Thursday, January 4, 2007

Getting Away

It was a bit of a panic... getting all the final details completed: The number of tasks was increased by our good fortune in renting the house for eight months. But, this meant cleaning up while at the same time assembling 2006 income tax receipts, and last minute scanning of documents for the laptop. We also had to store the cars in the Bayshore Parkade, and arrange for the appropriate auto insurance.

“What storage coverage do you want”, asked the only insurance agent at Arbutus Village not bright enough to get New Year’s Eve off. “The minimum” I replied. What about collision? “It won’t be driven”. “How about comprehensive. What if it’s stolen?”

Given that it would be parked in a lower level spot in a secured garage, without licence plates, I decided this wasn’t necessary either.

“Third Party”, he asked. “Why do I need Third Party?” I responded, noting that I won’t be driving. “Well, what if it slips, and smashes into another car, and sets the whole parkade on fire? You’ll be wiped out”. I then realized that he was working New Year’s Eve because he was the best insurance salesman they had!

We eventually got out of there, and thanks to the efforts of daughter Claire, and my sister Estelle, we got everything cleaned, filed, copied and packed. By 4:18, Sally and I stood outside the house with our two new pieces of luggage, for a final photo.

We set off on New Year’s Eve. Although we were missing Bruce Langerais’ bash at the Hotel Georgia, I expected an equally lively party in the Business Class Section of our Air Pacific flight to Fiji. I had second thoughts when I tried to change our seat selection.

“Do you have anything else?” I asked. “I see no reason why not”, replied the agent. You and Mrs. Geller are the only two people booked in Business Class.” Fortunately Claire had prepared us special going away packages with HAPPY NEW YEAR silver foil hats. We would have to make our own party.

The flight, through Honolulu, was relatively uneventful. Suffice it to say, the service was extremely attentive with two attendants looking after our every need. At New Years, they brought champagne and an array of desserts, and we discretely donned our hats for a photo. (Sally says I cannot post the photo!)

Around 4 am, the pilot announced he had bad news.

We would be arriving early. Now normally this is good news, but when the scheduled arrival is 5:45, an early arrival means less sleep. My other bad news was that I didn’t have any Fijian dollars, and the airport’s ATM machine was broken! What to do? Fortunately, there was another machine, and we managed to purchase Fijian dollars. The taxi drive to the hotel was most enjoyable, since it was already light at 5 am!

We're at the Sheraton Fiji on Denarau Island. You enter into an impressive lobby with a view of the pool and the ocean.

We picked this hotel because it is part of a large resort complex, surrounding one of Fiji’s best golf courses. (I particularly wanted to play golf in Fiji, since Vijay Singh autographed my golf hat last year at the Canadian Open!)

We also picked this hotel since there is a military coup taking place in Fiji, which means much better rates than usual. Sadly, New Zealand and Australia have cautioned their citizens from coming. However, the coup is not affecting tourist life at all, and we would urge all Canadians to come and enjoy an island with the friendliest people in the world. At very good hotel rates.

We spent much of our first day in paradise. Our only problems were choosing the right sunscreen, and picking the right restaurant. Our first effort was a complete failure. Everyone recommended the same place, just outside of Nadi. After searching for an hour and a half, and even enlisting the assistance of the local police, we finally found the place, only to see a cardboard sign announcing it was closed for renovations.

The taxi ride back to our hotel was, to say the least, unusual. I made the mistake, of sitting in the front. While the smiling, toothless, and weathered faced driver claimed to have 8 children and many grandchildren, he seemed to have a great fondness for my right thigh!

We ended our first very long day eating kakoda, marinated local fish served in coconut cream and lime, at our hotel’s beachside restaurant. As the sun set behind a row of flaming torches along the water’s edge, local musicians sang, and lovely Australian girls played on the beanbag chairs in the sand.

How wonderful it will be if the next 240 days are just like our first.

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