Jul 16, 2012

Something old, something New...

Noumea waterfront
Winter downunder means cold temps, runny noses and a hankering for heat. Around about July I get that Northern hemisphere need for sunshine (hey- it’s July so it must be warm- right?) so we often try to escape to warmer places. This year we decided we’d indulge ourselves with a week of rest and relaxation in New Caledonia. New Caledonia is a tiny collection of islands only a three hour flight from Auckland (I think it’s one of the closest Pacific Islands to Australia and New Zealand. Whilst it has a thriving tourist industry, it’s main income comes from nickel mining.)

We asked around- no-one knew much about it, no-one had ever been there. So, obviously, we had to go! Whilst I love to revisit familiar places (we go to the same camping spot each year)- we also adore exploring new countries and cultures. I'm one of those embarrassing mothers who talks to strangers, I love to hear peoples' stories- what makes them tick. 
John the tour guide and local ladies

I’m not sure what I was expecting- but we were very pleasantly surprised by the successful mix of european/ Kanak (indigenous)influences. After a lot of quite recent (1980s-90s) unrest things have settled down politically and there was a definite feeling of harmony. Colonised by France it has a real mix of French flair and pacific laissez-faire, all with a lovely French accent and gallic shrug.  

Award winning Tjibaou centre
I had two must-dos on my list: 1) No internet (for me) for the week so I could have total relaxation and read my too-large stash of books; and 2) I wanted to see turtles. The islands are surrounded by one of the world’s largest lagoons where, so I’d read, turtles happily laze away their days.

 at the museum
Item 1 was quickly thwarted by FREE Wi-fi in the hotel! I discovered that I have absolutely no willpower. By the end of the first day I was already uploading things to facebook!

So I decided to work on item 2. Turtles. The weather at the start of our holiday was gorgeous-a lovely thick heat that thawed our bodies and fed us great hope for a fabulous holiday.  We poured over our dive/snorkel brochures and planned our boat trip for the middle of the week.

cagou birds
By Day 3, however, the weather had closed in and we had cardigans and clouds for the rest of our stay- which put a downer on the idea of going snorkelling and seeing those lovely turtles! But the cooler weather meant lots of time to explore and learn more about this special place. 
We managed to fill our days. We took a tour out into the bush and ate a fabulous lunch of organic roasted venison with papaya salad at a restaurant owned by a woman with 24 kids!! (Some are adopted.) We met lots of friendly people, visited three museums, the amazing Tjibaou centre (designed by Renzo Piano who designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the new Shard in London) and great zoological gardens where we saw the cagou- the New Caledonian flightless bird. 
the turtle!

Then! We found the aquarium. Coral…yeah. Fish….check. Sharks…yeah. TURTLES! Well- turtle. I saw one. One. But it was just too gorgeous for words.

music is a common language

In the end it didn’t matter that the sun didn’t shine, we laughed and ate our way around and spent some lovely quality time with each other. Don’t be surprised if my next hero’s french, or the setting’s in New Caledonia- it certainly left an impression! [If anyone’s interested- I’m not sure I’d take the kids again- they had a great time, and would have been in heaven if they could have swam or snorkelled- but the prices for other activities/food/tours meant that we were conscious always of how expensive everything is there.]

So-what do you like to do? Stick to holidaying in the familiar or trying places a little off the beaten track?


  1. Gorgeous holiday snaps! We went to New Caledonia about 15 years ago (doesn't seem that long since I was there though). It was not long after their political unrest, but as long as we identified ourselves as Australians outside the city, the people couldn't have been nicer. We stayed some time in Noumea and some in a more remote part, Hienghène, up in the north (and saw the famous 'Hen' rock). It was a fabulous holiday!

  2. Hi Louisa,

    I got stuck on the lady with 24 kids ~falls over~

    What a wonderful time you've had and good on you for stretching the comfort zone and going somewhere so new. I've never been to NC but certainly love the sound of the French/Pacific mix. And I'd certainly love to read a NC hero from you!

    A little bird tells me you're off on another international adventure soon. {:o) Travelling sure does keep the muse happy! Have a fabulous time.

  3. Hi Rachel! Finally found someone else who's been!!! We ventured north and west, but didn't manage as far as Hienghene- I'll save that for text time!

  4. Hi Barbara! I know - 24 kids! wow. And she opened the restaurant for them all to have work and learn a trade. She sounds like an amazing woman (we didn't get to meet her sadly).

    Yes- looking forward to going to Nationals at RWA next week- looks like I'm going to have a fabulous time- how could I not when I'm going with some amazing friends ;-)

  5. Snap on the 24 kids! What a woman =)
    Your snaps are wonderful. Love the crazy hairdo on that bird.
    I'm heading out that way in November. CAN NOT WAIT. Particularly after your review, Louisa.
    But generally we do take holidays close to home. I've been known to book a week in Noosa which is possibly an hour's drive from here - but totally gorgeous!

  6. Hi Robyn! You'll love it (hope you get better weather!)- and please do pat a turtle for me if you happen to see one out there in open water!

    We're thinking of going to Noosa at some point- possibly this time next year- I hear wonderful things.

  7. Louisa, it sounds fascinating. Love the bird and the turtle. Smiling over opening a restaurant to give the kids a job. Great idea!

    Like you I enjoy both holidays close to home with some discovery trips thrown in. A mix is great, don't you think? Do let us know when you set a book in NC.

  8. hi Louisa, great pics! Your holiday sounds awesome - even if the weather wasn't very kind to you. Just the time away from home is refreshing, isn't it! I'm glad you did actually get to see a turtle - I especially like that photo. It's probably better than one you'd have got if you were snorkelling to see one!

    Actually the weather is a bit topsy turvy where we are too - now in Cloncurry in north western Queensland. Right this minute I'm in a polar fleece with a thermal skivvy, tracksuit pants, thick socks and Blundstone boots - tres chic! NOT! LOL

    I'm a bit each way with holidays - I love exploring new places but I also love to have the opportunity to re-visit places and get to really know them well.

  9. Hi Annie! I think I just love holidays!- I love going to our usual camping spot every year- 7 families and a lot of laughs. But I also like to explore new territory too. Any time away with my family is lovely. (They're growing up too fast and before long they won't want to come with us).

  10. Hi Sharon! I can't imagine north western Queensland being cold any time of the year, so that's a surprise! You're such an intrepid traveller you're always exploring new places (no- I'm not jealous....oh, okay, yes I am!!). Keep warm up there!

  11. Gorgeous pics, Louisa! New Caledonia looks beautiful and I'm so glad you got to see your turtle.

    Exploring new places is so invigorating -- so much to see and learn and discover. Still, there's something about the tried and true too. I always feel that's when one can truly relax.

  12. Hi Michelle! You hit the nail on the head- you can truly relax somewhere familiar...but with somewhere new you want to explore! Either way, it makes for a great holiday!