Papeete is a city most people try to avoid. Although some guidebooks stress its funky urban Polynesian vibe, they all claim it is a place one will either love or hate.
A lot of that probably has to do with expectations: People come here to exist in splendid tropical isolation and aren’t looking for an urban experience. How one reacts will depend how open one is to accepting and appreciating what you get when it isn’t what you expect. I like that dissonance. Many people don’t.
I don’t have enough time here to really know what I think of it, but it has the weird energy of other non-western cities – an indescribable mix of unfamiliar architecture, wealth, poverty, and sultry air that makes a place intoxicating, a mix that leaves me feeling as if something amazing might happen the moment I look away.
I think I could come to like it here.
We find a lovely wine and gourmet food shop and for a few moments I have been instantly transported to Paris. We stock up on treats for ourselves and a few gifts for others and head back out into the very non-Parisian streets.
The city market is huge and mostly closed for the day, but I find a lovely pareu that I can sew into a skirt suitable for work, the sought-after bouquet (although I stick to a simple, small arrangement in light of the minute space available on our desk), and weird fruits that I long to take with me but am sure I won’t need on the ship.
I keep thinking of our cruise in the Adriatic and the market in Split where I bought flowers for our friends on the ship. Here there are no friends to buy flowers for. That feels lonely and a little sad.
I hope that changes soon.