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Tahiti, Anyone?

(AP)
I just got a press release from Air Tahiti Nui, the national carrier of Tahiti, announcing new flights from L.A. and New York to Tahiti, and my first thought was, "Sounds great. When do we leave? I can be ready in, oh, ten minutes or so." If there is any travel experience more exotic than flying into Tahiti, I haven't found it yet (and yes, I have been to Wildwood, New Jersey). I've been there three times and would happily return for a fourth if you paid my airfare and threw in a couple of Hinanos, the local beer of Tahiti.

Part of the allure is that it is just so incredibly far away. The flight from New York covers 6,289 miles and takes twelve and a half hours. The L.A. flight takes eight hours. I flew non-stop from New York the last time, and even though the flight crews were superb, the food was good, the on-board entertainment system was state-of-the-art and I could stretch out on a whole row of seats, it was still a bear of a flight. I remember watching two movies, eating twice, taking a long snooze, and then waking up to find that we were barely past the halfway mark.

Then you arrive in Papeete in the dead of night, greeted only by a few sleepy cabdrivers who then cream you for forty dollars or more to drive to your hotel. You get a few hours of sleep and then wake up to streaming sunlight and paradise outside your window. After a swim and breakfast, I always jump on Le Truck, Papeete's public transportation system that consists of benches in the back of converted pickup trucks, and ride into town with the locals (which costs about two bucks and is far more of an organic experience than taking a sanitized tour). Stop at the open-air market, buy some French bread, hang out in cafes drinking Hinanos and catching up on French soccer news in the newspaper…God, I love Tahiti.

Anybody want to come with me?