There’s a Lot to Inspire You in Tahiti.
On my first trip to Tahiti, the flight from Honolulu arrived late at night and my first real look at that exotic island had to wait until the next morning. I was staying at the Hotel Taharaa, which sits on top of a cliff and when I woke up and pulled open the curtains, the view literally took my breath away: Matavai Bay and the neighboring island of Moorea, just ten miles away. It was—and still is—an unforgettable moment.
In all, I’ve made a half dozen trips to French Polynesia. My advertising agency had hotel clients there and I was more than delighted to let them pay for a lot of agency time with room nights. As a result, I was able to spend time on several of the islands. Tahiti is best known and that’s where the city of Papeete and the seat of the government is located. But there’s also Moorea and Bora Bora and several others—all gems and all worth seeing.
Most people there are bi-lingual, speaking both Tahitian and French, and almost all of the people working in the hotels speak at least rudimentary English. But it’s that thick veneer of French, both the language and the culture, layered on top of the authentic Polynesian that makes a visit there … well … really quite wonderful.
Tahiti has been an idyllic getaway—for some an escape—for a long time, Paul Gauguin being a good example. Unsuccessful as an artist in France, Gauguin essentially chucked everything and in 1895 moved to Tahiti. The place and the people inspired him and, of course, the work he did there made him famous and it priceless today.
There is a small museum dedicated to Gauguin on Tahiti, but — and I found this sad — almost all of the art on display there are reproductions. Certainly, there are no original major works.
There is, however, an original Gauguin oil painting — “Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach” — in the Honolulu Museum of Art and years ago I tried to get them to loan it to the little museum on Tahiti. They were hesitant, of course, but finally agreed. South Pacific Island Airways said they would transport both the painting and a curator from Honolulu at no charge, and my hotel clients in Papeete said they would sponsor an opening gala and provide a couple of rooms. For a while it looked like it would all work out.
Ultimately, the plan fell apart. No one wanted to pay for the insurance … and that was a damn shame.