Since our landfall was in the moonlight, we didn't fully appreciate the drama of the landscape until we awoke in the morning. It's stunning. Incredibly rugged, the islands lack the fringing reefs that protect so much of the rest of the South Pacific. Clouds stick to the top of knife-edge mountains like cotton candy; the mountains, lushly green, seem to drop straight down to valleys or the sea below. There were sweet smells in the air: flowers, earth, something spicy. I tried to capture photographs to convey the harbor but it was impossible: from our vantage point below, I couldn't get in the distance from water to mountaintop!
I was worried about checking in, having thumbed my nose at French lessons several times while growing up in favor of just about anything else (5 years of Latin…smattering of Chinese, Spanish). No need to worry, the check-in was so brief and friendly that I wondered if our Agent fees were really necessary (I learned later that they were…it simply shunted us to a shortlist). Even the walk in to town was fun: hibiscus and plumeria scenting the roadside, Marquesan mountain men on horseback.
It's so very different from Mexico. There's clearly a lot of investment/support (payoff?) from the French. Every car is a shiny late model… overwhelmingly Toyota trucks. Every home is tidy and finished- no raw concrete and rebar sticking up to be seen.
The French influence in food is welcome. Heavenly baguettes are available from the bakery until they run out around noon- don't delay!, for about $.50 each (thank you, French colonialists!). The fruit is luscious: pamplemousse is even better than I imagined, and fresh passion fruit was like eating a flower. Maybe if I can offset the baguettes with fruit, I'll stave off the 10 lbs that will surely find me otherwise…