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.
Sanikiluaq, Nunavut: 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 a sub-teen boy who happened along the dock as we were leaving. He was a fortuitous last minute addition to our expedition and became the focal point of our documentary, which was later broadcast on CBC North, and a copy 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 foraged for their own wild food, I tried to capture the moment in watercolour paints in my small travelling sketch book. I’ve often thought that I missed the best of it 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.
Jaco, Costa Rica: 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, we 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, but I think I missed the point of the sunset.
View 8, ambience 8, sunset 7.
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: A more peaceful experience was a few days later 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.
Herradura, Costa Rica: Further north, we came across a hotel that advertises a sunset special. Villa Caletas is dug into an outcrop high over 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 moment, 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 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.
Tofino, BC: 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 did overlook the pounding Pacific surf. Fog is apparently quite common in August, so we could barely see our hands in front of our faces, let alone a sunset.
View 9, ambience 7, sunset 0.
Georgian Bay, ON: 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.
Nevis, WI: On a bareboat charter out of St-Martin, our southernmost port of call was Nevis, where I saw the most perfect setting sun 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 posh 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 Walker Black Label in my hand, I relaxed, let my mind drift off and watched a sunset so lovely, I have used it as my screensaver ever since.
View: 10; ambience 10; sunset 10.