Meditations on Moorea


One traveler rediscovers the beauty and culture of the South Pacific.

By Amy Roe

“I shut my eyes in order to see.”
― Paul Gauguin

Not long ago, a rare traveling exhibition of Gauguin’s paintings came to an art museum near my home in Seattle. When my husband and I went to see it, the vivid colors, pastoral landscapes, and portraits of majestic women reminded me that the French Post-Impressionist painted Tahiti both with his eyes and his imagination. More than merely documenting Tahiti, Gauguin, an outsider, interpreted it.

I can relate. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with French Polynesia. Before I was married, I lived in Fort Lauderdale and frequented the Mai-Kai, a sprawling Polynesian-themed restaurant with flickering torches, tikis, and waterfalls, a weekly floor show of dancers, and a dining room named Moorea, after the Tahitian island.

In the Mai-Kai’s dimly lit lounge, I nursed cocktails festooned with purple Phalaenopsis orchids and dreamed of setting foot on the real Moorea. But what was it that I really dreamed of, when I dreamed of this faraway island? Years later, when my husband and I traveled to Tahiti for our honeymoon, I was determined to find out.

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