Day 34/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Tahiti!
Another really rough night! What do you do at 1am when you can’t sleep and your cabin is only 270 square feet? Well that is what I was trying to figure out last night. Finally I ended up on the balcony looking out at the harbour of Papeete, where we had sailed the 10 nautical miles from Moorea. I couldn’t see much but I knew that Papeete was much bigger than Bora Bora and Moorea, just because I could see lots of cargo containers, fuel tanks and cranes.
When the sun finally came out this morning, this is how I knew how close we were to Moorea. Moorea is the Island in the background behind the ‘BIG LIFT’ cargo ship. Tahiti is so close to Moorea that we saw two car/passenger ferries running most of the day to Moorea and back.
After we called to cancel our early morning 4 hour ‘West Coast Highlights’ bus tour of Tahiti, I felt much better that I didn’t need to get out of bed so early, when I didn’t have much sleep.
We finally got off the ship around 10:45am this morning. It was a hot and humid 85F day in Papeete, Tahiti and the burning question was do we bring an umbrella from the ship, or chance it without one? We decided to chance it, so we had one less thing to carry. We had downloaded and printed out a walking tour of Tahiti and Guest Services had maps of downtown Tahiti, which I had cross referenced to the walking tour. As we were leaving the ship, we immediately bumped into our friends Mike and Sharon from Canada who had already been out exploring, but were getting ready for their walking tour of Papeete. We also met two very nice ladies that must have recognized us from our blog pictures and who said they were ‘loyal blog readers’. In fact Trisha from Alabama who is travelling solo on this World Cruise says she forwards the blog to her friends and family back in Alabama to read as well, so they know where she is and what is going on that day. So hello! to Trisha’s friends and family who are also loyal blog readers.
We had used google maps when we were still inside the ship, to know that there was a pharmacy on the main downtown street directly opposite from the pier, so thank goodness they use the same convention as in Paris, which is to put out the green Plus sign outside the pharmacy to let us know we had actually found the place. Thank goodness Richard speaks French, and as French is the official language of Tahiti he ‘ruled’ in the pharmacy getting me my cough medicine without any difficulty! After a quick dose of cough medicine, it was time to start exploring Papeete on foot.
Tahiti is the largest Island of the Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. Tahiti is divided into two parts, ‘Tahiti Nui’; bigger, northwestern part and ‘Tahiti Iti’; smaller, southwestern part. The island was formed from volcanic activity, and is high and mountainous surrounded by coral reefs. At 189,000+ inhabitants it is definitely the largest populated island making up 69% of the total population of French Polynesia.
I had heard that there was a local open air market in downtown Papeete so we looked around and found it without much difficulty.
Papeete Market celebrating Chinese New Year’s. With all of this fresh fruit and vegetables, I had a hankering for a fresh squeezed orange juice to help boost my immune system. Surely in a market this size, someone would be doing fresh juices? We searched around and asked at 2 fresh juice stands and the only juices they were doing were passion fruit and pineapple. Neither of which did I fancy.
We started seeing lots of High School kids wandering around with sandwiches that were all on fresh baguettes. Our stomachs were telling us it was lunchtime, and fresh French baguettes looked so appealing!
Waiting for our lunch order.
A fresh pressed juice too of apple, carrot and passionfruit. The ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato baguette was divine! The baguette was crispy in the way that only French bakers know how to do.
I felt like I could have been sitting in the Le Marais, the 4th arrondissement in Paris, the sandwich was that good. The juxtaposition of being in French Polynesia, and comparing it to France, was so very strong for me today.
Tell me I’m not in Paris! Fauchon macarons are to die for!
Notre Dame Cathedral, Papeete. Same, but definitely different.
A much more rustic Notre Dame than in Paris, but featuring European and local Polynesian designs. Built in 1875 it is the oldest Catholic church in Tahiti and serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Papeete.
The stained glass windows incorporate both Tahitian and Roman cultures in their style of dress, but solely depict Polynesian people in the scenes.
The artistic style of the paintings on the stained glass were heavily influenced by French artist Paul Gauguin who spent a considerable amount of time living in Tahiti in the late 1800’s.
While the Cathedral was open to anyone who wanted to walk in, the park surrounding the church had homeless people congregated in it and one poor fellow was sleeping in the back of the church.
Mental health issues and homelessness are everywhere.
After visiting Notre Dame, we continued on our walking tour of downtown Papeete to visit the Gardens of the French Polynesian Assembly.
I wonder where this path is taking us?
My brother in law Norm would have loved the gardens today. He is a horticulturalist and always looks for nice gardens to visit wherever he goes.
Stunningly gorgeous colours on this plant.
I couldn’t believe the size of the blooms on this plant!
May I present to you the ‘Giant Swamp Taro’ an edible tuber cultivated in swamps, valleys and coasts of mountainous islands. Even though this plant has adapted to slightly brackish waters it was hardly ever found in Polynesia.
There were quite a few native statues in the garden today.
The gardens beside the French Polynesian Assembly had a stunning koi pond.
All different colours of Koi.
As we came to the end of the garden, we discovered a beautiful carved piece of phonolithic stone from Moorea which was dedicated to Queen Pomare IV. The stone weighs between 2-3 tons and is 2 metres high. The stone is placed at such an angle in the garden that whatever the angle of the light, or the angle we placed ourself in, the queens gaze would be benevolent and approving to the horizon in the direction of the Tahitian Islands.
Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti was the ruler of the country for 50 years (1827-1877). In 1943 the French declared Tahiti a French protectorate and installed a governor at Papeete. Pomare fought in vain against the French intervention. A French-Tahitian War resulted from 1843 to 1847, with Pomare reaching out to Great Britain to assist her fight against the French, which fell on deaf ears as Britain did not want another war with French, and at the end of the war, Tahiti and Moorea continued to be ruled under French protectorate. Pomare relented and ruled under the French Administration until her death. She had 10 children some of them dying very young from dysentery, but others succeeded her as King of Tahiti, Queen of Bora Bora, King of Rai’iatea and Taha’a.
I couldn’t help thinking when I saw this mural painted on the back of a building in Papeete today that perhaps this was a tribute to Queen Pomare who fought so hard for Tahitian independence from France in the 1800s, and who was still looking over the City today from up high.
As we continued to wander around downtown Papeete I couldn’t help notice the different styles of architecture which definitely showed a juxtaposition between French and Polynesian influences.
French Polynesian architecture.
French Polynesian architecture on this city building.
We happily wandered back to the Neptune after a very big 11,000 step day.
Finally! We’re almost home!
Who is that strapping young man?
The scuba divers that we had seen when we left the Neptune this morning were still at it when we arrived back this afternoon. We know that our hull has to be clear of certain foreign pests before we dock next in New Zealand, so I’m sure that the scuba divers looking at our hull all day, made sure that we were clean and good to gain admittance to the upcoming ports of call.
We had a great day in Papeete. It is such a nice walkable city and we really enjoyed the feeling of being in a tropical Paris, enjoying the food, language and architecture as we strolled along, knowing that we would be visiting France at some point later on this World Cruise. Paris has always been my favourite City and it is Richard’s favourite city too.
Now that I’ve seen the 3 Islands we were meant to visit in French Polynesia I can honestly say I really enjoyed each of them in different ways. Bora Bora was unique for the excursion we did. Moorea was so gorgeous from a photographic point of view, and Tahiti was more cosmopolitan and a ‘mini’ France in the South Pacific. As Richard learned today from speaking French to a local security officer, the French Polynesians do not have ‘au revoir‘ in their language. Instead they say ‘NANA’, which means ‘Until we meet again’. So ’NANA’ French Polynesia. I’ve loved every minute of visiting you and hopefully one day I can come back for another, longer, more relaxed visit