Bit of background info for you because until this week I didn't know a lot of this and it's important to understand the history of the island to understand it's current state.
The island has been ruled by several empires since BC years and was under British rule until independence in 1960. Then the resident Greek and Turkish population couldn't live in peace and in 1974 the Turkish mainland launched an invasion. The upshot of this was that Cyprus became a divided nation - the south being Greek and the north Turkish with a buffer zone between them policed by UN forces. Crossing the border was banned in the south and they refused to recognise the Turkish part of Cyprus. The island as a whole joined the EU in 2004 and took on the Euro as its currency. In 2008 the borders were suddenly opened and freeflow (with restrictions) between the north and south began again.
According to their last census the population was 1million of which a quarter of that were foreign national either living or holidaying on the island. Around 680,000 were Greek Cypriots and the rest Turkish. Main religions are Greek Orthodox and Sunni Muslim.
Cyprus is suffering economically and is at serious risk of following Greece down the path of loan defaults and bailouts from richer Euro countries. Cypriot banks are the largest holders of Greek debt in Europe. This economic downturn is evident everywhere with shops closing down or advertising massive price cuts in a bid to get people spending. Also during the 1980s and 1990s and massive property boom was in full swing - aimed mainly at Brits looking to buy a second home abroad or to emigrate completely to Cyprus. This boom ended a few years ago when Brits suddenly either didn't have the money to buy a second home or looked to places like Florida for their sunshine. This is evident everywhere - all over the island there are half-finished villas, apartments and accommodation, just abandoned because there is no market for them.
Add on to this the recent explosion at the weapons storage facility which took out the island's main power plant leading to rolling power cuts and water supply shut offs, the island is struggling and is even more reliant on tourism than ever before.
So - we left Gatwick at 9.15am on our Monarch flight to Larnaca. What can I say about Monarch. Well they get you there. The seat pitch is about the same as Virgin economy but the seats are very narrow. I'm your basic size 14 and I felt the pinch of the seats. Adrian is, let's be diplomatic here and say he's not a size 14, and he was spilling into my space. Steven was fine. We had 20kg each luggage allowance included in our package with James villas, but no food allowance so we bought snacks and bits on to the plane with us. They sold coffee and snacks on board too so we made it to Larnaca without perishing from malnutrition. Landing at Larnaca was interesting - you fly across the island then out over the sea before banking round and coming in to land. I kept looking out the window thinking "we're getting lower and we're still over the sea" Then suddenly there was land and we were down.
Immigration and baggage reclaim was quick and painless and so was the car rental desk. Rental cars in Cyprus can be of dubious quality - James use a fairly reputable large chain though so our car was nearly fine. Heavy clutch, minimal brakes and a propensity to drift to the left. It was a Nissan Note 1.4 in a dirt brown colour. We threw our bags in the back and got the air con on quickly because it was Floriday hot. By this time it was about 5pm local time - 2 hours ahead of the UK.
Our villa was on the far side of the island which meant a 2 hour drive but we chose it that way. We could have flown to Pafos which was closer but that flight didn't land until 10pm and as we were in the middle of nowhere with no lights I didn't want to. Cyprus still shows influence of the British sovereignty - they drive on the left. Road signs (when they have them) are in Greek with the phonetic British equivalent underneath. And as you are on an island you really shouldn't get too lost for too long. Steven fell asleep as we drove through the dry and barren countryside. The directions to our villa were precise and we managed a quick supermarket stop on the way for some basics and a spinach and cheese pie thing for dinner and soon we were pulling up at our new home for the week.