Foire du Pacifique: The biggest event of the year
These last 4 days, Nouméa saw its “biggest event of the year”, the Pacific Fair (la Foire du Pacifique): a great big fair with 160 stands from all over the Pacific region, including Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Wallis and Fortuna, and Fiji (the guest of honour). Live shows, music and excellent weather cajoled participants into festive moods and wide smiles. This being only its second year, and following on the wild success of its 2011 parent, thousands of people were expected to attend (26,000 attended last year). (We’ll know the numbers tomorrow when the final count is tallied for this year’s fair.)
As it was just down the street from us (everything seems just down the street from us; it is amazing to me, coming from a major city where it took at least 30 minutes to get anywhere, really), we couldn’t not go. We arrived on the last day for a wonderful afternoon of Tahitian dances (pictured above) and visits to a host of interesting stands. It was very family-friendly, with a free childcare area, interesting stands for the whole family and food and refreshments available as needed. The stands were well-organised, on a whole host of themes: home, environment, leisure and tourism, regional produce and specialties.
My favourite area was the local artisans area where we discovered an interesting drink: freshly squeezed sugar cane juice mixed with freshly squeezed orange juice. We first noticed it when my husband pointed out a man putting what looked like a stick into a juicer. And it was a stick, or cane, indeed.
We couldn’t believe it. The people standing around the stall said the drink was delicious. We stopped and stared and listened to “Phil” talk about the drink, how he had started up his business a year ago, how he loved his product. He said, “I could be selling Coke or Pepsi, but I won’t. This is a good, local product and I believe in it. I wouldn’t stand here in this fair selling Coca Cola if you paid me. This product is so much better.”
He explained how the juicer worked, how he gets his sugar cane, how good the drink is (in small quantities) for children. Our son was mesmerised. And so were we! Of course we had to taste it – and they were right! It was delicious.
We then stumbled onto another interesting stall where a woman was fitting bits of plastic together to form lampshades. Original-looking, she explained that in fact these lampshades have been around for 40 years – and originated in Denmark. She is the only one in New Caledonia to be selling them, though (and she hopes it stays that way!).
Pablo loved them. Loved them. So she made one for him on the spot for his room.
I thought I’d never seen him so happy – to have something made especially for him, in front of his very eyes.
The fair had something for everyone. We visited the Vanuatu stand to learn about visiting it in the months/year to come. An island archipelago about 4 hours away by plane, it has an active volcano and, we’re told, is a very interesting place to visit. I don’t know that I’ll be able to cope with standing on an active volcano (with no security – so right up to the edge you can go) that is moving under my feet and filling my ears with explosions, but I hear it is truly extraordinary, and not something we’ll ever forget. So, we have lots of information about visiting the various islands of Vanuatu and time to think about it.
To end our afternoon, we visited the plant stands. I used to have a fair few plants in Paris and miss gardening (even if it is only balcony gardening) quite a bit. We’ve planted tomatoes and zinnias on our balcony, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Imagine how happy I was to find baobab-looking flowering plants and hanging orchids (in addition to palms and endemic plants).
So we splurged on a few “new family members” and trundled back up the hill with our treasures and memories of our first Pacific Fair, smiling widely at our good fortune.
If you get a chance to visit the fair while you are here (if you are here next year, of course), do take a few hours to go. It is well worth it!