Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wednesday, 1st July 2009 - culture and water

Up at 7, breakfast of pawpaw, pineapple, banana, yellow passionfruit, and then a croissant. We will know not to buy robusta coffee again (arabica next time) and realise that we are spoiled by our regular infusions of Illy coffee at home. I admired my snowdome..

Today's agenda was the Tjibaou cultural centre, built by the French, designed by Renzo Piano. The drive was quite pleasant, past the suburbs of Motor Pool (you heard me..) and Magenta and its small airport. We parked, and went to the ticket counter. Being over a certain age and with grey hair, we paid no entry fee. The walk in was lovely, peaceful, lush vegetation. The entry hall was large and open, but there seemed very few people. We walked up and down, admiring the unusual buildings. They really are beautiful structures - like pods arranged along a central spine. Inspired by a collection of huts in a village? The soaring exteriors are skeletal grey weathered wood.

We looked at the shop but were not inspired to buy. We looked at the art exhibitions which were quite interesting with some lovely carvings. We watched an arty movie/presentation in the cinema, showing Kanak culture. I took lots of pictures, including a shot of one of the local fashionistas in the latest Noumean fashion statement, seen everywhere - a floral muu-muu and woolly scarf. Then temperature is below 30, so a scarf is de rigeur.

There are some terrific sculptures in the gardens,

and a very amusing cow made of corned beef tins:

Alas, my sunglasses decided they liked it there, so they hid from me when it was time to go. Cést la vie. We sampled Orangina at the cafe (Martin's favourite orange drink), then set out for home and lunch.

We had not planned to go to the supermarket again, but the car had other ideas. A few wrong turnings saw us heading back to the Geant Sainte Marie, so we yielded, and there we were again, putting stuff into our shopping basket. More icecream, chocolate, salmon for dinner. There was a whole shelf full of all sizes of Orangina. Then as I turned around I saw a shelf full of Chateau Martin. Hmm. I wonder which he would prefer?

Home for lunch, a sit down, and then..... wait for it.... a swim! Mum and I togged up, gathered mask and snorkel, and crossed the road. We found a spot to sit in, left our stuff there, and went into the water. A bit cool, but not too cold. A nice sandy bottom for standing on. Mum's mask filled with water so had to be adjusted. Gosh I hope I am still snorkelling when I am 87. I swam out and around the pontoon, and then over to the side where there were grasses and corals and beautiful coloured fish. Divine. Then we sat in the sun and dried off, and came home for showers and a cup of coffee. Still finishing off the robusta.

Mum and I played Malice and Spite and I won, again. It will be her turn next. Maybe.

Before dinner we all three went on a stroll around the restaurant strip nearby. We'd seen it earlier, and investigated more closely with a view to eating there tomorrow night. As we were out, a pair of black pants fell into my hands and I had to buy them. A girl can never have too many black pants, as my regular readers will know. Mum bought a shell ring. We looked at menus, and there is one place offering one of Mum's favourites, osso bucco. Guess where we will be eating tomorrow?

And now to settle in for the salmon de dieu which Michael is cooking, and maybe some tv and knitting. Aaah.

To market to market

Got up around 7.30 with the sun. Breakfast was excellent pineapple and watermelon, I had a dollop of plain yoghurt with mine. Coffee - local robusta (not good), and then a croissant from the Geant supermarket. I now know which knob turns on the griller on. The croissants were very lightly toasted. Not bad. Plain this time, not chocolate. Scale of 1-10? I'd give it a five.

We decided on a trip to the market, which is on the waterfront down near the centre of town. They are instantly recognisable by the blue roofs.

Out the front were several women with their laptops. Doing what? Fortune telling? Accounting? Facebook?

We did a circuit of the fruit and veg stalls. The quality and variety is much better than either of the supermarkets we visited. There is a wonderful array of bananas, some yellow and ready for eating, some black and ready for what? Some green, no doubt for cooking. We bought some fat little yellow ones, which later proved to be golden and creamy inside, and delicious. We bought some green beans, fresh coriander, passionfruit. There were avocadoes that were big as footballs but we already had one. Loads of papaya, taro, and other root vegetables were alluring.

We bought a couple of souveniers at the jewellery stalls. It is so hard to pick out interesting and acceptable souveniers. Things always look different when you get them home, out of their context. Some things improve and become exotica, other things turn into dross as soon as you get them home and you wonder what on earth you were thinking. At least with snowdomes you know exactly what you are getting....

The fish section was mostly empty apart from one or two stalls, where we saw local fish (vivaneu), white tuna (thon blanc, which we bought), marlin, something de dieu, salmon, very expensive huitres de New Zealand, (oysters), and lots more. We asked, and the local oysters will not be in until Thursday. We'll be back for those as we read that they are good.

Finally, because I love them, I bought two sticky sesame balls. These are sticky something gluteny (rice flour?) with sesame seeds on the outside, and usually red bean paste inside. I had mine for lunch at 10 am, so didn't feel like more lunch later. It had something yellow and creamy inside, sweet peas or beans of some sort. Yum. Sticky, oily goodness.

Goodies in hand, we returned to the car and back to the apartment.

After some relaxation, Mum and I took off again to search for French fashion. We discovered that everything closes for two hours for lunch. We were there at 1 pm, and not much was open. Things would re-open at 2 pm. There wasn't much on show. We looked at some fabulously expensive stuff in Hermes that didn't appeal to me. I bought some cheap silver plain earrings, and some black cotton to mend my black pants with. Alas, they had developed a run in them. (My favourite new (ish) Hedrena black pants! I will throw the old Hedrenas out now, and these, now mended, will become the old ones. Mum kept telling me I ought to take these back, but as I've been wearing them for about a year I didn't think I would get a refund. ) We moseyed around, and succeeded in finding an appropriately tacky Nouvelle Calédonie snowdome for the collection. We found a couple of lingerie shops - Mum can't resist lingerie shops, so we always go in.

Returned to the apartment for a solid afternoon's reading and relaxing in the sun. No swimming yet, but it isn't far off, I feel it in my bones. I finshed reading The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham, described on the cover notes as a feral SeaChange. Feral it was, and highly amusing, black and grimly funny. Loved it.

I am working on my travel tatting, (same pattern as you see on the banner of my blog) and will return shortly to a second sock. I also have a ball of wool Lien gave me for my birthday (the colourway is Taurus - well done Lien!) with which I will knit the Woodland Shawl.

Mum and I played a card game (Malice and Spite). At one stage the door handle turned and there was attempt at entry. I unlocked and opened the door (should I have been anxious?) and two blokes were outside with their suitcases. Their key said room 607. This is room 607. They apologised and disappeared - back to reception, I guess.

Michael is cooking the thon blanc tonight, with some refried potatoes left over from last night and some green beans. I intend to eat a tub of runny chocolate pudding for dessert. Tomorrow night I think we will go to Le Roof for dinner, or for lunch.

And yes, I might go for a swim.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A midwinter holiday

When the days become shorter, it is dark in the morning, and the weather gets cold, our thoughts turn to warmer climes. Fortunately the Man of the House is a forward thinker, and when it was hot and muggy (January) he began planning our mid-year holiday in Noumea.

We were inspired by Julie and Martin's honeymoon in France to explore France on our doorstep. Only two hours away by plane from Sydney, New Caledonia is a completely different culture. A blend of Polynesia and France, it offered sunshine, French bread and cheese, practice in speaking French, and perhaps some snorkelling.

Michael organised it, and here we are. We are staying in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Baie des Citrons, close to the touristy section of Anse Vata. We have a fantastic view of the ocean and the mountains, the pine trees. It is glorious.

Alas we also have an aural view - the noise from the generators of the restaurants below impinges on the sound of the ocean. We are used to it now, but would prefer it not to be there.

There is wifi in our hotel, so I am sitting on our balcony typing this. As it is a self-service apartment our first priority was supplies, so after breakfast in the very small hotel breakfast room (coffee and chocolate croissant for me) we set out.

We have a car. It is a manual, so a lot of brain power is used up in changing gears and staying on the correct side of the road. I drive, Michael navigates. There is minimal bickering as we negotiate the way. We stop off at an ATM and get some cash (takes a bit of figuring to decide how much to get) and then Michael navigates us to a supermarket. It wasn't the one we thought it was going to be, but it had stuff. We bought apples and milk and chocolate and washing detergent and eggs and bacon and cheese and bread. Nothing exciting, but it means we will be clean and won't starve. I was interested that fresh milk was not to be found - my execrable French asking for lait was met first with incomprehension, then I was directed to the longlife milk. My requests for oeufs went better, and I had to wait for the fresh ones to be brought in from the delivery truck outside. No plastic carry bags were given away at the checkout, and not any paper ones either. We bought three shopping bags (that polyester strong fabric) and will use them while here, add them to our Hawaiian collection when we get home.

Naturally my attention falls to the ground and discovers a not terribly exciting array of manhole covers.

It is warmer than Sydney is, but it is also windy. We are not inclined to go swimming today, but see intrepid souls out there, some in what looks like a group learning something.

We are all relaxing now after the strenuous shopping and will consider what the afternoon will bring a bit later. We are on holiday speed now, and that is veeerrrrrry sloooooowwwwww.

On the agenda (for later) is some French fashion, and maybe a polynesian muu-muu or two, preferable voluminous and frilly and very bright.