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Bit of a Cyprus trippie

Discussion in 'Non Disney Trips and Travels' started by Dawn, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    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" :unsure: Then suddenly there was land and we were down. :worship:

    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. :thumbsup: 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.

    Cont.
  2. Esmeralda
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    Esmeralda Serious Forum Regular

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    Reading avidly because it's on our to do list, so may ask you some questions later.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2011
  3. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    The villa was awesome. Exactly as it looked on the James website. The only bit I didn't like was the massive over the top chandelier in the living area. Bit of of place with the rest of the building. It was too late by now to phone the rep to get the air con switched on so we said we'd manage for one night without it and it did cool down quite a lot. The tiled floors throughout helped keep the temperatures down too. We quickly unpacked and then it was straight in the pool for a swim before eating dinner on the balcony. The spinach/cheese/filo pie thing did the trick for the first night.

    Adrian had to check out all the technology and we found the villa received Sky TV. :point: Not something I'd particularly wanted but turned out to be very handy with an 8 year old child around the place. He watched Monsters vs Aliens while I read through all the bits and pieces left at the villa for our attention. Think we called it a night at around 10pm.

    I got up about 7am the next morning and found Adrian outside drinking coffee. Steven appeared a little while later and we laid the table for breakfast with bread, cold meat, cheese and fruit. That's essentially what we had every morning and it was delicious. Some of the bread we tried was amazing. We bought a quarter of a massive watermelon and got through half of it during the week. Florida watermelon was like the size of a grapefruit compared to these monsters.

    Pool time again after breakfast and we were in there a couple of hours before Adrian and myself got out to get into real clothes as the holiday rep was coming to see us. She turned up on time and we sat down by the pool with us so Steven could stay in there. Turns out she is from Brighton so we had a good old chat about the area and what to see and then we spent some time putting the world to rights and denuncing the stupid riots back home. Was like chatting with a long lost friend. She sorted out the air con for us and she didn't try to sell us any excursions. :thumbsup:

    After she left we dragged the boy out of the pool for lunch which was basically the same as breakfast and then hopped into the car to head down the road to the supermarket. Lovely fresh fruit and veg and of course bread and meat and cheese went into the basket. And then...I picked up a prickly pear. I even had the Baloo song in my head about not picking them up as I picked one up whilst wondering why there was a pair of tongs in the basket. Ouch! Spiky! All the way round the store I was trying to extract the pesky spines from my fingers. I got the last one out today. :surrender:

    Once we had stocked up it was back to the villa and then we shot off down the road to check out Pomos harbour and beach. Lovely little pebble beach with a cute little harbour. We played around there for half an hour and then went back so that Steven could have another swim in the pool.

    After he was all swam out we drove back to Pomos to a restaurant that was highly recommend and it did not disappoint. Lovely view over the harbour too. Adrian had grilled sea bream and Steven and myself shared a seafood platter and a giant bowl of salad. Steven loved the grilled octopus and the teeny weeny crabs. Adrian and myself tried the proper Greek coffee afterwards and it was lovely.

    Drove back to the villa, did a bit of reading and then called it a night.
  4. chief
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    chief Earning my ears

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    yes me too:yes:.
    i have been looking at prices for end of next july and its a similar price to our orlando holiday next easter:unsure:
    so now not too sure:unsure:
  5. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    It must be Friday today. Started with coffee on the balcony and a pre-breakfast dip in the pool.

    Then we were off to Pafos, the nearest big tourist area. We didn't go there because it's a tourist area but because it had some things we wanted to see. It took about 40 minutes of defensive driving on some dubious quality roads to get there. Cypriot drivers only drive with one hand on the wheel because they need the other hand to talk on the phone or gesticulate at you for going too slowly. Speed limits are generous and mainly flouted and the locals have no qualms about overtaking you at 120kph on a blind bend. In fact it's considered strange to want to sit behind a slow moving vehicle without getting a touch of the road rage. Cypriots favour Japanese cars on the whole with a smattering of big German status symbols. Toyota appears popular among the young male population because they go faster than Honda. You see the shrines by the side of the road as testimony to this. They really do have a "maƱana" attitude to everything. The young men lose a friend and there is a great outpouring of grief and the next day they are back to 120kph on blind bends again. On one drive I was actually undertaken by someone using a pull in parking area as his chosen place to undertake. :eek:

    So anyway we find Pafos and head down to the harbour where there is a massive car park that is free of charge. Seriously the car parks there are either free or ridiculously cheap. I parked in Pafos another day away from the seafront and paid a whole euro for 12 hours parking. Wouldn't get that in this country and perhaps charging a bit more for parking would solve their economic crisis. Seriously seafront parking in Brighton will set you back an arm and a leg and possibly any spare internal organs, but here they just let you roll in for free. The locals don't bother with car parks though and just abandon their cars at any convenient space by the side of the road. :lol:

    We wandered through the swathe of restaurants and shops harbour side all aimed at the British tourist. I really despair sometimes at our national reluctance to try anything different. Seriously if I wanted to eat at an Irish pub and grill I'd go to Ireland to do it. So if I'm in Cyprus am I really going to want to eat hamburger and chips at Steve's bar and restaurant. I think not. Why do we do it? It makes me angry sometimes that even when we go to another country we expect everything to be the same as it is at home. You see evidence of this all round Cyprus, right down to frozen loaves of Hovis bread in the supermarket freezer section. While we were shopping a family near us were loading their trolley with frozen Findus products and frozen chips so the kids would have something to eat on holiday. Makes me cross. :madflames:

    Pafos castle was a neat little surprise at the end of the harbour wall. Cost is 1.7 euros to go in and "there is no charge for your child". We wandered about in here for half an hour and then back down the harbour because it was starting to get a bit gairy heatwise. Steven was suffering a bit now so rather than seek out somewhere "proper" for lunch we just went into the first restaurant that didn't have a giant Carlsberg sign over it. Turns out it was pretty nice in there and we had a nice lunch and a couple of cold drinks. The owner bought the food over and when we said thank you in Greek you'd have thought he'd won the lottery. I know 4 words of Greek and that, and a lot of gesticulating, got me everything I wanted. To be honest English is so widely spoken you don't need to know any Greek but they honestly do love it when you try.

    After lunch we went to visit the Roman mosaics which was the reason we had made the trip to Pafos. These mosaics date back to something like 3 BC and no one knew they were there until one day a farmer accidentally uncovered them while ploughing. Now it's a UNICEF World Heritage Site and it's brilliant.

    3.4 euros to get in and "there is no charge for your child". Now, if something like this was found in England it would immediately be covered in security barriers and loud alarms would sound if anyone went within 100m of anything exciting but here, well they let you just climb over it like an assault course. And you know what, they are treated with the upmost respect - no graffiti or defacing - just people wandering around going "wow!" Most of the mosaics are fenced off but in parts you can walk over them and clamber over the buildings. The whole site is open so it was brutally hot but a few of the bigger mosaics have buildings erected over them which gave you a break from the heat. This place is an absolute gem and a must-see to anyone visiting the island.

    It was about 3pm by now and the heat was draining us so we went back to the harbour area and flopped in a bar for a cold drink. The freshly squeezed orange juice served everywhere was a lovely thirst quencher and set us up for the drive home.

    A bit of pool time before dinner on the balcony. I can't remember what we ate but it definitely was not Findus beefburgers. Then it was reading and bed.
  6. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    I know what you mean - it is an expensive country to visit relatively speaking but you have to be open minded about these things - it is a completely different experience to Florida and I'd certainly go back again given the chance. I loved it and thought it was worth every penny. We only went for a week but it was so relaxing that it felt like longer, and I didn't come back needing a holiday. :lol:
  7. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    Saturday started with Adrian and myself drinking coffee on the balcony until Steven arrived and dragged us all into the pool before breakfast. After our normal breakfast it was time to do the ritual of the suncream and off to the car. We drove down to Latchi harbour this morning, about 20 minutes away from the villa.

    We parked in the big car park behind the harbour (free parking again) and walked from there through the harbour and along to the beach. Steven had just over an hour in the sea before we dragged him out of the heat and walked back to the harbour for lunch. Found a restaurant that had mostly Greek customers in it and wasn't called Steve's or Bill's or anything like that. Adrian had sheftalia, Steven had a sea food platter and I had mousakka. All very nice but another sign of the British influence is that even in a place predominently used by locals, everything is served with chips. Mostly we didn't eat them and just had the bread and salad they also gave you. In one restaurant I even saw jacket potato and chips on the menu. :nono:

    After lunch we checked out the little touristy shops and Steven got a couple of pool toys for the villa and then we headed to the air con of the car. Just out of interest we drove along the coast a bit to the place where they have the Baths of Aphrodite. We didn't stop there as the car park was packed and it was too hot to faff about so we turned round and headed back. On the other side of the harbour to where Steven had swam we found a nicer beach so made plans to come back again.

    We drove to Polis and got lost in the town centre - we did that a lot in Polis. Eventually we found a car park and paid the outrageous sum of a euro for 2 hours parking. A quick wander and we were in the pedestrian square in the shade of many umbrellas and we sat in a cafe for some drinks. Adrian and myself had the best iced coffee ever, and Steven had Coke. We sat there for ages just chilling and we would have stayed longer except some idiot put premiership football on the television and drove everyone away. :thumbsdown:

    A quick stop for petrol turned into a real comedy moment as the petrol station is unmanned and you have to follow instructions on a machine that gives instructions in Greek with little pictures to help you but the glare of the sun makes these unreadable. Eventually we managed to get a pump to give us petrol after discreetly studying what the local drivers were doing. :worship:

    Then of course it was back to the villa for pool time and dinner which was grilled shark steaks with bread and salad.

    Tomorrow we were headed up the mountains. :unsure:
  8. Tinkfan
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    Tinkfan Earning my ears

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    Dawn what is sheftalia?
  9. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    It's ground pork mixed with herbs and spices and rolled into sausages then grilled. :thumbsup:
  10. ukwdwnut
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    ukwdwnut Director of Recruitment Forum Host

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    sounds like your having a great time dawn!! how hot is it this time of year? have you photos of the villa?
  11. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    It was in the mid-30s every day, on a par with summer in Florida.

    Photos will come in due course. :D
  12. ukwdwnut
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    ukwdwnut Director of Recruitment Forum Host

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    ok thx dawn, its just that lauren and michael said id love it there. just thinking of where to go if i can go abroad elsewhere.
  13. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    Sunday morning and Adrian and myself were joined by the pool man on the balcony. Actually he went down to clean the pool while we sat drinking our coffee. Luckily we had no plans for a morning swim today as we wanted to get moving as it would be a long day.

    After breakfast and suncream and map studying we were off towards the mountains. :unsure: The first wrong turn meant we almost invaded the Turkish enclave just up the coast from us. :eek: The second wrong turning meant we almost invaded it from the other side. :thud:

    There was a real comedy moment as we found ourselves stuck behind a slow moving vehicle which gave us time to study what on earth it was. It was a very small truck bed, like a Bedford Rascal, on which a metal "shed" had been constructed. On top of this the internal workings of a domestic freezer were mounted. There were cables hanging off the side with a plug flying around in the breeze. :lol:

    Once we'd past that (twice) and headed inland on to the mountain roads our next obstacle was goats! Herds of goats wandering along the side of the road. :lol: Then the map got confusing, not helped by the complete lack of road signs and having to stop a few times because the winding roads made Steven queasy. Also, where there was road signs they tended to be after the turning so you had to turn and then check the sign to see which way you should have turned. Everywhere we saw people getting out of cars and dashing back to read signs. :rotfl:

    After a couple of hours we reached Kykkos, the sight of a famous monastery. The place was busy busy busy so we drove right on through and headed for a picnic site marked on the map. It was brilliant - tons of picnic benches up a side of a mountain with a covered area for grills and a toilet block (though this was basically a shed with holes in the floor). Eventually we figured we'd stumbled upon some Cypriot ritual - families were clearly arriving for lunch after church and bringing a car full of food and cooking equipment. Tablecloths were set out and salads made by the women while the men went to the grill station with the meat and fish. Made our sandwiches and stuff seem quite inadequate.

    Suitably refreshed and smiled at by a lot of cypriots we headed higher. Mount Olympus is the highest peak at just under 2000m and we were driving along its side not too far down from the summit. We hit the cloud bank and just round another bend saw the brilliant site of a ski lift - apparently in the land of eleventy billion degree temperatures you can ski in the winter. :lol:

    We stopped at the village of Troodos which isn't actually a village because no one lives there- it's just a cluster of restaurants and shops for tourists. Free parking of course. Steven found a playground to burn off some steam and then suddenly we realised how cold it was up there. We'd gone from 30+ degrees at the villa in tshirt and shorts to having goosebumps on our arms. Whilst we were checking out some shops I heard this funny noise and looked up to see it was pouring with rain. :eek: Two minutes later it had stopped and that was all the rain we saw all week. Bought some handmade candies and stuff to take home then headed back to the car and drove on to Platres which is a proper mountain village. We abandoned our car at the side of the road and followed one of the marked hiking trails to a waterfall spot then stopped in a cafe for a cold drink before heading home.

    Drove south out of the mountains and down to the coast and on to our villa making it a complete circular drive. Straight in the pool when we were back and then it was another spinach/cheese/filo pie thing for dinner. Had a lovely day, despite nearly invading Turkey twice. :surrender:
  14. Esmeralda
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    Esmeralda Serious Forum Regular

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    Sounds really cool... now about these toilets?...... :(
  15. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    It's how they do it out there. Restaurants are your best bet but public toilets tended to be few and far between and sometimes we'll say less than Florida clean. You just to accept that's how they do it and just go with the flow. :shrug:

    Or pack lots of wipes. :D
  16. Kate
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    Kate Serious Forum Regular

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    All your wrong turns etc are exactly the reason why we always went on coach trips on holiday! :lol:
  17. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    Monday morning started with the pre-breakfast swim, then breakfast, then the post-breakfast applying of the suncream. We're headed back to Pafos today and I'm letting Adrian drive as I'm feeling brave. :lol:

    We take a small unintended detour to the harbour before getting back on track and arriving at the Tombs of the Kings at 10.30am. Free parking and 1.7 euros to get in and of course "there is no charge for your child". Now - I can't even begin to describe the awesomeness of this place. It's a huge site full of partially excavated burial chambers that were used for local dignitaries. It is truly amazing how you can just climb over the whole place - nothing is sectioned off. We climb in and out of all these chambers along with everyone else. No chance of that in Britain. The whole place was treated with total respect by visitors. Quite possibly the best 1.7 euros I've ever spent.

    But - the heat was completely brutal. The whole place is in full sun with just the odd olive tree for shade. Even at 10.30am it was draining. My bottle of cold water was warm after about 30 minutes. We took about an hour to explore the whole site and by that time we were completely drained. Even with hats, suncream and lots of water. So if you go, be prepared and try and get there as early as possible. There's a reason they open at 8am. :lol:

    After this we drove inland to the old part of Pafos but didn't stay long as it was mostly closed as today was a public holiday so we drove back down to the massive free car park at the harbour and flung ourselves into a non-english named restaurant and demanded cold drinks all round. :worship:

    Lunch was a seafood platter for me - the swordfish was cooked to perfection and for the first time I tried cuttlefish (interesting). Steven had sheftalia and Adrian had afelia (pork casseroled with white wine and coriander ((cilantro)) ). An excellent lunch by the sea and then we are in the car and headed back home.

    Of course as we pass through Polis we have to stop and have one of those lovely iced coffees and we supplement this with ice cream sundaes and just sit in the shade and chill (no tv football to spoil this today).

    Then it was the petrol moment. The stupid unmanned petrol station. There was a Greek man in there at the same time as us and to cut a long story short he accused us of using his money to get our petrol. We speak 4 words of Greek and he spoke no words of English so there was a lot of arm waving and stuff and eventually the Greek man phoned the garage people and someone came down from another petrol station and proved to the Greek man that he was incapable of using the unmanned station and we hadn't used his money. That was interesting.

    Quick supermarket stop and it's back to the villa for some serious pool time. Chicken with pasta and salad for dinner, and we are done.

    Tomorrow is our last full day. :thumbsdown:
  18. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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  19. uscwest
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    uscwest Senior Cast Member

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    That unmanned petrol station sounds gairy.
  20. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    Sounds like you had a great day, the tombs are amazing :yes:

    I don't think they even charged when we went years ago :unsure: We were amazed how people could just wander freely, I think I need to get the photos out and start reminiscing :lol:

    I loved looking through the link Dawn :thanks:

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