‘Blue Lagoon’ Honeymoon


Islands and honeymoons are a time-tested match made in heaven. Perhaps that’s why so many newlyweds flirt with Fiji, a gorgeous archipelago nation in the South Pacific. 

This country is the embodiment of romance. One of its most recognizable islands is the Turtle Island resort, made famous as the backdrop for “The Blue Lagoon,” the 1980 classic movie featuring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins as shipwrecked children on a tropical island. 

Overall, the nation of more than 330 islands is a luxurious expanse of flora, fauna, surf and sand, enlivened with a mix of British, Melanesian, Polynesian and Indian cultural influences. Most days, the skies are deep blue, and when rains do hit, the showers are short and mild. Its garden-by-the-sea feel trickles over into its towns.

Adventurous couples will discover that Nadi, on the main island of Viti Levu, has plenty to keep them busy. Architecture buffs can wander the grounds of the colorful Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple, while botanists should not miss the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (home of actor Raymond Burr’s world-famous orchid collection). There are also local village tours, golfing and multi-island cruises.

Bargain hunters will be drawn to the bustling bazaar environment of Nadi’s central business district, which can be as intense as open-air markets in Thailand and India. Those with more upscale tastes can head to Port Denarau. It serves the local Sheraton and Westin outposts as well as well-to-do expats occupying nearby vacation homes.  

A visit to the Fijian capital of Suva on the opposite end of Viti Levu is a must. It has a full complement of vibrant colonial government buildings, museums and public gardens. It also happens to be home to the nation’s small Jewish community. In 1881, 20-year-old Australian Henry Mark was the first Jew to settle in Fiji, where he was joined later by Jews from India, the Middle East and other Asian countries. Today’s community of about 60 individuals is just as eclectic. 

Still, for many honeymooners seeking an isolated, self-sustaining paradise, it all comes back to “The Blue Lagoon.” The movie was filmed on Turtle Island, known as Nanuya Levu before cable television pioneer Richard Evanson purchased it in 1972.

More than an advertisement for Fiji, the film gave Evanson unexpected inspiration to transform his once private island dream into a resort devised almost exclusively for honeymoons and destination weddings. 

Arrangements can be made for Jewish weddings, thanks to Turtle Island’s planners based in Washington, not far from where Evanson grew up. The “Richard’s Retreat” area where Evanson, who is not Jewish, married his current wife, has its own built-in chuppah. Devil’s Beach and Honeymoon Beach, meanwhile, are great for an informal exchange of vows or a private picnic.

Although the island has a long tradition of Christian weddings, as well as a beautiful chapel, planners will also assist Jewish couples with special arrangements and with their gourmet meals. 

While Shields and Atkins had each other and a tricked-out tree house in “The Blue Lagoon,” they have nothing on what Turtle Island guests are able to enjoy. Expansive bures — wood-and-straw huts — come with hardwood interiors and their own hot tubs, top-shelf wines and spirits, dreamy bedding and delicious coconut-infused toiletries. Each couple has a “Bure Mama” or “Papa” who tends to their needs.  

Activities available include scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking or just enjoying one’s bure with a glass of Moët and a good book when the occasional rains come. 

It’s little surprise, then, that a number of notables keep coming back to Turtle Island. Visitors who have made it their home-away-from-home include movie producer Andrew Tennenbaum (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Water for Elephants”), Sen. John McCain (14 stays and counting), Al Gore, Eddie Van Halen, John Cleese and Ringo Starr. 

From the moment his first guests arrived on Jan. 1, 1980, Evanson was determined to create an internationally acclaimed honeymoon destination that was rooted in nature and true to the Fijian way of life, and it continues to be a work in progress. Ongoing improvements include the preservation of mangroves and coconut groves, the introduction of freshwater ponds to encourage bird life and the creation of a turtle release program designed to help save endangered green and hawksbill turtles.

Fruits and vegetables from Turtle Island’s hydroponic gardens are transformed, along with fish and meats from New Zealand and Australia, into a wide assortment of globally inspired dishes under the guidance of French-Australian chef Jacques Reymond. The menu theme changes on a daily basis, with the weekly Mongolian barbecue, Indian feast, American-style barbecue with a Polynesian spin standing as culinary highlights. 

Nightly convivial group dinner begins with a nondenominational “grace” said in the Fijian language, and the staff does a choral performance every Sunday — a must for fans of world music. While the church vocals are stunning, more-religious Jewish couples can inform general manager Alex Weiss about their preferences if they are uncomfortable.

A handful of couples keep to themselves, but most visitors take advantage of these dinners, sometimes forming friendships that could last a lifetime. And so, while Evanson himself will insist the Turtle Island experience is a couple’s-only affair, it is the sort of thing that ideally should be shared. Isn’t that kind of warmth a big part of what romance is all about? 

 

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>turtlefiji.com.

Honeymooning Zuckerberg reportedly stiffs Italian wait staff


Honeymooning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his bride, Priscilla Chan, paid $40 for lunch at a kosher restaurant in Rome’s historic ghetto but did not leave a tip, according to Italian media.

Newspapers ran pictures of what they said was the billionaire couple’s bill at the Nonna Betta kosher restaurant—Jewish style artichokes and fried zucchini flowers (both Roman Jewish specialties) as starters; one order between them of ravioli stuffed with artichokes and sea bass; tea and water.

The total came to just 32 euro – about $40—including the cover charge for bread that is normal for restaurants in Italy.

Staff at the restaurant were quoted in newspapers as saying the couple did not leave any further gratuity.

“I asked him ‘how was it?,’ and he said ‘very good,’ ” Nonna Betta’s owner was quoted as telling the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I had gone up to him and said, ‘Are you …?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ “

Media reports said the couple went on to Capri after Rome.

Pre-Honeymoon Blues


When my boyfriend popped the question five months after we met, I thought it was extremely fast. It turns out he was too late. By the time we started to book our honeymoon to Italy for the middle of summer, departing a year to the day after he proposed, it seemed like we were out of luck if we wanted to use frequent flier miles.

“You can book up to 331 days in advance,” one mournful Delta customer service agent told me over the phone, when I called at 1:03 a.m., hoping to snag one of those reservations that time out at midnight Central Time and get put back in the system.

“He hadn’t even proposed 331 days ago,” I said wearily, not just because of the hour, but because it was the third week of my middle-of-the-night calls.

With fares to prime destinations in Europe for the summer nearing $1,000 a ticket, the Euro at an all-time high against the dollar and frequent flier seats at a big low, we were going to end up driving to Niagara Falls if we had to pay cash for our airfare. So I got busy on the phone trying to find us flights during my fiancé’s two-week school vacation that started at the end of June.

To complicate matters, he had 50,000 miles on Delta, good for one basic ticket to Europe, but I had only 3,000. I did have 49,250 miles on Continental, and lucky for us, Delta and Continental are air-mile partners, so I could fly on Delta or we could fly together on any of the partners they share in common, like Northwest and KLM.

If we each had 100,000 miles we would have had more options for dates. If we both had Delta miles, we could have flown on Alitalia, which has more flights to Italy than most other carriers. But this was what we had: his Delta miles, my Continental miles, fixed dates at the height of the summer travel season, five months to plan and very little budget.

My first two calls yielded nothing. A Delta agent told me I was too late and should give up. Continental told me I was too early.

On my third try in five days, I struck out on Delta, and then dialed up Continental. Much to my surprise, the agent found something. She came up with a flight on Delta from Newark to Atlanta to Milan on one of the dates we wanted to leave.

“So we can get to Italy, we just can’t get back?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

My fiancé was thrilled, but my mother preferred that we return to this country eventually.

I called and called and called. A week went by. Then another. We got on a wait list for two flights direct from Milan to JFK. We found one flight on Alitalia for my fiancé that went from Milan to Washington, D.C., but I would have had to pay for a full ticket to join him.

“We can come back from anywhere,” I told all the agents.

I figured that we could fly from Rome to Frankfurt on a discount carrier to get a flight home if it came to that.

The agents checked every city in Italy, then all of Western Europe, and then some in Eastern Europe, too. Venice, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, London, even Split in Croatia. Nothing at all.

One agent with a thick accent put me on hold and then came back on the line breathless.

“I think I found something,” she said, then flipped me on hold again. “Belize City,” she said, coming in for a second, then going out again.

She came back on the line.

“Do you mean the Belize City in Central America?” I asked. “I know I said anything, but I don’t think that’s actually going to work for us.”

About a month into the process, we found a flight home from London-Gatwick to Atlanta to Newark. It cut our trip short a few days, but we’d still have nine full days in Italy. We were able to book my fiancé on Alitalia from Rome to London-Heathrow for miles, but I had to buy my segment for $196. We’d have to sweat a two-hour transfer between London airports, but our reservations were going to run out if we didn’t book something.

With taxes, fees, my Alitalia ticket and the 1,000 additional miles I needed to buy from Continental, our grand total was $346. The same tickets would have cost us $2,965 in cash.

Some Hints on Snagging Hard-to-Get Tickets With Your Airline Miles

•Plan Ahead — You can book up to 331 days in advance, and you should. The earlier, the better.

•Call Often — People make reservations and then change their travel plans, especially with frequent flier miles, so seats open up sporadically. If you call enough and get lucky, you might be able to get the seats you want.

•Travel anywhere — Flights to prime locations fill up fast, but there are cheap ways to get from a secondary airport to a major one on either end of your journey.

•Get more miles — Higher reward levels have fewer restrictions and the set-aside seats tend to fill up less quickly.

•Give up and go another time — If you just can’t get a flight when you want, go a different time when seats are available.

Beth Pinsker writes about film for The New York Daily News and The Boston Globe, among other publications.

Communal Joy for Seven Days


May there soon be heard, Lord our G-d, in the cities of
Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of
celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the happy
shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts
of song. — From the Sheva Brachot, the Jewish wedding blessings, “>www.torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5760/mikeitz.html   — notes that the first week of marriage is considered a “private Yom Tov” during which there is an obligation of simcha.

Couples who decide to observe the traditional week of
“Sheva Brachot” should expect to see plenty of family, friends, meals and public
celebrations. It also means postponing thoughts of escaping to a private
honeymoon on some isolated beach. And that’s a good thing, says author Michael
Medved in his article titled “Banish the Honeymoon,” “>www.kerem.com/journals/journal3.htm . Wine is poured from two cups into a third and then back into the original cups. “The newlyweds sip from the wine and share the third cup with their guests. The “Sheva Brachot” ritual thus extends the sense of blessing expressed in the words just recited. Along with the wine, the couple’s joy reverberates through the community.”


Mark Mietkiewiczis is a
Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the
Jewish Internet. You can reach him via e-mail at highway@rogers.com
.

Second Honeymoon


"Are you in for another 20?" my husband, Larry, asks. We’re lounging on the beach on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, a brief

escape to relax and reconnect as a couple, to celebrate and contemplate two decades of marriage.

Exactly 20 years earlier we were standing under a chuppah at the Beverly Hills Hotel, reciting our marriage vows. It was Purim, 1983, and just as Esther had saved the Jews from Haman’s evil plot, so Larry was rescuing me from my less-than-fulfilling life as a 30-something single woman.

We had met only nine months earlier at — this wasn’t my mother’s idea — a Jewish Federation Gala Singles Dance. There, to use a phrase from the Megillah (9:1), "the unexpected happened." I knew intuitively and unquestioningly, only a few weeks later, this was the man I wanted to marry.

Larry has a different version of our early history.

"One day I was a happy-go-lucky guy," he says. "Next thing I knew, I was married and the father of four boys."

Either way, God was working miracles. Or perhaps just doing God’s job which, since completing the six days of creation, one midrash tells us, has consisted of making matches. A job that God claims is as difficult as parting the Red Sea.

Judaism commands us to marry. Genesis 2:18 states, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him."

But Judaism doesn’t tell us how to create a lasting marriage.

It doesn’t tell us how to deal with those character traits that are so cute during the courtship period (my sneezing, Larry’s video game playing) but become so acutely annoying after the honeymoon (my sneezing, Larry’s video game playing).

So what’s the secret?

"I know why our marriage has been successful," I say to Larry.

"Why?"

"Because I gave up doing crossword puzzles," I answer, having realized early on that a relationship can’t sustain more than one puzzle addict.

"I thought it’s because we love and respect each other," he says.

"That, too."

Yes, love and respect are essential. As are trust, understanding, kindness, loyalty and support, as well as sharing the same core values.

"All the moral virtues that are essential for the individual are essential for the couple," says Rabbi Scott Meltzer, who teaches a class on marriage, "Behold You Are Consecrated to Me: The Life and Love of Jewish Marriage," at the University of Judaism. "The couple becomes its own organic whole."

But what happens to this whole when children arrive? Especially when couples carry out the biblical injunction to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 2:18) as quickly and exuberantly as we did?

How can you function as a couple civilly — let alone romantically — when you’re terminally sleep-deprived; when your days are consumed with Pampers, strained peaches and pediatrician appointments or with working long hours to establish a career and make mortgage payments; or when the words "There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o" is caught in a continual loop in your brain, drowning out any coherent thoughts.

And that’s with only one kid.

Try adding three more kids. Try dealing with the physical logistics of carting them back and forth to preschool, elementary school and middle school; of making lunches, overseeing homework and coordinating extra-curricular activities. Of making sure their hair is cut, their shoes fit and they’re fed more or less regularly and nutritiously. And that’s not counting coping with the myriad psychological issues surrounding their siblings and their social circles as they forge individual identities. Or coping with serious illnesses and injuries. Or with the religious obligations of transforming them into self-assured and productive Jewish citizens.

And as they get older (our sons are now 12, 14, 16 and 19), add high school and college to the mix. Along with the fourth bar mitzvah; automobile insurance and, ever so tentatively, retirement planning. And ratchet up the worrying.

"How’d we do it?" we say to each other. "What were we thinking?"

We were thinking that the creation of a family is central. That it’s the fundamental foundation of society and the best refuge from the outside world. That nothing is more important.

"And it’s all worth it," I say, "because kids are naturally so appreciative."

Especially at the end of a particularly trying day when one of them slams a door and shouts, "I hate you. You’re the worst mother who ever lived."

But parenting has its transcendent moments, and not only at the peak life-cycle moments of bris, bar mitzvah and graduation. Or when they’re sleeping. But when Larry and I step back and see that we are not merely a motley group of six individuals living together but rather a consecrated, deeply caring and committed family unit, who would, if necessary, walk through fire or take a bullet for one another.

The Zohar tells us, "God creates new worlds constantly by causing marriages to take place."

And this is the world that we have created.

"Count me in for another 20," I tell Larry. "At least."


Jane Ulman lives in Encino and has four sons.

Enjoy Wedded Bliss in Lotus Position


Not every couple’s notion of the ideal honeymoon entails a hedonistic beach resort and lots of fruity drinks garnished with umbrellas. Some want to begin married life with yoga.

Some couples pursue tantric yoga, a form that includes a tranquil sexuality, in hopes of creating a powerful union of mind, body and spirit. The Institute for Ecstatic Living — (877) 982-6872; www.ecstaticliving.com — organizes tantric vacations to Costa Rica, Hawaii and cruise getaways.

If that sounds a bit too New Age, there are other benefits to learning yoga as a couple. First, one partner can help the other get into the asanas, or poses, sort of like using a spotter in weight lifting. Second, yoga helps with the pursuit of other sports and activities. Finally, it’s fun.

When planning a yoga honeymoon, consider how much yoga each of you is likely to want to practice. Most spa resorts include some yoga as part of their overall fitness program, while some retreats offer more intensive yoga instruction. Unless both of you are experienced yogis, you’ll likely want a getaway that combines quality yoga instruction with other activities. In many cases, a resort with a high-quality destination spa will keep both partners happy. Here are some getaways to get you started:

Pura Vida Spa — (888) 767-7375; www.puravidaspa.com — in Costa Rica has special yoga weeks with guest instructors throughout the year, including a tantric week for couples. You can book its "Mind/Body/Spirit Adventure Week" any time. It includes seven nights’ lodging, daily yoga classes, hiking and a rain-forest excursion from $1,100-$2,000 per person, double occupancy.

New Age Health Spa — (800) 682-4348; www.newagehealthspa.com — in New York’s Catskill Mountains has rates starting at $174 per person, per night, double occupancy, two-night minimum. That rate includes daily yoga classes. The spa also hosts weekend-long yoga programs for more intensive instruction.

In nearby Big Sur, Post Ranch Inn — (800) 527-2200; www.postranchinn.com — overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is decidedly deluxe. Accommodations start at $485 per night. Guests can join daily yoga classes in The Yurt, as well as sample tai chi and qigong. The inn is surrounded by scenic hiking trails.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa — (800) 422-2736; www.nemacolin.com — in Farmington, Pa., offers a "Couples Vacation." Accommodations range from lodge rooms to luxurious townhouse suites. Rates start at $185 per night.

Shambhala Spa at Parrot Cay — (877) 754-0726; www.parrot-cay.com — in Turks and Caicos, British West Indies, has special "Healing Weeks" scheduled throughout the year. Many feature guest yoga instructors. Prices vary, depending on the program, but one six-night yoga retreat is $4,610, double occupancy. That includes accommodations, three meals daily, five hours of yoga and meditation instruction each day, plus two hours of massage therapy during the week.

The new Mii amo Spa at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz. — (888) 749-2137; www.miiamo.com — is located right next to one of the seven "spiritual vortices" that make the area a mecca for New Age travelers. In addition to spa treatments, Mii amo hosts four-day yoga retreats that teach guests how to incorporate yoga into their daily lives. Four-night spa getaways start at $1,750.

Finally, one way to support Israel at this time is to honeymoon at a spa in the Jewish State, which offer yoga and exercise along with spa treatments. The Carmel Forest Spa Resort in the Carmel Mountains — www.inisrael.com/isrotel/hotels/carmel_forest_spa_resort — has Internet rates that range from $270 single on weekdays (Saturday to Wednesday) to $570 double on weekends for a deluxe suite.

Mizpe Hayamim, above the Sea of Galilee, offers a variety of treatments and massages. Internet rates at www.mizpe-hayamim.com — range from $179 single during the regular season (which is now) to $367 double for a two-person executive suite during the peak season, which includes the High Holidays and Passover.

Article courtesy Copley News Service.


Alison Ashton is a San Diego-based freelance travel and health writer.