Urban Polynesia – Pape’ete

“Why do cruise ships come in this season?  It’s too hot!  If I didn’t have to work I would be in France or New Zealand now.”  That’s what the proprietor of the camera shop asked me.  I think if there were not the cruise ships he may have closed for the “summer.”  A Silversea ship that drops anchor in my front yard every summer was birthed next to us.  I guess it’s just too much potential business to lose.

Pape’ete, on Tahiti, is French Polynesia’s urban center.  It’s an largely unlovely city, except for some of the wall art and gardens along the marina.  Locals talk about how “there used to be a sand beach here.” but now it is a French naval base and a seaport.  Many of the classic old balconied buildings have given way to malls.  The city’s arteries are clogged with traffic.  But the city was useful because of one of those downtown malls.  We could pick up those items that I forgot to pack in “one stop.”

We booked no tours but planned to get by with public transportation.  Like many countries where we’ve worked buses wait at the bus station until they are almost full before they take off on no particular schedule.  You have to wait in a hot bus and, on the return, risk waiting a long time only to find the bus you need is full.  Fortunately the Pearl Museum offers an air conditioned van from the cruise terminal to the museum, which is in a neighborhood we wanted to explore.  And the museum was on Lonely Planet’s list of worthwhile places to see.

The main purpose of the museum is to get you into the showroom where the company sells top end Polynesian cultured black pearl jewelry.    A few big purchases from the ships pay for the van and we got a free ride.  We didn’t buy anything.  (There’s a more complete discussion of cultured pearls in a later post.)

We walked back from the Museum to the ship visiting Notre Dame Cathedral and the Marche Municipal, the central market.  And not being mad dogs or Englishmen spent the hot “noonday” hours on board the air conditioned Amsterdam before venturing out twice more, to check out the port and, after watching sunset from the deck, to visit the night market.

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