Long post, ready guys??
It is so crazy that it has already been nearly a month since we arrived here in Helsinki. I mean, a whole month. It feels so weird to be settled now, in this strange new city, after having had such an exciting summer.
Since June, we knew we would end up here in Helsinki. It wasn’t until August that we knew how quickly after the wedding we would be leaving. Since January we had our honeymoon booked. And it was since last October- nearly one year ago- that we knew we would be getting married. So for an entire year, we had been looking forward to a whole marathon of exciting events!
And now that they are over, and “real life” has set in, it is finally time to look back on those events and share them with you!
I am starting at the end and moving back. You have heard about moving and living in Helsinki. But just before that, we spent a week long honeymoon in Tahiti. So if you do your math, you will find that within a week’s time, we experienced a 12 hr time change from Tahiti to Helsinki. Talk about jet lag…
But so, so worth it.
I cannot recommend any place other than Tahiti for a honeymoon. It was the most amazing place I have ever been to and easily the best place to spend a honeymoon, winding down after a crazy wedding week. I mean, come on, who hasn’t been dreaming about a bungalow over the water for their honeymoon?!
We stayed on the island of Moorea, just a short ferry from the main island of Tahiti. We were instantly swept up in the intoxicating exotic feeling of the place. It rained off and on during our stay, and even in the rain, it was breath taking. Moorea is mountainous, lush with greenery, and has yet to be completely swallowed up by resorts (unlike its neighboring Bora Bora- called Boring Boring by the locals). You can easily spend every day adventuring the island, from hiking and ATV safaris to ocean excursions.
|A sample of sunsets and rises from our time there|
Or you can do what we did, which was nothing.
Yep, 5 blissful days of doing exactly nothing.
Here was our routine: 6am wake up call from the sunrise, which we would watch the from our deck, taking turns trying to get the best picture of it. Around 730-8 we would head to breakfast at the main resort and meander back to the bungalow after a (large) slow breakfast. (Honestly, it was already included so we just tried to make it last through lunch…)
Then we would spend the afternoon reading, sunning, and swimming. And by reading, I mean I wrote thank you cards and by sunning I mean I sat in the sun and Jimmy took refuge under the awning. Some people can handle the tropics, some people -like my husband- are made into lobsters.
We would head in to happy hour at the resort at 430, where we would have a few mai tais and watch the sun set and the grounds crew set up the evening’s dinner show. After a while we would wander back, watch the dolphins play, get ready for dinner, and head back in to the resort for the evening.
We stayed at the Moorea Intercontinental, which had 2 great dinner restaurants, a small dolphin preserve and education center, all sorts of water sporting vehicles available to rent, and dinner shows 3 times a week. We went to one the first night (didn’t bring the camera) and ate at the resort another 2 nights and then ventured outside for the remaining to nights.
First of all, both Jimmy and I love to eat. We love gourmet food, we love dive bars, we love new ingredients. We were both raised in families with great cooks and even better company, so gathering to eat is a really fun thing for us. And let me tell you, we were blown away by the food. It was an amazing fusion of French and island cuisine; rich and creamy with fresh fish and fruits. Neither of us had a bad meal the entire time.
On the first night, I woke up to Jimmy stalking around the bungalow with a pillow. I asked what he was doing (smothering me in my sleep?) and he responded only with “Chicken.”
I was baffled. What?! Chicken? There were wild chickens roaming around the grounds, and our sliding door was left open to the breeze and crashing waves, but how did it get in here?
Turns out there was no chicken. But there was a fuzzy plant that might have looked like a chicken…I guess.
So then on the second to last night, Jimmy jolted out of bed and said “Cat!” I thought he had lost it. But, as it turned out, one of the wild cats had actually gotten inside, and was trying to snuggle with Jimmy. He wasn’t horribly shy, either because he kept trying to rub against us as we attempted to shoo it out with pillows. (Fyi, I hate cats so much. The last time I pet one, I ended up with ring worm, so the last thing I wanted in my honeymoon suite was a feral feline).
But actually, the chicken incident wasn’t too odd. I had some pretty kooky dreams that night as well and I think it may have been some of the more exotic raw marinated fish we had eaten at dinner. Just saying…maybe watch what fish you consume, or you’ll end up chasing imaginary chickens in the dark.
We broke our routine on the last full day on the island. After talking to the concierge man with a very heavy accent (French and the local dialect are primary, then comes English) we understood that we were going on a whale watching expedition with some snorkeling at the end. He assured us that this was the best season for whale watching and that they had seen one every day.
Yeah, ok, I’ve heard that before…
But, hey, I am sure it will be great! At least we will do some snorkeling at the end, and then we can say we came all the way here and actually did something.
What we didn’t understand until we were out there was that we were going snorkeling with the whales.
Our boat guide assured us that this is one of the only places in the world that you can swim with humpback whales because there are no shark attacks.
I hadn’t even considered sharks before, but now that you mention it…
And then he gave us a briefing in safety instructions, which consisted of “If something happens, wave your hands and I’ll come and get you,” and “If the baby tries to play with you, dont touch it,” and then we tracked whale sightings for about 20 minutes until he said, “Get in the water now” and we all disembarked into the open ocean. Without life vests, because that wasn’t part of the safety procedure.
(Caution: Low quality photos taken from the video from the guide)
So there we are, trying not to panic, swimming in a massive ocean of bright blue water. I was squeezing the circulation out of Jimmy’s hand as we tried to follow the water guide (who was far ahead with the camera and checking the stability of the whales) through extremely choppy water. It seriously felt like some sort of movie. We had no idea where the whales were, just approximately straight ahead.
We must have swam a quarter of a mile before we began to see this massive dark form take shape in the water ahead of us: a mother humpback nursing her calf. We were instructed to stay behind the guide at all times, so we basically pulled up and watched as they swam by. Like, right by. They surfaced once while we were there, very close to us, the calf took a bit of interest in us and came fairly close to check out the snorkel dorks, and then continued along with his mother.
My God. They were beautiful. Oh, and huge. Absolutely completely massive. As the guide said, on normal whale watching expeditions, you think “Oh I hope I get close enough to see a whale!” but when you are in the water with them, it is more like “Too close! Too close!”
We all surfaced, full of adrenaline, cheering and laughing in amazement. By the time we got back to the boat, the mother and calf had re-stabilized and we went back out. This time, the calf was more keen to check us out, so our guide dove down and began doing flips in the water to entice the *little* guy to come and play with us.
And he did! He came flipping by, spinning and responding to the guide. And then he made a last pass, and when his massive tail flipped around, he smacked my leg! First of all, seeing a humpback whale’s tail coming towards you is terrifying; its huge and powerful. Secondly, they are so agile in the water. It looks like they would have immense momentum behind them, but seemingly they can stop on a dime. So really, the smack felt like a soft graze. It was actually really amazing, after it was terrifying.
We got back in the boat just in time for a massive bust of rain to pass by, continued a tour around the island, and then snorkeled with reef sharks and sting rays. Also very cool, but after getting out of the ocean with migrating humpback whales, it was slightly underwhelming. Plus we had both ingested so much salt water on the swims that we were pretty much ready for our naps.
Which is exactly what we did. We got back to our bungalow and passed out for a majority of the afternoon.
And the next day, we left paradise for a 28-hour trip home. Which was followed by 3 miserable days of packing, and another long trip to Finland.
I am feeling a little nostalgic for our perfect little trip to paradise. It was a total dream that came and went quickly. But, lucky us, it was replaced with another great adventure.