Thought it was time to mention Noumea. As my sister says, “Noumea strangely enough, grows on you”.
Noumea has been our only port to restock, refuel and shop. While we have been keen to get in and out of there as quickly as possible, because there’s so many better places to visit, Noumea has served us well. It has grown on us!
Our favourite and must visit shops … our patisserie which is only a short walk from the marina and sells the best baguettes and apple tarts in town, the Casino Johnson super-marche (there’s only one) and the Port Moselle fruit & vegie and seafood market right next to the marina, which offers great coffee (which is hard to find) and our favourite brekky treat, a ‘croquet madame’. It also sells great fruit and vegies, even though at a much higher price than home. There’s usually a busker or two playing, usually starting early. Joanne was not a fan!
Oh, I forgot my other favourite place. The laundry! No coin operated washing machines here. Standing around all day waiting for an empty machine or dryer is not how I want to spend my time so when I found out I just had to bag and label our laundry – “wash only” or “wash & dry” – I was rapt. Someone does it all for me, you beauty! Of course there’s a price to pay and like most shopping here, it is not cheap. So every two, three or four weeks, our washing is given to the kanak ladies and it’s usually done in 24 hours. It’s carefully folded and returned to a very happy customer.
Apart from enjoying the local jambon and cheese baugettes (and our ‘croque madames’), we’ve also eaten out a few times. The Port Moselle marina is quite well located, so we have walked to many places, including to a few great restaurants. We took Joanne to a traditional French restaurant called Chez Toto (she is a Paris tragic, so her first meal had to be French). I even managed to book our table over the phone using my very limited French. Sure enough, we arrived at this tiny but busy little restaurant, to find our reserved “Amanda” table. We also ate at Marmite, with Joanne and Abbey, which was a more upmarket restaurant and we also ate lunch at Au P’tit Café for Abbey’s birthday. This café is only open Tuesday-Friday and only offers four main courses, which change regularly. Very popular and accommodated our GF request. We had great food and wine at all of these restaurants – traditional French, contemporary French and a French/New Caledonian blend at Au P’tit Cafe.
Then there’s the alcohol. We brought quite a bit of wine with us to New Cal, but we felt confident that we could add a few French bottles to our store if we needed to. Of course, we have needed to. The alcohol selling laws are a bit of a mish mash here. You can buy wine, beer and spirits from the super-marche but only at certain times – Monday – Wednesday 7.30 – 7 pm, Thursday, Friday, Saturday only till 12 midday. Outside these times, the supermarket ‘fences off’ the liquor section. But, more importantly, if you select your wine before midday, you must pay for it before midday. We have all been ‘caught’ by this regulation, queuing up with our groceries, with wine in the trolley, finally getting to the check-out, oh shit, it’s after 12!
We have visited a wine store which was well worth the trip. Trying to select wine without knowing what’s what in another country is tricky. So we organized Herve, our yacht agent here, to drive us to a wine store. He could then bring the boxes back too. Don’t worry, Herve gets looked after, he’s called Mr 15% by us yachties! We were fortunate enough to be looked after by a French lady who not only knew her wine, but she could speak English. We described what wines and champagne (I mean sparking wine) we liked and she suggested some wines in our price range. We have enjoyed every bottle! Poor Dougie from The Albatross didn’t realize his bottles were corked when he left for Vanuatu … he discovered he had no corkscrew on board!
We have also jumped on the local buses visiting the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, an amazing piece of architecture celebrating the Kanak culture here in New Caledonia, the Aquarium and Ansa Vata, the upmarket end of town. The aquarium was a treat. Seeing the fish, we are snorkeling with was so amazing.
One more little note re our shopping adventures here … Neville and I have been married for over 30 years. Neville drinks Bundy (dark rum). I drink Bacardi (white rum). I don’t like Bundy, Neville does not like Bacardi. We have found a rum we both like … we are now both Havana Club Rum drinkers!!
Finally, there’s the phone reception and the internet. We were warned. Phone reception is dodgy and thus internet unreliable. Don’t count on banking, set up everything at home. Which we did. We bought a local SIM card and we have found phone reception in many places and when the reception is strong we can get internet. We buy one hour, or 24 hours if we want. So, when we are “on” we are in to it. First visit is the AFL app, what are the Demons are up to?? Then there’s What’s App, msgs from home and friends. When all else fails we have our ‘bat phone’ … our boat satellite phone – the Iridium Go. Whenever we are at sea we can contact home (mum), either by phone or message and we can contact other boats. We can also download weather from the Iridium Go. An expensive ‘must have’ item!