Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ia Orana and Maeva to Moorea

That's "Hello," and "Welcome to Moorea."

Moorea is a small island in French Polynesia, a short ferry ride from the island of Tahiti... read: absolute paradise. Amanda and I just returned from a week long vacation of relaxation, sun, clear blue water, fresh fruit, and fun.

Smaller and less kitschy than the main island of Tahiti, when you think ‘tropical paradise,’ this is it. We biked 20 miles in a tropical rainstorm, stopping at fruit stands along the way. We visited the fruit juice factory (several times) for the most amazing fruit juices (and alcoholic drinks) you could imagine, all made from fruits grown on Moorea’s Mt. Rotui.

We snorkeled, swam, sunbathed, and chased crazy little land crabs back into their holes everywhere we went. We also fished them out of our (private) pool, removed them from our patio, and listened to their skittering side-steps on the beach at night.

We waved bonjour and ia orana to passing bicyclists, visited pineapple plantations and vanilla bean plantations, and breathed in the warm, intoxicating, ever-present scent of tiare flowers.

And, aside from the amazing fresh fruit (best bananas, mangoes, and pineapple ever…not to mention things I’ve never heard of before) and abundant fresh seafood…the overall cuisine was, well, not amazing. We had a lot of great mahi mahi and shrimp, tried fries made out of bread fruit, ate poisson cru (the local specialty of raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice), and consumed an unbelievable amount of baguettes and brie. It is French Polynesia, after all. And French it was.

Most restaurants around the island served French and Chinese cuisine, always with a giant basket of French bread with amazingly creamy butter. One of our most delicious meals was at Rudy’s, a ‘fine steak and seafood restaurant.’ Rudy’s is run by an older French man (Amanda almost ran away with him at the end of the night) who makes a mean bœuf bourguignon and seafood pasta.

In the end—and this may sound crazy—my favorite meal was pizza from Pizza Allo. We had a crispy thin crusted pizza with juicy, sweet Tahitian pineapple, ham, and fresh tomatoes. There were pizza joints everywhere on Moorea. Some ‘towns’ on the map, were nothing but 2 tiny thatched roof houses, a road-side fruit stand, and a pizza place with a walk up window and a few stools. I’m not going to recommend you head to the south pacific specifically for pizza, but if you do go, you should probably stop at Allo.

Mostly, though, you should just go to relax. To soak in the sun and beauty. To dream about a different, simpler, slower way of life.

And, of course, for the fruit. You should definitely go for the fruit.

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