New Caledonia: Flashback, French Boys, Beaches and Baguettes

1977 was the year we heard the sounds of Abba, Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Bee Gees and Hot Chocolate…. you sexy thing…

We watched Charlie’s Angels, Mash and Roots on TV.  We danced a funny kind of disco dancing inspired by Saturday Night Fever.  We tried to look like Farrah Fawcet and wanted to smell like Opium a new kind of perfume. Around the world we read Elvis Presley had died, the World Trade Centre is completed and the New York Yankees are champions of the world.

And last but not least – The first Apple Computer goes on sale. (although I admit I knew nothing about what a computer might do for me in those days)

But – I was thinking about french boys, beaches and baguettes.

 School Trip to the Beaches of New Caledonia

Where were you in 1977? 

I was a young teenager still in school and learning French when I learned about a ‘school’ trip to New Caledonia. I was already dreaming about white sand beaches and gorgeous french boys. I had an afterschool job in a local café and had been saving madly to buy a car. I had $700 dollars in the bank.  The trip to New Caledonia costs $700.  Dilemma – should I spend my $700 going to Noumea or should I continue with my plan to buy a car. That $700 was for flights from the bottom of New Zealand all the way to New Caledonia, 2 weeks accommodation and all meals and entertainment.

Of course you know the answer don’t you, I ended up going to Noumea to supposedly to practice the French that I had learned at school.  Apart from some shy bonjours, comment allez-vous, and merci there was more interest in the French boys than anything to do with the language. I wish I had paid more attention!  – to the language that is.

Noumea School Trip 1977

35 years ago these 1970’s teenagers ventured to New Caledonia

Our bunch of mostly girls embarked on their first overseas experience.  Yep we call it ‘overseas’ not ‘abroad’, I think maybe the vast ocean that surrounds New Zealand is why we say over seas?  I think I even went overseas before my parents.

We stayed at the sultry seaside beach of Anse Vata in a funny old motel by the same name. I googled Anse Vata motel today, I find it’s still there and was actually built in 1972 so actually pretty new when we were there. We grazed most of the time on the famous french baguette and croissants, of course washed down with some pastis which we took quite a liking to.  A few metres away was a posher hotel which we decided had a better swimming pool than ours, we naughty teenagers frequented there and this is where we were introduced to Pastis, that famous French aperitif (yes and far too young to even been drinking!) and a few nice French boys.

Anse Vata Motels

This is the motel where we stayed a few metres from the famous Anse Vata Beach

Anse Vata Beach New Caledonia

I think his name was Phillipe – very french

Anse Vata Beach New Caledonia

My friend Phillipa and I think this dude was Georges

And these were the days when ‘duty free’ was really duty free which meant you could score really good cheap stuff.  I have to admit I was a bit of a shopper in those days and Duty Free was part of the appeal of going overseas. A girl needed an upgrade from the Kodak box brownie I had been using. Aptly named for its market the Olympus ‘Trip’ 35 camera was described as a compact point and shoot functional camera for trips!  I think it’s pretty clear by these shocking photos that this budding photographer was still budding!  I had no clue how to operate this new camera.

It was the days of funny old suitcases and handbags and of course a girl needs new clothes for such a trip. I had made myself a pretty new A line skirt, a brown striped body shirt and rope sandals for the trip. Just gorgeous – not.  Any sort of backpack would be unheard of, as every trip you took usually came with a complimentary airline cabin bag. Our airline was NAC and we flew in Frienships, Viscounts and DC10’s and take a look at these cool uniforms of the air hostesses.

Short bright coloured dresses and skirts were all the rage

Although B & W photo these uniforms were vibrant, fun, bold and colourful, reflecting the age of liberalisation.

There was no such communication devices of today, we had film in our cameras, we sent handwritten postcards home and of course there was no cellphone let alone a smart one!

He came all the way home with me from Noumea in 1977

He came all the way home with me from Noumea in 1977

It was my first intro to the outside world and while I could have learned more than boys and baguettes, it didn’t stop there. I caught some sort of life long bug  – called  ‘wanna travel all the time’.

Thankfully I’m working on an amazing cure for this… coming very soon.

Oh and did I say that my life partner Des is of french descent…

and I have lots more to tell you.

Hang in there and thanks for reading.

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