New Caledonia is probably best known as a beach and nature holiday destination. If you're not interested in lazing about on the sand there is hiking in the countryside. We met some intrepid Sydney based Parisians who were going to trek for seven days across the island. Not sure how they were going to fit the bottles of wine in the back pack though.
Our favourite attraction in Noumea is this, the humble supermarket.
Supermarkets in Noumea are basically French. There's French everything. We were in heaven. The Pacific Franc was almost on parity with the Aussie dollar so we didn't have the often cited problem of Nouméa being expensive. Our favourite supermarket was the Michel Ange, about 10 minutes walk towards the city from our hotel in Anse Varte. It had an excellent deli. There was a wide variety of well known names like Carrefour and Casino, it's worth checking them all out as the range varies. Apparently the big Carrefour out of town was the best supermarket of all.
Even simple things like a tin of veggies becomes exciting when the label is in French. There was soooo much stuff we wanted to try but you need years, not days to work your way through a whole supermarket. We could have spent a month in the biscuit section alone.
You can even get frozen frog legs.
The supermarket deli has lots of local made produce as well, all with a French touch.
Trying out the french cheeses and meat goodies was a holiday highlight, much cheaper than Australia.
Noumea is also great for getting stuck into French wine. You can get a reasonable bottle of turps for $10 or so, prices are higher than France but hey, we're in the Pacific. Fancy pants French champagne was a good buy, prices seemed about the same as Australian duty free.
Top shelf Australian Fruity Lexia attracts a luxury tax however. Almost $25 a cask! Strewth! Dom Perignon was on the next shelf, the bottom shelf, go figure.
As well as local beers (Number One for your standard lager and Havannah for an amber ale) there are some Pacific brews floating around as well. Hinano from Tahiti was good.
One of the foodie highlights of Noumea is one of the simplest: freshly baked baguettes. These are available everywhere, from supermarkets such as this, to corner stores to servos. Fantastic.
A local baker proudly shows us his woodfired oven (dang we didn't we take his photo?). Baking goes all day so you can always get your baguettes super fresh.
Mr Shawn's ultimate Noumea foodie highlight was simply ripping off a hunk of fresh baguette and slathering on some French inspired local produce, such as duck rillettes and magrette de canard. And French butter...
Another treat from the deli is this Tahitian salad: raw fish, coconut and lime, it's divine.
Another Noumea pleasure are bakery sweeties, think French pasty. Shawn's Dad would often wander off on a walk and come back with a box of these. The éclairs became a fast favourite.
Some great sweeties from an Algerian deli in the Latin Quarter, below an Algerian restaurant. There was food influence from many French speaking countries.
Locally made banana coconut jam. A dollop on fresh baguette with a bit of cream. Party.
Noumea is purdy.
Noumea food nerd attraction #453 is the butchers. Boucherie Du Val Plasisance is opposite the Le Miretti-Gascon restaurant.
There's not a lot of selection but what they have looks great. There is a small beef industry here and there's loads of venison.
The butcher also does small goods which he makes himself. We snacked on venison terrine, great on fresh baguettes.
We load up on local duck confit from the butchers at about $16 each. These came with a mound of duck fat, scraped off and in the bowl behind. We couldn't believe how much yummy fat they were coated with. If only we could bring it home...
Shawn's mum bakes the duck confit and rustles up some potato chips cooked in duck fat. Yes, chips cooked in duck fat is as good as it sounds.
In Noumea's town centre there's a local fresh produce market, the Marche Municipal, open something like 4.30am to 12pm. We visit mid-morning on a Monday and it's pretty much dead.
We're told to visit on Saturday morning when all the locals gather, the difference was amazing, it's busy and cheerful, folks from all walks of life are here, even Queenslanders.
Shawn's Mum looks happy because she's just bought some live mud crabs for about $14 a kilo. We saw them for $40 a kilo at home the other day.
Coffee bar at the market. There's not many dairy cows in New Caledonia so fresh milk is scarce, best take your coffee black...
The land isn't ripe for cultivation so fresh fruit and veggies are comparably expensive, though Mr Shawn was in hog heaven as local papaya was in season for around $3 a kilo. There were lots of pacific style root vegetables like taro and cassava on offer, but most stuff is imported.
The market has several pastry vendors...
And a butcher or two...
We find a Chinese stall holder selling some street food snackages. Some kind of fried prawny fishcake.
Spicy coconutty stuff in sticky rice.
A sweet'n'savour sticky rice number.
Random local deli in the suburbs. There were many places that had ready made meals to take home and eat.
Shawn's mum cooked up the muddies from the market, these were the sweetest, tastiest muddies we've had in memory, no kidding. [Later we're told by lady in Shawn's Mum's French class that New Caledonian mud crabs are so delicious because they feed on coconut palms].
Local prawns are also excellent, love their purdy blue colour.
Friendly locals wagging goodbye. We don't want to leave.
Self-catering is by far the best when you stay in an apartment. We stayed at the Best Western Premier La Promenade and would happily do so again.