Sunday, 2 June 2013

Fiji & the Palm Tree


I'm in Fiji for a few days, staying at the Outrigger on the Lagoon resort on the island nation's Coral Coast.

It's an easily likeable place to stay, spread over numerous levels from the hilltop spa treatment centre and bar, down through the main building to the numerous bures (the Fijian word for bungalows) across the grounds.

Right by the ocean's edge are very posh bures with butler service and views directly onto the Pacific. Not for the likes of you and I, possibly, but very nice indeed.

Connecting all this together is the greenery. Swathes of it. Vast amounts of beautiful tropical plant life everywhere you go, and very evident in the view from my balcony (see photo above).

A key element of this foliage is, of course, the palm tree.

The "of course" in that sentence started me thinking about the iconic place the humble palm holds in Western minds. When thinking of the word "travel", the silhouette of a palm tree is one of the few images that we agree sums the concept up.

Why is it so? It was possibly Gauguin who started it all, with his romantic paintings of winsome bare-chested Polynesian women placed against colourful backgrounds of palm trees.

Palms are found in many parts of the world, of course, not least the Middle East. But I think it's their Pacific incarnations which most strongly pluck the strings of our Occidental hearts.

For Pacific palm trees have an extra special quality: they're found on islands. And not everyday vacation isles such as the Isle of Wight, Long Island or Phillip Island. These are islands dotted within the vastness of the world's greatest ocean, mere specks in that vast expanse of water.

When we think of the phrase "getting away from it all", a place like Fiji - with its numerous islands of varying sizes, down to uninhabited beach-ringed atolls - is what we have in mind. That tiny speck-like size feels human-scale, something we can cope with when overwhelmed with the stresses of work and big-city life.

And the palm tree is another layer of reassurance on top of that: its unmistakable shape signifying that here lie balmy evening breezes, lazy afternoons by the pool, relaxing massages and comforting buffet dinners.

It's a nice illusion to live within, for a week or so. The "real world" is still there of course, but the palm fronds help obscure it. For just long enough.

Disclosure time... On this trip I was hosted by the Outrigger on the Lagoon resort.