Day 134: Christmas On The Beach

Tue. 25th December 2012

Dinner in the revolving restaurant on Christmas DayI am used to waking early on Christmas Day morning. As a child, it was the excitement of presents; then we had children and I understood a bit more about how my mum and dad felt; then came the need to get the turkey in the oven and lunch on the go. I’m not sure what the reason was today. It just happened. For Janet, the day started when I brought her a cup of tea in bed. That was pretty much the end of similarities to a normal Christmas Day though.

Ramada and Nouvata Hotels - we didn't move far in Noumea!We treated ourselves to breakfast in the revolving restaurant at the top of one of the towers of the hotel. The views out to sea, along the beach and back into town were great – the buffet was merely OK. Sadly, there was no champagne in the buffet either – that will have to wait until later. We did, however, load up with butter and a few other supplies to supplement our lunch. (Janet’s view is that this is acceptable when your are travelling, but not when you are on holiday).

Looking down on Anse Vata beachIf we get out for a walk on Christmas Day at all (and we usually don’t) it would be after lunch. But this isn’t a normal Christmas and so after breakfast we head out to do some more exploring on foot. From the restaurant, we had been able to spot a route up the hill to Ouen Toro park which looks like it should have some view points out over the bay. Thanks to Gav for his comment in response to our Technology blog post, we now have the OsmAnd GPS app and map of New Caledonia downloaded onto Janet’s phone. This gives us satellite navigation without an Internet connection and even better, it seems to have footpaths marked on it.

Ouen Toro park in the sunshineUp at the top of the (first) hill, we have the views that we were hoping for and also we can see the concrete foundations which are all the remnants of WWII gun emplacements – a bit like a smaller version of  ‘The Fort’ in Helen’s Bay that I used to love exploring as a boy. I’ve read a fair bit about the war in the Pacific but New Caledonia is providing the first tangible reminders of it.

You can see why it was placed hereAs ever, there is another hill to climb and we scramble along a small path. Sometimes it runs between bushes and trees around the hill and sometimes it is pretty much straight up the hill. Occasionally the trees clear and we get a fantastic view out along the coast and out to the islands in the bay. At the top there are more gun emplacements, this time a couple of them have the original guns still in place.

Our Christmas Day walk!After pausing to admire the view (and watch the Japanese tourists conform to the photo taking stereotype we have of them) we head off back down a path on the other side of the hill to see a little more of Noumea. We know that after our champagne at lunchtime, we aren’t going to feel like walking at all so we had better get it done now! Once down the hill, we rejoin the road and walk along the coast round the back of the hill before cutting back across to the hotel. Not only good exercise and some good views, but also a good test of the SatNav app. Tomorrow, we are hiring a car for a few days to see more of the island and having a decent map will be a big help.

Xmas lunchWhen planning the trip and talking to people about it, we have always said that Christmas lunch will be on a beach on a Pacific Island. So one way or another we were going to make it happen. We just got lucky that it was pretty much as I imagined. After getting back to the hotel, we grabbed our lunch stuff and found a shady but windy patch of grass on the gentle slope that leads down to the narrow strip of sand that is Anse Vata beach. Clearly a very acceptable thing to do as there were a number of locals who had the same idea. Our lunch comprised champagne, smoked salmon, roquefort, brie and a baguette that we bought on the way back from our walk. (Sometimes, I do love the French!). Not a very complicated meal and definitely not our normal Christmas lunch, but pretty good all the same.

Daniel Craig eat your heart outNeedless to say, we then had a lazy afternoon – watching the kids playing on the beach, having a swim, enjoying the sunshine and just watching the world go by.

In the evening, we dressed up in our best clothes – well, the best clothes we had given the limitations of our wardrobe. We treated ourselves to dinner in the revolving restaurant. No turkey on the menu tonight – this is France after all and we think that that would have been on the menu for Christmas Eve. Still it was a bit of a treat to have a good meal with proper service. On holidays this would be completely normal. Oh, how times have changed.

From the Restaurant 360 of courseFinally, we get back to our room as we have Skype calls booked with the rest of our family back home as Christmas morning is now well underway for them. It was great to be able talk to and see them and to know that everyone is well. We hope that Chris & Lucy got their duck stuffed and cooked OK (and served more or less on time). Next year, we will enjoy our turkey and a traditional dinner with our family. Our Christmas this year has been so different and enjoyable in its own way. We won’t ever forget our Christmas on the beach.

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