A Taste of France in the South Pacific

Day 62, Grand Asia 2018

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, Nouméa, New Caledonia:

As we “turn the corner and head toward home,” as I wrote in my last blog post, we are in the South Pacific, mainly visiting relatively small islands in the South Pacific. Some are mainly beach stops, and one is an uninhabited island.

I hadn’t given these ports much thought, so I was pleasantly surprised (revealing my ignorance), that New Caledonia was a “special collectivity of France.” Less than a month ago the residents defeated an independence vote. Regardless, the language is French and the wonderful patisseriesprove that nation’s influence.

The Amsterdam docked right in town, so my friend Joyce and I set off on foot to explore. She led the way to the city market, a collection of permanent buildings and pop-ups where vendors sell fresh food and flowers, as well as arts, crafts and clothes.

Plenty offered colorful Polynesian rectangles of cloth to wear as pareus, wrapped as skirts or sarongs. Jewelry, T-shirts, tote bags, handmade crafts and artwork made browsing fun. I saw a T-shirt my grandnephew would grow into, but the vendor couldn’t get my credit card to work so I passed it by.

The library house in a beautiful colonial building offered free juices as well as restrooms. I quickly sketched and then we moved along to a coffee shop and a nice hour spent sitting in the shade, cooled by a breeze.

I don’t know how we missed Chinatown, which was reported to be a block long. No mind – we strolled through the park not far from the port terminal, admiring the Christmas tree, the tall palms, flowers, statues, artwork and little coffee shops. Many people were sitting on the benches and the ground eating or staring at their smartphones.

For lunch we stumbled upon a great little restaurant with a quinoa salad (Joyce) and a tomato, mozzarella and avocado salad (me). Perhaps a bit belatedly, I wondered about eating the lettuce that surely was washed in tap water, but forged ahead anyway. (No later issues, I’m happy to report.)

Back at the terminal, the crowd of passengers and crews staring at their smartphones and laptops was a sign of free WiFi. I was drawn by the speed, which was much better than the satellite service on the ship. So I enjoyed a local beer while uploading photographs.