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French Polynesia: Tahiti and Moorea

Wednesday, December 31st 2014

The much awaited flight to Tahiti and our long wait for the vacation to begin was finally upon us at nearly midnight on Tuesday, December 30th in the LAX airport…and luckily we had a half empty flight.  I was really very comfortable on the flight with pillows, blankets, free movies and both a late dinner with a highlight of chocolate mousse and a great breakfast served at 3:30am PST of quiche, yogurt, fruit, croissant and coffee provided to us from the wonderfully dressed folk of Air Tahiti Nui.  We landed in Tahiti on time and were greeted with Polynesian dance and music.  We found our luggage and a taxi to our resort, the Manava Suites in Papeete.  Note:  taxis are super expensive in Tahiti, for our 8 minute taxi ride it cost $35 dollars.

Fortunately, we were able to check in to our room right away, even though it was only about 6am.  We changed immediately into beach attire and set out to the pool and beach.  The beach is not large but the water is beautiful and the infinity pool is lovely!  The water is warm and the air is as well.  Our room was spacious with even a kitchenette, seating area, shower and tub and garden terrace, which we often enjoyed. 

We wanted to explore the area a bit, learn what is in walking distance and get some goods for the week so we set out on foot from the hotel.  We discovered some public parks, grocery stores, eateries, and the nicest McDonald’s ever.  We grabbed lunch outside their large grocery store, Carrefour.  We shared the Poulet Frites (everything is influenced by the French) and an interesting salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, dried banana, apples and raisins.  We ate in the little café seating and I do say that it was very good.  The chicken was delicious and was served with a great au jus, the fries crisp and the salad nice and refreshing.  We finished our excursion by picking up provisions from a smaller grocery store (the large one was too chaotic for us), taking a dip in the McDonald’s beach (!), and buying a fresh mahi mahi steak from the fishery near our resort for a killer deal of $3.50.  By the time we returned we were already mighty sunburnt and it was not even 1pm. 

We were both dripping of sweat from our walk so we immediately hit the beach to swim and snorkel.  We saw some fish, coral, and a sea urchin and then moved to the infinity pool.  Bryan had to try the local Hinano beer which he did at the swim up pool bar, which tasted like a Pacifico or Presidente.  Around 3pm we moved inside to research excursions, drink mighty tasty pina coladas that we made with our rum and pineapple coconut water that we picked up at the store and then finally take a much needed nap. 

Pinas!!!!!!
Pinas!!!!!!

We both slept for three hours before we were awoken by the Marae music and dance starting up for the New Year’s Eve festivities at 9pm.  I somehow managed to get myself awake, made dinner of pan-fried mahi mahi with ratatouille vegetables and chicken pot stickers for Bryan and I to eat on our terrace and catch the music and dance.  Bryan fell fast asleep again, deep into recovery for the sunburn and I didn’t last until midnight.  Here’s to 2015!  What a fantastic 2014!

Thursday, January 1st 2015

After getting a great night of sleep, Bryan and I woke up at the early hour of 6:45 to attempt to make it to the ferry dock in town by 8:40 by foot.  After walking an hour, we gave up and flagged down a taxi.  Good thing we did.  We made it to the Aremiti ferry in time for our trip over to Moorea.  It was a very smooth and pleasant hour long ferry, sitting on the open air top deck eating our strawberry yogurt and bananas.  We found what we were looking for pretty quickly just across from the ferry dock once on land; a scooter rental.  For $60 we got a 150cc scooter for the full day, me being the signed driver. 

There is essentially only one road on Moorea that circles the entire island.  Our plan was to ride around the whole island, stopping at any beaches or pit stops of our choosing along the way.  We took the one inland road up to the mountain peak of Belvedere which offered great views of Cooks Bay and D’opunohu Bay and a short hike into the lush growth and creeks of the island.  After this fun detour we were eager for lunch.  However, being a national holiday hardly anything was open making this rather tricky.  We stopped at three different restaurants on our drive that were open but very pricy and not suiting our fancy.  By some miracle, a nameless restaurant with tables perched on the beach was open, really the last open restaurant before the 2nd half of the ride on the island. 

First beach stop on Moorea.
First beach stop on Moorea.
Driving up to Belvedere.
Driving up to Belvedere.
On top of Belvedere.
On top of Belvedere.

The owner explained the short menu to us in English and we placed our order of the cold plate for two with him and then picked a table with umbrella right along the beach.  It was so nice to sit with our toes in the sand, sipping our sodas, and taking in the sights of the water.  When our large platter was brought out to us we were both in heaven.  We were presented with tuna carpaccio, two types of tuna tartare, salad with pineapple, rice, and fried plantains.  We devoured the plate and were insanely satisfied and full.  This lunch was a major score.  The beach was so nice we decided to stay and swim and snorkel.  The sun was out and like usual, hot!

Best meal of the trip.
Best meal of the trip.

We hopped back on the bike to finish our ride around the island.  Every road was along the water and lined with tropical plants, flowers and coconut trees.  It was truly beautiful and tropical.  We quite enjoyed seeing the way the locals live and especially how they kick back on their holidays with their family and friends.  We dropped our scooter back off and hopped on the one return ferry to Papeete.  When we disembarked we spent a bit of time walking the downtown.  The city is actually very beautiful, clean, and has a lot of charm.  The harbor is also really large and has a nice path that we strolled along.  Absolutely nothing was open so we grabbed a taxi back towards a resort.  We stopped first for baguette and nutella at our grocer again.  We made it back to the room around 6:30 and were pretty exhausted.  After showers we fixed ourselves strong drinks and I made us egg, tomato, and serrano ham sandwiches.  It wasn’t very late before we were both fast asleep from the busy day, all of the sunshine, multiple swims, and breeze on the return ferry trip.  Great and busy day that was not cheap but a whole lot of fun and definitely offered us the best peek into the Polynesian culture that we got to see while in Tahiti

Friday, January 2nd 2015

After we were not able to book the catamaran trip that we wanted to do, we declared this last day in Tahiti to be a purely relaxing day.  We slept in for the first time, made some eggs, toast and nutella for breakfast and then hit the pool where it was already very hot and the sun was high.  We soaked in the pool for a long time before moving to the dock over the ocean that offered some shaded trees.  There was also an awesome breeze to help keep us comfortable.  Around two we started making drinks, fixed a snack of the remaining pot stickers and laid and watched the boat traffic, surfers, and the pleasant beach music coming from one of the boats.

Beautiful view from our chaises.
Beautiful view from our chaises.
Nalgene #2
Nalgene #2

By 6pm we had finished an entire Nalgene of pina colada and an entire Nalgene of margarita and feeling very nice.  We showered and took a short nap.  We had seen one of the roulettes, food truck setups, the night before and had planned to check it out for dinner.  It was a very short walk from the resort and was packed with locals.  There were two trucks; one a grill and one a pizzeria.  We chose the grill and sat at their cute plastic tables fixed up with menus and tablecloths.  We decided to try their Royal Platter which had a variety of things to sample.  For only $17 we were brought a huge platter of grilled steak, grilled steak kebabs, shrimp kebabs, chicken, green beans, French fries and tuna tartare.   Everything was well cooked and delicious.  I can definitely understand why so many locals eat here but I cannot understand why anyone would eat at the resort for 3x more.  This was our last night in Tahiti and we had an early flight in the morning to pack for.

I really enjoyed the relaxing time we had while on the island.  I think Bryan and I did it right with exploring Moorea, indulging in one lazy day and with all our dining and cooking choices to save a little cash.  We’d like to come back some day by boat and visit more of the islands and especially Bora Bora.

Next is New Zealand…

Chelsea

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