Hoping to get a quick overview of the interior of the island of Moorea, Gail and I joined the Island Drive and Belvedere tour on Friday morning.
|An air-conditioned bus!|
Our first stop was Belvedere Lookout. We saw Mt. Rotui with Cook's Bay to the right
and Oponohu Bay on the left
and the famous Bali Hai (Moua Roa) Mountain.
We visited an ancient Tahitian stone temple, or marae
a pineapple field
|Our tour guide.|
and many native plants.
|Lipstick fruit. Our tour guide crushed a berry and rubbed it into her lips. Beautiful!|
Then we stopped at the Ia Ora lookout point for a panoramic photo op
before we made a brief stop at Le Petit Village for a bit of shopping before returning to the ship.
We showered and dressed for dinner and went to Paul Gauguin's Farewell Party.
By then, the MS Paul Gauguin was en route back to the island of Tahiti. That was when my tears started, and they continued at the Piano Bar, where I went for a drink before dinner and had to say goodbye to some of the great friends I made on board ship;
|Danny, Dan, Pam, Jim, J.R.|
|Pianist Ruben Ramos.|
|Melanie, Pam, Jay.|
at L'Etoile Restaurant where I enjoyed one last great meal;
and back at the stateroom afterwards, as Gail and I packed the rest of our belongings and said goodbye to our wonderful cabin stewardess Annie Rose.
|Annie Rose and Pam, whose make-up is all cried off.|
We disembarked the ship in Papeete 9PM, caught a taxi to the airport, went through customs, and boarded the plane bound for Los Angeles.
* * *
This vacation was a dream come true, but it was a dream I hadn't even dared to dream for myself, and one that I almost missed because of my narrow view of what was possible.
So if an experience like that can literally fall into my lap, who knows what other wonders lie waiting for me down the road if I will just keep my heart and mind open?
I am grateful for all the beautiful places I saw, for all the wonderful people I met, including the entire crew and staff of the MS Paul Gauguin, and especially to Gail for inviting me to be her guest.
I'm still trying to sort it all out. But there's one thing I know for sure.
Nothing will ever be the same.