FIJI

Looking out toward the lagoon

We’ve been in Fiji for nearly a week now and it has been nothing short of insane.  The weather is perfect despite it being the “rainy season” (we were sprinkled on once while walking the beach Wednesday morning).  Let me explain the perfection – not to make you jealous or envious – but to attempt to convey this mysterious place and encourage all who can come here to do so.  It’s a haul from NYC, but well worth the trip.

First, after leaving the cold, New York January behind us we took a 10+ hour flight to Hawaii.  The flight was fine, if not uneventful.  In fact, it was more than fine.  Our two kids – Talia and Judah (nearly 6 and 3.5 years old) were near perfection.  We landed late in the evening Honolulu time and drove to the hotel where we planned to stay for 3 nights.

Once at the hotel, Armon and I forced ourselves to eat a quick bite with the kids in the hotel restaurant in hopes of getting a better night sleep.  The kids were so shot full of adrenalin by this point (2:30am EST) that another hour would hardly make a difference.  They were up by 4am.  Not much to do at 4am; and it is times like these that I understand why all hotel rooms MUST have coffee makers with real coffee and real milk.  An in-room coffee maker becomes utterly indispensible at 4am.  Unfortunately, our room was void of such a luxury.  We had a refrigerator, but as fate would have it, the fridge was nearly useless in its empty, cold state.  “Bullocks” was all that came to mind.

By 5:30am, Armon was on the phone with room service – begging them for a cup of Joe.

Bliss.

We sat on the room’s balcony in 70 degree heat, drank our coffee and watched the sun come up while Judah and Talia played with their portable toys, got into their swimsuits and excitedly planned their day.  By 7:30am we were at water’s edge for the hotel’s lagoon fish feeding.
Overall, Honolulu is already a blur. We played at the pool, went out to dinner once, fed the hotel’s pet hammerheads (bizarre choice of hotel animal companion, but our kids loved it).  This was the start of our detox process.  The highlights overall were me seeing my college friend Elyse with 2 of here 3 kids and Armon seeing his college friend Parker with his wife and three kids.  Our kids loved meeting new friends and it was like time stood still.  Elyse is still Elyse and it was pure comfort to see her, talk with her and joke around.

Seeing old friends who live in Hawaii and who once intersected your own life is very revealing.  Here, sitting in front of you is an aged version of what you could have become, but didn’t.  They don’t have the frenetic edge that running around NYC for 20 years creates and the difference is noticeable.  Not good or bad, but different.

On to Fiji.  We left Hawaii after an embarrassingly short stay in order to really dig into vacation mode with Fiji.  We left late Monday night and flew into the early morning hours, landing in Nadi at something like 12:30am Wednesday morning (6:30pm EST, as we had now crossed the International date line).  Our clocks still royally messed up, we tried to sleep for a few hours and then rose to the Fijian tropics.

For an airport hotel, the Novotel Fiji isn’t half bad.  Especially once outside your room.  The room itself was loud with an ancient air conditioner and smelled strangely of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on – ancient air conditioning, humidity and old sheets that too many people have slept on.  “Just don’t think about it” was my mantra as I drifted in and out.  “This is a stop-over and not a bad one at that…”

By late afternoon the next day we had landed in Savusavu and were en route to the Jean Michel Cousteau Resort.

Perfection.

The people here are divine.  They are beautiful, warm and happy to show you their world.  And their world is insanely lush.  It is surreal.  The weather is hot without being gross, the water is warm like the perfect bath, the diving is full of varied and exciting sea life.  The food is divine (apparently not throughout Fiji, but this resort’s chef knows how to cook).  Even the mosquito bites don’t last more than a few hours.  How awesome is that?

And if that isn’t enough to compel a visit – Cousteau’s Kids’  Club is the answer to every parents’ dream.    In fact, we nick-named the place Tilda’s Paradise after our friend’s daughter because she loves the idea of going to kids’ clubs on vacations.  If Tilda came here, she’d be tempted to emancipate and move to FIji despite being newly 6.

The Bula Kids’ Club starts within minutes of arrival at Cousteau.  In our case the airport van pulled into the resort, we unloaded to guitar strumming and tropical umbrella cocktails (virgin, much to our chagrin).  Two nannies, Daiana and Lembe, promptly whisked the kids away.  I sat there dumb-faced with open jaw.  Talia doesn’t DO kids clubs and here she was walking hand-in-hand with Lembe over to Bula.  They’d be gone long enough for us to unpack our luggage and grab a real welcome cocktail.  They’d also be gone long enough for the kids to fall in love.  Talia and Judah fell in love with this place, with Bula Club and with their nannies (who stayed with them each day all week).

By Thursday, the first words Judah muttered when he woke were “where are my girls?”.  And this morning as I penned some more on our trip, Talia bemoaned the fact that we need to leave tomorrow.  Our kids have never gotten dressed faster, brushed their teeth with fewer complaints and been so happy to be with their parents, but not.

I know this sounds advertisey, but Bula sports multiple pools (the kids’ favorite has a water slide), tennis, table tennis, trampoline, books, games, swings, tree-house and a T-line swing that spans a solid 100 feet.    It also has a fun-filled schedule of activities such as snorkeling, farmer’s market visits, glass-bottom boat outings, sand castle-building contests, coconut tree climbing, husking, cracking, eating and painting.   It’s like Disney, but better.

Here’s today’s agenda to give you a taste:

Snorkeling orientation, outing to the beach for snorkeling and shell collecting (for painting later), boat ride in glass-bottom boat, solar cooking (chocolate chip cookies), lunch, hermit crab race, village tour, dinner, star gazing, movie.  The schedule starts at 8:00am and ends at 8:30pm.  The kids would stay all day if we let them, but we manage to steal them away for dinner and a lunch on occasion.

Today is Daiana’s birthday and Judah plans to bake a cake and Talia is planning the purchase of Daiana’s birthday present.  Indeed, our kids will miss this place and will miss Daiana and Lembe even more.

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