New Caledonia, Day 3: Markets and Croque Madames

Day 3: Sunday, July 21, 2019

Since today is a Sunday, I didn't have too many big plans due to everything being closed. However, this was one of my few chances to catch the bustling Le Marche, or open-air marketplace.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Noumea is very stylish. There's French people here, and lots of clothing options, so of course they're stylish! This is the first solo trip I've been on where I packed stylishly, but also practically. Today, I wear a forest green maxi dress with a long-sleeve chambray shirt for warmth. I accessorize with jewelry and my gold sandals, and I do the signature French makeup: black eyeliner, mascara, and red lipstick. I pop on my new hat and I'm off to the streets.

The Latin Quarter and city center are located north, so I walk about 40 minutes, or 2.5 km north of "home."

The previous times I've passed Le Marche, it's been closed, because it's only open from 5am-11am daily. I will say I was expecting a little bit more than what there was, but that's not to say it wasn't impressive.

Rather than one, massive building, Le Marche is a series of hexagonal pavilions connected together, offering everything from produce to meats to cheeses to baked goods to jewelry to clothes and more.

Tonight, Michael and I plan to make dinner, so I go straight for the produce. Everything is impeccably labeled with names and prices, and most are the same from vendor to vendor with a few exceptions. Things are far more expensive here than they are in Vanuatu. For example, root vegetables in Vanuatu are practically given away...a massive 4-kilo bag of sweet potatoes would cost about $5 USD. Here, the manioc/cassava roots are about $2 each.

While prices are higher overall, variety makes this market a much more familiar option. Most produce is sourced locally, with some sourced from nearby countries, and others from far away (USA cherries are $50 a kilo!). There is the typical "island food" I've grown used to in Vanuatu: papayas, coconuts, taros, yams, cucumbers, avocados and watermelon. There's also a massive variety that isn't always available in Vanuatu in the capital, with some that I never see in Vanuatu: cherries, strawberries, white potatoes.

I get a handful of produce, some of which I find quite overpriced yet still acceptable, then I let my appetite do the shopping for me. There are cakes and brioche and creamy milkshakes and cheeses and all kinds of delicacies. In one of the market pavilions, there is a bustling restaurant that has stools and standing tables surrounding the bar for you to enjoy a coffee, a piece of crusty bread with jam, or a variety of cakes and pastries or even a croque madame. I decide the pastry selection is better in a nearby pavilion, grab a chocolate brioche, and head off to the nearby Coconut Square.

Today is beautifully sunny, and sitting beside the fountain in Coconut Square reminds me of Spain. Little children are riding scooters or running around while their parents sit nearby. A teenage boy approaches me on his bike and says something in French, and I say, "anglais?" to which he just nods and rides off. This becomes a common occurrence, that I don't find in my other travels. One, because I physically blend in here. Two, the culture here isn't shy to ask questions of strangers. Therefore, I'm often having awkward conversations with strangers who are asking or telling me things. The benefit is that when men are catcalling me, I'm often so oblivious to what they're saying, that I can't really get mad.

After a brief rest, I head way south near Anse Vata, where I stop for a lunch at Malongo Cafe. I get a croque madame with a salad, along with a delicious banana/pineapple/coconut smoothie. The smoothie is basically the same price as the sandwich. Beverages here are so expensive!

Then, I'm off to the nearby Parc du Ouen Toro, which is a giant hill that overlooks Duck Island. Along the way, I see the nightclub from last night in the daytime.

La Bodega Del Mar

At Ouen Toro, the views are breathtaking on all sides. Families are here picnicking on the grass, and there are nearby walking paths that give other unobstructed views of the nearby area. It's a nice free activity and perfect for this clear day.

Ouen Toro

the view from the top

After all that bopping around, I head home and freshen up before Michael gets off of work. He heads over and we make some pasta for dinner and enjoy some wine, a perfect easy budget meal. I make pasta all the time in Port Vila when I'm stuck in town, but something about having a full kitchen and access to olive oil and cheese makes the whole process a lot more luxurious. Also, being in Vanuatu has lowered my needs and expectations, so I am easily pleased by those little things.

After dinner, we settle down to watch some Man Seeking Woman (excellent surrealist show about dating life) before it's time for a much-needed rest.

Tomorrow, Michael doesn't work, so we'll have the full day to head off and explore!