It's been a helluva year.
Professionally, it's been long and tiring, thanks to the unsettling 3.15am alarm set for every Monday to Friday, a piercing siren that yanks me from the deepest and most peaceful sleep and onto my feet by 3.16am.
Professionally, it's been confronting - I admit to a few tears for the 51 people shot dead by a lone gunman in Christchurch and the 17 killed by the volcano eruption on Whakaari White Island. The details, just devastating.
By year's end, I was shattered, longing for sleep and TLC.
My friend could sense my tiredness, foggy brain and need to recharge.
Fiji would be perfect, my friend insisted - "it's a short flight away, the weather is gorgeous, the water is warm and there's a decent spa for pampering".
I was sold.
A week later I boarded a brand new Fiji Airways plane on flight FJ410 for Nadi. Seat 11D. A bigger airbus, a better experience.
Three hours later: "Bula" I had arrived.
It was 4pm, still 32 degrees, and traditional Fijian music, played by three floral-shirted locals with guitars, seeped through Nadi International Airport.
Smiles, flowers, open arms.
"Welcome to paradise."
Less than an hour later I was in my newly renovated beach-front room at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island, unpacked, cocktail in hand and staring out to sea. With nothing to do, nowhere to be, the unwinding began.
I didn't venture far for dinner - about 50 metres to the wall-less hotel restaurant, plonked right on the beach. The music was live, a two-man band playing summer covers, and the food was good - raw fish salad (created by the chef at our table) pumpkin risotto and sorbet and nougat dessert.
There was an option for a nightcap at a local nightclub but I crashed early that night, alone in my king-sized bed in room 230, and slept for nine hours straight. NINE hours. I don't know if it was the heat or the gentle lapping of the water not far from my door but I haven't done that for months and it enough to restore me.... almost.
And I needed that energy for Day two, which started early with a 15 minute helicopter trip - over stunning coral reefs and turquoise waters, schools of fish galore - to Vomo Island Resort, which comprises 32 villas on a 103-hectare island between the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands.
We were greeted by more local singers, freshly squeezed pineapple juice with ginger and a cold, scented cloth - a welcome treat in the sweaty 34-degree heat.
I won't beat around the bush, Vomo is gorgeous... but expensive. One beach-front villa I checked out was about NZ$2000 per night - including meals and non-alcoholic drinks for two.
But this privately-owned island deserved the sign "welcome to paradise". Surrounded by white sand beaches, the resort offers an enticing range of leisure activities, mouth-watering cuisine, water and land-based sports and health and spa experiences, of which I took full advantage.
I booked in for the full-body massage with Made (pronounced Ma-Day), an experienced therapist from Bali. For nearly an hour, her hands took me to my happy place, I swear I all but floated out of the room.
Lunch was in the adults only Rocks area, and began with watermelon shots and ended with fresh tuna sashimi and fish and coriander dumplings. Too good.
The menu is changed every day, and the man behind it is Christchurch chef Michael Fosbender.
He's the resort's executive chef, and has been on the island for about a year and plans to be here for at least another.
He loves it and is inspired by the local food and culture.
According to staff, diners often praise his dishes as "the best we've ever tasted".
While I decided to stick mainly to the adults area that day, children do holiday on the island so I did venture past the kids centre, complete with movie room, jungle gym, reading area, play doh table, chocolate making and "baby butlers". Not bad. At 43, it was tempting to stay and be a big kid for the afternoon.
But the mainland beckoned and I returned by boat late that afternoon, poked, prodded, exhausted but relaxed. I slept for nine hours again that night, a habit I plan to foster.
The following morning I checked out, the visit brief but beautiful.
And as I headed for the taxi, a passage caught my eye: "Life is Magnifique in Fiji." I smiled. Isn't it just?
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