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Papeete, Tahiti: Parlez-Vous Anglais? | Travels With Carly

Papeete, Tahiti: Parlez-Vous Anglais?

Well after 2 flights, 20 hours in transit and several glasses of Champagne on the plane, I finally made it to Tahiti! Papeete is much more bustling than I anticipated. A riot of scooters, motorcycles and French cars cruising up and down the main road. But the colors, ah the colors. I went on a photo binge all day.

In my original trip preparations I had planned on taking a beginner French class, but I ran out of time. That turned out to be a HUGE mistake. Everyone here thinks I am French, which is very flattering, but not helpful in the communication department. I don’t speak a word of French, and most of the time speaking Spanish with a French accent doesn’t work. They just look at me weird. I always start with a shy smile and “Parlez-Vous Anglais”? and if that fails, move on to pointing and drawing stick figures. My sketching abilities improve by the hour.

The ATM at the airport gave me two 10,000 Pacific Franc bills, which is like walking around with two $100 bills. Not helpful if you want to buy a Coke. So I went to the bank this morning to try and get smaller denominations. I sat in the waiting area for about an hour enjoying the AC and the people watching. There was only one teller, so things moved pretty slow. When it was finally my turn, I went to the desk, showed the teller my 10,000 bills, pointed at myself, said “Americain” and then pantomimed breaking the bills into 5,000 increments. The teller totally got what I was saying. Honestly, just telling her I was an American was probably all she needed to know. We are famous for only speaking English. When you don’t speak the language, it helps to be self-deprecating.

After wandering around central Papeete, the harbor and the market, I stumbled upon a microbrewery. Yeay! Something I understand – BEER! If you are ever in Papeete, I highly recommend Les 3 Brasseurs for a good time. I plopped myself down at a table, ordered an amber ale and a Salade Niçoise and chilled out for several hours. It is HOT here.

People watching in Papeete is fantastic. My hair is considered pretty long by US standards, but it is about 12 inches too short to be fashionable in Tahiti. I’ll have to work on that. Women wear flowers in their hair every day. Everyone sports a least one tattoo. Teenagers kiss in the park. Nannies run after little kids. Old men play chess. Young boys set up a skate boarding park and try to out-trick each other. All on a canvas of green mountains shrouded in mist. Paradise.

Selling produce in Papeete's central market.

Selling produce in Papeete's central market.

Reading the daily news while wating for customers at the market.

Reading the daily news while wating for customers at the market.

Even in Papeete, cell phones are glued to people's ears.

Even in Papeete, cell phones are glued to people's ears.

Mix of Colonial and Polynesian buildings.

Mix of Colonial and Polynesian buildings.

Eating lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs, a microbrewery on Papeete's harbor. Look Mom, I'm eating my veggies!

Eating lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs, a microbrewery on Papeete's harbor. Look Mom, I'm eating my veggies!

Colorful pareos and dresses are all the rage at the Papeete market.

Colorful pareos and dresses are all the rage at the Papeete market.

Grass skirts for Tahitian dance classes.

Grass skirts for Tahitian dance classes.

Sailboats in the Papeete harbor.

Sailboats in the Papeete harbor.

A monument to the lives lost and the land destroyed by nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

A monument to the lives lost and the land destroyed by nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Canoe races are a big deal here in French Polynesia. Kids and their fathers spent the afternoon practicing in the harbor.

Canoe races are a big deal here in French Polynesia. Kids and their fathers spent the afternoon practicing in the harbor.

A view up to the roof structure in a sea-side fale.

A view up to the roof structure in a sea-side fale.

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