New Caledonia, Day 2: Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

Saturday, July 20, 2019

saturday night disco worship (photo cred: Magaly)

On my second day of adventuring around, I plan to hit a tourist destination such as a museum, zoo, aquarium, or something. Noumea has them all, and I'm excited to explore!

I get a really late start. The benefit about staying in hostels is you don't feel a desire to spend an exorbitant amount of time in them, making your days more efficient. However, when you stay at someone's home or an AirBNB or an apartment, you slowly get up, undisturbed by stranger roommates, and are free to walk around naked post-shower and and eat cereal, chips, and macarons for breakfast at your leisure.

Thus, I left the house at 11:30am. It didn't matter to me that it was later, though, because it was quite rainy this morning. I bundled up with jeans and layers to walk around town.

Noumea is much like Spain in that businesses close during lunch hours. Therefore, by the time I get to town, I will have to go straight to eating lunch since nothing else will be open. I'm not totally against that idea, I'm just sayin'.

I decide to talk a different walk to the Latin Quarter today. It's about a 40 minute walk from where I am located, and I'll go ahead and say that despite Noumea having an established bus system with routes and stops, I gotta give it to Port Vila or Chicago for actually making everything accessible. Noumea's routes don't go where you need them to go. There's many times on this trip I find myself wishing that public transportation was more accessible, but alas, here I am walking 40 minutes to get to town

I decide to take a different route today, through the Trianon area, which was simply dumb because it was a residential route along a high-speed road. Don't recommend that to should take the longer route along the bay.

My first stop in town is the Musee de Nouvelle Caledonie, or, the New Caledonia Museum. I researched it ahead of time and read the entrance fee should be under 500 francs.

I arrive's closed. Not just for lunch, but as of about a week ago, they have closed to move around some exhibits. FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. So, if you're coming to New Caledonia, don't put that one on your to-see list until late 2021.

I walk around some more, but most things, including shops, are closed. I assume it's like Vanuatu, in that stores are only open until noon on Saturdays. Time to eat, I guess.

In Noumea, there are two types of eateries: cafes and restaurants. The general rule is that cafes are open from the early morning until mid-afternoon, and restaurants are strictly open at meal times (lunch and dinner) only, sometimes with a break in between. Cafes tend to have a "light" menu including sandwiches and salads, whereas restaurants have larger meals and platters, and tend to be more expensive.

Since I just ate breakfast, I wasn't super hungry. The 2500franc menus at the restaurants I was passing by were not appetizing to my wallet. Just as I thought to myself, "all I want is a kebab" the universe grants my wish as I stroll past Sucre et Sale, aka "Sweet and salty" the perfect little streetside dive. They have kebabs, sandwiches, and falafels, along with ice cream, waffles and lots of items that can be coated with Nutella.

I order a falafel, which was alright, but it satiated my appetite. It was also 1000 francs, which is high for the item, but for here in Noumea, it was low.

Before entering Mwa Ka

I then walked over to Mwa Ka, a small park with a totem pole in the middle and other, smaller ones surrounding it. It's a nice bit of Kanak culture in the city, if it weren't for tons of graffiti all over it, including the placard giving detail about its cultural significance. Either way, with it surrounded by trees, it was a small little oasis in the middle of town.

I was getting a bit bored of town. Usually when I travel solo, I appreciate the solo moments, but sometimes if there's not enough tours or things to see, it feels like a chore to walk around. I felt that I'd seen all that I could with my timing and my lack of access to transport, so I walked back home.

On my way, I thought I'd try to see the Cathedrale Saint Joseph. Today has been quite overcast, so that combined with a few shady-looking characters lingering in front of the closed cathedral (which is located away from the main road) made me quickly change my path. It was the last straw, and now I headed back home.

Just before getting back to the house, I stopped again at Simply Market, the grocery store that Michael and I went to yesterday. I wanted to browse again, especially in the baked goods section. Today, they had a variety pack of macarons, two of each of six different flavors! Purchase made. About 20% of my spending so far has been on macarons.

I go home, play fetch with the dog, Milka, and then get ready to go out for the night. After I am properly dressed for hanging with stylish French people, I walk over to Michael's.

I tell Michael that I purchased more macarons today. "Again?!" he asks in disbelief. Um, yes, they had a variety pack available this time. He asks me which flavors they were. I list out the flavors: chocolate, strawberry, coconut, lemon, banana-chocolate, to each of which he grimaces or makes a sour face, until I say "pistachio." "Oh, pistachio is nice!" Ugh, is he even French!?

His friend Jason drives us to their friend's house. The road we drive on reminds me of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, with multiple lanes and water on one side. It's beautiful at night.

We go to Magaly's house, whose 27th birthday we're celebrating tonight. Michael knows her through work, and the party is half of Magaly's coworkers and half of her friends from CrossFit training. It's nice to be around non-Peace Corps people for a change.

Michael, a wonderful guest, brings a variety of cheeses, breads, raisins and pears. A few moments in the kitchen and we have a cheese platter that would make any French person happy (except Michael, because he's ashamed there's no nuts on the platter).

new friends! (photo cred: Magaly)

The twelve of us cluster around a coffee table on the patio, and it's oh-so-French. There's 9 wine bottles on the table, beside ashtrays and platters of cheese. Beautiful people in fashionable clothes, their cigarettes in one hand and wine glasses in another, waving them around animatedly as they chat, only setting one down to get a bite of quiche or bread and cheese. The quiches and pizzas keep on coming and it ends up being a filling meal.

so french.

I mostly chat with Michael as the other guests who do know English are a little shy to test it out, but for me, the people watching alone was amusement. Occasionally a couple of the men on the other end of the table will shout the few English phrases they know in my direction, to which I laugh and nod. At one point, Michael's friends tease him for wearing too many colors: he's wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, a khaki button-up shirt and some burgundy sneakers. I laugh because it's such a French stereotype that no one can wear more than two colors. This is such a basic outfit but he's getting called out on being flamboyant. They should see what I wear in Vanuatu: florals on plaid on patterns.

At the very end, they bring out a chocolate cake with candles so we can sing to the birthday girl. By now, they also bring out the pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur. When the table clears and all that remains are empty bottles, cigarettes and crumbs, we move on for the night.

Jason drives us to La Bodega Del Mar, which is having an 80s, 90s and 2000s theme night tonight. The parking lot outside and all the nearby businesses are packed. As I mentioned before, public transportation isn't convenient, especially at this hour. The bar itself is just as packed.

dance dance dance (photo cred: Magaly)

I am surprised there's no cover charge and we walk right in to the hoards of people and make our way to the bar. It's expensive; a tequila shot is 1000 francs, or about $10usd. Once we get our drinks, we move on to dancing, and the variety of music is great; everything from Aretha Franklin to AC/DC to 90s hip-hop. It's a shame there isn't more space, because the tunes sure did encourage dancing.

It also encouraged fighting. A couple brawls broke out while we were on the dancefloor. One of them was immediately broken up by the bouncer, and a person was carried away, while the woman she was fighting with still was riled up and continued smashing beer bottles on the table as her boyfriend tried to calm her down. It was wild to see such aggression. Fights break out all the time in Port Vila bars, but they're usually sloppy people bumping into each other and not someone waving broken glass bottles in people's faces. It was a bit scary, but it was broken up soon enough, and we were all fine.

While on the dancefloor, a man accidentally stepped on my foot and I rolled my eyes at him. He apparently took this very offensively, or he thought I was more angry than I was, because I could see out of the corner of my eye that he kept trying to get my attention again by pretending to step on my foot again. I ignored him, and he turned to Michael and told him that he didn't want me to be so angry about stepping on my foot. Michael brushed him off, and eventually he left. But he was quite frustrated at me and was maybe picking a fight? Or avoiding one? It was hard to tell. Drunk people, am I right?

The bar is located on the water, with a wooden walkway connecting it to another nightclub, XO, and a restaurant at the end. The nightclub was hopping, too, but when we stepped out for air, we also decided to end the night, as it was getting late and Michael still had to work tomorrow. I appreciate him coming out tonight just to appease my needs for some interesting nightlife.

Tomorrow I'm off on my own again for some more adventures, like the downtown market!