Perhaps it’s a little presumptuous to start commenting too much about Noumea after only a day or so, but in spite of that, here goes.
Yes, the tourist precinct where we are is pleasant enough. Although French is the primary language, anyone who has more than passing contact with tourists can get by in English. However, there always seems to be genuine pleasure if you “practice” your French (C is here to study the language and S is Canadian so, although rusty, speaks it to some extent).
That said, the place is far from overrun by tourists. Our hotel seems very quiet. Perhaps it’s because there’s no overwhelming reason for tourists to come here: yes, there’s a nice lagoon and I’m told the watersports and diving are very good, and perhaps people come to Noumea (and where we are, Anse Vata) as a jumping-off place for other destinations in New Caledonia. However, if you just want to sit by a resort pool, there are lots of other places in the world where the prices are “better value” and perhaps the weather is warmer.
So I’ve mentioned weather: it’s mild and sunny (low 20s?), but right now there’s a fairly consistent breeze. And prices: everything you’ve heard about things being expensive is true! We paid the equivalent of over $6 for a coffee, and restaurant main courses are often up around the $A50 equivalent mark (sometimes more in up-market places). Perhaps it’s all about the exchange rate, because the higher prices (for us) appear to apply to just about everything. Of course, we’re still making sure that we get out and about and, if I may say so, these prices do mean that, at least from what we can see, the tourists that do get here aren’t overly concerned with life on a budget!
After meeting up with C and S we had a nice seafood lunch overlooking Baie des Citrons, following which we took advantage of the fact that C had a hire car to do a decent shop at the supermarket. I was struck by the fact that there appear to be no parking time limits (apart from “no standing” areas). It seems that parking is provided for all!