New Cal, Old Cal, Old School, Very Cool
Cookie cutter homogenised holidays? New Cal offers something a little different.
Late night arrival, 5 minutes through customs, 90 minutes wait for the 45 minute bus ride for a 1am check in is a weird way to greet a country. A nice lobby, a room last updated when “New Cal” was “France, but only 2 hours away” and a potential tourist hot spot. The 1980’s.
Sunrise , looking out of my daggy window was a strip of paradise right across the road. Over a week Noumea shaped 5 impressions that make it cool, explain where its popularity is at and why it may just be a place worth checking.
It’s a cross between Fiji and the Sunshine Coast. Noumea had cool little strips, like a tourist spot for locals. There’s a few restaurants, a few knick knack stores. But its not as raw AS, but not as commercial as the Gold Coast. There’s isn’t a tourist hook on every corner.
The French impact is strong. It’s a province, literally considered a part of Paris. Everyone speaks French…and the French seem cooler. You don’t speak French? Oh well, nice to have you here, but we are not sucking up to you. Funny point; there are signs saying “you can smoke here” at parts of restaurants. Definitely no Nanny state.
Its EXPENSIVE. Lots is imported from France. Booze, lots of the food, medication etc. I was told local salaries are good and so they can afford it. Accommodation was well priced, but every meal was between $20 and $30 a head. Breakfast at $35 outside of the hotel. I was on a sporting trip so we didn’t drink, but beers starting at $12, $ for a pint (I’d finished my events) kinda glad we didn’t. You could easily blow $150 a day on food.
Good coffee though. Very good.
It had community. Locals of all ages gathered on the beach in the evening and played petanque. I think I was invited to play (note, lack of French), but hadn’t bought my balls of steel. They smoked fags, laughed and enjoyed the company of community.
No Aussies. Apart from the touring sport teams, I met two. Then I went around the corner to see flight centre and helloworld lanyards on cruise shippers. It seemed to be locals, French and Japanese tourists. To me that’s awesome, because travel loses part of its attraction when I have to hang with my countrymen. I love Australia, that’s why I live there, but I go somewhere else to be “there”.
So why isn’t it more popular? Part history, part price, part location. In the 80’s and 90’s were independence riots and political unrest. It’s not uber family oriented, it’s hard to pick over its neighbours which rely on tourism.
But I liked being there. A lot. Chilled. No lines. No rampant commercialism. It felt French, it is nothing like its neighbours Vanuatu and Fiji, the weather is nice, and because tourism is not everything to New Cal, it can be more relaxed. For kids? Not so much. But for a couple, as part of a trip, just for something a little different.
Its worth a look.
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