When in Rome
Do as the Romans do. Adapt to local customs. Emulate the culture. Drink ridiculously expensive cocktails in a luxury hotel until the lounge singers hand you a mic. A saying based in antiquity, uniquely applied to modern day travel.
Bora Bora. It’s home to some of the largest overwater bungalows in the region and impossibly beautiful. I could feel the ka-ching in the air. If a cloud of thousand dollar bills floated by on the breeze, I would not have been the least bit surprised.
We’d never blend in a place like this. Sailing French Polynesia sounds extravagant, but in a lot of ways, we’re little more than a floating RV. We hang our laundry on the rail, BBQ with old school briquettes and judge each port by the proximity of their garbage cans.
The St. Regis doesn’t have any, but it does have the Aparima Bar. It sits smack between ocean and pool, an oasis of costly cocktails. Think Bloody Mary – invented by one of their own bartenders in New York, circa 1934 – and available here for $27. Or the Hina cocktail. Fresh coconut puree and vanilla-infused rum, a mere $35. But, you can’t put a price on paradise. Can you?
The bar was largely empty. A few couples lingered over glasses of wine, heads turning to watch us walk in. Not a Gucci sandal or Chanel clutch between us. We fooled no one. Obvious imposters. They seated us in low wicker chairs at the edge of the bar, far away from the other guests. A no man’s land, save for a single silver microphone. Consider it foreshadowing.
They arrived about twenty minutes later. The lounge singers. Aly and BaBoS were everything you’d expect. Her. LBD, impossibly high heels. Him. Grey hair, slight paunch. They started slow. Easy hits. Think Beatles, Elton John, Sade, Tracey Chapman. Pretty sure the style would be considered smooth jazz. We hummed along. And then…
Money talks. But it don’t sing and dance, and it don’t walk.
Our eyes lit up. We make playlists. We have favourites. And here we were. Pretending to be fancy people who sip their drinks while making polite conversation over table votives, tempted to revert back to who we really are by…Neil. Fucking. Diamond.
Honey’s sweet. But it ain’t nothin’ next to baby’s treat.
If you know the song, it’s three verses repeated three times each. We all joined in.
Maybe tonight. Maybe tonight, you and I all alone by the fire.
Nothing around, but the sound of my heart and your sighs.
We’re not good. Not even close. But we commit. Aly & BaBoS bought in. For three minutes and thirty seconds, they shared the stage. It was Italy meets Canada on the shores of French Polynesia. The other couples wandered over. They leaned against the bar. Smiled. Some danced.
I thought back to a night in Whistler. We’d sat on stools in the kitchen. It was New Year’s Eve. Someone played guitar. There was laughing and singing. It was a perfect moment. Our greatest performance. This was better. As I looked from one face to another, eyes closed, belting out each line, palm trees swaying in the backround, I was little choked up.
In life, there’s the family you’re born with, and then there’s the one you make along the way. I love these people. Their passion, sense of adventure, total lack of shame.
Bora Bora caters to the wealthy. They fly business. Buy yachts. Shop couture. It made me self-conscious. And now, here we were. Flip flops. Salty hair. Wrinkled clothes. With hundreds of dollars in St. Regis spirits, sloshing over the edges of our glasses because… Neil.
And long as I can have you here with me, I’d much rather be, forever in blue jeans, babe.