Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cyprus - Day 2 and 3

Cyprus – Days 2 and 3.
We woke both days to a blue sky and blue ocean. Not just blue – th kind of blue you see in the best picture postcards. Deep, bright sapphire. Temps around the 25 in the morning were a welcome change from the 35+ in the UAE. A lazy  start, then a stint in the gym, followed by breakfast and a swim, and getting some serious tanning begun, filled the first few hours both days.

Yesterday we decided to do a bit of a tour into the mountains. And so off we went at around 12:30’ish in the little Kia.  This is definitely the smallest car I’ve ever driven. A bit like a sewing machine on wheels – but thankfully it seems up to the task and we zip down the motorway to our turn-off into the foothills. The countryside is quite bare and stark. Signs of recent wheat/hay harvests are here and there, but otherwise there is little obvious agriculture, and certainly no grape growing to be seen (disappointing, that). A few villages pass and we stop for a coffee. The deep, small cup, boiled type that gives your heart the jumps and keeps you awake for the next 36 hours – yum. 

During coffee we decide to head for a monastery, about 30km ahead. The road takes us well into the mountains and the vegetation slowly changes from barren to sparsely wooded to forest. We pass charming picnic areas, a little old church dating back to the 1100s and push on over unsealed roads. Finally the monastery,  Macharais, is in sight – and quite spectacular (http://www.kypros.org/Sxetikos/Monastiria/MachairasE-1.htm). Apparently it also dates back to the 1100s.

Moving along, we wind our way over the top of the next mountain and begin the slow descent back towards Larnaca. Along this route we encounter a sizeable village called Lefkara, which turns out to be a little tourist hub for lace and silverware.  Totally charming and beautiful. An hour here and the call of an afternoon drink is too strong to resist so, with wallets untouched, we head back to the hotel.

Finally, dinner calls and we head out to a nearby local restaurant where we gorge on slow cooked lamb, pork and beef with assortments of veggies and salads. Best part of the evening is the live music trio – a guy on the balalaika, another chap on keyboards and woman with the loveliest singing voice. Replete with food, wine and lots of lilting Greek folk songs we return to the hotel and sleep soundly.

Day 3 begins as above. At around 1 o’clock we drive along the local coastline towards the nearest town – Agia Napa (pronounced Aiya Napa).  But there are again some sights along the way. Yesterday was filled with beautiful blue skies  - today is spectacularly so. And the ocean is the brightest blue I’ve ever seen. We stop to gaze at a little chapel on a headland, some tourist boats groups of people snorkelling in that deepest of blues. Agia Napa is pretty – lots of nice looking streets, but also a bit disappointing. Every shop is either a tavern, restaurant, or tourist souvenir shop. However it does have a redeeming feature. Hidden behind all these tourist traps is a lovely old chapel and monastery (I'm beginning to think that every town in Cyprus has one or more of these). And so after some browsing, a beer and buying a few essentials, we return to the hotel for a quiet end to the day, reading (and writing this!).

Tomorrow we’ve booked a cruise up the coast. I’m hoping the ocean and sky are still as beautiful and blue as today.

Cyprus - arriving

We arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus at 5am and picked up a little Kia Picanto - definitely not a pocket rocket - just a pocket really! Snug inside we took off to have a look at Larnaca as the sun rose, thinking we might find somewhere to have a coffee and watch it all happen. Unfortunately we were the only people awake in Larnaca - couldn't even get a coffee at Maccas - they were asleep too. Anyway we found a nice spot to sit and watch the sun come up and a table to pour over the map of Cyprus and find where our hotel was located.
Larnaca is a nice seaside town of fairly sizeable proportions and we found our way around quite easily. We had to head off in an easterly direction along the southern coast of Cyprus to find the Grecian Park Hotel in Protaras which was about 50 klms away. After deciding that not one cafe was open (we searched hard) we cranked up the Picanto and hit the road.
Cyprus is a rocky and barren island along the route we took - lots of limestone and pumicy looking rocks and what vegetation there is dry and brittle. However the Mediterranean is magnificent - as clear as sapphire and just a bright and glistening.
We eventually found our hotel only to be told our room would not be ready until at least 2pm and that we would need to wait as the hotel had been full the previous night and people (of course) were still eating breakfast and grabbing their last swim. We decided to use the time to explore the surroundings a bit and so we went off to Potaras and Paralimni to see what was happening locally. Both are very picturesque villages with miles of holiday accommodation. It seemed like half of Britain was here on holiday as everywhere we went there were British accents obvious. So we had oriented ourselves to our part of the island and decided to go back to the hotel and pass the time till we could check in.
They gave us a couple of towels and we changed and spent a few hours by the pool. As you can see in the photos it was no trouble at all to fill in time around the hotel! The Grecian Park is acknowledged as one of the "great hotels of the world" by a plaque in the foyer and we could see why that might be the case - it is LUSH! (As our Welsh friends Ange and Liz would say!)

So we swam for a while and sunbaked and waited..... and waited..... and waited until eventually we got our room. The room has a seaview and is just really lovely.

Here are some pics!