Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kidaddle to New Caledonia

A family holiday to New Caledonia could be a great option if you're looking for a combination of French and Melanesian experiences in a warmer climate ... but be warned the cost of living is extreme, and exorbitant medical costs make travel insurance a must.

That out of the way, what are the highlights of a visit to New Caledonia with kids? Well, in no particular order ...
  • More playgrounds per head of population in Noumea than in any other town we've ever visited.

  • The amazing Tjibaou Centre - the architecture and grounds very nice to look at, but the story to discover, and the events hosted, make it a must.
  • Place des Cocotiers - particularly on a Jeudi Soir from about 5pm.

  • The Markets - for bowls of coffee while the kids sit up on stools and eat croques monsieurs (my goodness, I hope that's the plural) and drop coins in the Polynesian musicians' bucket, and meanwhile Mum and Dad buy fresh fruit and veggies and Vietnamese smallgoods for later, and check out the art and craft ... and don't leave without buying some homemade chocolates by the second or third generation Belgian chocolatier.

  • The zoological gardens ... where you can see the cagou ... and enjoy a child-friendly BBQ, cooked for you.
  • The South - camping at Netcha - in Parc de la Riviere Bleue.

  • Casa Italia - where the pizzas are the best, particularly the prosciutto e carcioffi (!) and where the kids are always welcome and, if you get the right seat, they can press their noses to the glass and watch pizzas being made ...
  • Dinner at Lycee Escoffier or lunch at the Airport Motel - where the staff are hardworking trainees and the food is delicious.

  • The funny little place next to the tennis courts and behind the soccer fields in Vallee des Colons where kids are so very very welcome, the food is good and the afternoon can be very pleasantly spent.
  • L'eau vive - known as the Nuns' restaurant - where the nuns sing between entree and main.

  • The Rhumerie at Dumbea.

  • Canoeing on the Dumbea River.

  • Phare Amedee - for a decent beach experience out of Noumea for fussy Australians ... well worth the boat/lunch/entertainment total charge required.

  • The Loyalties - and we should have stayed in a case.

  • Isle des Pins - if you stay here, you will find very comfortable accommodation (highly priced) with a lovely beach, but a restaurant that may be unwilling to serve your kids quickly. We found the restaurant formal and were surprised after stating our aim to get the kids fed early and out, that on successive nights, after an hour, mother retreated with beside-themselves-toddlers to the room with husband following up the rear with the plates. Oh, and there was also the complete incapacity to honour a request for a hire car. And while I'm at it - if you go to the piscine naturel - take your own shade (ie pop up tent/umbrellas) or you will be easily burnt to a crisp.

  • The Vietnamese restaurant (La perle oceane) on the corner facing the police station where the porc croustillant is to die for and the service is sweet.
Give me your suggestions and I promise to update and add tips!

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