We had neither the time nor the money to experience the glamorous side of Tahiti – beachside resort lunches with tropical drinks, top-notch French cuisine under the stars, lazing around in sarongs and big sunnies looking fabulous. We didn’t get a chance to hike Tahiti’s tallest peak. We were a day late for some incredible swell at French Polynesia's most famous wave, Teahupoo. And by the time we arrived the annual Heiva celebrations were long over. So we missed out all the things you're told are quintessentially "Tahitian". Instead, we ate cheap Chinese food, drank big bottles of Hinano, and walked around Pape’ete looking for the city’s best mille feuille and baguettes. We took a private tour of a vanilla farm with second generation vanilla farmer Alan. We ate raclette with our friends Ludo, Bridgette and their family on their porch while the sound of crashing waves drifted in on the wind. We filled baskets with fruit and veg from the municipal market and we restocked our fridge and pantry at the local Carrefour, the French supermarket chain (where we bought mostly cheese). It may not have been glamorous, but we saw a side of Tahitian life that over-water bungalows don't grant access to. And it was unforgettable.