Phoenix, Arizona ~ Here we are, already deep into the second month of 2014, and I have yet to complete our 2013 BEST DESTINATIONS LIST. Well, I’ve decided to let these photographs tell our story for as they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” These images speak volumes about why we feel so blessed to be part of this incredible mind-expanding, soul-enriching, gratitude-instilling, friendship-building adventure! Thank you all for helping turn our dreams into reality. The more we travel, the more we realize how much there is that we do not know. I hope we never stop learning…never stop moving…never stop loving and savoring this gift we call LIFE! On that note, I shall allow these images to speak for themselves.
2013: OH, WHAT A YEAR INDEED!
ESCAPESEEKER Return to “Heaven’s Heaven”
We were even granted some special time to visit the Captain’s Bridge and learn more about how this especially designed vessel is perfect for navigating Tahiti’s shallow channels.
Our team totally engaged.
January was off to such a great start, and with my role as ESCAPESEEKER Guest Speaker on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, and with our TAHITI: OH HEAVEN’S HEAVEN film presentations so well-attended by our fellow passengers, my Executive Assistant, Melody Clyde and I decided to extend our cruise dates so I can continue in my role as Guest Speaker. Frankly, it did not take much convincing to remain on board. The hardest part was finally deciding to disembark at the end of February! But not before I was afforded the opportunity to visit the highly awaited, most eco-friendly luxury resort on the island of Tetiaroa–yes, the private island of one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors, Marlon Brando–thus the name, THE BRANDO!
I was flown by Mr. Richard Bailey from Papeete to Tetiaroa in his private plane which he piloted. How cool is that? As we approached the island, I quietly took in this extraordinary moment. There I was about to land on Marlon Brando’s slice of Tahitian paradise–a former retreat reserved for Tahitian Royals, with Tahiti’s most respected hotelier, and the man Brando personally entrusted to transform his revered island into the ultimate earth-friendly hideaway. Even though my recently injured right foot was well on its way to healing, I decided to keep it protected as Mr. Bailey showed me around the construction site, explaining all the revolutionary, eco-friendly methods they were putting into application to adhere to all of Brando’s strict specifications. I can’t wait to return when it officially opens this July, 2014. I have a feeling the list of guests eager to set foot on THE BRANDO is getting longer by the day. After being impressed with the “before” visit, I can only imagine what the “after” final version will be. Look out world, get ready to add one more “must do” to your Bucket List!
2013 definitely started on the right footing, even with one foot in a cast! I’m continually inspired by the tireless visionaries who go to great lengths to create meaningful travel experiences that are worthy of our hard-earned vacation currency. More than ever, I am driven to seek out those destinations that adhere to our ESCAPESEEKER mantra of being “the greatest luxury escapes in the world.” Just when we thought it could not get any better, our 2013 itinerary turned into a series of dream experiences. The best part, it wasn’t a dream at all, but a reality we cannot wait to capture on film and share with the rest of the world. Thank you all so much for your unwavering support and continued enthusiasm for this insatiable passion for our majestic planet that we all share. Take a peak at where our path led us for the remainder of 2013–from America’s iconic desert oasis of Arizona, to the “Roof of Peru”–Machu Picchu; to the glamour and glitz of the French Riviera; to the grand dame of Formula One racing–Monaco; to the Land of the Gods–Greece; to the only city in the world that spans two continents–Indescribable Istanbul; to the City of Lights–Paris and its historic River Seine; to the River Danube magically illuminated by Brilliant Budapest! 2013–is the year for our ESCAPESEEKER Record Books!
MARCH…a quick Family retreat to America’s Desert Oasis
APRIL …On Top Of The World!
The unforgettable Cannes Premiere evening when we joined the cast and crew of Behind the Candelabra…
We’ll soon find out if Matt Damon’s leading man, Michael Douglas will follow up his Golden Globe with an Oscar!
JUNE…Fun, Sun, Cookin’ and Soul
From a sunset Barbeque on the top deck…to secret hideaway coves usually reserved for Royals…to spotless docks that lead to quaint, quiet villages…You’ll have the option to do as much or as little as your heart desires when you cruise with the m/v Tere Moana.
JULY…Birthday Wish Come True
AUGUST…Where’s My Grandma?
Time for some ESCAPESEEKER GRANDMA bonding moments in the Kamas, Utah riverside meadows…
SEPTEMBER…Finds me crossing the Atlantic again…this time I am bound for ISTANBUL!
OCTOBER…A Season of Learning
After my premiere visit to Istanbul, I prepared for my long-awaited French language extensive immersion program at Alliance française Paris Ile-de-France. Yes! I’m finally going to tackle the French language 24/7. With the kind generosity and hospitality of my life-long friend, Paris native Dominique Caffin-Robert, I found myself in the City of Lights…ready to be schooled in its difficult language…and, for the next six weeks, I would be thinking…talking…dreaming…eating…reading…and playing in French!
NOVEMBER…And, I’m officially excused from school…
I was never very good at playing hookie from school, so when I told my teacher I had a previous ESCAPESEEKER assignment I needed to adhere to, she handed me an official absence request form to fill out. That’s so French right? I mean, the form was in French, and I was required to fill it out in French as well. By the time I finished, I knew I had made great advances in the language and could now thoroughly enjoy my ESCAPE to the DANUBE on board the AMAPrima Waterways. Germany, Austria, Hungary…here I come!
If you wish to make new friends who share your insatiable passion for life, then I recommend you consider cruising with the AMAWaterways fleet! I’ve never met so many tremendously engaging, fun individuals under one roof. I kid you not!
BUDAPEST…AN ENCHANTED EVENING AT ITS BEST…[Image captured from AmaPrima Stateroom 225 Balcony by yours truly, the ESCAPESEEKER on our last night of cruising the Danube. Now is this a magnificent close to an unforgettable week or what? AMAWaterways sure knows how to script. I cannot wait to capture it all on high definition cinematic film someday soon!
HELLO PARIS! ONE FINAL WEEK BEFORE I SAY…Au Revoir…
My last night was spent at my all-time favorite hotel–the SHANGRI-LA HOTEL-PARIS. With its magnificent unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower at every angle, and the consistently impeccable service and attention to detail, not to mention the quiet residential location…For me, it is simply the perfect place to feel totally Parisien…a rather pampered Parisien that is!
DECEMBER…A Time of Giving…Brings me to the BIG APPLE…NEW YORK CITY.
As my incredibly remarkable year was coming to a close…I knew there was one more important obligation I had to fulfill…my commitment to help with the annual United Nations Ambassadors Ball–a highly anticipated event orchestrated by the Hospitality Committee for the United Nations Delegation. Their mission is as follows:
To promote and strengthen understanding and friendly ties between all levels of the United Nations diplomatic community and the people of New York.
To assist newly arrived UN diplomats and their families adjust to their new life in New York by providing information and programs that reduce language and cultural barriers.
To broaden an appreciation of American culture and customs among UN diplomats and their families, thereby enhancing the reputation of the United States and the United Nations.
All of the above resonates with our ESCAPESEEKER philosophy of following the Golden Rule, “Do unto others, what you would have others do unto you.” It’s a lofty and worthwhile goal, so of course ESCAPESEEKER offered to do our part to assist with the event. After all, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
MAY 2014 BRING YOU AND YOURS BLESSINGS BEYOND MEASURE: THE GIFT OF HEALTH…THE GIFT OF ADVENTURE…and THE GIFT OF LASTING LOVE and FRIENDSHIP wherever your path may lead.
Here’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES…And, Remember, Be the kindest person you know.
With love and joy,
Mel Gee Henderson aka The ESCAPESEEKER
The ESCAPESEEKER Big Birthday Escape…
With Select Images by Ariane Bañon
French Polynesia – Upon learning of a sudden opening in my schedule due to a change in our ESCAPESEEKER Global Odyssey assignment just three days after my 60th birthday, I knew there was one place on earth guaranteed to restore my youth, rejuvenate my body, recharge my spirit, and enrich my soul all at once – FRENCH POLYNESIA! Sometimes, only we can determine the best birthday gift to give ourselves. And, after covering four continents and thousands and thousands of miles in two short months, I absolutely deserved a “birthday escape” so I booked a 7-night passage on board the luxurious m/s Paul Gauguin—often described as the “The ship with a soul.” After all, a big birthday deserves a big celebration of life, of health, and for this grateful globetrotting ESCAPESEEKER, a voyage to a place novelist, poets, and artists, describe as “the most dramatically beautiful place on earth.” In other words, Tahitian Paradise. Truth be known, I must confess my friends are right. My love for Tahiti is nearing addiction status as they remind me, “Mel, you were just there at the beginning of 2013!” If you take a close look at the photograph below captured of me with my new friends I met on the Paul Gauguin’s January 2013 sailing– Lucy Miller and Sylvia Cheek jet-skiing at Bora Bora’s crystal clear, turquoise lagoon –it’s easier to understand why I’m so enraptured with the beauty of these Tahitian Islands and desire to return as often as I can! It’s even more reason why I’m qualified to guide you as you prepare your own VOYAGE TO PARADISE.
Yes, as the TV Travel Series Journalist of ESCAPESEEKER and logging in countless miles each month, French Polynesia is where I go when I find myself needing a life’s transfusion. Thank goodness, I was able to book the last available seat on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete. Tahiti’s gateway to her heavenly islands is a mere 8-hour nap from LAX! And, I’m happy to discover that many have taken my ESCAPESEEKER advice to fly Air Tahiti Nui so they can be guaranteed that their vacation can begin the minute they board their Tahiti flight and begin their journey to paradise.
After a delicious dinner, I closed my eyes to begin dreaming about my return to paradise, and before I knew it, we were already landing, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, which meant we would be able to witness our first sunrise in Papeete!
My personal formula for eliminating any signs of jet lag before it even begins to set in—walk it out!
After collecting my luggage I am whisked away by my favorite native driver, Greg who immediately delivers me to the InterContinental Tahiti located in Pepeete, a mere five-minute drive from the airport. I always arrange a half-day hotel stay to give me and my body time to acclimate before I embark on the Paul Gauguin later in the afternoon. This guarantees I’ll be refreshed and ready for the 7-night voyage to the Society Islands: Raiatea, Taha’a Bora Bora, Moorea and back to Tahiti’s capital of Papeete. What’s my secret for combating jet lag and fatigue? I walk the beautiful tropical grounds of the resort; I swim in its beautiful sand-bottom pool; and, sometimes, I top it off with a Spa treatment which definitely erases any last remaining symptoms of jet lag!
Why choose the m/s Paul Gauguin? Ships are not created equal…
These days there are many cruise companies to choose from, and they all offer a buffet of itineraries to some of the most beautiful places on earth. So, one has to ask, why choose the m/s Paul Gauguin?
For this seasoned cruiser and ESCAPESEEKER,
“A Room with a View” is a major incentive to choose the m/s Paul Gauguin…
The m/s Paul Gauguin was designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of French Polynesia, visiting smaller ports that larger mega ships can’t reach. The spacious suites and staterooms all offer ocean views, of which 70% have private balconies. After all, with endless awe-inspiring vistas throughout its voyage, it would be a shame not to wake up to Tahiti’s glorious sunrise, or miss its mesmerizing sunsets because of a windowless “inside cabin.” Rather, the m/s Paul Gauguin guarantees each guest, no matter what category of accommodation they book, access to borrowed landscape, in other words, “A room with a view.”
This MAGNIFICENT SUNRISE was captured while standing on my Stateroom balcony as we made our way towards the island of Raiatea!
For sea explorers, it just doesn’t get any easier…nor any more mesmerizing!
Personally, as an active water sports’ enthusiasts, I love that the m/s Paul Gauguin has an onboard watersports marina—yes, the ship’s team of expert dive masters departs right from the marina. I can go from my cabin straight to the waiting zodiac fully equipped for underwater exploration! For scuba divers, it just doesn’t get any easier or more convenient.
Paul Gauguin’s best kept secret…
After an active day of play and island exploration, those of us who have sailed with the Paul Gauguin before, quickly learn that its on board SPA maybe its best kept secret. May I suggest you book early before everyone else on board discovers its team of “velvet healing hands” therapists, salon hairstylist and colorist are all better or equal to those 5-star Spas you frequent on land!
Exquisite dining combined with Polynesian hospitality…
Less I forget, there’s a choice of three open-seating dining venues with an expert culinary team ready to meet the expectations of even the most discerning palate. After all, you have to remember, you’re cruising the FRENCH Polynesian Islands. Thus, you can expect a meñu offering of the highest caliber.
As a writer, my inspirations like my hunger may be triggered at all hours of the day and night. But no worries. The Paul Gauguin provides 24-hour room service.
There’s also always someone on duty to assist at all times, especially appreciated on those occasions when you run out of your stateroom without your key!
And, should you find yourself in need of one more swimsuit, or need to spruce up and accessorize that beautiful basic black dress for the evening, the Paul Gauguin’s own Boutique Stylists are skilled and ready to add glamour to your day or evening event.
Incomparable POLYNESIAN Hospitality…
The atmosphere aboard the entire ship exudes warmth, informality, and Polynesian hospitality for which the m/s Paul Gauguin has become world-renowned. And with its beloved troupe of Gauguines—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers eager to share their native culture—add the special Polynesian incomparable spirit of Tahiti to every sailing. Other cruise vessels try to replicate what the Paul Gauguin has learned to do so well–establish a floating, caring community, thus earning its reputation of “The ship with a soul.” It’s difficult to explain in words…but you’ll feel it the minute you step aboard. With one crew member for every 1.5 guests, you’re assured the highest level of personal attention. I’ve never met a staff more dedicated to my comfort and well-being as gracefully expressed in countless thoughtful acts throughout the cruise. The way the maitre d’, Ivan Bolalin remembers my name or how much I love their mushroom risotto! And, in the kind attention extended by Edward on the top deck where I like to enjoy my breakfast. This is his first cruise, but already he made special note that I only drink water with ice for breakfast, and has a full glass already waiting at my favorite breezy table, where I am able to take in the beautiful vistas as I dine, as well as apply Mother Nature’s technique of air drying my freshly shampooed hair! You may be surprised to know that this extremely hard-working staff, who continually exude a joyful smile expects no gratuities! Gratuities are included in the cruise fare, leaving you worry-free to just accept all the special tailor-made treatment a VIP like you deserves.
Don’t just take my word for it. Please permit me to share some of the heartfelt sentiments shared by several of the first time guests I met on my “birthday sailing.” One thing you’ll discover about the Paul Gauguin—it’s so easy to find yourselves, like I did, making new friends with people from around the world, whom like you may also be celebrating monumental events in their lives, and have dreamt of one day setting foot on these heavenly islands! The world is full of friends just waiting to be met. Perhaps I should rephrase that—there’s a ship full of new fun-loving, engaging friends just waiting to meet you! Like and you and me, they’re all eager to celebrate what life has to offer!
In their own words…
“The service on board the m/s Paul Gauguin is out of this world. It’s not easy getting up early in the morning and delivering the same superb service at noon and at dinner too. They really get it!” ~ John and Kristen Kennedy, Brisbane, Australia
“The real thing is so much better than I ever envisioned. On Bora Bora, the turquoise lagoon is more turquoise than any picture I’ve seen prior. This reality needs no air-brushing!” ~ Carol Horner, Virginia Beach, USA
“The Aqua Safari excursion blew me away! The Paul Gauguin experience exceeded my expectations and left me in awe!” ~ Kim Friedman, Manhattan Beach, California.
“As a seasoned cruiser, I set my expectations high right from the start. And, the Paul Gauguin definitely met my expectations.” ~ Tara Turner, Orange County, California.
“Mel, I can’t believe the tremendous welcome we received at the St. Regis Bora Bora! Not only did the GM, Mike Schoonewagen greet us at the dock after sending his own personal boat to pick us up, but he also took time from his very full schedule to spend time with us. I shall never forget our beautiful day at the St. Regis Beach. It was the highlight of our trip! We’re definitely coming back!” ~ Lance Turner, Orange County, California
Pearly-White Beaches of St. Regis Bora Bora
St. Regis Bora Bora’s Lagoonarium
If you wish to follow in our footsteps, simply click below, and before you know it, you’ll be sinking your toes in the pearly white, soft sands of French Polynesia too! No matter your age, Tahiti appeals to everyone–both the youth and the youthful!
Perhaps you may wish to join our ESCAPESEEKER team on the m/s Paul Gauguin’s November 13th sailing to the Society Islands and the Tuamotus? Oh yes, the only way I could escape solo was to promise my film crew they would get their turn at experiencing Paradise also. My love and passion for French Polynesia is undeniably contagious! For more info, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com
Here’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES…
And, remember, no matter where you travel, BE THE KINDEST PERSON YOU KNOW.
Mel aka THE ESCAPESEEKER
Creator, Journalist Host, Executive Producer
PBS SoCal TV Travel Series, ESCAPESEEKER
The natives’ melodic harmony will remain with you…as if you’re still in their midst. A very special “MAURURU” to all of the wonderful, enthusiastic, beautiful guests who participated in this ESCAPESEEKER story. May you all be blessed with more unforgettable adventures…Until we meet again…
I wish you all SAFE TRAVELS!
2013 Theme: Mission Possible…Conquering the Unexpected
When an unfortunate accident turned my size six right foot into size 7.5 complete with 10 screws and 2 plates, and with its accompanying recovery period that subsequently derailed our 2012 filming season, I was determined to get back on track in 2013, no matter what it took! Once my newly renamed, “Robofoot” could travel, black/gray mega boot, crutches and all, I knew there was one place that would assist in my healing, both physically and spiritually: French Polynesia! So, I embarked on a series of voyages on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, serving as a “Guest Speaker” and sharing our TAHITI: OH HEAVEN’S HEAVEN series with the enthusiastic guests. After all, how can you not love watching a film about the breathtaking places you know you’re about to experience first hand? The entire experience of being amongst such joyful passengers and crew who shared my insatiable passion for the islands, and swimming daily in those healing French Polynesian turquoise waters was exactly what my foot (and my soul) needed to bring me back to full ESCAPESEEKER form!
Fast forward, April 15, 2013 and I’m absolutely ready to tackle not one continent, but four continents in just three months. I began in Asia [Hong Kong], followed by South America [Peru], and continuing on to Europe [France], with a quick return to North America [Utah] so I can orchestrate a beautiful wedding for my daughter, Joanna, and then returning to Europe to begin an extensive exploration of Greece, Italy [including The Vatican], Croatia, and back to Italy. The journey wasn’t pain-free, but I quickly discovered that I was tougher than I ever imagined. More importantly, I found the continuous blessing of seeing one breathtaking vista after another, and meeting so many, many engaging inspiring, talented individuals at every turn only fueled my resolve that 2013 will be the very best ESCAPESEEKER season yet! Perhaps, in part, it may be because I have a far greater appreciation for restored health…for the opportunity to travel…to explore the world on two feet, something I will never ever take fore granted again.
With God’s tender mercy, and with the tireless assistance of my ESCAPESEEKER team as well as the continued, generous support of tremendous entities from around the world, we will continue to seek out the greatest destinations, and prove again and again that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult, or too SPECTACULAR to reach! I feel it a tremendous privilege, albeit also a great responsibility to correctly represent each country I write about, and subsequently film for our PBS SoCal TV Series. For the next few weeks, I will be devoting a segment on each of the destinations we researched, so I can properly do them justice. I hope you’ll continue to visit my ESCAPESEEKER blog as I share the incredible images and story after story of some of the world’s most interesting, unique places…some of which are still barely known…hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventure-seeking, travel enthusiasts just like you! We will be returning to film these destinations in the coming weeks, and I have no doubt my avid cinematographers upon seeing these awe-inspiring places will once again refer to me as their “Fairy Godmother.”
Here’s to ENDLESS, BLISSFUL ESCAPES…and Remember, No Matter Where You Travel, BE THE KINDEST PERSON YOU KNOW!
Mel Gee Henderson aka ESCAPESEEKER
MARLON BRANDO’S VISION FOR TETIAROA ATOLL NEARS COMPLETION AS PACIFIC BEACHCOMBER SETS THE NEW GLOBAL STANDARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
REMARKABLE DOESN’T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE “THE BRANDO” ON THE ISLAND OF TETIAROA, THE HISTORIC FORMER RETREAT OF TAHITIAN ROYALS…
A LOOK BACK AT TETIAROA’S HISTORY…
I discovered from my research that the atoll of Tetiaroa holds a special place in the hearts of the people of French Polynesia. It has become an almost a “sacred spot” for the people. In historic times, Tetiaroa belonged to the Pomare family, rulers of Tahiti. The royal family placed Tetiaroa in the care of faithful retainers who managed it and lived on the island.
Members of the royal family spent time on Tetiaroa when they needed quiet time and relaxation. The female members of the family are said to have gone there to eat (gain weight) and stay out of the sun (have their skin lighten up) “for the purposes of beautifying their person.” According to legend, in times of trouble the King placed his treasures there for safekeeping. In 1789, William Bligh is said to have been the first European to visit the atoll while looking for the Bounty mutineers.
In 1904, the royal family gave Tetiaroa to Dr. Johnston Walter Williams, the only dentist in Tahiti. Mr Williams later became Consul of England from 1916 to 1935. Dr. Williams managed Tetiaroa as a residence and a copra plantation.
HOW BRANDO AND TETIAROA CAME TO BE…
In 1960, Marlon Brando “discovered” Tetiaroa while scouting filming locations for Mutiny on the Bounty, which was shot on Tahiti and neighboring island of Moorea. After filming was completed, Brando hired a local fisherman to ferry him to Tetiaroa. It was “more gorgeous than anything I had anticipated,” he marveled in his 1994 autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me.
Brando eventually purchased Tetiaroa’s islets (motus) from one of Dr. Williams’ direct descendants, Mrs. Duran. The reef and lagoon belong to French Polynesia. Brando purchased most of the atoll in 1966 for $200,000 and the other part in 1967 for $70,000. He had to overcome political interference and local resistance to purchase the atoll. Many, many important archaeological sites have been located, identified, and studied on Tetiaroa.
Wanting to live on the atoll, Brando built a small village on Motu Onetahi in 1970. It consisted of an airstrip to get there without breaching the reef, 12 simple bungalows, a kitchen hut, dining hall and bar, all built from local materials – coconut wood, thatch roofs and even large sea shells for sinks. The village became a hospice for friends, family and scientists studying the atoll’s ecology and archeology.
A SPECIAL FRIENDSHIP IS FORGED BETWEEN TWO AMERICANS…
What happens when two Americans who share a passion and reverence for Tahiti and her islands come together? Enter, Mr. Richard Bailey, a youthful, forward-thinking, fearless visionary, who would soon team up with the Hollywood legend to find a revolutionary solution to Tahiti’s ever-increasing demand (and very expensive) energy needs.
After falling deeply in love with the South Pacific and its people, Brando’s life was affected in a profound way. Brando who had earned a “bad boy” reputation for his public outbursts and antics or as noted by the Los Angeles magazine–“Brando was rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was”–found a new way to escape the Hollywood limelight at the 12-island atoll which he intended to make partly an environmental laboratory and partly a resort. He vowed to preserve it. “If I have my way,” he said, “Tetiaroa will remain forever a place that reminds Tahitians of who they are and what they were centuries ago.” It was during his time on Tetiaroa that Brando began researching other forms of sustainable energy utilizing what was most available and abundant throughout Tahiti: SEAWATER! And, in 1999, it would be this common quest that would introduce Brando, a transformed, passionately “green-focused” Hollywood star, to a young hospitality industry entrepreneur with a proven record of achieving luxury in a remote, authentic and well-preserved environment in the South Pacific, while weaving in the genuine Polynesian way of life. For the next 5 years, a lasting friendship was forged, as their revolutionary ideas for sustainable energy were brought to full fruition, and it should be no surprise that after Marlon Brando’s passing, the Brando family comprised of his eight surviving children would turn to Mr. Bailey to lead the way to make their father’s dream for Tetiaroa come true!
AN INVITATION I COULDN’T REFUSE…
How does one script an incredible ending to my 2013, amazing French Polynesian Odyssey? Well, if you’re the ESCAPESEEKER you would receive one incredibly rare invitation to get a first hand look at THE BRANDO–the most revolutionary, most eco-friendly, sustainable luxury resort, currently under construction on the atoll of TETIAROA. Yes, on February 15, 2013, at approximately 11:00 a.m., I found myself in the co-pilot’s seat of a TBM850 private aircraft, piloted by none other than the courageously daring CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, RICHARD BAILEY, the man entrusted by Brando and his family to meticulously carry out Brando’s requests for his beloved TETIAROA: to preserve its cultural richness, its natural beauty, and the incredible biodiversity of this beautiful atoll.
After our 20-minute, smooth flight from Papeete, we begin to make our approach towards the runway. Viewing the island from above, it finally hits me just how complex this huge undertaking is from the start–the difficulty of building on a remote atoll with no infrastructure – no power, gas, water, anything. For starters, they’ve reconstructed an airstrip, to make it meet strict regulations. After Mr. Bailey’s flawless landing, I turned to him and remarked, “What you have set before you feels so much like your own quest to land on the moon!” He smiled, and replied, “Mel, in my business, how often does an opportunity like this come along in one’s lifetime? I am so very lucky…very, very lucky to be given this amazing challenge!”At that moment, as we exited his beautiful aircraft, I, too felt extremely lucky to be given this very special first-hand look at THE BRANDO, guided by the youthful and energetic visionary himself, equipped with an unwavering positive attitude who believes nothing is IMPOSSIBLE!
IN 2014, THE CALIBER OF TRUE, SUSTAINABLE, ECO-FRIENDLY LUXURY ESCAPES WILL BE TRANSFORMED WITH THE UNVEILING OF “THE BRANDO” ON THE TETIAROA ATOLL…
Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC), which will distribute air conditioning to all of the project’s buildings and infrastructures. Having pioneered this system in the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa in 2006, Pacific Beachcomber is the leader in the development of this technology. The SWAC is estimated to produce 45% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
Solar energy, produced from photovoltaic solar panels, will be installed along the airstrip on the north side of the islet of Onetahi. Solar energy is estimated to produce 35% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
A biofuel thermal power station that uses coconut oil will be used to offset any decrease in energy outputs from the solar installations. Coconut oil is estimated to produce 20% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
Additionally, hot water for the resort will be produced using solar energy instead of traditional water heaters that burn fossil fuels, and an innovative wastewater management system will filter liquid wastewater into water that will be used for irrigation.
I have to admit, as THE ESCAPESEEKER, I’ve been granted some very unique opportunities, but my private tour or TETIAROA has to be amongst the coolest of them all! Wait, let me rephrase that…in light of the perfect, noon day sun that shone brightly through the natural vegetation, it is better described as ONE BRILLIANT DAY…one I can’t wait to replicate and capture on film when THE BRANDO officially opens its doors in 2014.
Thank you Richard for a most inspiring day…and thank you Mireille Bailey for kindly suggesting I see THE BRANDO up close. I would not have missed this rare experience for the world. While standing on the beach and looking out at an endless horizon of turquoise blue and every shade thereof, I had an overwhelming sense… the special feeling the natives call, “mana”…that this atoll is more than just another luxurious island escape. Mr. Brando would be very, very proud!
ESCAPESEEKER fans…yes, please feel free to ask me the question: “If Heaven has a heaven, is it found in Tahiti and her islands?” Watch this clip of Tetiaroa, and you’ll begin to understand why ESCAPESEEKER has become such a strong proponent of Mr. Bailey and his Pacific Beachcomber organization!
Taha’a, French Polynesia – It all began when I awoke at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 20, 2013 on Day 8 of our Cook Islands and Society Islands 11-night cruise. I looked out of my stateroom balcony and the turquoise waters of the m/s Paul Gauguin’s private motu (island) glistened in the distance. I realized the ship would be setting its anchor shortly in the deep waters off the tiny island of Taha’a, the smallest of the Society Islands, which would enable passengers to be tendered to the private motu for the Paul Gauguin’s legendary Motu Barbecue. This is definitely an all-day beach barbecue/watersports filled festivity that I was looking forward to experiencing again. But since we were lucky enough to be anchored in Taha’a on a Sunday—I wanted to begin this Sabbath morning by giving our ESCAPESEEKER team a Sunday experience they will not soon forget. If you ever find yourself on any of the Society Islands on a Sunday, and you love A CAPPELLA CHORUS, please make note: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU ATTEND THE LOCAL VILLAGE PROTESTANT CHURCH if you want to hear the most harmonious voices on earth! I kid you not!
Well, that was my plan. But I knew it would not be the simplest plan to achieve. It’s not like we’re just dock-side and could go on the island anytime we wish. It definitely would require some extraordinary assistance. So, I picked up the phone—by this time it’s only 6:00 a.m.—still quite early for both passengers and crew, and dialed “0” and immediately, the night duty staff answered the phone. I explained what I wished to do…not just for me…but for my team…a total of 8. He explained that he would try to reach his top superiors who could “possibly make it happen.”
Enter NELSON TRINDADE, Paul Gauguin’s Hotel Director. His attitude, “CAN DO!”
At 7 a.m. I received a call from Nelson Trindade, Paul Gauguin’s Director of Hotel Operations. He not only explained how he was going to get our team to the Protestant Church on Taha’a in time to attend their 9:00 a.m. service, but he informed me that after the church service, he would personally pick us up at the church and guide us back to a waiting zodiac that would then transport us directly to the private island so we could experience “Motu Mahana” –their legendary barbecue and beach day as well. Talk about MISSION POSSIBLE!
OUR TAHA’A SUNDAY…What an absolutely music infused, soul-enriching day…
We arrived at the church just as the services were about to begin and were directed towards the front of the chapel. Immediately, the congregation began to sing, and the walls seemed to vibrate with the strength of their majestic a cappella voices—pure God endowed melodic vocal instruments as each section of the congregation took turns singing various hymns. It was immediately clear to my ESCAPESEEKER team why I wanted them to have this extraordinary experience! The only thing that would have improved our experience is if we could have accessed copies of their hymns in English so we could read along while they sang in their native Tahitian. But then again, the spirit was felt so strongly as they sang with fervor and gusto, that it transcended any language barrier we might have felt.
Well, to our surprise, at the end of the service, several women were beckoned to collect the beautiful fresh floral garlands that hung at the podium and began to present one to each of us as they thanked us for attending their Sunday Service. We entered as strangers, and left as friends. These are the kinds of unexpected, spontaneous, mind-expanding native experiences, which make traveling thousands of miles by land and sea absolutely worth it!
As we made our way down the street, who did we see approaching us? Yes, you guessed it—Nelson Trindade!
As promised, he was there to guide us back to the waiting zodiac.
Nelson Trinidade, (center) even provided freshly cut coconut drinks to quench our thirst!
MOTU MAHANA…It’s Playtime, Island Paradise Style!
Paul Gauguin’s MOTU MAHANA is quickly becoming a tradition we strive to repeat year after year. Where else can we safely play in the water like children again?
GOODBYE TAHA’A…THANK YOU FOR A MOST MEMORABLE SUNDAY!
Just when we think our day couldn’t get any more exciting, we receive an invitation to join Captain Ericksen and Nelson Trindade for a “Sail Away from Taha’a” as viewed from the Bridge! We were also joined by passengers, Champion Freediver, Herbet Nitsch and his father, along with a film crew who is documenting Herbet’s return to free diving in French Polynesian waters. Herbet, like myself, is also a guest speaker and is sharing his incredible free diving adventures as documented on film. His unwavering passion for his extremely difficult sport is most inspiring.
Jim and Peg Jones enjoying a photo op with Herbet Nitsch.
Herbet isn’t the only one passionate about what he does as demonstrated by m/s Paul Gauguin’s Captain Ericksen.
Dining with Captain Ericksen and Hotel Director, Nelson Trindade was the perfect ending to our extraordinary day. Who knew that when I picked up the phone at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning, our ESCAPESEEKER day would evolve into such an event-filled unforgettable experience. But then again, when you’re cruising under the m/s Paul Gauguin banner, nothing is ordinary, and no request is too big to fill! As Trindade explained, “What sets us apart from all the other cruise lines has always been our crew, and how we go above and beyond to insure our guests are made to feel special, and have the best vacation they have ever experienced.”
“Can Do attitude is the key to our success,” he proudly adds.
Our team’s experience throughout our 11-night journey, whether on land or at sea, is definitely a testament to the first class luxury cruise experience we were afforded!
Thank you m/s Paul Gauguin!
Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES…
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
ABRAVANEL HALL WILL ONCE AGAIN BE FILLED WITH KURT BESTOR MUSIC ENTHUSIASTS…
SERIOUS DECADES-LONG FANS WHO HAVE EARNED THE NICKNAME…BESTORITES
Select Images by Weston Hall
On December 13-15, 2012, Utah’s famed Abravanel Hall will be brimming with avid music lovers. These are not your ordinary music lovers–but loyal followers of Utah’s versatile and beloved composer, Kurt Bestor–thus the nickname “Bestorites”–who have made it their Christmas tradition to attend his concert year after year!
As in Christmas past, Bestor is joined on stage by SPECIAL GUEST musicians–and this year, to help him celebrate his 25th year–he is joined by Grammy-Award Winning Violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker! [For more ticket info go to: http://www.kurtbestor.com/]
OUR PAST HAS A WAY OF CONNECTING US TO OUR PRESENT…
In 1998, I was asked to write and produce a special film tribute for the worldwide humanitarian relief organization known as C.A.R.E. –made famous by the CARE stamped brown boxes filled with basic foods which were air-dropped to survivors of war-torn Europe post World War 2. The film, entitled Womens’ Voices specifically highlights CARE’s tremendous relief efforts in assisting and changing the lives of impoverished women in Central America. While researching to find the appropriate musical score for the film I came across the most moving song that was a perfect fit to set the tone and convey the message that was at the heart of this tribute. The song was Prayer of the Children, with lyrics and music composed by Kurt Bestor.
I was fortunate enough to discover that my longtime friend, filmmaker and Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder, Sterling Van Wagenen, personally knew this renowned Utah composer. Sterling kindly connected the dots for me, and Kurt Bestor permitted me to use the song, free of charge, stating, “I’m honored to assist in CARE’s efforts to help the less fortunate.” I have never forgotten his kind spirit and generosity. In 2010, in Salt Lake City, before his annual Abravanel Concert Hall performance was to begin, we finally met in person!
ESCAPESEEKER SEEKS OUT KURT BESTOR AGAIN…
THIS TIME TO SHOWCASE HIS TALENTS IN THE STUDIO AND ON THE SKI SLOPES TOO!
The selection process that I undertook in deciding to seek out KURT BESTOR as the Utah based musical artist to feature as part of our ESCAPESEEKER Deer Valley/Park City winter episode was quite simple. Knowing that the episode will be anchored around the luxuriously classy Montage Deer Valley resort—I wanted to find a talented artist who was equally at home in such a luxurious environment as well as being out in the elements—the winter’s chilly elements. Well, I quickly learned that not only is Kurt Bestor a gifted composer, but he’s an avid heli-skier as well! What a beautiful match for a resort that caters to skiers of all levels—from novices like myself, to ultimate thrill seekers like Kurt!
But, ultimately, what won me over is the enormous praise that not only Kurt’s loyal fans have shared about this generously gifted individual—but the honest words expressed by those who work closely with Kurt, like Sam Cardon, fellow Utah composer with whom he released a CD entitled “Innovators” in 1995 followed by its sequel in 2001: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen as many gifts given to one individual. He’s a first-rate composer, a terrific public speaker, a pretty good actor, a great athlete, a bit of a poet and sculptor and artist. An artistic nature just fills him up. And he’s exceptionally bright. He could have chosen to do anything.”
LOYAL LIFELONG FOLLOWERS…HIS MUSIC APPEALS TO EVERY GENERATION
Kurt has an incredible following in Utah, but particularly during the holidays. For the last 25 years, Kurt has produced his annual Christmas concert, complete with a full orchestra, which as I’ve witnessed, are always a packed house, (so best to buy your tickets early). Bestor’s music can be heard throughout the entire State of Utah, and beyond—whether it’s Provo’s Stadium of Fire on the Fourth of July; or European concert halls for the LDS Sea Trek; or LDS Church movies or the dozens of special charity appearances he makes annually on local TV and radio ads.
Yes, Bestor’s accomplishments exceed Utah’s borders: His compositions include the Calgary Olympic TV theme (which earned him an Emmy); music for the Salt Lake Olympic closing ceremonies; scores for more than 30 films; material for more than 40 TV shows, including “Good Morning America,” “Monday Night Football,” “National Geographic,” Fox TV news, ABC’s college basketball, ABC’s “Movie of the Week,” NBC’s 1988 Super Bowl, ABC’s baseball playoff coverage, NBC’s 1992 Barcelona Olympic coverage. The list goes on and on.
Yes, there’s definitely more to add to his credits: Bestor has conducted his own classical compositions with the Utah Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, The Prague Festival Orchestra and The Estonian National Symphony. He has performed for Jane Goodall, Madeleine Albright and Mikhail Gorbachev at the World Summit in New York. He has conducted his own ballet. He has collaborated with Lou Rawls, Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton, Dick Van Dyke and Vanessa Williams.
You name it, Kurt has done just about everything that involves music — scores for Sony PlayStation, beauty pageants, Muzak, marching bands—he even composed the school song for the local Utah Timpanogos High School.
KURT BESTOR NEEDS MUSIC LIKE HE NEEDS AIR…
After spending some quality time with Kurt—I quickly realized that here is a man who needs music like he needs air! No, let me rephrase that: Kurt needs to create music in order to breathe, in order to survive. And, like other artists who are passion driven by their art—Kurt has had to make some big sacrifices to practice his art the only way he can…with the same gusto and unyielding grace with which he navigates unchartered steep, fresh white powdered mountains.
Here is an artist whose story of triumphs outnumber the losses, and whose music reflects the journey he has traveled…you may even discover that you’ve traveled some similar roads with this gifted artists…maybe even dreamed the same dream…perhaps it is the reason his music strikes such a familiar chord with so many? What I noticed most about this talented man is the JOY and sparkle in his eyes when he is performing…KURT BESTOR needs to share his passion for music…it is what fuels his soul. And, you and I become the blessed recipients.
“My favorite feeling is to stand in front of a symphony, and when I lower the baton, out of 80 or 90 musicians comes something that was in my head,” he says. “I don’t even totally understand how that works. It’s magical almost. I can put it down on paper out of my head, and the musicians combine their talents and the audience receives what I felt when I was in my room by myself creating it. Music is pure communication. It makes me feel like I have a mission or purpose in life. I take people on a little journey in concerts. It feels right.” ~ Kurt Bestor
It feels so very right to us too Kurt. Thank you for sharing your music and touching our souls. It was an absolute pleasure to capture you in full-blown action…whether it’s via your keyboard, your trumpet, or on your trusted Rossignol skis jumping out of a Diamond heli-ski chopper. ESCAPESEEKER audiences loved every daring second of it…from the first note to the last!
In the meantime, BESTORITES…You can get a sneak peak of PBS SoCal’s highly popular episode featuring our favorite Utah composer!
Kurt, on behalf of our entire ESCAPESEEKER team, we wish you a TREMENDOUS 25th Anniversary Christmas Concert!
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
ESCAPESEEKER and KURT BESTOR TESTING THE QUALITY OF UTAH’S FRESHLY FALLEN SNOW! Our assignment: To prove Utah’s claim… Does Utah have “The Greatest Snow on Earth?”
This photo and sentiment by Commander Neil Armstrong expresses exactly how ESCAPESEEKER feels towards TRAVEL too, and about being fully ENGAGED in LIFE versus being a mere OBSERVER.
May we all take to heart the message from the family of Neil Armstrong:
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
Goodbye Mr. Armstrong. Thank you for a lifetime of inspiring courage and sheer briliance!
You taught me that it’s not enough to just shoot for the stars when you can land on the moon!
EMMY AWARD WINNING ADVENTURE AND NATURAL HISTORY DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, SCOTT SIMPER TO LEAD ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA SHOOT
Scott Simper chosen Director of Photography for
EPIC AFRICA: WILD AND WONDROUS
Award winning and multi-facetted documentary film maker, Scott Simper began his adventurous life as a cowboy. Life in the saddle led to film studies at the University of Utah. Scott’s initial background in stage management, sound engineering and theatrical lighting led to camera operating and he has spent the past 15 years honing his craft, much of it in far flung and exotic locations with equally exotic diseases — many of which Scott has sampled and survived!
In addition to his all-round production expertise, Scott’s skills as a mountaineer, rock climber, skier, kayaker and adventure racer have made him a highly sought after team member in locations ranging from the jungles of the Congo to the Arctic to the summit of Mt Everest.
Scott’s work is distinguished not only for its beauty and his technical expertise but also for his willingness to take on the challenges of any situation or location with a smile. From rigging shots in difficult, tight locations to building and fixing equipment in inhospitable places, Scott is known as the essential cameraman to have on those difficult gigs.
His creative aerial work using a gyro-stabilization system, breath-taking time lapses and exceptional hand-held shooting have earned him Emmy awards and nominations for camera work.
In addition to his skills as a camera operator, Scott has a knack for connecting with his subjects, putting them at ease and getting the most from them as he visually captures their lives. A true team player, Scott’s natural enthusiasm and unflagging energy are valuable on any production — and invaluable on the tough ones!
Scott will be assisted by ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA team members, including Sara Mayer and Producer, Roger Gunn as well as Royal African Safaris’ partner and expert guide, Phil West.
2010: Scott summits Mt Everest for a corporate production: http://gearjunkie.com/interview-photographer-scott-simper
Breaking News 2012: Scott wins an Emmy for outstanding camera work for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship and a National award for Museum Media for his work at the Utah Natural History Museum.