Because Moorea is so close to Tahiti, the M/s Paul Gauguin had already docked there the night before we were to disembark. We disembarked on Saturday morning, May 8th, to an overcast port.

Our luggage was already waiting underneath some tarp. It had rained the night before, and as we waited outside for our transportation to a day room at the Radisson, the sky opened up and large drops of rain drove against us sideways. The side of the tarp blew open and luggage on the edge were instantly drenched. I was impressed by some ship boys, on their way to town for some rare free time, who came running back to the tarp and hussled to resecure the tarp and protect the luggage. They moved luggage around to bring them into some protection, and climbed large metal bins to refasten the ropes that held the flapping shelter together. Soon our shuttle to the Radisson came and we jumped in.
Tahiti is very different from the other islands. It’s been built on and commercialized, like a downtown city. Highrises, street vendors, shops, restaurants, banks, traffic, concrete, paved roads. I didn’t think to take photos on the car ride there because it was so dirty and unattractive to me. We did pass something interesting, tho — something that looked like a carnival or county fair with many people attending. “What’s that?” we asked our shuttle driver. She said it was a biannual street mart. We, along with another couple who was on the shuttle, decided to taxi back and visit this street mart for cheap souvenirs. First we checked into the Radisson.

What a day room is, is a hotel room given you only for the day and not for overnight. Our ship kicks us out at 10am, our flight leaves at midnight, so what were we to do in the meantime? Our travel agent arranged for us a room where we can keep our stuff, take a shower and a nap, hang out by a pool, etc. But check-in was at 2pm so we just let them hold our luggage and asked the front desk to call us a cab to take us back to the street fair.
Here was where things got weird. The receptionist seemed genuinely unaware of what event we were speaking of, but said the cab drivers should know the city well enough to know. She described the affair to them, and told us the cab knew what we were talking about, and that they’d be here to pick us up. When the driver got here, she didn’t know what street fair we were talking about and called her manager on her cell phone. They spoke in whatever language Tahitians speak, and then she passed us the phone, saying, “My boss want to talk to you, he speak English.” I heard Mr. W describe the affair, and then pass the phone back to the driver. The driver spoke to her boss a bit more, then hung up. Mr. W said the boss said that the street fair was really a public real estate convention, and that if we wanted shopping, then the place to go was all the way back to Papeete at the dock. When we’d driven by the fair, there were way too many people attending, and people bringing kids, to look like a real estate convention. Also, going all the way back to Papeete was 3000 Francs, whereas where we wanted to go was halfway, so it would’ve been only 1500 Francs, but we consented, figuring they knew better. The taxi took a turn to go on a street parallel to where we knew the street fair to be, and we never drove by it. We think she was instructed to bypass it for more fare money. Anyway, she dropped us off in a ghetto open-air market and we did end up buying souvenirs and random stuff. It’s remarkable how a place like that in the US would be selling dollar items, and in Tahiti, everything was still $20+. A keychain ran $15. Crazy. A vendor in a booth took pity on me when I bought souvenir keychains for my coworkers, and gave some money back to me, so I still walked with a great deal, considering. We took another cab back and that driver took us on the same route as the shuttle earlier that morning, and we went right by the street fair. We saw bouncer houses, kids with packaged toys in their hands, people eating cotton candy, etc. It was SO not a real estate convention!! But at least when we went back, we were able to check into our awesome room.

We had an ocean view room. Straight ahead is a separate HOT TUB room. The slats on the walls open up and you’re on the balcony with the ocean waves crashing behind you.

This is the giant bed.

The bathroom was pretty awesome, too.

When I took this photo from the balcony (which was so big it was really a terrace), Mr. W was in the hot tub next to me watching me thru the slats.

Here’s the view from the patio table on the terrace. I couldn’t get a good shot of how close the ocean was, tho.

So I walked to the edge of the terrace and took another shot.

Kids were playing on the surf and boogie boarding. Mr. W watched for a bit from the terrace before turning around and realizing that he was mooning everyone in the rooms above us, who were on their balconies looking down at our terrace.

We passed the time checking out the pool bar, exploring the hotel shops, watching TV, eating $24 paninis (everything was overpriced! we were so glad we had the cruise cuz we couldn’t afford to vacation on our own there), and soon it was time to meet our shuttle to take us to the airport. The shuttle driver (who had greeted us upon arrival with fresh flower leis to take us to the ship) put shell leis on us. “We say hello with flowers, and goodbye with shells,” she explained. My shell lei was itchy in the humidity, and it still rained off and on. Our flight ended up being almost 2 hours delayed and we didn’t board our 11:55p flight until almost 2am.
I love Air Tahiti Nui, tho…they feed you such great hot meals on their flights. I still didn’t take advantage of the free alcohol. Mr. W bounced away from his seat next to me into an empty center row before people had even finished boarding, more eager to lay down than to spend time next to me. 🙁 But that means that once again, I had the two-seat window seat to myself, and I controlled both TVs. I kept one on a movie, the other on our flight progress.

8.5 hours later, we were passing over Catalina Island near home.

When things go gray and ugly, that’s how you know you’re in LA.

I snapped this cuz the building border reads “Welcome to Los Angeles.”

Here we are, landing at LAX just past noon. It was FREEZING in the mid-70s, we were so used to a constant muggy 85F degrees, day or night.

Yay. We’re home. What a contrast. At least Mr. W climbed over and sat with me when we started our descent, so I didn’t feel quite so abandoned by French Polynesia.