Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Noumea is the largest city in and capital of New Caledonia, lying on the main island of Grande Terre. One of the most westernised capitals in the Pacific Islands, it features beautiful beaches and colonial mansions and is not yet a heavily tourist destination. Where metropolitan French will hear a bad French accent, wince and say that they speak English, the Francophones of New Caledonia are either less willing or less able to accommodate Anglophones. It is probably a matter of capability, since they are marvellously willing to persevere in determining what it is that a foreigner needs. Without tourist-level French, you may find yourself lost--but it's a lovely place to be lost! The French spoken by Kanaks is much harder to understand than the French of people in Paris: on a par with Breton French (or think of the challenge offered by broad Scots or Yorkshire for a naive English-speaker). Noumea is the capital and vacation centre of the Islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Noumea is a "French" city, but the 91,000 inhabitants are a very mixed cultural group with French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and lots of mixtures of these. Over 60% of the population of New Caledonia lives in Noumea. Noumea is a peninsula on the southwestern end of Grande Terre and the central business district (Centre Ville) is next to one of the best natural harbours in the South Pacific. The lagoon side of the peninsula has two picturesque bays with white sand beaches and is called Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons. These twin bays are the international tourism capital of New Caledonia with hotels, restaurants and bars on the landward side of "La Promenade". First settled by the French in 1854, Noumea retains close political ties with France. It has excellent schools and public facilities - parks, recreation areas, exercise paths, schools and medical facilities. Today it is the fastest growing city in the South Pacific. There are 23 hotels in Noumea ranging from one to five stars and over 100 Restaurants.
The stamps (issued in January 2002) in this very attractive miniature sheet portray a part of the wondrous marine life in the Caledonian seas. These turtles can also be seen in the Noumea Aquarium.