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Sunday, November 13, 2016

The grand old lady of the South Pacific


There is, of course, the other grand old lady of the South Pacific, Aggie Grey's in Apia, but when you live almost next door to it at Four Corners as I did when I worked for the Pacific Forum Line, you only ever go in there for a drink.

Not so with the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva where I stayed every time I attended a Forum meeting in Fiji. Back then it was still the 'old' and historic Grand Pacific, slightly worn but still as grand as it was just after it had been built by the Union Steamship Company in 1914 to serve the needs of passengers on its transpacific routes.

The design of the hotel was to make the passengers think they had never gone ashore, for rooms in the GPH were like first-class staterooms, complete with saltwater bathrooms and plumbing fixtures identical to those on an ocean liner.

All rooms were on the second floor, and guests could step outside on a 15-foot-wide veranda overlooking the harbor and walk completely around the building — as if walking on the deck. When members of the British royal family visited Fiji, they stood atop the wrought-iron portico, the "bow" of the Grand Pacific, and addressed their subjects massed across Victoria Parade in Albert Park.

The hotel closed in 1992 and changed hands several times. It was restored to a five-star hotel and re-opened on 24 May 2014, in time for the hotel's 100th anniversary. Here are some more pictures of the 'old' Grand Pacific.

All these memories came back to me when a friend from my Rabaul days emailed to say he was flying to Fiji on holidays. Enjoy your trip, Peter & Ida!