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Papeete Tahiti August 29, 2004 Español

Posted by Belle in : Tahiti, French Polynesia

We loved Papeete. All the guidebooks we read slammed the place, but we were fascinated and completely content staying there for a week. We decided if we were going to THE CITY of French Polynesia, we might as well stay in the city rather than go to one of the fancier yacht clubs on the outskirts of town. Wences found a marina that was literally right in the center of town. I couldn’t have been happier.

We arrived on a Sunday, late in the afternoon. Everything was closed. Yvan from the boat FENAMBULE helped us with our lines when we arrived. We had run into him and his wife Corinne in Panama and Hiva Oa. Yvan told us there was a pretty bad theft problem for the boats docked in this marina. That to be safe we should always leave somebody on the boat during the day and at night to pull the boat far enough away from the side that nobody could get on board. The second night we were in Papeete there was a robbery two boats down from ours. Someone had broken into the boat while they were sleeping. Apparently it was the second time that boat had been robbed in this marina. They left immediately. We made sure we were very far from the marina at night. And I’m a pretty light sleeper, so I was always walking around, doing an occasional karate kick so they knew, they better not mess with me. I have memorized the how-to-kick-ass scene from the Karate Kid. Wax on. Wax off. Paint the fence, etc. I’m basically a black belt in Karate Kid.

On Monday morning, the street that had been all closed up and dead Sunday night was whirring with cars and pedestrians. One street was overflowing with cafes. Yipee! I love cafes. It was so nice to be able to just cross the street and get a great café au lait with some fresh pineapple juice and a croissant. We took Dio to lunch a couple of times and discovered he loves quiche and ice cream sundaes. It was his first one. As he wolfed down the icecream, careful not to miss any of the chocolate sauce, he kept looking at me like, WOW! This is amazing! Why have you been keeping this from me! At night we often went to this fun park near us where all these little stands would appear after 6PM with all kids of food. A lot of Chinese, but we found everything. Very good poisson cru, fish with ginger sauce. Dio, who loves to eat, was so much more interested in all of the kids running around that he would usually have a light supper and demand to be let loose. The kid can walk pretty fast now. He loves being chased, so he walks as fast as he can almost all the time. He was fascinated with a boy wearing rollerblades and a girl on a little scooter. When a live performance started up, he was mesmerized.

Since we stayed in Papeete for a while, it gave us a chance to spend more time with other boats we keep bumping into. There is Yvan and Corinne, the very sweet French couple who are in their thirties, left France a year ago and plan to sail another year before they return back to their lives as an jet engine engineer and dermatologist. Corinne gave Sophia some medicine for a reaction she was having to the sun and gave Dio some super duper sun block. At first I thought Corinne and Yvan didn’t want to have much to do with us, but after Wence invited them over for a drink, I realized they were just shy like me. And how great that we know them now. Corinne gave us a small water color if Hiva Oa that’s beautiful! Perfect size for a boat. And I had been looking for one! Wence also invited a nice Norwegian family over that we had seen in Hiva Oa. They are also in the middle of a two year cruising trip. There girl Sarah is doing school on the boat with her parents and loving it. She speaks English very well, a little French, and I assume Norwegian. The father loves to talk. We would always see him talking to someone, and his wife and daughter waiting. It was no different when they came to our boat. He kept trying to get off the boat, his wife and daughter waiting patiently for at least ten minutes, but he just can’t stop talking. Finally, they left and he had no idea which way they went. “It happens all the time,” he said. We thought it was pretty funny. The mother loved Dio and was very sweet. I wished I could speak Norwegian! But, I better stick to learning Spanish first!

One night Wence took me to see a wonderful Tahitian dance performance. The costumes were amazing. They must have changed their costumes every five minutes. The performance lasted an hour with no intermission. It was so athletic, I thought they were all going to drop dead by the end because these dances require almost everyone on the stage at the same time. Sometimes the women would dance, then the men, then they would dance together. The women all had long black hair (or pretty good wigs) and had flowers all over them. We have not seen too many beautiful French Polynesians, but every person on that stage was at least attractive if not drop dead gorgeous. All of the dances were obviously about sex and seduction, a pelvic thrust can only mean so many things, in any language, but the way the dancers were, the energy was not lusty, dirty, seedy, it was happy, beautiful, and innocent. It was very refreshing to see. I guess these dances had been a part of their culture, as well as an abundance of sex, pre European invasion. Eventually the Catholic church brought VD, Syphillis, and guilt, and forbid these dances and changed the way they saw sex etc. It has only been in the last ten years the French Polynesians have been rediscovering and celebrating their culture. It was amazing that this performance seemed to so capture the spirit that we had read about.

Another night wence and I went on a date to a cute little French restaurant just off the main drag. Halfway through dinner wence said he was not feeling very well so we asked if we could get it to go. It seemed that the waitress had never been asked that before. She was nice enough, though. She disappeared for quite some time and we were really ready to go without the food when the maitre “˜ d came to inform us there had been some mistake and the chef had accidentally thrown the food out, so sorry, he said. We were pretty sure it was no accident. That was a polite way to tell us they don’t do doggie bags. Two nights later we went to the same restaurant with Glenn. He ordered a shellfish plate. The waiter answered in his pretty good English, that is raw fish. We’ve been eating sushi on the boat now for four months, so it was funny to think that anybody might think that any one of us would object to raw fish. We assured him it would be OK, we knew what we were getting into. As we were finishing up our appetizers, the maitre “˜ d came by and looked nervously at Glenn’s smoked salmon pate. He had only eaten half of it. “Is there something wrong with the pate?” He asked. “No, I’m just saving room for my main course.” The maitre “˜ d shook his head, momentarily speechless. “Please, eat the pate, share it with your friends, hide it under the bread plate, but do not make me take that plate back to the chef like that!” I started laughing hysterically. I had forgotten how crazy chefs are and how the good ones always inspect the plates when they come off the table, to see what people are liking and not liking. We immediately helped Glenn finish. I was already full. When the maire d’ brought me my steak, I knew I was in for it. First of all, the thing was humongous. French portions are supposed to be small for chrissake, this thing was bigger than any steak I had ever had, and although I had asked for it medium rare, it was bloody. I ate as much as I could. At least three fourths of the steak remained. I couldn’t eat anymore. The Maitre d’ saw I had stopped eating and came over, eyeing me suspiciously. “I can’t eat anymore. I’m sorry.” I said in my best French. “Oh LALA!” The maitre’d zoomed in, picked up my plate and stomped off towards the kitchen. I wondered if he was going to dump the steak in the bathroom or give it to someone, hide it, do something. But he just disappeared. Thank God, I thought to myself. Five minutes later a waitress came back with my steak. Was I dreaming? NO. They had decided, that the reason I could not eat anymore was because it was too raw and they know foreigners don’t like meat bloody. So, voila! When I started explaining that was not the problem, the maitre d’ looked at me and said, with a sense of urgency, “Please, do your best. I cannot take your plate back looking like that.” Glenn and Wence took two big bites each, but that was all they would take. I couldn’t believe it, I was stuck. Every five minutes or so, the maitre d’ would come back and inspect my plate. He would shake his head and say, “No, not enough.” When he saw I was about to pass out, he offered me a free coffee. My God. I really am going to have to eat this whole thing. I looked longingly at the table behind us that had a huge plant next to it. Why couldn’t we be sitting there. My steak would already be part of that plant by now. The napkin was too small the get enough to the bathroom and all of the sudden I was so afraid of running into the chef, with a napkin filled with steak, that I knew I couldn’t get rid of it that way. Finally, after I really had eaten a fair amount, I chopped up almost all the rest and hid it in the béarnaise sauce cup. Luckily, it was pretty big. The only thing that was left was huge chunks of fat. If they made me eat that, I was going to be sick. All of the sudden getting sick didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Imagine the relief! The maitre “˜d came over and saw my plate. “Put it on the butter plate.” I put the big slabs of fat on the butter plate and he immediately flipped that over onto my plate upside down. You could not tell there was any meat underneath. “OK. You can be done!” We never went back to that place, but if we had, I planned to bring Tupperware!

The last two days we got to spend some time with Lloyd and Fiona again from Deep Blue. They’re a really great English couple that we hung out with at the Tuamotos. We all went to Carre Four together and did a major provisioning. Two overflowing carts of juice, cheese, cereal, diapers, everything we had been missing. Carre Four is the greatest super market chain I’ve ever been to. It not only has everything, like WalMart, but the quality is great. At least of the food. I was so happy we were able to do that. It would make our time in Moorea and Bora Bora easier. Provisioning can take up a lot of time and we wanted to have more time to enjoy Moorea and Bora Bora without having to do a big provisioning.