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The Pearl of Moorea Part One: Getting there
Travel, when done right, is an active, engaging adventure during which every day reveals something new and exciting.
But every once in a while, travel is nothing more than a well deserved excuse to escape from the real world and do absolutely nothing. And this is exactly the way I usually feel at the end of the calendar year when I'm burnt out, overworked, and in desperate need of reinvigoration.
And so, my girlfriend and I headed to the South Pacific this last Christmas vacation for some well deserved R & R.
I wasn't sure we would actually get there because I had waited too long to book anything and when my girlfriend started calling around in mid-December, a few travel agents actually laughed at her.
And then we found a gem. Laurel from True Tahiti Vacations took on the challenge and in less than a day, had done a phenomenal job of putting together the perfect package for our one-week escape to the Tahitian island of Moorea. She pulled off a minor miracle in the middle of high season and did everything imaginable for us-even offering the professional services of her husband, a local tattoo artist on Moorea who practices his art in the traditional Tahitian manner: with a wooden tapping stick and needles made of shark's teeth. And don't worry mom, this was one souvenir we both passed on.
The South Pacific is a surprisingly easy place to reach from the West Coast of America. A direct flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti is only eight hours and, if planned properly, can be arranged as a red eye. All you have to do is fall asleep on the tarmac and when you awake, you're in paradise.
Our flight was a little less convenient, but not too bad. We left Los Angeles at 7 p.m. on Christmas night and arrived to balmy Papeete weather at 1:00 in the morning. It was my first time on Air Tahiti Nui and I was mostly impressed: we were treated to friendly service and were able to each enjoy our personal video screens-a huge plus in my book for any airline these days. The food, however, was a sad foreshadowing of what to expect once we arrived in Tahiti. The evening meal was sub par, but the snack they served before landing just might have been the worst food I've ever had on an airline, and I've flown Aeroflot. I'm not sure what whacked out cook thought he could prepare a quesadilla in a plane microwave, but the end product tasted like coagulated lard mushed between burnt sheets of wallpaper. Ugh!
Since most international flights land in Papeete, on the main island of Tahiti, those traveling onwards to Moorea, Bora Bora, or any of the other paradisiacal islands of French Polynesia usually have a bit of a layover before their final destination.
Since we arrived at the unfortunate hour of 1:00 in the morning, our travel agent booked us a room at the Radisson so that we wouldn't have to wait in the airport for the remainder of the night. This was a great call. Although it took 20 long minutes to reach the hotel, when we finally arrived, all the stress of travel and the toil of a busy life back home miraculously dissipated the moment we walked through the door of our room and into a South Pacific-themed, zen-like oasis. I really hadn't expected much from the Radisson, and was therefore quite surprised at the quality of the room.
The only problem was having to wake up five hours later.
I had made sure to stay awake the entire flight so that I'd be on Tahitian time when I arrived and would then go promptly to bed. This was a great plan until I learned that we were booked for the 9 a.m. ferry the next day. This meant waking up at 7 a.m. to get breakfast, meet our driver, and head on over to the docks. This was horrible. DO NOT do this. Sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then catch the noon ferry or a later flight. Your body will thank you for it.
Although the flight to Moorea is only ten minutes, the hour-long ferry is actually a more enjoyable way, in my opinion, to get to the island. Just be sure to sit at the front of the boat and gaze out as the most luscious, green island you could ever imagine slowly grows larger and larger on the horizon until it completely dominates your view.
And that's when you know you've finally made it.
Personally, I couldn't help but think of the magical island in Lost and was filled with anticipation as I looked forward to being stranded here for the next seven days.
Tomorrow: The Resort