[ South Pacific ]

Bora Bora, French Polynesia – A Stay at Le Meridien

We were ready to leave the bug infested villa-studio-thing. After five nights of poor sleep, we had asked the hotel to pick us up as early as possible. They offered 0915, as long as we acknowledged check-in wasn’t until 1500, and we happily took it. Most hotels in Bora Bora are located on the surrounding motus (long skinny islets surrounding the lagoon) and are only accessible by boat. Since we were already on the island, the hotel boat picked us up at the marina in Vaitape, the main town of Bora Bora.

We were at the marina early watching and waiting. As soon as the boat with the little Le Meridien flag arrived and the passengers disembarked, we approached. The captain checked my name and with a surprised look at our lack of luggage gestured for us to climb in. We were the only passengers. In less than a minute we were gone, at 0902. You could say we were eager.

The boat circled around the island to the quiet side dotted with large luxury resorts. We passed many overwater bungalows and soon the boat captain slowed to enter the Le Meridien property. As we climbed onto the dock a man played the ukulele and we were greeted with tropical leis. Our guest associate directed us onto a golf cart and whisked us down the dock. We looked out to views of Mt. Otemanu and the sparkling lagoon before us.

Bora Bora
Paradise

Despite being prepared to hang around until three, our room was ready in under an hour. The beach bungalow would be beautiful for any arrival, but after our previous experience, it was heavenly. A gossamer mosquito net surrounded the huge bed which was surrounded by windows looking out onto the hotel’s inner lagoon. Opposite the bed, a couch and sitting area sat against the dark wood privacy panels behind which was the spacious slate bathroom. Outside, a hammock and lounge chairs sat on the beach. There was only one thing left to do. I opened the unnecessary but lovely mosquito net and jumped onto the bed.

Le Meridien Bora Bora
A Welcome Sight
Le Meridien Bora Bora
Modern and Comfortable
Le Meridien Bora Bora Room
Seriously, what a lovely place to sleep!

Le Meridien was a splurge, a vacation in a life of travel. Since we were spending more time on the main island, we felt no inclination to do anything else other than enjoy resort life for our four nights. For those that are keeping track, we paid cash for the stay and used the Fourth Night Free benefit of one of our credit cards, Citi Prestige.

Leis
Our Welcome Leis

During lunch on our first day, Zack posed a question. We were enjoying the rocking chairs and view of the casual sandy bottom restaurant and he simply said, “You have a choice – coconut or salt…” I smiled, knowing he was referring to a spa treatment and fretted about the cost but Zack pushed those worries aside. He elaborated that the scrub would be a belated birthday present and that he was upgrading me to a double session due to the recent critter experience. Well, alright!

Coconut
I chose coconut. 🙂

After lunch, we changed into our swimsuits and swam across the small hotel lagoon to the hotel beach on the actual lagoon and went for a stand-up paddle. The sun shined brightly and the water was perfect again. We paddled around the overwater bungalows to the edge of the motu. Only a few people had been in the water at the beach and none were further afield. As we made our way closer to the motu, the water grew shallower and the turquoise turned from bright “three-meter blue” to an impossibly pale seafoam. The bottom was sandy and dotted with sea cucumbers.

Between motus, there was a small pass, perhaps 30 meters across almost filled with coral. As we approached, we admired the many fish swimming underneath us. We began to navigate the tiny channels in the shallow water between the reef. The coral was bright purple and gorgeous; fish that we recognized and a few new species darted in between. Their black and white stripes and bright colors had us yelping to each other. On each motu, to either side of us coconut trees grew right to the water and waves crashed on the outer reef ahead of us. As we often find, we were alone with the fish. Wary of damaging the very nice paddle boards and the colorful reef, we eventually turned back to the hotel.

We paddled back on a high. Sure, we had seen coral before but never such vivid colors along with abundant sea life, all visible from above the water. From the distance of the hotel, the area didn’t look like anything special, shallow water with rocks and a bit of reef. Once we were on top of it though, it was wildly cool. It felt like we had discovered another little hidden realm. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our new GoPro and we left a return trip for footage to our last day when a storm rolled in. So, this will be another magical memory just for us. We are slowly improving on this habit, we promise…

Everything about our bungalow was luxurious. The views out to the lagoon and tropical plants were gorgeous, the robes were extremely comfortable to lounge in, and our bed was a boat-sized cocoon in a tropical paradise. Even our workouts felt more pleasant in the air conditioning. On a rainy afternoon, we took advantage of it all, ordered a bottle of wine, and nestled in for some good old TV watching. The rain turned to a thunderstorm and we reveled in the feeling of being cozy inside while the storm raged.

Hotel Bed
Lounging Around

Outside of our bungalow, a few young coconut trees stood near newly dropped coconuts. Opening them is a skill Zack is honing, so we had fresh water to drink right from the coconut! When we took it to the restaurant, they cut the meat out for us and we had a delicious snack.

Coconut opening
Zack and the first of many coconuts.
Bora Bora
Coconut Opening Remnants
Coconut
Fresh Coconut Water
Bora Bora
Our Little Beach

For four years we have said that one of our very favorite restaurants was Lagoon at the St. Regis Bora Bora. Since the St. Regis is located right next door to our hotel, we made dinner reservations there. After lots of budget places and budget meals, we were excited for some fine dining and hopeful the restaurant would live up to our memories. When we arrived the restaurant looked just the same and we were seated inside with a view of the glass floor and the sharks below.

The meal was good. The service was good. Save the wine (a crisp Sancerre recommended by the sommelier), nothing was wonderful. Our expectations were very, very high, but so was the price tag. The menu was essentially the same, but the dishes had slightly different proportions and just didn’t seem as good. Service was warm and friendly but seemed fast, almost rushed. We were on dessert and still had half a bottle of wine left. This certainly wasn’t the lingering meal for our date that we remembered. It was, however, still a lovely evening. While we waited for the boat to take us back I splurged on a Hendrix gin and tonic, and it hit the spot. It also kicked my rear end, I couldn’t even finish it (cue Scottish grandfather rolling in his grave). On the short ride back I thought about how wonderful our life is to be able to live so well and experience so much.

While we waited for the boat to take us back I splurged on a Hendrix gin and tonic, and it hit the spot. It also kicked my rear end, I couldn’t even finish it (cue Scottish grandfather rolling in his grave). On the short ride back I thought about how wonderful our life is to be able to live so well and experience so much.

Le Meridien Bora Bora
A fine office…
Bora Bora
Another great workspot…

On the morning of my scrub, I walked down the winding path to the spa bungalow. The spa at Le Meridien is very small, just a bungalow reconfigured for treatments. Although this means there aren’t any of those lovely relaxation rooms or a steam room to enjoy first, it does mean that the service is extremely personal and private. As I walked up, a very nice lady was waiting for me on the porch that looked out to Mt. Otemanu. She offered me a cool towel and mango tea to sip while she enquired if I had any health issues of which she had to be aware. Then she explained my treatment in detail.

Lagoon
The Inner Lagoon

Zack and I are both fans of spa treatments. A surprising number of people I have met are uncomfortable with them. Usually, they cite being uncomfortable with someone touching them or being naked.  Spa professionals are just that, professional. They will take pains to ensure you know where they are in the room and that there are no surprises, but they do have to touch you. And, you don’t have to be naked. It’s easier and more physically comfortable, but if you decide to wear a bathing suit or something it isn’t a problem. Even if you are naked, private areas are almost always covered and if you are really concerned you can always confirm. Finally, sometimes men think these things are only for women and therefore unmanly. That last one is just plain stupid. Yep, stupid. My point is, next time a special occasion or vacation comes up consider trying a massage or something. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from an hour of peace and taking care of themselves.

Spa treatments are expensive in most parts of the world and it may seem silly to spend so much on a massage or other treatment. They are definitely a luxury service. The mental and physical health benefits of checking out for an hour or two and focusing on your body are great, not to mention the pure enjoyment. That is much more worthy of my 100 dollars than many other purchases that are sneakily not considered luxury choices but sure are (private transport over public, Cable TV, TV for that matter). Anyway, in this case, it was technically Zack’s money…

I had a wonderful treatment of a scrub and facial. Soft Polynesian music played, water lapped against the hut’s stilts, and divine scents floated as my skin was transformed and I thoroughly relaxed. I left feeling rejuvenated and met Zack back at our bungalow. He had enjoyed himself as well with a few draft beers at the bar. We went off to lunch and enjoyed another afternoon in the water and our little oasis.

Bora Bora
This is the life!
Eclair
Lunch Dessert!
Baby Sea Turtles
Baby Sea Turtles at the resort’s onsite Turtle Center.

Zack and I are together all the time. All the time. This works out because we really enjoy each other’s company. In the first few years of our marriage, we were apart more than we were together. We tried to maximize our time together in every way we could. If we didn’t spend every minute we could together we knew we would regret it. Our commitment to phone calls, video chats, trips to see one another, and prioritizing one another while at home was intense. Looking back, I think it kept us deeply connected and avoided a lot of the relationship pitfalls of separation. Of course, we were aching for one another. What may seem like intensity or excessiveness to others just seemed natural for us.

Now we have the ultimate luxury of all, being together. It’s not the end of the world if we spend an afternoon apart. But, old habits die hard. It’s still rare that we do so, and rare that we even need to be apart even after many long hours on a plane, bus, train, waiting in an airport, in a tent, hiking up mountains, or just sitting in our house. I’ll take that as a good thing and be happy for it.

Sometimes though, we all need solo time to do…whatever. So, when Zack wanted to go play in the water and jump off the float and I didn’t, we each had some “me” time without guilt and it was good. And when we reunited after the spa and our afternoons, we had lots to excitedly tell each other.

Bora Bora
A Rainy Day

One evening, we worked out much later than usual. It was already dark and by the time we were finished the sky was black, it was almost midnight. Hot and sweaty, we took a dip in the little lagoon outside of our bungalow. The hotel was extremely quiet, most were tucked away in their rooms. A couple bungalows glowed softly and the only other light was from a few strands of string lights on the bridges. An afternoon storm had passed earlier and some clouds were still clearing in the sky.

The water felt amazing. I swear the water in Bora Bora is the softest smoothest salt water! We floated and cooled down jumping at each fish making noise in the water. The moon was large in the sky, it had just been full a couple nights beforehand (and boy was that also spectacular shining down on the water and palms). Despite its brightness, we could still see many stars among what was left of the shifting clouds. In the distance, Mt. Otemanu was sharply silhouetted. We stood embracing (for warmth, you see) staring up at it all in the chest deep water until we shivered and our necks were sore. Earth is a pretty freaking cool place to live.

Le Meridien Lagoon
The Inner Lagoon with Jumping Platform – Our bungalow was on the beach at left

As I mentioned earlier, a storm rolled in on our last day. The sky was grey and dark and the turquoise water roiled. Even so, the surroundings were remarkable. The rain eventually came once we were back on the main island and it poured, filling the rain collection tanks with needed fresh water and keeping the hillsides lush. Sunny skies would return in just a few hours, a fast, intense storm. We were sad to leave our little piece of paradise and our days of indulgence. Shortly though, we would be again delighted with new leis, in the company of new and interesting people. Things change fast. Such is life in the tropics.

Bora Bora Storm
The Stormy Lagoon

© Cheers Life Partners 2017

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The Cheers Life

We make every day worthy of a toast! We quit our jobs in October 2016 to travel the world full time.

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