French Polynesia (FP) is an overseas collectivity of France. It comprises about 118 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. You will probably recognize some of the more popular ones like Tahiti and Bora Bora. Its basically like the Hawaii of France. I have always been interested in French Language, and culture, so I was really looking forward to this trip. I was curious about the French language and French influence on the food of this tropical paradise that is almost 10,000 miles away from France.
It was difficult to plan this trip because COVID cases were rising in the islands as the departure date approached and they were announcing increasing restrictions daily on some of the islands like curfews, lockdowns etc. These are the difficulties in planning trips during COVID.
We flew United from YVR to SFO then SFO to Papeete, which is the capital and located on the island of Tahiti. Usually, I am one who likes to spend a few days in a capital to soak up the culture before heading to the more tropical part of a trip. However, in this case, I decided to only transit through the capital as lockdowns and curfews were going to make exploring difficult, and because there is a lack of nicer hotels on Tahiti as it is used mainly as a transit point to the other islands.
The original itinerary was to arrive in Tahiti and then spend a few days in the neighboring island of Moorea then on to Bora Bora before returning to Papeete for one night and day to explore the market at least (more on this later).
The main way to get from Tahiti to Moorea is by ferry. However, as our flight was landing in the evening, we would miss the last ferry. Therefore, I chartered a helicopter to take us from Tahiti to Moorea.
Unfortunately, upon landing in Papeete, I received a message that the helicopter could no longer make the journey due to weather, and the hotel in Moorea that had arranged this transport (The Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea), booked us a one night stay in Papeete at the Manava Suite Resort. This was frustrating as it introduced uncertainty after a long journey and I like having a plan and control over my itinerary.
Anyway, the Sofitel arranged for a driver to take us to the Manava. Upon arrival, the hotel at first said they did not have room for us, which would of been a disaster, and then figured things out with the Sofitel. It was still uncertain how we would get to Moorea the next day and the driver promised to coordinate with the Sofitel and update us in the morning. Ferry or private boat; morning or afternoon? More uncertainty and not a good start to the trip.
Another issue is that the curfew in Papeete was at 9PM and we got into our room at 8PM. There was a local BBQ place across the street, and usually I would of been excited to drop my bags and begin exploring ASAP, but due to all the previous issues plus the curfew, we decided to just stay in the room. I did some work and then off to bed without seeing anything one would want to see in FP (any water let alone crystal blue water, local food, sand etc). The best way to describe the feeling on the first day is the saying “so close, yet still so far”!
The room we got at the Manava was a suite with a kitchen. It was clean enough though did not have a luxurious feel to it and was a bit dated and maybe a bit musty. So that was Day 1 in French Polynesia. Probably the most disappointing start to a trip ever. Stayed tuned for Day 2…