Noumea, New Caledonia
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Back in the days when European countries were establishing colonies all over the globe, the standard reason for territory-grabbing was riches: gold, silver, cumin. The French took a different approach. They grabbed what was pretty and proceeded to teach the locals how to bake outstanding baguettes. In fact, once they'd gained a foothold, they ignored the palm trees, the lagoons, the beautiful sharp mountains, and began creating mini-Frances wherever they could.
Nouméa is a French city with Polynesian accents, cooled by ocean breezes and set among tropical flowers the size of dinner plates. With one of the healthiest reef systems left on earth, the island’s lagoons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hold more than 9,000 species of fish and marine life. The Kanaks, the native people to whom the French first gave cooking lessons, already lived lives rich with fish, taro and coconuts fresh from the tree. And, although the two cultures didn’t always get along, they agreed on one thing: Stick with the prettiest real estate you can find.