Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti is a medium sized city where it’s difficult to find a place to park a car. It seems like any other capital until you look under its surface. It definitely has rough edges. I got into trouble for walking alone at night, and I had an unpleasant encounter in its cathedral, one of the few traditional attractions in a city focused on flowers, pearls, and going to the beach. It is said that there are plenty of smiling faces and a welcoming attitude here, but there are lots of surly faces too.
Lonely Planet calls the Marché de Pape’ete an institution and says, “If you see one site in town, make it this market, which fills an entire city block.” It’s certainly colorful and alive with locals buying fish and fruit while tourists shop for trinkets. It’s a place to sample traditional Tahitian food in a city of expensive restaurants. Ruth visited this market twice, and although she came home with 3 new pearls and a pareo, she bought nothing in this vast market.
On a sad note, one of the 2 bottles of vanilla she bought was taken from her checked in luggage. If you buy anything of value in The Society Islands, keep it in a carry-on bag and hope it isn’t confiscated, like Ruth’s peanut butter. A pareo is a colorful, one-piece sarong.
We went from the market to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which is practically across the street from it. It appears very traditional but is actually full of Tahitian detail when viewed closely. It was a hot afternoon, and there were 3 young men in this cathedral. My impression was that they came inside to sleep. The only other obvious tourists in this opened-for-inspection cathedral was an Asian couple. I found the cathedral’s tropical details charming and was busy taking pictures of them when one of the young men threw something at me. I think it was a hat but I’m not sure. Maybe the thrower who shouted at me thought I was desecrating a beloved religious institution. I don’t know because I made a hasty exit.
There has been trouble in Tahiti. It’s not an independent nation. It and the other Society Islands are still under the control of France. This is an often contentious relationship.