One of life’s more pleasant pursuits is watching the sun set. It must harken back to a less complicated age, or some time in our pre-history, when the setting of the sun heralded the end of another day’s work and the comfort of a good night’s sleep in a warm bed. On vacation, finding a good bar to watch the sun set is a great excuse for exploring new spots and trying exotic cocktails.
In July, a few years ago, I ventured up into the Arctic islands, to shoot a documentary on the origins of the ancient and mysterious signposts of the Inuit people, the inukshuk. With my cameraman, André and soundman, Nick, we chartered a boat in Sanikiluaq and headed north across the still icy waters of Hudson Bay, accompanied by the boat captain, mate, hunter, guide and so on. Our program, which was broadcast on CBC North, was also donated by the sponsor to every school in Nunavut.
It rained almost every day, but one evening the skies cleared. Camped out on the rocky shore of the King George Islands I watched the most serene sunset of my life. While Nick, an accomplished survival expert, made dinner from a freeze-dried expedition pack and our Inuit crew foraged for their own wild food, I tried to capture the enchantment in water colour paints in my small travelling sketch book. I’ve often thought that I missed the best of that sunset by hurrying to record it, but I’ve been able to look at the sketch ever since, as it hangs on the wall beside my desk.
When sunset watching, one must empty the mind, relax, and simply enjoy the moment.
View 9, ambience 2, sunset 9.
On the Pacific coast of the Americas, one is almost guaranteed a fine sunset every night. Sitting in the beachside Hicaco bar on our first night in Jaco, Costa Rica, Diane and I watched a lithe model pose for a photographer, as the sun set. I enjoyed my first classic Cuban mojito of the trip and photographing the photographer (see my blog on December 26, 2012) but I think I missed the point of the sunset.
View 8, ambience 8, sunset 7.
A more peaceful experience was a few days later and a few miles further south, in the resort and jungle town of Manuel Antonio, where the view from the mountainside pool deck of the Costa Verde Hotel was truly a thing of beauty. The hotel advertises more monkeys than people and we were treated so well (by the staff, not the monkeys, although they were amusing), that I look forward to our next visit with the keenest anticipation.
View 9, ambience 9, sunset 7.
Further north, we came across a hotel that advertises a sunset special. Villa Caletas is dug into a steep outcrop high above the ocean. It has, I kid you not, a replica of a Roman amphitheatre. I’m not sure if I really enjoyed the music that accompanied the setting sun, but just before the magic happened, the hotel guests filled the seats of the rocky bowl to capacity. And yes, when the sun did set, they applauded. We did not stay for a meal but I did, perchance, enjoy my first ever taste of that great Brazilian drink, the caipiriñha as they had run out of mint for mojitos. Two of these and one could see a sunset with one’s eyes closed.
View 7, ambience 5, sunset 6.
This summer we visited Tofino’s famous Wickaninnish Inn. I enjoyed the two-for-one oyster bar in town better for the food, which I thought pretentious and overpriced. But our room hung directly over the pounding Pacific surf. Fog is apparently quite common in July, so we could barely see our hands in front of our faces, let alone a sunset.
View 9, ambience 7, sunset 0.
A better deal was boating on Georgian Bay with my eldest daughter and her partner. We rafted with other power-boaters in a hidden cove, dinghied to a special rocky point and watched a very special sunset, all the more memorable for being so out-of-the-way and inaccessible, except by boat.
View 9, ambience 9, sunset 9.
On a bareboat charter out of St-Martin, our southernmost port of call was Nevis, where I saw the most perfect setting sun whilst anchored off the beach of the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. We were allowed to buy an overpriced drink at the bar, though our ragged bunch of well travelled sailors weren’t exactly welcomed. I’m not sure what got us in – my English accent, or the fact we were paying cash in US dollars. Back on the boat, the crew below fixing dinner, a well iced glass of Johnny Black in my hand, I relaxed, let my mind drift off and watched a sunset so lovely, I have used it as my bookmark ever since.
View 10, ambience 10, sunset 10.
FACT OR FICTION? Can you hear a sizzle when the sun just touches the ocean? Can you sometimes see a green flash just after the sun sets?
ANSWER: Depends on how many caipiriñha’s you’ve had.
PS: Please leave a comment if you found something useful or interesting in this story. Or please add your own experiences with these places for others to share.