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  • Writer's pictureCarol McKee

Paradise on earth - French Polynesia part two

Picture yourself in French Polynesia on a brilliantly sunny morning. Your ship, The Paul Gauguin, is at anchor in the waters off the island of Taha’a. You step out onto your private balcony aboard to a balmy breeze and view the almost uninhabited Island, with its carpet of greenery, rising out of a cerulean sea. Just offshore lies Motu Mahana, , where you’ll spend a day doing exactly as you please.

Go for a swim in the clear blue waters. Snorkel with colorful tropical fish among the green and purple blooms of coral. Or paddle out farther on one of the kayaks that have been brought to shore from ship’s water-sports marina. Ashore, you might engage in a game of volleyball or watch as your ship's Tahitian hosts, demonstrate how to open a coconut or tie a pareo. Perhaps you’ll treat yourself to an over-water massage. And when the time comes for refreshments, delight in a sumptuous barbecue feast—complete with cocktails from our floating bar. And all this is included in your cruise fare. This island beach day is one of the favorite stops for many of the guests lucky enough to have this on their cruise itinerary.

In the evening you can catch a show after dinner either on your ship or at your hotel is you stay a few days after the cruise. The dance and music shows, often held on the beach if the weather is clear, may be staged for the tourists but they are not your typical touristy schmaltz. Instead you can feel the pride and the passion of the culture shine through. You can well imagine that when French explorers found the shores of these islands that they were shocked by the culture they found. These islands are still in fact a part of France and that influence can still be felt today - in the primary language of French, the influence on the food and the integration of two very different cultures melded into to one, making for something truly unique in the world.

French Polynesia offers an idyllic place for a vacation. You might think that the sun, the sand, the sea and the scenery are the key attractions of this place. And you are not wrong - at least for the first time visitor. But the thing that struck me most about our visit was how happy the people we met seemed to be.

Music was everywhere - families singing while waiting at the airport, the valet at our hotel singing softly while he played the ukulele and waited for someone to need him, the tour guide singing to us when there was nothing of note to discuss, and on and on the list could go. But after visiting for the first time this joyous and relaxed approach to life is a big part of wanting to return. That relaxation is contagious. Not just because one is on vacation but also because it shows that there really is a completely different way to go about life.

One of our guides on Mo'orea told us that on the island, with eighteen thousand full time residents, there is no way to mail in your payments for things like utilities. While they have a post office on the island it's mainly used for tourists to send postcards or maybe write a letter to family on another island. Bills are paid in person. That way you have a chance to visit with the people that provide your water or your electricity. Quite a difference between how we live and definitely food for thought as to how we could slow the pace of our lives when a vacation is over.

I hope you find your way to French Polynesia someday. As the flight attendant so rightly said when we landed "Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to paradise." We all need a visit to paradise these days and you deserve to make that trip too.

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