on 4 Nov 2016
It's pretty clear...it's got to be Noumea! Capital of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, cosmopolitan Noumea is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia’s main island Grand Terre, and is home to a diverse population of people including Polynesian, Melanesian and Europeans, the first of whom arrived from France in 1853.
Sophisticated and uncomplicated, classy yet casual Noumea is surrounded by picturesque bays and offers visitor a wide variety of experiences. Diners can eat out at sassy French restaurants hidden in Quartier Latin, dine at bold water-fronting bistros or grab a bargain meal from a local food truck.
Shopaholics can blow their savings on the latest Parisian fashions or go bargain hunting for imported Asian textiles along Alma Street, Sebastopol Street and the Promenade.
Getting acquainted with Noumea:
Central Noumea revolves around Place des Cocotiers, a large, shady square with landscaped gardens, a couple of blocks in from the waterfront. This is the beating heart of the city and a perfect spot to watch the world go by. The square slopes gently from east to west and at the top is a band rotunda, a famous landmark dating back to the late 1800s. Near the band rotunda there’s a popular pétanque pitch and a giant chessboard. Down the other end it’s like a lush botanical garden, with verdant palms and large trees with umbrella-like canopies. Indeed, Noumea is blessed with several lush, green parks and gardens which are just perfect for a pleasant stroll including the Zoological Forest Park, Ouen Toro facing the sea, and the Nouville Trail to Fort Tereka. The main leisure area – a Mecca for relaxation, lies south of the city centre at Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata, with beaches, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, a stretch redolent of Promenade des Anglais in Nice where a stroll is equally enjoyable.
Offshore are Îlot Maître and Îlot Canard, that can be reached in only a few minutes by boat. Both offer an ideal setting for a day of exploration or simply lounging about. Snorkelling, windsurfing, kite surfing, golf, tennis and of course swimming are popular pursuits here in new Caledonia.
Being a vulture of culture:
Vultures of culture will be sated by the cultural diversity reflected both on one’s dinner plate, but also in the architecture and attractions on offer. Museums, galleries and theatres are concentrated in Noumea, including beautifully restored colonial-era homes such as Maison Célières or the old Nouméa City Hall, which now houses the city museum. Nouméa is where the convoys of convicts were taken. The first 250 (out of an estimated total of about 21,500 convict) arrived on May 9, 1864 aboard the Iphigénie. Most of the convicts were placed in the penitentiary on Île Nou (which became the Nouville peninsula). A guided historical tour of the premises is available. Even though very few buildings have survived (the chapel, the commander’s quarters, the bakery and the water tower) the emotion is still very real. Lovers of aqua fauna will enjoy a visit to L'Aquarium des lagons. Located at Anse Vata bay, L'Aquarium des lagons hosts a variety of corals, fish, crustacea and marine mammals, with some demonstrating the endemism of the New Caledonian aqua fauna. Treasures include the pygmy seahorse and the famous nautilus - one of the emblems of New Caledonia. Located 40 minutes away by boat from Nouméa, Amédée Isle is home to le Phare Amédée – the stunningly situated Amédée lighthouse.
Food, glorious food:
New Caledonia’s cuisine is one of the best in the South Pacific. Fusion of flavours, it is a true testimonial to the blend of cultures living together on the island. Often spicy, the meals are always deliciously fresh using some of the best local ingredients.
New Caledonia’s gastronomy is at once unique, a melange of spices, tropical flavours and techniques inspired by the Melanesian, Asian, Wallisian, Tahitian and French heritage on New Caledonia. Vanilla, sweet potatoes, fresh seafood, French cheese and local venison represent just some of the produce that will have your tastebuds dancing to Ca Plane Pour Moi. Visitors will be amazed by the variety of fish and will salivate at the thought of tucking into prime crustacea. Don’t forget to try the New Caledonian prawns, a blue variety of prawns native to New Caledonia and exported to the world. Be sure also to give the traditional Melanesian dish – bougna a whirl. A traditional stew made of one protein (either chicken, local meat or fish) mixed with yams, sweet potatoes, bananes poingo, ignames, and cooked in coconut milk, the dish is covered in banana leaves and slow cooked for hours on the hot stones of a kanak oven. With a true stockmen tradition, New Caledonia is renowned for its beef of excellent quality. Venison is also very popular and cooked in various styles. One of the finest restaurants to try New Caledonian venison is at Le Refuge du Cerf, a lovely guesthouse with amazing lagoon views.
For an explosion of gastronomic colours and flavours, head to Au Petit Café, So Food and l’Ed'Zen in Noumea.
Try also the a la carte menu or delicious buffets at the Le Meridien Noumea, along with their signature restaurant – L’Hippocampe. Le Bintz and Le Taom are also very good.
A wodge of fromage:
And did I mention the cheese? All those beautiful sinfully rich French cheeses – Reblochon, Morbiers, Comté, Camembert, Brie, Pié d'Angloys, Roquefort and more are available by the truckle here in New Caledonia. And the baguette bread that tastes as good as the chunks you can tuck into at a bistrot in Paris, are a match made in heaven with said cheese.
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