want to go to and I will go straight to them. I've gotten over the fact that the prices are astronomical and now a shop is a real treat for something that I really need (or want). I shop differently to how I did at home. And I buy a lot on line!

Rather than focusing on what's missing, it's great to enjoy the warm breeze and linger in the Place des Cocotiers watching the guys doing hiphop and the ladies in their beautiful bright mission dresses.

And after a bit of shopping with the kids in tow - a challenge with strollers, dodgy pavements and shops that are all over the place - a bribe is often necessary. Fastfood works wonders.

Yes - there is a MacDo. It's expensive and there are two. An alternative is the Frenchie version of MacDo - Quick. Now I really don't like Quick for the food but it's a great place to have here. Look where it is! And the playground is the best indoor playground in all of Noumea. A great place to park up on the Terrace, lock the kids in the playground and soak in the view. Bliss.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Femmes Funk

This post is a bit late but things have been a little busy. Well, no more so than usual but somehow sitting at the computer and blogging seems to come at the bottom of the list - which even here in paradise consists of running kids around, cleaning up after them, trying to devise dinners that don't end up mushed into the floor, the chair and the walls, and all the other wonderful things a mum has to do.

So - a few weeks ago was Femmes Funk. It's a very funky little festival. This year one of the headline act was Ladi6. We were excited about going to see bit of good kiwi hip hop (well - I was anyway).

The festival used to be at the Tjibaou Centre which worked really well. Now it's at the Centre Culturel du Mont Dore. It's nice but I reckon the Tjibaou was better. A little village is set up so you can boogie your way from zone to zone and taste some tasty treats too. We loved the kids zone which had lots of painting options and good playdough, complete with garlic crushers to make spaghetti squiggles. Max will never look at our garlic crusher the same again.

Despite a massive rainstorm on Sunday we had a lovely time and really made the most of our weekend pass. The boys loved it! Check out their dance moves.


Last year we were driven slightly nuts by trick or treaters. We were completely unprepared for the onslaught of beautifully dressed up, albeit slightly pushy kids. I had bought a small bag of lollies just in case but by the fifth group our supplies were finished - by group 55 we were going crazy!

This year we knew what to expect. After a bit of humming and haaing we had a few friends for dinner and let the kids distribute our large stash of treats to the local kids. They loved it! They also got to hear ghost stories in the garden in the glow of our beautifully carved Jack-o-lantern - thanks to Charlie - and run around like crazy things. All in all, a fantastic way to spend a busy evening.
And a word of advice to anyone moving to Tuband - prepare for Halloween. Your doorbell is likely to ring deep into the evening.

And you might even hear some creepy laughter....

Monday, 13 September 2010

Stand Up Paddling

I have been enviously watching people, on gorgeously still evenings as the sun goes down, doing a bit of stand up paddle at Anse Vata beach. It looks so calm. Gliding over the water, chilling out. With the two kids in tow it's often difficult to find the time to get out and try new things though.

So this weekend our afternoon sleep was cut short. We'd been invited by some friends to come down and try it out with them Just the kick start we need. Eh Hop - off we went.

It was so much fun! Charlie went first and showed off his surfing prowess. I followed and after paddling around and getting used to how it feels, I managed to stand up and even steer (a bit, sometimes into some unsuspecting swimmers...).
We'll be doing more of this fun sport.

Here's a pic of Charles having just got in the water with a lovely lady showing him how it's done.

La noumeene

Sunday morning was hot and still. I'd had a reasonably big night out on Saturday and was feeling the effects of my very strong Maitai followed by a few glasses of vino. BUT - it was the big day. The fun run. Pink T-shirts on - it was time to run 'The Noumeene'.

It's just a little run - 4kms but made challenging by the fact that it always seems to happen on a gorgeous day. By Sunday's 8.30am start it was already creeping from mid to late 20s. Arrgghhhh!

In fact - it was fun. It's a buzz to run with lots of people and the Noueeme is run to raise awareness about breast cancer, so it's women only. A great excuse to leave the kids with the hubbies. I started out with two girlfriends and ended with another friend. Lovely to have someone to push you into a little race at the end!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Eating out with littlies

Last night we ate out. We seem to eat out reasonably frequently here. Max is a superstar in restaurants (good behaviour in exchange for hot chips) and it's generally really fun taking them out. The trickiest thing is finding restaurants that open early enough for our kids, who are usually in bed at around 7pm. Most places don't open until 7pm and often the service is pretty slow meaning we're not out of the restaurant until 8.30pm - which spell disaster for the kids.

So here's a list of the places we've found so far that open early and don't get all snippy when you walk in with a three year old and a baby in a mountain buggy!

La Case - Baie d'Orphelinat (ph 28 24 24)
This place starts serving food at 6pm. They just have a basic menu that early but it includes pizzas that have a yummy thin base and good salads. It's generally pretty quiet then and I love sitting outside with a great view over the Bay.

Fun Beach - Anse Vata beach (ph 26 31 32)
Open from 6.30pm. We ate here last night and were really impressed by the service which is often less than friendly in Noumea. They even carried the buggy down the stairs and into a prime spot overlooking the water. The food came out quickly and was yummy - not super-flash but very tasty and we had a great family meal.

Creperie Le Rocher - Behind the Surf Hotel at Anse Vata Beach (ph 25 3575)
I love sitting up here and looking down over the Baie des Citrons. I really think it has one of the nicest outlooks in Noumea. It's meant to be open all day from Tuesday - Sunday from midday to 10pm but ring and check. I've called and been told a few times that dinner doesn't start until 7pm. The crepes are delicious and it's so nice to wash everything down with a yummy glass of cider. There's space outside for the kids to run around too.

Le Bout du Monde - Baie de Moselle, near the Market (27 77 28)
Classic French-style Brasserie. The proper menu doesn't start until 7pm but they have a good all day snack menu that changes regularly but often has tartines, salads and you can usually order something simple for the kids. The highlight for Max is the boat on the grass in front of the Terrace. He can play on that for ages while we wait for food - which can take a while.

Along Beach - Vietnamese at Anse Vata (ph 28 28 84)
Delicious Vietnamese that's open from about 6pm. It's in the little shopping complex at the far end of the beach so kids can run around safely on the grass in front of the restaurant. It's always busy here, but you can always get takeaways and go and sit at a table on the beach if it's full.

Wow - that's quite a list! There are also some good Italian places and the burgers at Le Fare at Anse Vata beach are good value and substantial. Breakfast is good here too - ahhh breakfast! I think that will have to be covered in another blog!

Bon Appetit.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Campin' on Ilot Tenia

Last year we went to Ilot Tenia and I swore we'd be back. Sure enough, a year later we did go back and it was great.

With, not just one but now two, kids in tow we set off for two nights of delicious isolation on our deserted paradise. Camping on Tenia was carefully described to us as a 'real caledonian camping experience'. This means there are no shelters, no ready-made bbqs, no electricity and no toilets. It's you, the island and the mountain of stuff you take over on the boat with you!

This was our first camping trip with two kids and a new tent but we were looked after somewhat by our experienced happy camper friends who'd organised the trip. Three families with young kids was great as the kids did entertain each other (although Max needs to learn that playing does not involve destroying every sandcastle made) and had fun together.

We went over with Bout d'Brousse. The company had changed hands since last year but the guy who's bought it was a dude and they still have the fast yellow zodiacs. He was very friendly (and speaks good english) and didn't bat an eyelid at us bringing a 7 month old baby with us. She ate alot of sand. He dropped us off and checked we were good for water at the end of day one and - as expected - it was pretty exciting to be left on the island at the end of the day. Just us, some decent wine and a yummy dinner to cook.

We had a great time. Camping with two littlies is not at all relaxing, but the spectacular surroundings make it all worthwhile. It did make me laugh that this beautiful picture of Polly in pink was taken at 5am. She had been very successful at keeping everyone awake for a good part of the night...hmmmm.

If you ever camp on Tenia remember to bring a shovel and brush - within 10 minutes of the tent going up it was filled with sand. Funny for a little while but the joke starts to lose its sparkle when you're trying to sleep with sand up your bum, in your eyes, under your knees and in your hair!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Hotel Banu in La Foa

This place is just a gem - yummy food, eccentric owners and decoration that was started in the 60s and just added to since then.  The Hotel Banu has a funny mixture of bungalows and almost dorm-style accommodation and it even has a pool out the back.  What I like best about it, is that it's right on the main street and as soon as you walk in, you feel as if you are in the heart of La Foa.  The coppers come in for their lunch, the locals, the tourists - everyone.  
The front bar is covered in hats - we added a NZ Defence force one in to the mix. You could spend an hour in there checking out where all these hats have come from.  Walk through to the (airconditioned!) restaurant and you come into a mix of 60s/70s/80s kitch that is a little overwhelming and very entertaining.  Go out the back and there's a little garden (complete with garden gnomes) and a row of toilets that Max thought was hilarious...
As already mentioned - the food is delicious.  And you can stop by for a plate of hot chips for the kids or a delicious slow-cooked stew that will fill you up for the rest of the day.  We opted for a classic old roast chicken - copious and yummy.
I think you could go up to many of the people having their lunch in the Banu and have a fascinating chat about the history of New Caledonia, 'Les Evenements' during the 80s and all of the many things that have spiced up this place's history.  Everyone here greets you with a smile and I reckon that each wrinkle on their faces comes with a tale.  
If you're passing by La Foa, stop at the Banu - even if it's just for a coffee - it's totally worth it. 

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A Half Birthday

Can you imagine being a half? Polly is!  

And when you're not even one you can get away with Bunny ears...

Green - I got tagged!

So, a few weeks ago Marie hit me with a green tag. I've been a bit slow on the uptake but here we go. In this game you need to:
1. Say who tagged you and link to their blog;
2. Post 7 pictures of the colour you've been tagged and say why you've chosen these pics;
3. Tag 7 other people and give them a colour (I'm only going to tag one person...)
We have a picture of Max in his green hoody. It's his favourite - warm, funky and very cool.
Flax in Charlie's garden in Gizzy. Only 7 years ago this whole area was paddocks with sheep grazing on it. Now it's all slowly being replanted with natives. Each time we go back I'm struck by how fast it all grows and how beautiful it is. It's what NZ should look like.

A Tony Sly jug. He makes delicious pottery in Raglan. It's worth going to Raglan for the surf, scenery and his seconds shop ;)

The beautiful pacific fabrics in New Caledonia. I loved this more modern print.

The grass that needs to be cut. We'll do it this weekend with our new whizz-bang lawnmower that took a week to assemble...

A local avocado - they're huge and sometimes a little watery, sometimes delicious. It's a bit like playing avocado lottery.

Finally, the sea in Poe. It's green, turquoise, white, blue and everything in between. Gorgeous.

What a beautiful colour green is!

Now - I'll only Tag Angelique. She shall have red!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Happy birthday Max

We've been in New Zealand hence the lack of blogs of late. The return home has been a blur of 'La Rentree' (the big french term for the return to school after the holidays), broken down car, some magnificent and some magnificently crappy weather and a birthday. I reckon the birthday was the best.

So - Max is a little concerned about school and puts on a bit of a performance every day but here's one pic of him sneaking his nounours into his bag (still his well loved cow) before we leave. I've also found him sneaking other little bits and pieces into his bag like a dummy....

Operation birthday was fantastic. Lots of kids running around our place like crazy nutters, a howling wind to rock all the pictures from the walls and a great cake. I also enjoyed partaking in the french habit of having a little champagne to celebrate - no excuse necessary for me to be popping the top off a bottle of pop!

Now we've got some wet and windy weather as Cyclone Tomas and Ului whip up the Pacific. Hopefully Ului will do what the Americans are predicting and heads off towards Australia. The Frenchies are a little less optimistic and have it heading down our way. It's a long way from us at the moment so we will see towards the weekend. My fingers are firmly crossed for it to head away - we have a weekend away planned.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Scrumptuous Sarramea

I love Farino and Sarramea. Whenever we want to have a weekend away I start lobbying to go there. I know it's a bit boring to go back to the same place all the time, but each time I arrive I take a big breath in, and out, and feel the good karma of the place wrap me up nice and warm.

They are two little settlements snuggled into the hillside about 1.5 hours drive from Noumea. From Farino you can look down the hill and out to the sea. Sarramea is a little bit deeper into the hills and slightly more enclosed. Sarramea is overlooked by the impressive Plateau de Dogny, a 5 hour walk that is on our list of must dos (without the kids) before we leave.

Normally a trip to Farino includes a lunch at Mamie Foglianis for a no holds barred feast of oysters, game and taro. It's set beside a river and is chilled out, good value and delicious.

Our Christmas trip was a bit of a blow-out. We stayed at the very nice (almost swanky) Hotel Evasion. Our Bungalow fitted the whole family and was very comfy. Max loved having his own big-boy bed and being able to watch TV in bed. We regailed ourselves with two delicious meals - one in the restaurant en famille; one more romantic one on the balcony of the bungalow. The food was absolutely delicious. The hotel also has very pretty pool beside the restaurant and a spa pool which we enjoyed and I imagine would be bliss in winter having finished the Plateau de Dogny Walk.

On the way home we stopped and picked up some delicious pineapples. I chuckled at the roadside stall, unmanned, with tin that said - please put your coins in the tin - thanks. Go the faith in people being honest. I guess that's just part of the Sarramea vibe.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Having a baby in Noumea

When we realised I was pregnant with Polly we had a quick discussion about where I would have the baby. We had already checked out the hospital here when Max had a brief stay soon after we arrived. Although the children’s hospital looks a bit rough, we found the staff great and the care was excellent. Certainly – we were seen quickly and I reckon we’d have waited a lot longer to be looked after in Wellington. So despite the brief temptation of a trip home to welcome our new bubba we decided pretty quickly that this bubba would be a little Noumean – how very exciting!

Once we’d confirmed that I was indeed pregnant it was time to find an obstetrician. Although there are lots of doctors here and we’ve always been surprised by how quickly you can get an appointment with a specialist, there aren’t masses of female obstetricians. Luckily I was put onto a great lady who had comfy rooms and was totally fabulous throughout my pregnancy.

What I learned was that the way it works here is that you can choose to have your baby in the public or the private system (or a mixture of them both). If you do it publicly, you have all your appointments at Magenta hospital and you have your bubba there too. In addition to the hospital at Magenta, there are two private clinics: Clinique Magnin and the Polyclinique de l’Anse Vata.

The Polyclinique looks like it should have been shut down in WWII. It’s a collection of old buildings that originally made up part of the ‘Pentagon’, the American base here during WWII. Despite its decrepit appearance I have only heard good things about the care here. And one of the big advantages of it is that you can walk from your room, over the street and sit on the beach with your newborn – how gorgeous.

Clinique Magnin looks a bit flasher than the Polyclinique and is closer to the centre of town. Again, the care there seems to be great. At both Clinique Magnin and the Polyclinique there’s an operating room so if things get hairy you can have a caesarean right there.

I had my baby at the public hospital. I chose the hospital because it has the neonatal unit and childrens' hospital, so if anything is wrong with your bubba this is where they come. There’s a slight risk you can end up in one of the cliniques with your bubba in the hospital if bubba has a bit of a rough start.

I was followed by a private obstetrician and had to swap over to the public system for the last 6 weeks. I definitely felt more like a number at the hospital, but the doctors were clearly very competent and I knew I was in extremely capable hands (the midwives were also great). I did, however, miss the nice continuity of care with the same Lead Maternity Carer that you have in NZ.

Despite the heavily graffitied toilets and pretty basic waiting areas, the hospital felt much the same as the old Wellington hospital where we had Max. One advantage though was that I had my own room for the entire 5 days (yes – you heard right FIVE days for a second bubba!) that I was in. I was entitled to my own room for the first 3 days and then I had to pay a supplement to keep the room for the last 2 nights. Nowhere can guarantee a private room but you can request one and everyone I know who’s had a bubba here has managed to get their own room. If you don’t get your own room, the worst you’ll get is a double room – not so bad. And by the way – everyone can stay in for 5 days regardless of how you delivered your baby!

Some things were totally different to Max’s birth. My kiwi midwife didn't weigh me once during my pregnancy - here I was weighed at every appointment, and the Doc even peeked at the scales a few times to check I wasn't telling any fibs! I had a difficult delivery, which meant my bubba was whipped away and I didn’t see her until the day after she was born. You are encouraged to breastfeed but there’s no assumption that you will. If you do decide to bottle feed, your bottles are made up for you and sit in the fridge with your name on them so you can help yourself when need them. If you're knackered, the midwives will offer to take your baby at night. They will look after him or her and you are encouraged to make sure that you get to have a proper rest before you head home. Vaccinations were also interesting. There was no question asked – no consent forms…bang she was vaccinated against tuberculosis and hepatitis B. I’m not sure I completely agree with the degree of control that many of the doctors seem to take here…at least I know they know their stuff.

After you go home, and I was desperate to get home as the food was terrible, there is nothing like the wonderful follow-up care we have in NZ via Plunket and midwives. BUT there is lots of help, you just need to know where to get it. You can have your baby weighed and get help with feeding/crying any other general problems at your local PMI (Protection Maternelle et Infantile). The Magenta PMI is open from Monday to Friday from 7.30am – 11.00 and it’s in the hospital beside where you sit waiting for all the obstetrician appointments. You can book an appointment some days and on other days you can turn up without an appointment to have bubba weighed. The planning changes every month so call and check (25 66 66) before you go. There’s also a PMI at the CAFAT in Receiving and out in Montravel and Mont Dore. The nurse at the PMI at Magenta is totally charming.

If you have questions at other times you can also call a midwife. There are quite a few private clinics and they will come out to your home if necessary. I saw a lovely lady called Christine Caze. She’s also a Sophrologue and her rooms have a nurse, a dietician, osteopath and a naturopath. You can also just pop by and weigh your baby yourself if you need to which is nice. Their number is 28 55 93. The rooms are on the rue d’Austerlitz.

I wished I’d asked more questions throughout my pregnancy. I made some assumptions and was a bit taken aback when they weren’t right, like I thought that the obstetrician who takes care of you would automatically deliver bubba – not so; and I thought I’d be on weekly appointments for the last 3 weeks or so – nope. The most frustrating thing is that everyone’s so used to their own system/care/advice that I got a few startled expressions and odd comments when I did things differently - like swaddling bubba or not taking her to a paediatrician for every vaccination! You’ve got to be strong and listen to everyone and then make your own decision….hhhmmm isn’t giving birth a fabulous lesson about life – in so many ways.