Tuesday 1 November 2016

Back to work

Once was brilliant. But twice within a couple of months? Super-lucky, and I know it. Opening the shutters at the Oyster Box hotel in Durban to a blurry red sunrise behind a striped lighthouse and a blue sea edged by white breakers was, I said in September, a gift. But today it happened again: a late arrival at a hotel, morning, opening the curtains – and there it was again: another perfect view.

This time, at Le Meridien in Tahiti, it was over a third-floor ornamental pond full of purple waterlilies and orange fish, over another pond ditto down in the gardens, and a white-sand edged turquoise swimming pool surrounded by lawns and coconut palms, to the lagoon and the reef beyond, and Moorea’s always surprisingly steep peaks on the close horizon. And all of this under a clear blue sky. Magic.

You make allowances, in Pacific countries: it’s too hot for the locals to be anal about details. Things are always just a little ramshackle, even in a top hotel, timings are approximate, mistakes are made. So when it turned out that today is a public holiday – All Saints Day – in French Polynesia, I wasn’t surprised that the Tahiti Tourism people had forgotten to factor that into the itinerary (though I was sorry, at the end of the day, to learn there’d been big canoe races on that it would have been fun to watch). Instead, I spent the day pretending to be an ordinary tourist, and it was a pleasant novelty.

So, no haring about squeezing as many sights and experiences into the day as possible – instead, long hours with a book on a lounger by the pool under an umbrella, periodically taking a dip in the warm water, and then back to reading and snoozing. I didn’t even join Denis in the pool for his morning aquarobics session – “Allez, allez, allez! Un, deux, trois – stop! Voilà!” – but instead watched small children chattering cleverly away in French, confident old ladies disporting themselves in bikinis, couples playing boules under the palm trees, assorted other bodies similarly sprawling in the shade.

The day passed, shadows lengthened, there was food, and Tabu beer in frosted glasses, the pool and sea turned silver, the trees became silhouettes, the sun sank in a cliché blaze of red and orange and the garden turned black. We ate good food by the sea with the reef a line of white out in the darkness, a crescent moon dropped into the sea, lizards chirped, brown noddies grunted above in the coconut palms and the temperature became perfect. Finally, it was time for bed and a sleep not earned, but enjoyed anyway.

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