Saturday, 21 July 2012

A South Seas Dream - Vila Chaumieres - Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a relatively unspoilt island paradise, kind off how I imagine Fiji used to be before it became over commercialised.  The people of Vanuatu (Ni-Vanuatu) are warm and friendly with ready, dazzling smiles so, not surprisingly,  Vanuatu has been named as the happiest country in the world in several surveys.  As Mark Lowen of Vanuatu Online has said " People are generally happy here because they are very satisfied with very little.  This is not a consumer driven society.  Life here is about community, family and good will to other people.  It is a place where you don't worry too much."  I think we can learn much from them!  I have been  to many  pacific islands but Vanuatu is my favourite as the ideal destination for a laid back and relaxing holiday. There are a few resorts on the main island of Efate but still few enough that the island does not feel over run with tourists.  Oh dear, I hope I am not speaking too soon. Mind you if you are looking for full on five star luxury resorts, there are very few.

My husband and I spent an idyllic week on  Efate, a few years ago and an absolute highlight of our stay was the evening we went to dine at Vila Chaumieres, the most romantic of restaurants in a quiet and simply stunning location about four kilometers from the centre of the main town, Port Vila. A short walk from the road takes you through immaculate tropical gardens  to the restaurant. Located right on the edge of Erakor Lagoon it is a simple fare-like structure hanging out over the water. Lights shine down into the water to attract all sorts of sealife for the visual enjoyment of the diners.  Apart from a multitude of fish we saw crabs and star fish and heard the occasional splash and slap as larger fish leapt out of the water beyond the lights.  The palm trees on the other side of the narrow lagoon are also lit and look romantic and ghostly as they flutter gently in the breeze. We could see flickering lights from cooking fires in the villages through the palms and hear the occasional dog barking in the distance. There was a timelessness about it all. The food was outstanding and the service friendly, attentive and not intrusive.  On the evening my husband I dined there large white gardenias floated past us at regular intervals, almost as if someone upstream was dropping them in the water just for us.  It was just so absolutely romantic it nearly brought tears to my eyes.
My late husband in Vanuatu.  The sign says in pidgin " Sipos Yu wantem ferry yu kilim gong"
i.e. If you want the ferry ring the gong.

When my husband was very ill I told him I would take him for a holiday anywhere he would like to go...he asked to go to Vanuatu and specifically mentioned returning to Vila Chaumieres.  I duly booked and paid for the trip but, sadly, he was too ill to go and never got to return there.  About a year later I used the booking to travel back with my son and his girlfriend, now his wife.  It was a sad and nostalgic trip which included an evening at Vila Chaumieres where we toasted my late husband and shared memories of him. It was a wonderful evening and  I can think of no better place to remember him...he would have been delighted.

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