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Southern Cyprus

By Susan Claremont-Smith
6th September, 2009


Our flight was long but comfortable, landing in the early hours at Pafos airport. Warmth welcomed us, accompanied by a refreshing and gentle breeze. So many people had told us the heat would be unbearable. Be prepared they had warned. I had begun to have second thoughts about the holiday before leaving, but my optimistic nature wasn’t going to allow these doubts to ruin our long awaited and much earned break.


  We scrutinised the other tourists on our mini bus. All headed for Atlantica Hotel, Limassol. It was the first time we had been on a fortnight’s holiday without our eldest daughter and we were eager to look out some potential friends for our twelve-year-old son.
  The road signs were written in Cypriot and English, but the Cypriot name was different to ours, for instance Limassol was Lemesos, which was then followed by the Greek word. We decided that it would be fun over our two-week stay to work out the Greek alphabet for ourselves using these road signs as a guide.
  Our bus journey wasn’t very enlightening at that time in the morning. I remember being disillusioned by the amount of roadworks that we passed by. Later we discovered that at one point we had been overlooking the birthplace of Aphrodite, but this had been blanketed by the darkness.
  Limassol lights arrived. Whirled by. Then gradually petered out. To the right the sea swished and glittered, reflecting the huge pearly moon through a row of beach bars and hotels. The mini bus turned left into a quiet, palm tree lined avenue and halted outside the mutely lit and peaceful Atlantica Hotel. It was three am.
  Tinted sheet glass windows lead into a marble scrupulously clean air-conditioned and half-lit entrance and reception area. Here we were welcomed calmly by staff and a glass of cool and tangy fruit juice, where our rooms were quickly and efficiently allocated.
  Finding the lift, we quickly located our room on the third floor. We fathomed the air conditioning controls and it wasn’t long before the three of us had drifted into a fitful, exhausting sleep.
  The next day, up early. We didn’t dare miss the welcome party at ten am. Bleary eyed we landed by lift on the ground floor. Was this the same hotel? The main thoroughfare hustled and bustled. Children played and chattered, pushchairs whizzed, flip-flops flopped. An arrow pointed to the dining room, which was left. We went right; we couldn’t wait to see the pool. The brochure had portrayed it as tropical and grand. It was spectacular; the photographs hadn’t done it justice.
  Back at the dining room which was busy and confusing at first. We were escorted to a table and apart from dishes and cutlery being organised we were left to our own devices. The selection was vast and catered for all tastes and nationalities, so we all headed in different directions. Cold meats and delicious cheeses were my choice, whilst my husband selected the good old British Breakfast, with embellishments of course. I can’t remember all of my son’s options, except that the last course ended with a chocolate drizzled flaky croissant. The chocolate pattern his own design and from that day on we marked him out of ten for his creativity.
  The welcoming reception was informative and helpful. We listened to the excursions on offer, but decided that we would hire a car for a few days some where in the middle of the holiday and find our own way to places further afield. There was much to do in close proximity. These we would get to by bus or taxi, which were very reasonably priced.
  The children’s club was called Kids Zone and organised by Thomsons’. It provided for all age groups. Our son was unsure about becoming a full member but was welcomed and enjoyed playing water games at the pool.
  At last we could proceed and relax on our holiday and what better place than beside the pool. We found sun beds fairly quickly, which was amazing, as the poolside was busy and we were later than the other holidaymakers. Soft music resonated dreamily, as we sucked delicious frothy iced coffee from tall frosted glasses through a straw.
  After swimming, slumbering and reading it was time to return to our room, which was clean, pleasant but basic. For a small cost we had extras, such as the safe and a small but useful fridge. The view from our balcony wasn’t spectacular, but it was interesting. Looking down at a busy continental supermarket. I decided that I must do a pen and ink sketch of it, which the next day I did. Over the next few days I added parts to the picture, according to what the owners decided to display. I wonder if they realised.
We spent most late afternoons the same way. Sketching and reading before bathing and dressing for dinner.
  We soon got into the swing of the evening dining room system, which was similar to the breakfast routine but more refined.
The cuisine was buffet style, varied, tasty and covered numerous countries around the world. Local wine was inexpensive and palatable served by waiters and waitresses, who were friendly, although the service was sometimes slow, due to the vast quantities of guests.
  There was only one night halfway through the holiday when we experienced the antics of an inefficient waiter, who despite our prompting was unable to deliver wine or cool water until after we had finished our meal. From that night on we noticed him around the hotel. The master of task avoidance.
  His behaviour however, was outshone by the magnificent personality of the Head Chef, who greeted guests most nights with his friendly banter. One night he sent over a bottle of wine to our table with his compliments. We wondered if he thought that we were famous, but in any case he made our holiday special.
  ‘Simply the Best’, the advertisement read. Fasouri Watermania, Water Park, Limassol. The biggest water park in Cyprus, with over thirty attractions. Including the biggest wave pool in Europe, offering, both excitement and relaxation. We just had to go and it was only a short bus ride away. The water park blurb lived up to its promise. It was suitable for all ages. I’m not too keen on heights so my favourites were the meandering lazy river and spectacular wave pool, whilst my husband and son adored the flumes and extremely high slides.
  The food and drink outlets were plentiful, and the changing facilities adequate. All in all Fasouri Watermania is really an enjoyable and fun packed family day out.
  Close by was a flea market that we visited on another day but it wasn’t very special on our chosen day. There were only one or two traditional stalls, one of which was local pottery. Most of the merchandise was from China we suspect and no different from the stock that you might find in British cheap shops. The bus ride to and fro was free!
  Archaeological sites. We had heard about them and were eager to visit them. All apart from one smaller site, Amathous, we toured most of the others on one of the days that we hired a car, which was moderately priced. Starting with Kourion, believed to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in Cyprus. We all found Kourion fascinating. We wandered amongst ornate columns, some standing tall, whilst others laid haphazardly, remnants from bygone times. The theatre was impressive. Sitting nearby in the searing heat it was easy to visualise the gladiator games, man against animals’ displays of circa 200 AD.
  The remains of mosaic floors in many of the buildings were impressive. The colours and design could have been created recently they were so vivid, yet the small tiles of glass or stone, an art form spanned a time period of thousands of years.
  Next was The Sanctuary of Apollo, white, hot and dusty but just as intriguing. The section of a temple rose dramatically from the flatness of the site, reminiscent of a scene from Indiana Jones. Small shrubs languished amongst the ruins, their leaves fragrant when bruised. Wild pungent Thyme created a cool, refreshing fragrance for a hot dry day.
  Our archaeological site seeing day ended with an inspirational trip to the legendary birth place of Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romiou. We absorbed its mythical atmosphere, gazing out at the rock formation rising from glittering turquoise waves.
  Historical buildings are plentiful in and around Limassol. We viewed many monasteries from the outside, but visited two castles. Kolossi Castle on the way to Kourion, which was the headquarters of the knights Hospitaller, dating back to the 13th century.
  My favourite one was in the old part of Limassol. The main buildings were constructed in the 14th century, part of which was the chapel where Richard the Lion-Heart and Berengaria were married but this is no longer standing. The castle now houses The Cyprus Mediaeval Museum, which includes replicas of sculptures. The weapons and armoury were most impressive, especially to my son who took numerous photographs on our way up to the battlements. Here we enjoyed the special views around Limassol including two mosques, a reminder of past Turkish occupancy.
  The narrow dusty streets below needed to be explored, but this would have to be on another day, as it was a Sunday and the shops were closed on the Sabbath. It was a good excuse to come back, which we did later in the week. Shop keepers were really helpful and friendly, even if you decided not to purchase their wares. We bought many of our gifts in a shop specialising in tablecloths. Crocheted, cotton appliquéd and embroidered. The range was vast in style and price. My suspicions were that they were not made in Cyprus, but they were unique and at least I couldn’t break them on the way home.
  We finished this shopping spree in a corner café with intriguing architecture. It was located on a busy thorough fare where we were served by identical boy twins, who had great fun confusing patrons.
  Nicosia (Lefkosia) the capital of Cyprus, a divided city was on our list of places to visit. We did so on one of the car hire days, but if I’m honest we were all probably a little disappointed by the experience. This was the only day that the heat really bothered us. On arrival we found a parking spot easily. We walked through modern Nicosia to the old part, admired churches, and then wandered around craft and gift shops selling charming merchandise at inflated prices. Stupidly we had forgotten our passports. Unable to visit the Turkish quarters, we sampled Greek patisseries in a café overlooking the wasteland of the Green Line, ‘no mans land’, and enjoyed the melodic chanting drifting peacefully our way from Turkish mosques.
  Southern Cyprus certainly had plenty to offer and last but not least was the refreshing Troodos Mountains, which was a car trip away. We soon found ourselves driving through the lower terraced vineyards to Pine covered higher grounds. The road meandered through countless picturesque villages on the way, including Troodos village. We then headed towards the summit of Mount Olympus which is the highest ground in Cyprus. The road ends just before the summit so we were unable to sample the glorious views from the top, but this did not spoil our day. The scenery and panoramic views on the way up were breath taking.
  Our two week holiday had flown swiftly by and was just as enjoyable for my son, as it was for my husband and I. There was much to do in the day time. Most evenings we spent in a quieter outside bar of the hotel, preferring its ambience to the holiday camp style entertainment in the main internal bar. There were only a few nights when we ventured inside there. One of these occasions was for an illusionist and we were all absolutely amazed at what we experienced at very close proximity.
  Our last day. The coach arrived promptly to take us to the airport. Thomson representatives were there; our son was given a ‘Kid Zone’ gift, before they offered us sweets and waved us off. Sadly on our way home.

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