French, French, everything French! It took just one day at sea to get to New Caledonia from Fiji. It is a French territory, and its main island is Grande Terre, the Big Island. The first Europeans to establish a settlement here were the British, in 1851. But the French asserted control of the island just three years later. It served as a penal colony at first, then was exploited for its nickel and gold mining. In fact, St. Joseph Cathedral was built with the labor of convicts. During World War II, Noumea served as the headquarters of the US military in the South Pacific.
Due to the threat of rain, we did not get a chance to visit one of the many white sand beaches overlooked by coconut trees, which we saw when we researched photos of this island. We stayed in the town of Noumea, so these photos only reflect a limited visit. We will be back in January, and we are hoping that nicer weather will prevail then. We have a photo of the harbor, a huge banyan tree, the entrance portal to Chinatown (in French, of course!), the fountain in Coconut Palm Square, a statue of Joan of Arc, and a dinosaur in a play area with a gorgeous blossoming tree. The last photo is the inside of the cathedral, whose construction was begun by convicts, taking 20 years to complete. We were surprised that Saturday “night” Mass was starting at 3 pm, as in most churches, it is usually later. So the church was filling with people, and it was very pretty inside.