First thing’s first: the beer options are limited but larger than I thought – there are the 2 nearly identical light lager options (Number One and Manta) that are brewed locally and a few “imports” some of which are also made locally under contract (Heinekin, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Delerium) as well as some French default beers. We’re able to get a few Aussie beers from but they still seem to be mainly light lagers. We ran into one of the head managers at La Grande Brasserie De Nouvelle-Caledonie in the store when we were pickup up a sixer and he heard our american accents. I now have a connect for grain for my own brewing activities. I imagine running into people and having these sorts of connections will be typical considering the size of the island and the town we’re in.
Food prices aren’t as scary as we were lead to believe. I think this is due to us coming from DC where we’ve grown accustomed to expensive food. In Noumea, some things are very expensive but others are very cheap – cheap stuff includes French wine, cheese, and other French products. There are some good deals on produce and fish but you have to shop around. One store has (small, local) pineapples for $3.95 while the one on the other side of the hill sells them for $1.50. The fruit and seafood here kicks a million asses. I’ll do a more detailed writeup of some of the weirdness of food prices soon…
Most days so far we’ve done a bit of beach swimming and snorkeling at Anse Vata or Baie des Citrons and we feel incredibly lucky to have such beautiful places so nearby. It may not be “OMG THE BEST SNORKELING EVER” but it is pretty darn good considering how close it is. The coral near the edges of Baie des Citrons is vibrant and full of a huge variety of fish. We can’t figure out why so many websites say you need to get out of Noumea for decent snorkeling. Our fish ID cards, books, and one particular website have been helpful in IDing some new varieties.
Although we haven’t had much time to do a lot of exploring of the city of Noumea yet, my first impression is that it will be a great place to live. People are very friendly and eager to help – especially the folks in our neighborhood have been very gracious in hosting dinners, giving us tours, and promises of boat excursions. The French way of driving is a little stressful (drive really fast and get out of my way!) but a few years of driving in DC has prepared us well. One of the next things on our list is to get a car. Walking to some places is an option but a car is almost essential to get to the stores beyond the supermarket nearest us. There’s also a large lack of sidewalks even though there are usually a lot of people walking about. Protip: when you’re crossing the street, DON’T assume the drivers will stop for you.
Not speaking french has made some things difficult but gesticulating and horribly butchered words have seemed to do the trick for buying groceries, getting cell phones set up, etc.. There is usually someone that can speak enough English to help us get what we need.
Our shipment of household goods is scheduled to arrive in the next few months and it will be good to have some of our things like kitchen knives, dish rags, ice cube trays, and other small things that you don’t really think about until you don’t have them. I don’t think the bicycles will get much use considering how fast people drive here and with all of the blind corners and hills. The motorcycle on the other hand… And the hammock… lets not forget the hammock.