I got home late Saturday night from my cruise vacation to the islands of Tahiti, Raiatea, Taha'a, Bora Bora, and Moorea on board the MS Paul Gauguin.
|MS Paul Gauguin|
It was a dream come true. Sigh.
I got to practice my French...
eat gourmet food every night...
interact with native people...
|Bernadette in Raiatea|
see native crafts being made...
|Pareos in Raiatea|
spend long, lazy days on some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen...
|Paul Gauguin's private motu in Taha'a|
and view some of the most incredible sunsets imaginable.
|The view from our balcony between Taha'a and Bora Bora|
I saw mountains that I thought existed only in the movies...
|Bali Hai on the island of Moorea|
islands typically frequented by the rich and famous....
and exotic flora and fauna.
|Tiare, a type of gardenia|
Best of all, I didn't meet a stranger on the ship, from amazing crew members like Annie Rose who tended our cabin...
my favorite bartender, Ernesto...
pianist Ruben who learned the song A Thousand Years just for me and played a different arrangement of it every night in the piano bar...
to fellow passengers I became acquainted with over dinners, drinks, and shore excursions.
|Newlyweds Melanie and Jay and me|
I even had a cheeseburger in paradise. Along with a local beer.
|At Les Tipaniers in Moorea|
Now that it's all over, the trip feels very surreal. It's going to take me some time to process everything; to sort through the snapshots and journal entries and piles of notes; to fully grasp the impact of the sights and smells, the interpersonal encounters, and everything I learned. I know it will affect me deeply as I move forward with the rest of my life.
But I left fear on a sunny beach in Taha'a
And hopelessness along the sands of Bora Bora.
Now there is nothing left to keep me from the amazing life I am certain lies ahead of me.
* * *
Check back starting next Monday for a five-part travelogue of my time in Tahiti and French Polynesia. I hope you will join me!