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Published: September 12th 2018
Setting sun at Tontouta airport
My first thought 31 years ago was that it was a cultural desert. And today in 2018, this is my same opinion.
I grew up on the island. I went to school, I had family there, I was a child and had a great life in the late 1970s. When I went back in 1988, I was a different person and saw the island with different eyes.
In 2018 I have gone to reconnect with family. Reconnect I have, but it is still a cultural desert. The bookshops have gone and there is no "cultural" life. and people don't seem to care.
I currently live in a small community which has abundant groups of citizens who care about heritage; who care about recycling; where theatre, live music and dance are encouraged. At first glance Noumea is not like this at all. All the colonial architecture that created its charm is gone. Cement blocks have sprung up where once charming colonial buildings stood. There seems to be no urban planning, and the people oblivious to this lack.
Unfortunately the week we chose for our stay contained two public holidays, and many cultural institutions were closed. My
Life's a beach at the Anse Vata
friend Amalia and I managed to go the Museum of New Caledonia.
Despite advice to the contrary, it was a delightful place, one I had never entered, even during my years as a child.
The city is not a tourist destination. Like anywhere, I think you have a better time if you live with locals. My family very generously drove us around, and of course we met up with family I hadn't seen for decades. We feasted on fabulous food and met wonderfully interesting friends of the family, and my mother was able to reconcile with some members of the family.
Our best day as tourists was a day trip to La Roche Percée. I had never been that far inland. So my recommendation is get out of town. Hire a car and try to drive north. The little villages are kept with pride. What out for the large trucks as it is virtually a one way highway.
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