It’s 6 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and I’m sitting on a balcony drinking the sort of in-room instant coffee served by even some of the best foreign hotels that would shock the sort of American who’s used to staying in at the Motel 6.
But I am in Fiji, so this is perfectly fine with me. The truth is the instant isn’t so bad and, unlike some other foreign hotels I’ve been in, the coffee in the restaurants is actually delicious. Besides which, we are not here to drink coffee. We are here for vacation, we are here to relax.
Drinking coffee while typing on a computer at 6 in the morning may not sound relaxing to many – especially those who know I typically don’t even wake up until after 8 to get to work. But I’m wide-eyed and bushy-tailed (which now that I think about it, is a phrase that, for humans, translates to hairy-assed, which is still accurate.) And writing of this sort I do find relaxing. I’m not carving up someone else’s writing or replying to the one millionth depressingly stupid PR pitch of the day or tweeting or work blogging. I’m sitting on a balcony with a cup of coffee, watching the a little stream poor out into the Pacific ocean as the tide pounds its way back in and the sun inches up behind the trees just to my east.
Cara is still in bed, but that likely won’t last for much longer. When I started stirring just before six, she thought it was much later and drifted back to sleep. Ten minutes later, when I got out of bed, she asked what time it was again.
We both crashed out last night not long after 8 p.m. And it took an act of will to make it that long. This wasn’t due to jet lag and time difference as much as travel exhaustion. Because I’d used miles to get us from JFK to LAX, we had a lot of time to kill in Los Angeles – but not enough that I felt leaving the airport. But I figured what with picking up baggage, making our way from one terminal to another, checking in and checking baggage all over again, we’d have no problem killing time. As luck would have it, everything went smoothly and the American Airlines terminal is within walking distance from LAX’s international terminal. As luck wouldn’t have it, we would be spending a lot of time in LAX’s international terminal. I think it’s called the Thomas Bradley International terminal, but in my head I was calling it the Tom Brady, because it is a dull loser. I guess since no one airline has its brand staked to this corner of the airport, no one cares enough to make it awesome. So instead of Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 at JFK, you get an international terminal that puts me in mind of the AirTran gates at LaGuardia, which themselves are the air travel equivalent of the Port Authority bus terminal. There is one sit-down, non-fastfood restaurant outside of security.
The good news about that restaurant is that the waiter was so slow and inattentive that we killed quite a chunk of time. While there, Cara and I couldn’t remember the flight duration for LAX to NAN, so I Googled it and had the good fortune of stumbling across Yelp reviews of Air Pacific. I’m not a big reader of Yelp reviews. Two types of people write Yelp reviews: The owner’s family and really, really pissed off people. And Air Pacific has some really, really pissed off people – Australians, mostly. Which concerned me. Because Australians always strike me as go-with-the-flow travelers, unlike Germans and Swedes who will take to Trip Advisor and write a 6,000 word negative review (in three languages) because the grout in the hotel bathroom was dirty.
The reviews, however, did manage expectations. So when we boarded the 747, probably the first off of Boeing’s line, we weren’t surprised that it looked its age or that the entertainment units were glitchy. In fact, the only real issue was the little, tiny Indian lady sitting next to Cara. She’d all but colonized the row and she had a four-footed walking cane crammed between her seat and Cara’s. Cara popped a handful of pills and I had a glass of red wine and I slept for at least five hours while Cara struggled to. Eleven hours and one trip over the international dateline later, we’d somehow manage to fly into the future by skipping Sunday – one guy on the plane basically lost an entire birthday — and made it to Nadi.
After a brief delay as a quarantine crew came aboard to check out a sick passenger, and a pleasantly swift trip through immigration and customs, we boarded a sleek, brand-new bus for the hour drive to the Outrigger on the Lagoon. The ride went well. The roads are a little bumpy in places, but paved and, more importantly have wide shoulders on either side, rather than cliff faces, stone fences or thousand-food drops (I’m looking at you, parts of Hawaii and Ireland) that have previously made me regret my decision to rent a car. But there’d be no car renting on this trip. Just a bus ride to the hotel, the highlight of which was a stop to take a picture of a Hindi temple, which was adjacent to a bus shelter with a big-ass McDonald’s hamburger advertisement.
Okay, so that wasn’t the only highlight. Fiji, as you may have heard, is stunningly beautiful. Even in the confines of a bus, after 24-plus hours of airport related travel, I could feel the tension easing away. This was helped, too, by our guide, a big friendly Fijian who referred to us all as family.
Friendly Fijian might be a redundant term, it turns out. A groundskeeper just walked by and shouted, “Bula” at me, which means hello in Fijian. We’ve heard the word approximately 17 million times from arrival. Yes, I know we’re at a resort and people are paid to treat us well, but I’ve been to other resorts and there is a big difference here. Everyone’s smiling, everyone says Bula and when you sit down at a restaurant, one if not all of the servers will be up in your business in a heartbeat. Judging by the interactions with other people, it’s even more-so when you have children in tow. I get the impression, they like kids so much here you could just let ‘em run around loose and someone would look after them.
Sure, I realize that somewhere on this island there is a Fijian who hates kids and there’s another one who never says Bula to anyone. I understand this. But I don’t care.
We arrived yesterday at 8 a.m. Our rooms were ready. We showered. We ate a great breakfast. We walked up and down the beach. Then we went to the pool and had fruity drinks. And then walked up and down the beach again.
Then went back to the pool and had a beer. Then we showered and went to one of the restaurants and had drinks and dinner while we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets either of us has ever seen (and I’ve seen some, brother, let me tell you). I had grass-fed Australian steak which made the corn-fed you get in grocery stores in America taste like shoe leather. Cara had prawns. Then we had dessert and watched, slightly horrified, as the “flying foxes” – bats about the size of buzzards – circled above.
Then we came back to our room where we had a noticed saying we’d missed our “Talai” service, which is when someone shows up at your door with a couple of glasses of champagne and some canapés. But, hey, no worries, just call this number. So we did. Five minutes later, there was a guy with two glasses of champagne knocking on our door.
And that, my friends, is how to spend a Monday. Can’t wait to see how Tuesday goes.