Day 138: Au Revoir France, G’Day Aus

Sat. 29th December 2012

Yes, its a cliche, but it does look so good!If you are ever asked “where in France is a good place to live?” then there a lot worse answers than New Caledonia. We saw all the clichés of France – cheese and baguettes; a denial that any other country in the world makes wine; men playing boules in the park; contemptuous waiters; and a shutdown of shops and offices at lunchtime. When you combine this with the good weather, sunshine and warm seas then there is lots going for this island. We enjoyed our time here and felt comfortable in a way that we never quite did in Tahiti.

Small in all dimensions (and then there is the car)Our flight on to Sydney is not until 12:50 and so we can even have a leisurely start to the morning – including going down to the nearby cafe for a breakfast of bacon and eggs (and croissant – it is France, remember!). Even better, we arranged to drop off our little C1 at the airport at no additional cost and so we are not dependent on buses or other public transport for once. The only adventure comes when we try to park the car in the rental car return car park – the card that we have been given to operate the barrier doesn’t work, and I have to talk to the operator in French through the squawk box whilst leaning out the window of the car. I eventually got the gist that I needed to go and park in the next door car park.

Some old shed by the waterSadly, when we got to airline check-in there was no large queue at the Economy desks for us to gloat over as we sailed through to Business class. Oh well, at least we could have a glass of champagne in the lounge (and at least there was a lounge)! Its only a 3 hour flight from Noumea to Sydney, and this is just as well as I could touch the seat in front of me – that’s not supposed to happen in Business class. I thought Qantas were supposed to be better than this. They do make up for it on landing though by giving us an express lane pass to help sail straight through immigration and customs and there is no real sign of the ‘biosecurity’ checks that we had been expecting. (We had even scrubbed clean the soles of all of our shoes in anticipation of being checked). Not much more than 30 minutes after the plane touching down, we were at the entrance of the terminal looking for the ATM machine (our normal ritual) and the train station to get us downtown.

Getting ready for the fireworksThe apartment that we are staying in (thank you ever so much Lynette) is in North Sydney, just across the harbour from the city centre. So, we need to take a train to Circular Quay and then a ferry over to Kurraba Point where we will be staying. We have just got ourselves settled on the train and are mulling over whether or not to get a multi-day transport ticket that covers trains and ferries when the people in front of us ask if we are OK. They help us out by explaining the different options (and make us feel better about not getting the multi-day ticket before this train journey). This then leads on to a wider conversation about our travels and the things that we must do whilst we are in Sydney. The ‘must-do’ list is dauntingly long given that we only have a few days here. But how nice of people to offer to help and start up a conversation with strangers (and Poms at that).

A great place to go sailingWe were last in Sydney about 20 years ago and whilst we can remember being impressed with the harbour we had forgotten just the impact that seeing the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge side by side as the train came out from underground and pulled in to the station at Circular Quay. Fortunately we aren’t the only ones reduced to gawping and frantically taking photos of the place. The ferries (like the trains) are very efficient with clear signs as to which wharf to be on and when the next ferry to Kurraba Point leaves – 5 minutes before we are due to leave, a ferry pulls in and disgorges all its passengers, we load up and then we are off. All much more straightforward than our ferry experience in Cuba (see our Day 19 post for a reminder of how not to do it!)

The view down the harbour from KurrabaAt Kurraba, we are met by Russell, Lynette’s brother and holder of the keys for the apartment. Another friendly, smiling face and another stranger who insists on running us up to the supermarket so that we can get some provisions. Once again, we have fallen on our feet – we are staying in a lovely apartment with a view out over the harbour and a short walk from the tip of Kurraba Point where we should be able to get a great view of the fireworks in a couple of days time. They call Australia the Lucky Country – and now we know why!

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