Archive | August, 2011

French Polynesia: Move Over Honeymooners – We’re Celebrating Our Engagement Moon

29 Aug

As you are aware, Matt and I became an engaged couple in the French Polynesia and, in particular, in Tahiti.  Now, not only can the Tahitian Islands claim the No. 3 spot in Modern Bride Magazine’s “World’s Best Honeymoon” survey, but they could easily start marketing themselves as the place to get engaged.

It is much easier and cheaper to take advantage of the Tahitian Islands than people think.  From time to time, you can find some great deals on Air Tahiti Nui’s website.  For example, our deal was for around $1200/pp we received flights from LAX –> Tahiti –> New Zealand –> LAX and, on top of the flights,  our deal even included 3 nights at the Radisson Resort in Tahiti.  We ended up extending our stay in Tahiti and purchased one extra night at the Radisson for the price of less than $100/pp.  You could do the trip even cheaper by purchasing one of Air Tahiti’s discounted flights to Tahiti and staying at an even cheaper hotel.  We wanted to keep our black sand beach.

Now I do realize that we are a bit spoiled in the fact that $1200+/pp is not a cheap trip for all people.   However, considering we were quoted over $2000/pp for one week in Ireland, considering we were able to visit three destinations (LA, the Tahitian Islands, and New Zealand), and considering this is one of those “once-in-a-lifetime trips,” the cost was well worth it.

Before I left for Tahiti, I had asked around about what we should do there.  I also checked out a couple of books from the library, but those were not so helpful.  The two recommended tours I was told to take are: 1) a boat tour around Moorea and 2) a jungle tour.   The first one is a definite.  Moorea has the dreamy beaches and crystal-clear water where you step into the water and can clearly see your feet.  Moorea is also where you can take feed stingrays and sharks, which is what we did with Hiro’s Tours (http://www.hirotours.com/).  We started our day early with a taxi ride to Tahiti’s port, a ferry to Moorea, and then another taxi to a hotel from which Hiro’s Tours’ boat launched from.  The boat took us around the island to see the mountains of Moorea, a ship wreck, and the different bays.  We were also able to take a look at those famous bungalows over the water.   After cruising around the island for a while, the boat stopped at a location from which we were to play with sting rays and stand in the water while sharks were fed right next to us.  Although no one had ever been bitten on Hiro’s Tours, I still did not feel completely comfortable swimming in water with 4-5 foot black tip sharks.  I sucked it up though and went into the water like a champ.  The boat assistants make you feel comfortable being in the water with the stingrays and sharks.  They will even bring the stingrays right up on you.   You are not able to be as friendly with the sharks, but boy did they get close.  At one point, one of the guys on the tour was surrounded by a group of them.  The sharks just left him alone.

The shark/stingray tour in Moorea is probably the best tour I have ever been on.  I will never forget this time when I swam with sharks.   The jungle tour, on the other hand, is not such a memorable tour.  The jungle tour guide picks you up, he drives you through the forest, you look at a lot of waterfalls, and you play with some leaves.  This tour can be skipped.  Granted it was pretty cool to play with leaves the size of me, but I would have also enjoyed playing in the water at our resort’s beach.

All in all, the Tahitian islands are a must see destination.  Tahiti can be skipped over, but Moorea, and I imagine Bora Bora, are the islands people dream of.

French Fries, French Wine, and the French Polynesia: The Story of My Proposal

25 Aug

August 25, 2011.  No, it was not a normal day for me, Courtney Mara.  Not only was this the day that I went from being a single gal to being engaged, but I also woke up for the first time ever in a beautiful hotel room on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti.  Matt, my now fiance, and I arrived late the evening before in Tahiti and went straight to our resort, the Radisson Plaza Tahiti.  We decided to take our first day in Tahiti slow by staying on the resort.  We spent the morning and early afternoon playing on the black sand beach, floating in the clear water, laying by the pool, and trying to get the French waiters/waitresses to understand that we like “frozen drinks” (thankfully, Matt was able to find a way to get his strawberry daiquiri and my pina colada).  It all seemed like a normal vacation day.  Low and behold did I know that a big question was coming later in the day…

Matt had made reservations at the nicest restaurant at the resort.  Around 5pm we went to the front desk to talk about our excursion for the next day and to ask about the restaurant.  We soon found out the restaurant serves French cuisine, which is my least favorite cuisine.  Matt cancelled our reservation and indicated that he was not hungry anyways.  I, however, was starving.  So, instead we went to the restaurant by the beach and ordered me french fries.  Matt appeared agitated that we would be eating at this restaurant.  I did not understand why, but I was too hungry to really think into it too much so I continued to eat my french fries (I guess he didn’t want my last meal as a single gal to be french fries).  After the sun went down and my french fries were gone, a resort worker lit the tiki torches between the beach and the pool.  Matt’s attitude significantly changed.  He ran over and grabbed a place for us next to a tiki torch.  He went to the room to grab towels (that would act as a blanket) and I assumed that he was using the restroom since it was taking so long, but it turned out he was really grabbing the ring and checking on the flower delivery.   We ordered a bottle of French wine and we laid out on a couch chatting about our five years together.

I had a feeling that the proposal was coming when Matt started off our conversation with, “So, what did you think of me when you first met me?”  In my head I was like, “Is he about to propose!!??!”  I started to feel his pockets without him knowing, but with no ring box in sight or touch I told myself, “Don’t get your hopes up!”  About 20 minutes into our conversation Matt had me face him as he presented me with a dozen roses.  I was completely shocked – I had not seen that a few seconds earlier one of the waiters delivered roses Matt had ordered earlier in the day (again, during one of his “bathroom breaks”).  Matt then said, “I think you know what is coming.”  At this point my heart was racing, I had my hand over my mouth, and I was thinking, “OMG” and “Finally!”  Matt got down on one knee, pulled out a Tiffany’s cloth bag, took out the ring from the bag, and then he asked the question most girls/ladies dream of being asked by their significant others, “Will you marry me?”  I quickly replied, “Yes, of course!”  Matt placed the ring on my wedding finger and I then got down to his level and hugged and kissed him for the first time as an engaged couple.

24 Hours in L.A.

25 Aug

Matt and I had a layover in L.A. (on our way to Tahiti) and so we decided to take full advantage of it and fly in the day before.   This gave us a busy 24 hours in L.A.

We started our trip by doing probably the most important thing we could have done in L.A.: rented a car (DO)!  L.A. is not a public transportation city.  A car is necessary/extremely helpful.  We then decided to shove our stuff in the trunk and head straight to Santa Monica Pier.  We walked the beach, walked the pier, road the ferris wheel (DO), and ate on the pier.  We then walked around Third Street Promenade (DON’T if you are there for only  24 hours).  We got back in our car and drove the famous drives: we started by going down Wilshire, to Rodeo (to see Beverly Hills), to Sunset Blvd. and up to Hollywood Blvd (DO).  I highly recommend this drive since you see so many sites so quickly.  We did not get out, which Matt would have liked, but I thought we got to see much more since we just did the drive-by tour.

In the later afternoon we parked in Hollywood and walked the Star Walk (DO), took pictures next to stars’ names (DO), saw Chinese and Kodak theaters (DO), and explored the mall (DON’T).  If we would have had more time, I would have loved to take one of those star tours from Hollywood, even though they are super cheesy and you can’t see the houses all to well, but Matt and I were exhausted.  After Hollywood, we drove to my cousin’s super nice apartment and then headed to dinner at Cantor’s Deli.

The following day, Matt and I went to eat at Mel’s Drive-In (DO).  We are both huge fans of Entourage and needed to see the place that is shown in the intro of the show.  The food was great (for a diner) and it was such a cute establishment (again DO).  After breakfast, we drove to Griffith Observatory (DO).  We walked the grounds and took lots of pictures (including pictures of the Hollywood sign).  Afterward, we drove to the car rental facility, dropped the car off, and went to the airport to catch our flight to our next big adventure: Tahiti (DO DO DO).

All in all, L.A. is a great layover!  I hope to do it again so that one day I can take a star tour, participate in a live taping of a show (like the Price is Right), and maybe even hit up Disneyland.