A French Connection in l’île de Pins

Isle of PinesThe first thing we notice when we arrive at l’île de Pins? The water is blue. Retina searingly so! The second? Our daughter has a big thing for coconut. Big enough that we’re considering the need for some kind of tropical fruit rehab before she starts freebasing them.

While Sugarpuff slurps on the first of many, many coconuts, and Raffles does a lovely rendition of a song about a bunch of them, we get our bearings.

Boy on beach with coconuts

The pretty Pacific island, part of New Caledonia, is only 14 km wide and 18 km long, but it is surrounded by pretty beaches, swaying palms and massive Araucaria pines that grow up to 200 feet high. And while it all sounds rather idyllic, there are tough decisions to make, people.

I mean, do we stay at the Bay of Kuto with its kilometre long beach of pure white sand, still turquoise water and coconut trees?

Bay of Kuto, Isle of Pines

Or, do we walk the literally tens of metres to the Bay of Kanumera and its sacred rock, tropical fish, majestic turtles, more soft white sand and equally clear water?

 Bay of Kanumera, Isle of Pines

Do we snack on barbecued lobsters and escargot by the beach or scoff fresh fried banana fritters?

Escargot Buttery BBQ escagot on the Beach, ISle of Pines

Do we try the traditional feast dish, Bougna – taro roots, bananas, sweet potato and chicken wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground or do we just visit both beaches, kick our second stomachs into gear and eat the lot? With a side of grilled fish and golden chips? That would be a hell yeah!

Raffles digs into the escargot in New Caledonia

When we’re not stuffing our faces with the glorious food, collecting coconuts for our daughter, or coating ourselves in the $AU48 bottle of sunscreen we’d picked up in Noumea the day before (Noumea is a notoriously expensive city but, seriously, at that price this shit ought to be good enough to slather across the hole in the ozone layer and stop global warming), we learn that the island was named by Captain Cook – who foolishly just smiled and waved at it as he passed by instead of stopping off to lie on a towel with a couple of piña coladas. Then in the 1840s Christian missionaries passed through and, clearly more impressed with the cocktails, decided to stay.

A decade later the French arrived and got their Gallic on all over the place before deciding to make it France’s prettiest penal colony and shipped in a few thousand political prisoners (mostly members members and supporters of the short-lived 1871 revolutionary Paris Commune).

But that was then and today there is no sign of the Communards (who, unlike the 80’s band of the same name could leave them this way, and scarpered back to France). Of the roughly 2000 inhabitants still residing on the Isle of Pines, 95% are indigenous. And though Native Kanaks speak an unwritten language amongst themselves, French is still the official language.

Beyond Mr Eats World’s smattering of schoolboy French, our family’s skills in the Gallic tongue stretch only to ordering “un croissant” and talking about poo, but we find our mime skills come in very handy for communicating with the lovely locals. In fact, Raffles has barely dipped a toe in the ridiculously blue water when a couple of friendly local kids come and ask, in an extravagant combo of French and wild gesticulation, if he’ll play with them.

Raffles and pals in Isle of PInes

After interpretive dancing his happy accord, the three boys are off and leaping about in the water like old mates, language proving no barrier to a good time.

Raffles and friends.

Sugarpuff, between coconuts, also stumbles across some little locals and soon she and her BYO bestie, Johnny the Pineapple, are making some non-synthetic pals to play in the sand with.

Sugarpuff and pals on the beach

It is these moments that make travel so special. The making friends part that is, not my daughters peculiar attachment to a piece of plastic fruit.

Sugarpuff and Johnny

21 Comments on A French Connection in l’île de Pins

  1. Leah
    June 3, 2014 at 12:18 pm (10 years ago)

    $48 for sunscreen!!!!!
    I quite like your daughters plastic pineapple!

      June 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm (10 years ago)

      It was extortionate. We had to do the math twice because we thought we had it wrong! sadly not, and we had to suck it up as it was either that or sunburned kids.

      • Leah
        June 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm (10 years ago)

        I agree – it’s quite hard to not buy it when faced with the alternative. I’m going to check that I have a number of bottles when we go travelling next.

  2. Shelley @Travel-Stained
    June 3, 2014 at 6:34 pm (10 years ago)

    Gorgeous! Where is this beautiful little island exactly? I love how open kids are with each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if all us adults could play in the sand together too? 😉

      June 5, 2014 at 8:24 pm (10 years ago)

      It’s the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia. IT’s STUNNING! and yes I think teh world would be a much nicer place if we all could play this way

  3. Lisa @Raising Explorers
    June 3, 2014 at 10:35 pm (10 years ago)

    A-may-zing! Love the photos and Raffles’ willingness to try anything. What a spot! PS loved the Communards ref.

      June 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm (10 years ago)

      Thanks Lisa, was worried the Communards ref may fly over heads. I’m an 80’s gal. 🙂

  4. Louise
    June 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm (10 years ago)

    I so loved Isle de pines. Beautiful swimming and snorkeling, I just wished we had been able to stay a couple of days instead of a half day.

      June 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm (10 years ago)

      I agree. I’d love to stay a month!

      June 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm (10 years ago)

      Tell me about it. We nearly died. And yep, that pineapple is very well traveled indeed.

  5. Lydia C. Lee
    June 6, 2014 at 6:59 am (10 years ago)

    Such a beautiful island – we went many, many years ago (in fact, I think I was last there for the Chirac election, and all the pollies were out visiting…)
    And $48 for sunscreen? I now don’t feel so silly for bringing my own…

      June 7, 2014 at 8:35 am (10 years ago)

      IT is beautiful. Yes 48 was a bit rich for us. I know Noumea isn’t cheap but seriously I think they saw us coming! 😉

  6. Vicki @ Knocked Up and Abroad
    June 6, 2014 at 8:40 am (10 years ago)

    AH beeeeeaautiful!! Get me there now! Looks like you’re girl had the best time. I love nothing more than seeing kids play with the locals and having the best time discovering all the wonderful, unique things about a place.

    I won’t grizzle about the price of sunscreen here anymore : )

      June 7, 2014 at 8:37 am (10 years ago)

      They did have a wonderful time. I love that kids don’t see race or language as a barrier for exploration or friendship :-).

  7. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    June 6, 2014 at 11:01 am (10 years ago)

    Love the wee history lesson, and did you get there by cruise? That sunscreen, I’d be drinking it! 😉 okay maybe not that’s just silly.

      June 7, 2014 at 8:34 am (10 years ago)

      Thanks lovely, don’t know that I’ll be getting work as a historian anytime soon though ;P And yes we cruised in, just took me a while to post. SO behind on all our adventures. x

  8. Jody at Six Little Hearts
    June 6, 2014 at 11:20 am (10 years ago)

    Oh my God to absolutely everything!!!! I think I would rather burn than spend that cash on sunscreen!!

      June 7, 2014 at 8:32 am (10 years ago)

      I guess they saw us coming! 😉

  9. MrsD
    June 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm (10 years ago)

    God that Sugarpuff is cute!!!! The pineapple and the coconuts – too funny. Sounds like you had a very tough time on that island lovely, I don’t know how you coped???? Xxxx

      June 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm (10 years ago)

      What can I say Robyn, It was tough 😉


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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