NOUMEA – ONLY 2½ HOURS FROM SYDNEY

September 28, 2013
Chateau Royal Hotel, Noumea

Chateau Royal Hotel, Noumea

Australians love to travel, but one of the problems we experience is our geographic location where we are so far away from the history and culture of Europe.  Unless you have at least three weeks for a holiday, it’s hardly worth sitting on a plane for almost 23 hours to travel half way round the world.

Closer to home, if you want to experience a touch of the French lifestyle, New Caledonia is only 2½ hours flying time from Sydney.

Enjoying Hibiscus Class on Aircalin

Enjoying Hibiscus Class on Aircalin

Aircalin offers daily flights to Noumea, leaving Sydney early afternoon, giving you plenty of time to pack in the morning then travel to the airport, without having to set the alarm clock for a pre-dawn wake up.  Their Airbus A330-200 offers the latest in comfort.  On a recent flight I decided to begin the holiday in style and travel Business Class, or Hibiscus Class as it is known on Aircalin.

The French experience began the minute I boarded the plane, being welcomed by the charming crew whose English came with a tinge of their French accents, making you want to listen to every word they spoke. Once seated I was offered a glass (or two) of champagne, which really put me in the holiday mood.

After departure, it wasn’t long before I was served my three course meal, which was actually delicious, accompanied by a choice of red or white wines and served with all the flair of a fine dining establishment. No problems about airline food on Aircalin. After finishing my coffee, I thought I’d get in a short snooze so I pressed a few buttons on the arm rest and my seat turned into a lie flat bed.  Such comfort, I was sorry the flight was not longer.

Chatyeau Royal Hotel

Chateau Royal Hotel

Arriving early evening at Noumea’s modern La Tontouta International Airport, we moved quickly through customs and immigration procedures, collected the luggage and went outside the terminal to meet the Arc en Ciel transportation service that was to drive us to the hotel. We had booked and paid for this service on line, prior to leaving Sydney, which streamlined the procedure. We shared the spacious mini-van with others from the plane, but if desired, a private transportation could be booked for a higher fee. The airport is 45kms from the city, so it’s a shame the flight arrives after dark, as you cannot see the beautiful scenery on the way into town.  However, I did enjoy the scenic trip on the return journey to the airport.

We stayed at the newly opened Chateau Royal Hotel, located on the beach at Anse Vata, set amidst tropical gardens and lawns.  Our room, which was actually a two room suite, had a full length balcony that could be accessed from both rooms, and the sweeping views across the bay could be seen from almost every part of the room. There was also a fully equipped kitchen, perfect for those wanting to try their hand at cooking some of the local produce.

Although the hotel is right on Anse Vata beach, there’s also a large swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees, ideal for relaxing in the sun.  The hotel is also famous for their spa, providing massages and every sort of beauty treatment one would expect.  With several restaurants and bars, the hotel offers everything for a perfect stay. 

Sandra Tiltman     PHOTOS:  John Pond

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CHEESE FESTIVAL AT LE MERIDIEN NOUMEA

May 20, 2013

P1160779 (Copier)Noumea will be putting cheese in the spotlight when one of New Caledonia’s finest hotels, Le Méridien Noumea, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the French Cheese Festival.

The Festival runs from Tuesday 28 May to Saturday 8 June 2013, excluding Sunday 2 and Monday 3 June.

Back by popular demand, the 2013 edition of the French Cheese Festival will see the return of Mr Gerard Poulard, “Maître Fromagier”, Cheese Master.

Le Méridien Noumea’s French Cheese Festival is an annual rendez-vous where New Caledonia’s gourmet community and visitors can discover and enjoy a collection of no less than 130 varieties of cheese.  Selected by Maitre Poulard, the cheeses would not normally be available anywhere but in France.

For over twenty years, Gerard Poulard has travelled throughout the French countryside to encounter its varied history and culture.   His knowledge of the origin of numerous cheeses is extensive.

Behind the cheese buffet and face to face with guests, Gerard Poulard knows that he only has few moments to seduce and convince.  Mr Poulard’s histories and anecdotes about France and its cheese makers are so vast, that he sometimes knows the name of the goat or cow from which the precious milk has been drawn, to make his exclusive annual selection of cheeses for Le Méridien’s cheese festival.

In addition to the cheese selection, which is explained and served by the Cheese Master, that takes place over dinner at the Hotel’s Le Sextant Restaurant from 7 pm to 10 pm, guests will also be able to enjoy a hot and cold “Parisian bistrot” buffet.

P1160777 (Copier)A sommelier will also be on hand to suggest the best French wines to accompany the cheese selection.

The 10th anniversary French Cheese Festival at Le Méridien Noumea provides a unique opportunity, for both the novice and the refined palate, to taste an unparalleled selection of cheeses.

The hotel has four dining choices, each with their own cuisine.

Surrounded by landscaped tropical gardens and overlooking Anse Vata Bay, not far from the town’s vibrant centre, Le Méridien Nouméa offers guests an extensive range of leisure and recreational activities, such as a wellness centre with beauty and massage treatments plus a steam room and sauna, as well as a large swimming pool, the hotel has direct access to the beach, where guests can enjoy windsurfing and snorkeling.

Noumea is only 2.5 hours flying time from Sydney, with daily services on Aircalin.

Sandra Tiltman 

Read my blogs at http://www.sandratblog.com and website www.talkingtravelwithsandrat.com also http://www.johnpond.com