Category Archives: Cyprus

Travelogue Cyprus 4: Paphos


10 – 12 April 2024

With only 61km to drive to Paphos, we were treated to a late and leisurely start in Omodos.

Donning our long running pants to brave the chilly morning (we were still in the mountains after all), we set off across town, intent on a 5km. Easier said than done, seeing as crossing town was only 250m. We circled the car park, the bus terminus and then took a right onto the main road to Linos Winery, which we knew to be 1km down the road from the previous day’s excursion.

The road was very quiet and from the reactions of the dogs (and one highly excitable donkey), we reckoned this road-running was not a regular occurrence in these parts.

Doing a U-turn at Linos, we then ran back past Omodos to the fancy winery, Vassiliades, on the other side.

Even with all that, we were still short a kilometre, requiring another couple of parking lot loops to make up the distance and conclude at George’s Bakery. Breakfast was thus a fresh baked cheese and ham pie. Like the previous, thick with layers and layers of light fluffy pastry (and not enough filling, truth be told).

Packing up, we left the cute little town of Omodos behind us.

A short podcast later, we were circling the block in Paphos looking for our Airbnb accommodation. It had us foxed because it was in a sweet little boomed off private-residents road. While a nostalgic taste of security-intensive home, the boom was clearly just to deter tourist traffic since there was no adjacent fencing or our familiar guardhouse with manned private security presence.

Our hostess was waiting for us and let us into the very neat duplex. The ad on the booking site had completely undersold the property and it was so so so much better than we had expected or could have hoped for. Tastefully decorated, neat as a pin, every accessory and extra you could imagine… and a front and back patio where long chats and new memories were willing themselves to be made!

Short tour behind us, our gracious host asked if there was anything else she could do for us. Of course we asked for restaurant recommendations. She said she would follow up via WhatsApp and before we’d even settled our bags in our en suite room, a generous list of options was in my inbox.

Released of the task of preparatory researching, we waltzed out and arbitrarily turned left down the beach road to see what our new ‘hood had to offer. A proper beach town, there was a mix of shopping, eating, drinking and open spaces to relax.

Looping back along the promenade revealed a posher picture than we’d expected, with shiny new holiday apartment blocks giving way to green lawns, wide walkways and the glinting sea.

With a little more time before we needed to leave for the airport, we overshot our house and walked almost the full length of the promenade to the harbour and Paphos Castle at the end. The waterfront was a buzz with holidaymakers – a good atmosphere, but more commercial than we were hoping to share on our first night.

Back at our holiday home in time to grab the car keys and whizz to the airport (only 15km away), we were at the gate and waiting in the Arrivals hall when Alex and Luke emerged.

It was only on the drive home, where we were catching them up on our adventures, that we realised how much we had already seen and done in Cyprus!

They too were super impressed with our digs, and quite content to sit on the back patio with a couple of cold beers that we had stocked upfront, and catch up.

Using one of our hostess’s recommendations, we headed out on foot for dinner at Hondros in the Paphos Old Town. We left at around 18h00 so that the newbies could appreciate the walk along the promenade and take in the harbour and its sights.

As the oldest traditional taverna in town, the  restaurant was a phenomenal recommendation. We feasted on a shared meze dipping combo starter and then our own respective favourite main courses that ranged from crispy souvlaki (Luke), to tender calamari (Alex), to beef stifado and lamb kleftiko (Chris and I to share).

Full to bursting, we made our way slowly back through the old town, with a couple of hours (and a few bottles of bubbly) to spend in our happy home before bedtime.


Always a pro traveller, Alex had booked us a walking tour for Thursday morning at 09h30.

Observing our respective morning rituals, we were all ready at the door at 09h10ish, as planned, to drive down to the meeting point in Paphos Old Town.

As an added bonus, there was a couple from Colchester – Chusa and Lee – meeting up with us at the tour so we became a Party of 6.

Our tour guide, Mary, gave us a brief history of Cyprus and Paphos, adding some colour to the spotty knowledge we’d picked up along the way. She told us that Paphos was made capital of Cyprus by the Ptolemy of Egypt because it was only 360km from Alexandria. Until then Cyprus was mostly inhabited in the East in Nicosia and Famagusta.

Fast forward many moons and in the 1920s the many tombs were discovered, then in 1960 the mosaics from the Roman civilisation were unearthed. Then came the airport and all the tourists.

In more current history, Mary proudly shared that their highly-motivated mayor transformed the city in preparation for their European Capital of Culture in 2017. There were crochet artwork installations around the city where older Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot ladies had shown they could work together peacefully to create items of beauty.

Mary also took us past the Ibrahim’s Khan. A Khan is an inn and was where the traders used to start overnight when coming to Paphos to sell their goods. It ran to wrack and ruin, until the mayor uplifted it to create a new place of interest and more jobs. Now it had wonderful shops and fancy restaurants. One of which was a recommendation from our host – Laona ‘great for lunch’, to which we resolved to return… after a tour of the old town that revealed the value of carob and its carat beans, used to make things like cinema film, X-rays and to weigh gold and copper.

We also saw examples of the many tombs, that were big underground chambers cut into the rocks. The amount of effort it would take to achieve such a thing was an indication that it was done for aristocracy. There were several around Paphos and we were able to see into one very clearly from the glassed-off barrier at street level. Mary advised that we visit the archaeological site in the afternoon to experience the full wonderment.

Mary concluded the tour outside the chapel of John the Baptist, from where we made our way back to the Laona restaurant to revel in oven-baked pork meatball and tender pork chops.

With a bellyful onboard, a visit to the Tomb of the Kings was exactly what we needed to move our meal.

These rich people would have been buried with their treasures, which are sadly long-gone from being looted over the ages. The cemetery was excavated by the Department of Antiquities and used during the Hellenistic and Ptolemaic periods.

We were able to enter the tombs and explore the chambers and the capsules where the dead would have been placed. Some of the tombs were impressively large with drommos (staircase passages) leading down 5 or more metres below ground level into these family vestibules.

There were QR codes outside the chambers, which Luke would click and either play the audio track or read the narrative to us so we had an indication of what we were looking at.

All cultured out for the time being, we retreated from the sun for a bit to enjoy ice-cold refreshments in Karlina’s, across the road from the tombs site. From there we plotted next steps, which included a fun ferrying of our new friends to the Castle in our rental car. They had not yet seen this primary landmark and all it took was me climbing into the boot so they could pile in like a clown-car for us to make their dreams come true, which was a very small ask in the scheme of things.

We returned to our house for a couple of hours of relaxing in advance of dinner, which was at another of our hostess’s recommendations; Pinguino, a casual terrace-style cafe that served phenomenal pork and seafood dishes.

It was essential to conclude the evening with an obligatory nightcap on our front patio as we were fast running out of time to take advantage of all the options in our happy home.


We were up bright and early to catch the bus for our Blue Lagoon tour. We were welcomed onto the coach by our hostess, Anna, and her driver, George. She outlined the plan for the day, which had us driving up the coast, through the mountains, up to Aphrodite’s Bath in the north and then transferring in Latchi on the return journey to a boat for a trip to the Blue Lagoon. There would be village stops in between for coffees, lunch and snacks.

Anna started her tourguide narrative telling us that Paphos is both a city and a region that stretches all the way up the West coast to the Blue Lagoon. The region is home to 38000 people, which can swell to double that in summer.

Moving through the wine region, Anna told us that Cyprus wine history goes back 5000 years – an accolade recognised in the Guinness Book of Records for the local Commanderia. They grow white Sinisteri grapes and black Mavro grapes. Traditional local wines don’t add sugars or alcohol, which makes them quite low in sulphites.

She moved from fact to fable, sharing that Aphrodite was a notoriously beautiful but unhappy goddess who – legend has it – had many affairs. She was the adoptive mother of Adonis, with whom she then fell in love. He was killed by a wild boar while hunting and she never got over it.

The Baths of Aphrodite was in a botanical gardens and washing in her waters was supposed to give eternal youth and beauty. The bus stopped to allow us a visit.

We followed the path to the grotto and had some laughs as we dipped our hands into the water and splashed our faces, taking ‘before and after’ photos to track the results.

There was still time to visit the viewing points to take some scenery pics. The sea was as clear as Anna promised and even from our raised vantage point, we could see straight through the sea water to the golden sand on the sea-bed.

We met up with a second tour bus to share the boat trip. There was a group of Alex and Luke’s friends from Colchester Bootcamp on that bus – also out for the Race but staying in a villa up the coast hence we’d not yet met.

They were a fun bunch, with cocktails flowing and selfies snapping. They welcomed us as friends-of-friends and we all soaked up the Mediterranean sun as the boat cruised to the Blue Lagoon.

Docking in the crystal clear bay, the boat-master inflated the water slide as everyone shed layers down to swim gear. Our English mates were more enthusiastic than we were; them coming from a long wet winter versus us coming from a long dry summer where the 16 degree ocean was a bracing prospect!

Nonetheless, we had a go at the slide and plunged into the water. It was a few seconds of sobering salty sea-ness before we acclimated and started enjoying the buoyancy. Luke threw us in a couple of U-shaped foam Pool Noodles which made it even easier since the water was easily 2.5m deep or more and treading it was quite tiring.

After a wonderful hour of slides and sun and socials, it was time for the boat to do the return journey. Well-oiled and warmer, it went by so much quicker.

Dropped at Latchi, we did a quick circuit of the little town before returning to the restaurant at the port, Moustakallis, for lunch. Delicious fresh calamari, seabream and moussaka was the order of the day. We passed the meal easily between friends, sharing stories of travels, life and everything in between.

The last stop on the tour was a banana farm alongside a shipwreck. Both were eclipsed by the fabulous ice-cream stand, where we queued to get a couple of scoops of the cold goodness to sample as we ogled the ship that it had seen its end in this cove, and was still jutting out from the shoreline at its awkward angle.

Back home, we had a couple of hours to would away before dinner time. Perfect opportunity to provide some coaching to Alex and Luke, who had recently taken up backgammon and had loads of questions about nuanced rules and strategy. They had come to the right place!

There was much hilarity as the dice chose their favourites and nail biting moments when the game looked like it could turn the tables. Lots of fun.

As our last meal in Paphos we chose… an Indian restaurant. Our friends Lee and Chusa joined us at the oh-so-creatively named Curry House and we had a long and leisurely meal washed down with a lovely medium-dry red wine.

Travelogue Cyprus 3: Troodos


08 – 09 April 2024

Heading into the Troodos mountains for the next couple of days, we were smart enough to learn from our excursion to Santa Irene winery the previous day and to wear jeans and have a jumper on hand.

Good thing too because as we climbed, it not only got chilly but clouds moved in and sucked away what little warmth the sun was bringing to the party.

By the time we arrived at our first stop, Everchou, it was drizzling. Fortunately, the excursion was indoors – the Train Museum. Completely unmanned (it was 13h15 so might have been lunchtime), it fuelled our ambitions to become Cypriot museum custodians. Best job in the world!

We let ourselves in and started our own self-guided tour. Fortunately the story told was largely graphic and there were English captions alongside the Greek ones. Details aside, the abridged version is a half century or so of lukewarm performance for the Cyprus Government Railway (CGR).

It ran from Famagusta on the East coast through Nicosia to Everchou at the base of the Troodos mountains. It was forecast to be a major mode of passenger transport, but locals preferred their camels and donkeys so it was only really the military that used it in any great numbers. The service was eventually discontinued on 31 December 1951 when it was deemed economically nonviable to continue maintaining.

Short on any other places of interest, we then concluded the day’s travel in the Troodos are with the short hop to Kakopetria.


Struggling to find our accommodation, Maritsa Lodge, we realised that Google Maps had gotten confused because our B&B was in the Old Town with its narrow cobbled pedestrian streets. We ditched the car and walked to the lodge on foot.

A charming 300+ year old house converted into flatlets, the landlady at Maritsa Lodge showed us to our suite at the edge of the property, overlooking the river gorge and the mountains rising opposite.

We also had a little wooden deck so made some hot bevvies to take advantage and admire the view while reviewing the circles and markings the hostess had made on the tourist map she’d given us.

We were ideally based at the end of the Nature trail that ran along the opposite side of the river into town. With a very grey sky, clouds billowing above the mountain tops and intermittent low rumbling of thunder, we decided that it would make the most sense to use this route to get to town while the weather still allowed. We then had the option of returning either up along the cobblestone street or the tarred road which we had driven in on.

We nimbly made our way down the wooden stairs and across the bridge. The trail was easy to follow and a wonderful piece of nature as we followed the river for some 1km.

Emerging at the far end, it started to rain. We took what we thought was the road into town, upping the pace as the drizzle turned into a full blown cloudburst.

Seeking shelter in a petrol station we consulted the map and realised we had taken the wrong split; we were supposed to turn right and cross the bridge into town!

With little choice we waited out the pelting rain until some 15 minutes later it had slowed to what we were prepared to walk in again.

Crossing the bridge immediately produced a couple of short streets of activity. It was still drizzling so we went into the first restaurant – the River Park, which was one our host had recommended – and waited out the last of the rain with a cold KEO.

As soon as the sun came out, so did we.

We reviewed the whole town as the sunshine dried our damp hoodies for us. Kakopetria was pretty while glistening in the remnants from the rain, but – based on the generous blossoms cascading from the trees and the grapevine veranda canopies starting to show hints of green – must be really pretty as Spring warms the town up.

With nothing but time on our hands, we also studied the menu outside each of the restaurants and decided on where to have our dinner, now only a couple of hours away.

A lot of the shops were closed, which could have been because it was Monday or because it was shoulder season, in between the ski activities on the mountains and the busy summer for Cyprus tourism. Still, it was nice to wander around and wonder.

We walked back to our hotel along the cobbled street, marvelling at how well-preserved the ancient buildings were – and how tiny some of the doorways were, barely our shoulder height!

After a short stop and grabbing another layer (presuming it would get quite cold along the river after dark), we made our way back to town on the road route that had seen our arrival. Much quicker (but less scenic) left us with 15 minutes to kill before our restaurant, Podji Poda, opened.

We visited the minimart (no fun Metallica stories this time) and got a takeaway Leon to have a makeshift sundowner at Couples Rock. This was an amusing landmark we had encountered on our walking tour; a large rock fabled to have rolled over a love struck couple.

Fortunately, no such similar fate befell us and we made it to dinner. A sumptuous meal of fresh whole Trout from the local river and a red wine bacon dish.


It was cold and drizzly in the morning, so we took our time over the complimentary Mediterranean-style breakfast buffet, confirming our route for the day.

Once in the car, we made our way up Mount Olympus. We climbed for 28 minutes as the temperature plummeted. Even though we were cocooned in the car, I got a chill as the dashboard chimed with the snowflake icon as the outside temperature reached 4 degrees.

We carried on forward and upward into the misty cloud we had seen from our deck at Maritsa Lodge. A few minutes later we were at the top; a cul de sac at the entrance of the army base where we could go no further.

We were in light snowfall! We got out the car to fully appreciate the novelty of being engulfed by mist and to feel the snowflakes falling on us! Not great for photos, but a good story to tell about our foray in the Troodos Mountains.

Unnerved that our next feat was intended to be a short hike through the woods to Calendonian Waterfall, we were relieved to be greeted by a balmy 10 degrees when we parked at the Psilo Dentro restaurant and trout farm at the entrance to the trail.

It was an easy and enjoyable walk to the waterfall; a little slippery in places from the recent rains, but nothing serious enough to slow the pace or the conversation. We took a few minutes to appreciate the end goal… and then it was back to the car and on the road again.

Our Paphos host had recommended a stop at Vassiliades Winery on our way into Omodos, so we did just that.

An elegant building gave us viewpoint to the magnificent landscape. The hills opposite clearly showed us what the sommelier at Saint Irene Winery had told us about the uniqueness of the Cypriot grapes growing on the steep and arid hills, defying the usual conditions under which grapes usually prosper. Sure, the harvests could be more modest, but the quality of the grapes was next level and the smaller yields unique in flavour.


Omodos was less than a kilometre further down the road. We had booked to stay in Katoi Holiday Home in the old town so discovered on arrival that that meant parking across town (some 250 metres away) in the village free parking. Chris dropped me off as close as possible with the suitcases and went to drop off the car.

His traverse of the town had given him a good lay of the land and we were wine-tasting at the Zenon rooms ten minutes later. The lady in the store was the granddaughter of the original wine farmers so most of her narrative  was about their history and the family members who featured on the labels of each of the bottles.

Then it was a quick visit to the monastery and its very impressive golden fresco in the church. The monastery was at the base of the town square so we did some menu checks to narrow down dinner options.

Secure in our sort-of plan, we were back to wine-tasting. We absolutely had to visit Linos Winery to find out about their blue wine; literally a bright aqua blue colour. The hostess told us that it is essentially a dry white and that the blue colour comes from the grape skins. She gave us the non-coloured variant and it was like a trick on the sense that the two tasted the same yet looked so different.

We also sampled their commanderia (sweet wine only made in Cyprus), Zivania (jet fuel 50% proof clear spirit, sunk as a shot) and a Pistachio cream liqueur that was very easy on the palate after its two predecessors.

Back into town, we did the final wine-tasting of the day at the Gerolemo coffee shop and wine bar on the square. After sampling a varied range, Chris got a glass of his favourite white and me of my favourite red and we took to a table outside to enjoy the fresh evening.

The barkeep had warned us that they were closing for the day but encouraged us to take our time on their terrace. He asked that we just leave the glasses on the windowsill for him to collect in the morning (they would never still be there back home!)

A short while later, the owner arrived. Concerned that we’d been left unattended (despite our assurances that we were quite fine), he unlocked the main door and emerged a minute later with a bag of chips and a Zivania for each of us.

During the short exchange over the shot, we asked him for recommendation on dinner venue. He chuckled and said that if we were up for it, there was a locals pub across from the cemetery which was good for ‘a beer and a game of cards… and then we eat’. Sounded worth a look.

We finished our wine and located the pub. It was a smoky den with older men currently enjoying Greek classic movies on the small TV mounted on the wall in the corner.

Committed, we entered and Chris organised us a couple of cold beers and a table.

Soon after, the chap who invited us arrived, gave us a friendly wave and a smile, and disappeared into the adjacent room to get down to some serious cards.

We moved to the bar where we were almost instantly engaged in conversation by the man sitting next to us. He was keen to hear about where we were from, what brought us to Cyprus, Troodos and Omodos and any other tales of our travels. We already had so many to share from our short time in Larnaca and Nicosia!

Settled and comfortable we ordered a meal to be served to us at the bar. A light Mediterranean plate with big warm wedges of halloumi that we doused in lemon, feeling smugly authentic in our evening’s outcome.

Travelogue Cyprus 2: Nicosia


06 – 07 April 2024

Having had our beach day in Ayia Napa cut short by a flat tyre, we rearranged our itinerary for Day 3 to include a couple of extra beachy things. Not hard to do by taking a jog down to Larnaca’s own blue flag Makenzy Beach and then adding a first stop in Pyla, 20 minutes down the coast, onto our road trip for a beachfront brunch.

As we entered the sleepy beachy town, we were drawn to a place called Gregory’s Coffee & Greek Bakery. We had high hopes there was a golden thread in the similarity of name to the brilliant Gregg’s experiences we had had in Newcastle and Belfast.

Grabbing the second-last available table, we soon had flaky Greek pastries in hand. A spinach and feta for authenticity and a bacon Stromboli (a pie that tasted like a pizza stuffed with bacon) for good measure. Basking in the moderate morning Mediterranean sun and peeping over flaky-pastry pies at the glistening sea was a worthy consolation for the circumstances that had led us there.

Back on the road, we set sights on Lympia; chosen for no particular reason other than a road trip necessitating stops and its position halfway along our short drive for the day.

Sadly there was little to see in the small suburban town so we followed the road sign to neighbouring Dali, which promised archeological ruins and an accompanying museum.

Two for two, we found both to be closed on Saturdays, much like we had missed the operating hours of the ruins and museum in Larnaca. Clearly Cyprus was for more fastidious travel planners than us in order to foresee such things.

With only 27km left to Nicosia, try as we might, there was not a place of interest to stop en route. We thought we might stop in “Lefkosia”… only to find that this was the alternate name for Nicosia – and seemed to be used interchangeably. A quick Google revealed that Nicosia was a Latin and English name used for the city post the medieval crusades. Lefkosia / Lefkosa where the traditional Greek and Turkish names respectively. Interesting.

We arrived at our destination a couple of hours ahead of schedule. The Kipros Accommodation hotel was, well, accommodating of our early arrival and showed us to our complimentary parking and then to our suite.

With a little extra time on our hands, we consolidated our map and Google searches to define a plan. We had the info on the stops on our intended walking tour the next morning, so mapped a route that would fill in the gaps of what else we could see and do in Nicosia.

This would be a short Nicosia walking tour of that would include the Liberty Monument, the UN buffer zone and the Famagusta Gate, as well as a smattering of religious buildings and museums.

We had chosen our hotel for its location, which paid off immediately. Hitting the streets, we were one road away from the famous Ledra pedestrian street, which took us right to the historical landmarks we wanted to see.

We were not really surprised to find that all the museums in Nicosia were already closed – some at midday and others not open on weekends at all – and again mused that dream job would be as a museum custodian in Cyprus. A 30-hour work week sounded like a winning plan!

Having fulfilled the possible cultural requirements, we were able to commit ourselves to a late lunch. Being so close to the Turkish border justified a donner kebab. We were quite smug sitting opposite the McDonald’s and the Starbucks with our legit authentic (massive!) meal at O Salonikios Gyros Stavros. Lovin’ every bite of fresh chicken and pork dripping with creamy garlic sauce and crunching from the salad garnish.

Finally finished and fully-fuelled, we were ready to approach the other side of Ledra. To our surprise, a couple of hundred metres down the road was the border crossing. And it was a free pass only requiring a flash of a passport. Which we happened to be carrying. So we went to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

It wasn’t all it cracked up to be. Besides a lively market and handful of grill house restaurants, it didn’t have much of a vibe. We did a cursory wander around and then passed back across the border.

Back up the length of Ledra, we emerged at the far end to find a fabulous recreation area. The city of Nicosia had cleverly uplifted the centre of town at the base of the walls of the original medieval city.

Eleftheria (Liberty) Square now boasted ultra-modern chrome and glass bridge, ramps and walkways from the street level down to a streamlined and cultivated garden below with pretty water features and outsized surfboard-shaped benches for people to relax and enjoy the space. There were pop-up stalls under the bridge selling clothes and accessories, and music piped through the speakers. With the acoustics of the partially enclosed space, the energy was palpable.

Since we had been on our feet for hours and done more thousands of steps, we decided to take advantage of our hotel being so close to take a load off for bit before taking on the evening.

Googling What To Do in Nicosia revealed that there was a Blazin’ Vibes Street Festival at Eleftheria Square that night. What a win!

Emerging from the hotel, it was a quick trot down the road and round the corner. The Square was transformed after dark, with submerged lighting creating a literal glow around the whole area.

DJs had taken to the stage under the bridge so there was a bass beat drawing people in their droves down to the festival area.

There were more pop-up stalls, a big cocktail bar had been set up and there were people dancing and having a good time. Such fun.

We mingled and window-shopped, but not being cocktail folk, were not in for the long haul.

We were thirsty though, so headed into the kiosk opposite the festival area. The shopkeep was belting out classic Metallica so we lingered longer than necessary while buying our take-away drinks, amused that we were having more of a party in the mini-mart than at the mega-party!


Chris had found a guided walking tour of the DMZ and UN Buffer Zone online and although it said tickets were no longer available – which we took to mean sold out – we thought we would take our chances and pitch up anyway. With tip-based tours, people often don’t arrive and we could make up for the shortfall.

We were at the UN Checkpoint at 10h00 as required…. But there was nobody there. We waited 15 minutes and then gave up.

Now we had the whole of Sunday to kill since we’d put all our eggs in the walking tour basket. It was supposed to be 3 hours, and stimulate the ‘what next’ activities for the afternoon based on areas of particular interest and/or guide recommendations.

No point crying over spilt milk though. We did a quick Google for alternatives and soon realised that it was Sunday – a big roast lunch day in many cultures – and we had not yet eaten.

We decided to find a nice wine warm for a leisurely lunch excursion.

Santa Irene Winery had rave reviews for its buffet and wine tastings, so the die was cast and we were soon off in the rental car.

It was wonderful to exit the city (even as tame as it was compared to our hometown and all its urban chaos) and enter the countryside, into the more mountainous region.

I will admit to being concerned as the digital thermometer on the dashboard dipped below 20 degrees. In our haste, we’d jumped in the car still in T-shirts and shorts, not packing any warmer layers.

Although quite chilly and now starting to drizzle, it was warmer in the winery building. We were the first to arrive for the lunch sitting, which was served in a large hall with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area.

We were advised that we were too early and the buffet was not yet ready. We could, however, use the time to sample a few of the wines to decide what to have with lunch. Splendid use of time!

We were led to the large L-shaped stone counter. Our enthusiastic sommelier pulled bottle after bottle out of fridges, off shelves and from far reaches on the counter. He expertly screwed out corks and rubber re-sealed bottles as he seamlessly trickled tasters into glasses, shared wisdom about the variant and educated about the local grape, Mavra.

It was a lot on an empty belly! But we enjoyed it immensely and, as an added bonus, the owner came over to talk to us and was delighted that we were South African as he’d lived in Pietermaritzburg for many years, and his son still did. Small as the world is, Christian’s sister’s family was friendly with the son and his family!

Our sommelier endorsed our choice of red wine for the lunch and was so pleased that we ordered another 4 bottles to take with us that he spontaneously offered us a private viewing of the production cellar below the tasting room. There would be a group tour after lunch, but narrated in Greek and he wanted us to take the full story away with us and our collection. It was quite a bit colder downstairs so thankfully we could do the walk-through at pace in our ill-suited attire.

Quite giddy from the wine and the experience, it was finally time for lunch.

The buffet lived up to promise, with a wide range of Greek and Cypriot traditional food. We feasted on roasted lamb and pork souvlaki, a delicious pork and onion stew which I vowed to remember the name of (and have, of course, forgotten), light and tender calamari, cod and another white flaky fish of sorts, roast potato wedges and pasta dish that was similar to lasagne but with layers of macaroni, pork mince and a thick layer of béchamel on the top.

As full as we were, we still had the cheek to sample ALL of the desserts, which included two milk tart type things, cheesecake, chocolate cake, crème caramel, little doughnut/koeksuster crunchy syrupy balls and, our favourite, orange cake.

First to arrive and almost last to leave, we virtually rolled out of Saint Irene.

The 50 minute drive home was full of ideas about what to do with our evening – that would most certainly not include another meal!

Returning to our hotel, we allowed ourselves a couple of hours of feet-up to let the massive meal settle. But then it was back out into the Nicosia night for a nosey around.

Almost as busy as Saturday night, Ledra was swarming with people enjoying a meal, a drink or a coffee in any of the many restaurants.


Closing off the sightseeing checklist, we returned (on foot, now easily navigating the twists and turns of the unsignposted city) to the Struggle Museum that we had tried to see on the first day.

It revealed that the history of Cyprus began in 1500BC through the Venetian and Roman Empires. Cyprus was then absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1546 and then ceded to Britain in 1878.

The British tried in 1915 to force the union of Cyprus and Greece to bring Greece into the First World War; Greece refused and maintained its neutrality. Similarly the British offered once again at the start of the Second World War, but retracted the offer once Greece was overrun by the Axis Powers.

Post WWII, many territories were keen on independence from the Commonwealth, as was Cyprus. They made a couple of applications to Great Britain to allow them to join union with Greece; both refused. They then organised a paramilitary force called EOKA to start campaigning civil disobedience, as well as ambushes and attacks on the British occupationary forces in Cyprus. The fighting continued from 1955-1959, when Cyprus finally got its independence (and did not form the union with Greece).

It looks from the exhibits in the museum to have been quite bloody skirmishing. The displays include numerous graphic boards showing the dead and dying up close, complete with emotively labelled names, eg ‘Hero XYZ who died after being tortured in {date}’.

There was a primary school tour in the museum at the same time as us and interestingly the small children were not sheltered from viewing the boards with the close-ups of the bullet-ridden bodies, the glassy eyes staring lifelessly from the corpses or gruesome dismembered victims of bomb explosions. Hopefully the brutal honesty of the destruction of war encourages the children of Nicosia to create a more peaceful future for their beautiful homeland.

Travelogue Cyprus 1: Larnaca


04 – 05 April 2024

It was a bumpy start to the holiday with heavily backed-up traffic en route to the airport (fortunately we had left early so this was little more than a minor inconvenience) and a power failure at OR Tambo shortly after our arrival.

Besides sitting in the near-darkness in the lounge, it meant that the check-in computers weren’t working. The manual process took considerably longer and with our seats being upfront and the embarkation being managed in blocks from the back seats first, we finally got to our seats about an hour behind schedule.

To top it off, the pilot shared the disconcerting news that 81 pieces of luggage were unaccounted for. It took another couple of hours to locate and load those… and then we were finally off.

The delay in take-off required a very hasty flit between terminals in Dubai to catch our connecting flight. The planned 3-hour stop worked in our favour and we arrived at the gate almost in synchronicity with the start of boarding.

We both managed to get some shut-eye on the second flight and felt almost human when we landed and collected our rental car to start our holiday.

The airport was really close to the city of Larnaca so barely 10 minutes later we arrived in our new neighbourhood.

Our hotel, White 11, was one road in from the beach and by stroke of good fortune, had the unmissable Medieval Fort at the end of said road as landmark to help us find our way back from our adventures.

We were soon to find that the Medieval Fort was the meeting point of the Finikoudes promenade that stretched out to the left (toward the town centre) and Piale Pasa promenade to the right (lined with restaurants). We decided that first order of business was to stroll each, to get our bearings.

A short distance along Piale Pashia revealed that we were in for a culinary treat this trip with an amazing selection of seafood platters and set menu meals for a very reasonable (relatively speaking, compared to our previous European trips) €30 for 2 people.

Comforted that we would be spoilt for choice for dinner, we did a U-turn to hit Finikoudes Promenade to start ticking off some of the sights and cultural drawcards of Larnaca. This would require a Tourist Office to get a map; both easily achieved, although by now it was well after 15h00 so we’d have to motor to see some things with most already closed or closing soon for the day.

The Archeological Museum was still open so we poked a nose in.

Larnaca, which was originally known as Kition, is the oldest city in Cyprus, having been founded by the Greeks in the 14th century BC and continuously inhabited for some 6000 years ago. It was known as Salines in Medieval times because of the salt lakes on the edge of the city, and only became Larnaca in the 18th century. This name was from the Greek word ‘larnax’ meaning ‘sarcophagus’ because of the numerous excavations.

Larnaca was an important commerce centre of copper before being used as a fort by the Phoenicians. Besides the archeological treasures, monuments and churches, Larnaca is now known for its beaches and accessibility via its international airport.

After our whirlwind ‘7000 years in 15 minutes’ tour, we made our way to the Archeological Site of Kition. Although only 15h45, the 16h00 closing time was already being observed. A shame really, since 15 minutes would have no doubt been more than enough time for us.

Still, it was very pleasant to retrace our steps along the commercial beachfront, with the hotels and restaurant chains (a combination of local and all the major American fast food chains) on the right and snack bar and curio pop-up shops on the left, on the edge of the beach.

Being Spring in Cyprus, it was warm (maybe 22 degrees) with a light cool breeze coming off the sea. This accounted for an amusing mix of some people in bathing suits and others in long pants and jumpers. We were in shorts and slops and doing well until after we stopped for our sundowner (at a Rock bar called Savino to log a €6 pint on our Guinness Index) whereafter we could have used closed shoes.

It wasn’t serious enough a situation to warrant a return to the hotel. But we did change our dinner choice.

The mission to find the rock bar had revealed a lively area one block in from the seafront. The vibe and the shelter from the sea breeze made for a far more sustainable evening.

We picked a kebab restaurant called Takis based on a cursory scan of the customers who, to us, looked like locals. The hostess offered us a cosy table for 2 inside and our fate was sealed.

We were served menus with a tableful of complementary small meze plates and warm toasted pita strips. We nibbled on the feta, cured bacon, tzatziki, spicy beans and a local delicacy called kolokasi (Taro root), while avoiding the very salty olives.

We ordered kebabs in pita for mains, to be washed down with a shared quart of KEO local lager. My sheftalia (herby pork sausage) and marinated pork mix was sublime! Chris had the chicken wrapped in bacon, which was also a guaranteed win. The pitas were enormous and not an easy ‘pick up and eat’, so we stole glances at how others were managing them and lent from their experience. My favoured method was tearing bits from the top of the pita to fill and make mini bitesize pockets of goodness.

We were surprised and delighted with complementary dessert pastries as well. Crunchy syrupy 2-bite pie with an unrecognisable and delicious spongy centre.

Exhausted from our trip and Day One exploring, we made our way back to the hotel. As tired as we were, we wished we had a little further to walk off the massive dinner!


Using our Strava sports app as our guide, Chris mapped a 6km running route to start the day off right.

In no particular hurry, we stopped a few times to take snaps of interesting things and to admire the blue ocean and Larnaca’s shoreline.

We also spotted a small church square a couple of blocks from our hotel, which had a selection of bakeries. We decided that we’d need to return at the end of our run to reward ourselves with breakfast pastries. We did so and drooled over the choices in Artemis bakery! Having so enjoyed our dinner the previous night, we banked on sheftalia and feta pie being a sure-fire hit. And it was!

With just enough fuel in our tanks to see us through to lunch, we showered and hit the road for Ayia Napa, 41km down the coast.

Our neighbouring town had become famed as a Brits Abroad party and holiday destination. From the very arrival it was chalk-and-cheese with our homebase. New, slick and glossy, we could have been anywhere in the world. Wide golden sidewalks with shiny silver bollards preserving the walkways for the pedestrians that must stream to and from the beaches in the summer months.

Our tourist map (from the Larnaca tourist office the day before) had revealed that our places of interest were concentrated in the town centre, around Seferis Square. We located a parking lot and stowed the car so we could start our self-guided walking tour.

First photo was at the huge ‘Love Ayia Napa’ sculpture, which most certainly would make it into the holiday album. It was outside the Medieval Monastery, so an easy ‘two-fer’ on the To See list. We were unable to enter the 14th century monastery as it was being transformed (slowly by the looks of things) into a museum.

Then it was up the short hill (which in itself could have been marked on the map since this neck of the woods was so flat!) to what was marked as ‘Local Delicacies’ so we were expecting a market of sorts. Not so, it was 2 locally-legendary tavernas, the older of which was established in 1976 so got itself a photo anyway since we could both relate to the auspicious year.

The next stop, the Ayia Napa Aquaduct, was a little more tricky since it was not on a road marked on the map and very few of the roads had any signage so there was high risk of taking a wrong turn. We persevered and found the walking path to the historic construction.

Having seen several aqueducts around the world on our travels, we were no less amazed at the simple but effective technology that these civilisations were using over a thousand years ago… meanwhile back home the current-day government was struggling to literally keep water flowing through our taps!

Then it was back the way we came, down to the Liminaki port and Fishing Shelter where we’d initially planned on lunching. Being on a bit of a roll with sightseeing, we decided instead to drive to the nearby Sea Cave and Love Bridge that we’d planned as an after-lunch walk. We would then eat at either Nissi Beach (listed as one of the Top 25 most beautiful beaches in the world) or Makronissos Beach which paired with a necropolis archeological site of underground tombs.

It was not to be. Once again, our tyre curse struck. When we returned to the car, we discovered we had a flattish front right. This was a fully-flat tyre by the time we got to the nearest petrol station. Pumping with air didn’t help, so Chris set to work changing the tyre.

The spare was only an emergency tyre. One of the thin one’s –  referred to in South Africa as a ‘Marie Biscuit’ – on which you can only travel at a limited speed for a limited distance. With our ensuing roadtrip the next day that would see us travelling to Nicosia and through the mountains – very far from the car rental agency – we dared not risk starting on anything but the strongest footing possible.

So our wonderful beach-hopping plan had to be shelved in favour of returning to Larnaca Airport so we could get the tyres fixed good and proper.

Fortunately, the staff at the Sixt desk were both accommodating and efficient so we were back on our merry (not really, brave face) way about a half an hour later. By this point we were starving, so dropped off the car and hightailed to check out ‘Oh My Cod!’, which had caught our attention with its 5/5 rating on Google Maps from 195 reviews. Based on the simple principle that you can’t please all the people all the time, full marks never happens and we simply had to see for ourselves.

Highly motivated, we were there mere minutes later. Arriving at what could best be described as an elevated takeaway, we were seated at a plastic table in the ‘eat in’ section. There was a buzz of activity around us as the hostess managed reservations for the handful of tables, as she barked orders that kept the kitchen producing fabulous fresh fish at breakneck pace.

Definitely a case of ‘right place, right time’ as we only had to wait a few minutes before being presented with the platter we’d ordered so we could sample everything.

The Best fish croquettes we have ever tasted! Magnificently crunchy tempura prawn! Light and tender calamari! Perfect hand cut chips! Well played, Oh My Cod. Definitely full marks for review #196!

Full to bursting, we took a walk to the part of town we’d not yet explored. Our intended destination was The Oak Tree which offered tastings of a selection Cypriot wines. We figured this would be a good grounding for our intended wine routing excursions inland… but with a bellyful of dinner we opted to rather continue walking it off.

We discovered the glitzy glamourous shopping district, with a generous collection of top-end brand names and upmarket cafe lifestyle vibe. Quite a contrast to the atmosphere on the seafront…. Which was more our speed, so we completed our loop and stopped in at The Navy Marine to wet our whistles.

We rounded off the evening with another Larnaca 5/5 Google review, Bowlers Pub (although only from 22 reviews this time). It was quite quiet when we arrived with a couple of lads playing pool and an older gent propping up the bar, talking to the bartender.

Up until this point we had been drinking local beer, KEO, so we thought we’d give the other local brew, Leon, a try. As is quite common, our accents on ordering stimulated a flow of questions about where we were from and what brought us to Cyprus.

This got the ball rolling for a couple of hours, a couple of beers and lots and lots of anecdotes and factoids about Cyprus, its history and some of its current challenges. The bartender was the owner, Petros, who clearly earned his bar’s great reviews through his personal touch (and his playlist apparently; he was flipping CDs in between serving rounds and holding court). He and another local propping up the end of the bar (a Brit who had grown up in an RAF base in and now had retired to Larnaca) kept us entertained until home-time beckoned.

Travelogue Cyprus 5: Limassol


13 – 16 April 2024

We had the main event of our trip right at the end. Said event was a half marathon, so it was a touch counter-intuitive after all the feasting and festivities in the warm-up fortnight.

That said, Saturday’s tasks were to get from Paphos to Limassol (where the race would be held the next morning), get our race packs and try stay off our feet and as well rested as a holiday weekend would allow.

Luke and I did a morning jog along the Paphos promenade as a warm-up in the and to get a photo of the Castle at the end of the Port that had proved elusive in our sightseeing. Alex and Chris went on a different, but equally important, mission to Starbucks to sort out their caffeine fix and to the supermarket to get bread, cheese and ham to make toasties… which Alex was already busy doing when I arrived home.

Very sorry to say goodbye to our fantastic holiday house, we set off to explore new places.

Chris had planned our route to take us past Aphrodite’s Rock and through the town of Pissouri. Snaking and climbing through the narrow streets of the latter got us to a viewing point that offered a spectacular panoramic view of the coastline below.

It was a bit of a culture-shock pulling in to Limassol, which was by far the biggest city we’d seen on our travels. Cresting a hill on the outskirts revealed a sprawl of buildings hugging the coast as far as the eye could see. With a population of 154000 compared to Paphos’s 35000, it certainly felt like we’d arrived in the big smoke (although still nothing compared to Johannesburg’s 6 million!)

We had chosen our apartment for its location, an easy walking distance from the Limassol Marathon start line in Molos Park.

It took some doing to find the building in the narrow streets and one-way roads that satellited from the main road that ran alongside the promenade and that housed our entrance. Once we’d honed in on it, finding parking was another story!

We needed to go get our race numbers anyway, so did a very quick bag drop-off and kept moving.

Who should we bump into at the ticket office? The entire UK contingent (Alex and Luke’s Bootcamp buddies) who had also come to collect their tickets. We’d told Chusa and Lee we would wait for them (they had come from Paphos on the bus), so the whole extended group made ourselves comfy in the lounge area under the marquee to be the welcoming committee and got group photos to commemorate the occasion.

We decided on a late lunch at the marina, so dropped off Chusa and Lee at their apartment (about 800m from ours) and then succumbed to a paid parkade a couple of blocks inland from us so we knew our car would be safe – and accessible the next day if we needed it since our area would all be blocked off for the race.

Once our party was reunited, we walked along the promenade to the marina. Chusa and Lee had been to Limassol 6 years prior (also for the marathon) so had a traditional taverna in mind.

We were marginally waylaid as we encountered the Colchester Boot camp crew, who had established Drink Camp on the terraced steps at Ventuno Aperitivo on the Square at the Old Port. Katie had commandeered a hobby-horse of sorts and was cantering up and down in front of her jeering buddies. We checked in briefly, before making a concerted effort towards lunch.

Time had only done Kipriakon taverna proud and we all committed to the traditional menu, with Moussaka (aubergine bake), Pasticio (oven-baked pork and bechamel pasta), and Tsavas (lamb and onion stew) being the order of the day.

We had told the Boot Camp crowd that we would meet them after our meal, but since we had languished somewhat, they were already gone when we passed back through the square.

Either Limassol is a small world, we were predictable or fate intervened, but we still ended up passing them en route back to our neck of the woods… Where we had already set our sights on an Irish bar called Rums Pub, so we passed pleasantries as each headed in the opposite direction.

With a big race the next day, we took it very easy and nursed a Guinness to within an inch of its life while chatting with our mates. We also didn’t want a heavy meal or a long night in a restaurant to contend with, so Alex made the suggestion that we ‘carbo-load’ with 2-minute noodles at our apartment, which was pure genius!

So much for being ‘off our feet’; we had almost 20,000 steps clocked!


And then it was Race Day!

We were up at the (relative) crack of dawn, each observing our own prep protocol. Then it was off to the Cafe Nero across the road to meet our race buddies and walk slowly and gently to the start line.

I took my place in Block 1, waiting for the starting gun… BANG! We were off.

Left, right, left, right, look at the scenery, grab a water bottle, left, right, left, right. It was a long 21km! With sea-level air and a flat there-and-back course on our side, both Chris and I set a Personal Best on the course. Hooray!

Since some of the Colchester Boot Camp squad had run the 10km and finished before us, it was fabulous to have a welcome committee at the finish line to cheer us in. They were a spirited crew, so even though we had only known each other for a matter of hours, they cheered like we were old friends.

Once our group had gathered, we took time to return to our apartment (since it was so conveniently across the road) for a toilet stop, shower and change, and then it was off to lunch.

Everywhere was busy. There were still Limassol Marathon runners on the field so the roads were still closed and the promenade blocked off for participants approaching the finish line. A band had struck up on the Old Port Square, and a crowd was starting to gather with jubilant finishers celebrating their achievements.

We scored because the Boot Camp crew had once again assumed the position on the same terraced steps we had met them on the day before. With the size of their group, we were easily able to pull up chairs, share war stories about our race and commiserate about the tricky bits on the course.

Hunger will out though, and we had to leave our thirsty friends behind in order to refuel our very-empty tanks.

Being Sunday and with all the extra race traffic, the lunch sitting was full to bursting along the whole marina. We were very lucky to catch the eye of the host at the same spot we had lunched the previous day and he made a plan to bring an extra table into play for us. It meant that we had half of us in the sun and half enjoying the shade at any point – and we tried to circulate so nobody got too fried.

With a second go at the all-round-tempting menu, we were able to sample the halloumi ravioli, calamari and the biggest pork chop you have ever seen! It reached from end-to-end on my rectangular plate, gently cupping my chips and sauce above its shiny smile shape.

The service wasn’t great because the restaurant was so busy so we were there much longer than planned. And really needed to get a bit of a walk-around in before our tired legs seized and said that they could not!

Moving inland, we did an explore of the Old Town. There was a medieval castle surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants that we probably should have lunched in, had we had the energy for risk-taking on our earlier forage.

Always game, the troops found space for an ice-cream and we soaked up the atmosphere from a park bench in the middle of the action before retreating to our respective quarters for some downtime after a very long day.

Our regroup for dinner was at the Limassol Agora food court in the original market in the Old Town. With a broad selection of street food stalls and a variety of entertainment options, it sounded like ‘something for everyone’.

However, it was very noisy and we were beyond shouting at each other to be heard, so we swiftly moved on.

I had spotted a locals souvlaki take-away that scored off the charts on Google Maps. Since it had a dine-in area attached, we figured it was worth a shot. We ordered a broad selection off the menu at Souvlaki Livadeias and ate like kings at a fraction of the cost of a high street restaurant equivalent. We vowed to try copy the roasted feta parcel on the braai when we got home!


There was so much pressure on our last day to live up to all the antics and adventures of the rest of the trip.

Alex and Luke had requested some beach time, to make the most of the sunshine which was not as commonplace on their side of the pond as on ours. So Chris planned a bit of a road trip that would take us to some nearby beaches with a few stops along the way.

The first was The Cyprus Wine Museum in Erimi. We had sampled so much local wine over the course of our trip that it seemed prudent to add the theoretical education to our practical one.

The custodian seemed surprised to have customers and scurried from her feet-on-desk position to open the entrance doors for us.

She gave us a brief running order for the tour, where she would give us an intro and overview, then orientate us to the two rooms of exhibitions, then set away an 11 minute video for us to watch before taking us to the cellar where we could taste one wine for €5 or the range for €10.

The exhibits told the story of the value of wine to Cyprus, allegedly being the birthplace of wine in the form of its sweet Commanderia variant. The wine was so envied that it made Cyprus the target of invasions by the various global-domination empire-builders across history.

The video was awful. 11 long minutes of PowerPoint presentation with slides of artefacts like clay wine pots animating in and out to grossly mismatched ominous piano music. We giggled as we tortured ourselves to complete the show so as not to insult our hostess.

Sapped of the will to wine – and since we hadn’t yet eaten – we skipped the tasting and moved on to Kourion Beach.

By now starving, we settled at a deck table at the quite-swish Chris Blue Beach restaurant to enjoy the beach view over a lovely lunch, which we then settled with some downtime on the sand and frolicking in the sea.

We had discovered on the map that there still existed two British enclaves on the island, as agreed in 1960 when Cyprus got independence. We had missed the one in Famagusta when we’d visited Nicosia, but could still get bragging rights for a flit to the UK by visiting the peninsula near Limassol.

Taking the opportunity en route back from the beach, we drove through the sovereign area. From the swathe of pylons and telecoms lines, it was clear that this base was used for surveillance. With Cyprus being so close to the Middle East, there were a couple of likely suspects of whom that might be at any given time.

We would not be getting mixed up in all of that though; we would be crossing a Salt Pan to get to the Lady’s Mile beach.

With no actual road, Chris deftly navigated between the orange cones that – we presumed – indicated the preferred route on the golden sand. The water in the salt pan was twinkling on our right, bright cyan from the shallow highly salinated water. The sea was directly in front of us, with the Limassol shoreline on the horizon. We could clearly cross-reference the landmark highrise buildings to spot (more or less) our proverbial neck of the woods.

Last tourist stop on the agenda was a visit to the blue flag beach at the far end of the Limassol promenade. We hazarded a guess that we had run close to there the previous day… but there was no way we’d manage it on foot two days in a row!

We made the most of the warm late afternoon sun lazing on towels on the soft sand and then celebrated the sunset with a sundowner on the terrace restaurant.

Our last supper choice had been an obvious one. A fabulous restaurant called Meze that we had all noticed on our way into town and that scored very highly on Google. It was also conveniently two blocks from our apartment, so an easy walk on stiff legs.

We invited Chusa and Lee – who had gone on a day tour to Nicosia – to join us, so we could swap stories about our respective adventures.

Meze was, obviously, a specialist in meze-style meals which comprise of several small dishes that are shared by the table. We were served warm pita bread with little bowls of olives, peppers, hummus, tahini, tzatziki and so on… and then more dishes with grilled lamb souvlaki and chops… and then a selection of sausages… and then crumbed and deep-fried haloumi with buttery grilled mushrooms… the food just kept coming!

By the time the waiter finally announced that he was serving the last dish – a crunchy syrupy dessert course – we thought we would burst!

Fortunately the restaurant wasn’t in any rush to push us out the door, so we had time to sip it wine and let the enormous meal settle a little. While making the most of our last memory-making Limassol moments together, giggling and happily snapping last photos.