Friday, October 11, 2013

Report on Air Tahiti Nui, Pape'ete and Fare Suisse

Our domestic flight was with United. Having originally booked a 4 pm flight out of LAX on Air Tahiti Nui, we had booked an early morning flight on United, leaving us enough time to meet up with LA friends for lunch and return to the terminal.

Email from Air Tahiti Nui several weeks previous informed us that our 4 pm flight was cancelled and we were booked on its 11 pm flight. Seven extra hours in the international terminal at LAX! Not fun! With the agent counters not opening until about 3 hours before flight time, all we could do was sit around in the restaurant area with everyone else who was waiting to check in.

Traveling with only carry ons (two rolling bags and two backpacks), both of our small rolling bags were weighed by Air Tahiti Nui. (Our backpacks were totally ignored.) They were over the 10 kilo limit for carry ons (about 25 lbs each) and we had to check them. :( While the seats were short on cushioning, we had lots of leg room. Dinner was not great and the warm cabin didn't help with sleeping. Breakfast was a crepe with fresh fruit and yogurt and was pretty decent. Arrival was on time and we were quickly through immigration and customs. And (small world story) the first American couple we struck up a conversation with live about 60 miles from us in upstate New York!

Our accommodations were booked with Fare Suisse. Email communication between us and the owner, Beni, was excellent. Beni provides free airport pick up and drop off service. While our flight arrived around 5 am, Beni had told me that airport service doesn't start until 6 am. No problem We'd wait. However it wasn't until 6:30 that his car pulled up. We were beginning to wonder if we'd been forgotten

In the meantime, I went to an ATM to get French Polynesian Francs. Request for 20,000 CFP got me (2) 10K bills. I wasn't happy as I figured they'd be hard to break. How wrong I was! Pape'ete is so expensive that it didn't take long to have occasions to break both bills. And shortly thereafter require another trip to the ATM.

Fare Suisse is a guesthouse. As I look back on the web site, the photos on site are not up to date. That said, while amenities were at a minimum (no shampoo), our pre-cruise and post-cruise rooms were clean and comfortable. Staff was friendly and helpful. There is a kitchen (which can use an upgrade) available for guest use. And it can definitely use a microwave ... it was not easy using the stove and oven.

A continental breakfast is available for 10 Euros per person. Our first morning we passed on it as we headed out to find a small patisserie for breakfast, guessing we could find something less expensive. WRONG! After an exorbitantly priced breakfast of eggs, fruit and coffee at a not too nearby coffee shop, we decided to take advantage of the continental breakfast for the remainder of our stay. It consisted of juice, coffee, fruit, ham, cold cereal, cheese, butter, jam and fresh French bread. For us, it was worth the convenience.

For lunch, we hit the nearby supermarket on our way back from our morning wandering around Pape'ete and picked up excellent french bread, cheese and juice. Looking at prices in the supermarket made it clear why restaurant prices are so expensive. Of course, everything has to be imported. Same brand of orange juice that I buy on sale at home for $2.50 was about $8 in the market. Still, the convenient supermarket made it easy for us to grab lunch Thursday and Friday and then for dinner after our return from our cruise.

Our first afternoon (Thursday) was spent trying to recuperate from 30  hours of travel time. In the evening, we headed into the center of Pape'ete, a 15 to 20 minute walk. Everything was closed including the tourist office and souvenir shops. The only businesses open were restaurants.

Our plan was to eat dinner at Le Roulottes, the food trucks that set up every night in a parking lot near the water's edge.

Jerry had chicken curry. I had a beef brochette. Both were excellent and with bread and our large bottle of soda, the meal came to about $30 ... cheap by Tahitian standards.

Afterwards, we strolled along the waterfront looking at some of the interesting boats anchored in the harbour. We had learned that afternoon that the 2013 Beach Soccer World Championships was being held in Tahiti, in a park three blocks from our guesthouse. It was a nice distraction where we finished our evening with a cappuccino and  fantastic chocolate crepes for dessert.

 Friday morning dawned raining. It delayed us just a bit and then we headed out to find the Le Marche, the central market. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed as everyone was selling the same souvenirs where I had hoped to find large displays of various local produce, fish and meats. While there was some of that, it wasn't enough to keep us interested for long and the pushy vendors only helped expedite our exit. I didn't even take any pictures.

We wandered a bit, did some shopping in one of the nearby shops, visited the shopping mall (with mostly closed storefronts) to stop at the Internet cafe. Then we worked our way back to the supermarket, bought lunch to eat at Fare Suisse and spent the rest of the afternoon escaping from the heat in our air conditioned room.

Late Friday afternoon we walked back to the park to browse an artisan show and tripped over a local fashion show which was kind of neat.

That evening we had more exposure to beach soccer (stadium tickets sold out but we could watch it on the big outside screen). After dinner at one of the cafes in the park, it was time to call it a day.

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