Maybe someone would ask how’s it possible to feel France in the middle of the Pacific, but the answer is quite simple, actually. Thanks to their developed navy in the past, French colonized numerous small islands all over the world, and amongst them this earthly paradise as well.
This beautiful South Pacific archipelago has a population of little over a quarter of a million, which clearly suggests that it’s inhabited by numerous fairytale-like small towns and villages where it’s always sunny, leaving an impression as if the perfect living was invented here. That’s why each year, people from all over the world, like Britain, Australia, Brazil, US… and of course, the French from ‘the mainland’, are coming to visit it. I guess that’s how the local saying: “life is best when it is shared”, came to be.
Outside the national capital of Noumea – where most of the Caledonia’s number one beer comes from – where there’s not a crowd of tourists, people enjoy life with traditional barbecue, preparing beef, chicken, potatoes, ‘special onions’ and utterly tasty chokos. It’s usually accompanied by the abovementioned domestic beer, or the good, imported French wines, that are remarkably cheap (because of the island’s high humidity, it’s impossible to make local wines)!
One of the fairytale towns in New Caledonia is the Bourail (population 5 500), where for the last 30 years, every August, it attracts more than 20 000 visitors per day, during the 3-day fair. This is the period when the sleepy hamlet turns into a crazy place, in which the children are chasing cows, race with electric dodgem cars, play football, etc. And the adults are doing their own ‘childishly-grownup’ activities, like shearing sheep, driving old and rusty stock cars, watch crazy rodeo shows with cowboys, or take part in the horse races. Of course, the fact that it’s full of restaurants, canteens, and other establishments that offer various refreshments, handicrafts, goes without saying. Just as the live music in the background, kids chasing piglets, and so on…
For those of you who have visited, or come from Australia, this may sound a bit like the Royal Melbourne Show, or the Sydney Easter Fair, but know that it’s much barmier, louder, and a great reminder that New Caledonia is most definitely not a territory that’s isolated from its motherland, France. On the contrary, everything reminds you on how much it’s ‘dependent’ on it. The way one of the locals describes it, it’s pretty much like the good old French countryside, only without the cheese. As a matter of a fact, ‘being French’ is New Caledonia’s biggest ace in the sleeve and main attraction, in the ‘combat’ for tourists with the southern rivals, like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Fiji, and Bali.
To put it another way, it’s an ideal destination for anyone who’s looking for a vacation that’ll be a bit ‘different, yet not too distant’ than the usual. There are beautiful moments of walking and biking, ‘gastronomic adventures’ by wining and dining in the well known French style, swimming and snorkeling… pretty much everything you’d want from a stay in the Pacific islands.
For the end, we’ll say that even if you come to a point when you’re feeling exhausted from the countryside adventures, there’s still so much to do in the capital, Noumea. Beginning from the various forms of partying in the original local ways, to a visit of the Kanak cultural center, which bears the name of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, the former assassinated leader of New Caledonia. This would be a perfect ending to your adventure of this stunning Pacific archipelago, that’ll make you feel as if you visited France itself.