A good holiday should be full of amusing adventures which result in chaos but no serious harm, charming encounters with the locals, good food, fine wine and dazzling weather. Add a pinch of relaxation, some intellectual discoveries and good conversation and its perfect.
Our trip to Cyprus didn’t reach such Olympian heights of perfection but it was at times brilliant. As the week progressed and our enthusiasm waned it became less perfect. This was our first package for 25 years. I know it is mass travel and it has to be like that. Yet the thought kept coming that we were just cattle who paid money and hence were to be tolerated.
The airports herd you, the planes are too small, too crowded, too hot and without enough air. The coaches herd you onward. The hotels are huge. Hotel Ledra Beach tags you with a hospital type wrist band to say you are a fully inclusive sub species of cattle. Breakfast, lunch and tea are served buffet style. That’s fine but when you are eating with another 500 people, its bound to be like cattle grazing.
You wait for the coaches, the planes, the waiters and reception. Only when you break free and get in a car, go to a restaurant, jump in a pool, do you get to be a person again. Much more herding then I’d be heard mooing as I jumped from the balcony, which of course I had been warned not to do, because it would be unsafe. AARgh!!!!
To begin at the beginning we caught a plane from B’ham. I was moved to pay an extra £60 for extra leg room on top of the £40 we had already paid to sit together. However we universally agreed it was a good move. The in flight movie was Bridget Jones “ The final boredom (or some such title), I lasted at least the 1st hour. I had an altimeter watch which showed the air pressure which hovered around 800 millibars about 80% of ground level. Which explains the zombie like nature of most people. I hope the pilot gets more oxygen. I wouldn’t like to fly at those levels of blood oxygen starvation.
The Cyprus airport introduced us again to the charming Greek prohibition of putting toilet paper into the toilet. It had been like this 25 years ago, I couldn’t believe it persists, but then not all things progress. Anyway, we landed and got into the coach driven by an authentic Greek chain smoker who thought he was Adonis. A man named Dix-DIX was sweating profusely and trying to explain that maybe he wanted to get onto the coach and maybe he didn’t. Could the tour guide offer a third alternative? No she couldn’t. He heaved his vast bulk onto the coach and sweated some more. The coach set off and twenty minutes later we were at the Ledra Beach Hotel.
The sun was shining, the temperature wonderful. We signed away our lives in return for a key to a room and went to unpack and inspect. Frankly it was a disappointment. The toilet had seen better days, the black ring round the toilet seat was worrying. The pictures were stained and the false ceiling looked warped. The air conditioning would be switched on in May. Since this was March/April that wasn’t much use to us.
There was the odd ant around. This didn’t seem to matter much but on the Thursday morning we awoke to have a bathroom crawling, on ceiling, floor, bath, sink, toilet with ants. After a killing spree lasting 45 minutes, we seemed to have them contained. Reception did something and that sorted them out for Friday. There did seem to be a general ant population explosion and I had no wish to explore the local fauna in our room. The food wasn’t much cop either, catering on a mass scale made it feel like we’d paid for some sort of novelty school-themed hotel, however after deciding to go all-inclusive we were stuck with this for a week, but hey at least the beer was free. Well it was, but this local stuff called Keo or if you were extra special you got the Keo in a repackaged bottle called Leon both of which are the fizzy and nasty lager. It seemed as if they were intentionally made this nasty to stop you drinking lots. OK the whinge fest is nearly over.
OK the whinge fest is nearly over.
The hotel had some pay tv channels which were easy to blunder into with the remote. Within the first few minutes in the room I had clicked onto a channel where a woman was doing frightening things to a mans genitalia with her feet. He might have been enjoying it, I didn’t. How that could be sexy viewing beats me, but live and let live. I had it turned off to our rooms.
We had ordered a rental car and sure enough it arrived on time. A Peugeot 206- named Puggy. Poor machine 4 grown adults and roads that hadn’t been made yet. So, twas on the Sunday morning that off we set into the Troodos Mountains to find the Kykkos Monastery. We hadn’t appreciated the sheer scale of the island. Up we went for mile after mile. We got to the top of Mount Olympus and viewed the military installation without getting shot at. We carried on and on and on. Eventually we arrived at the monastery and jolly good it was to. The Icons were breathtaking and the feeling of peace wondrous.
I had been to Poland and was wearing a T shirt which said Polski A man wearing a pink shirt saw me and came across clearly delighted to see a fellow Pole in such an out of the way place. He was unable to comprehend why I did not a) speak Polish b) greet him as a long lost brother. I made bird impressions intending to imply I had visited Poland (which I had) and said how wonderful Poland was but the language barrier was not going to be bridged. He went away clearly hurt and upset that any one could wear a Polish T shirt and not be Polish.
On we went. We took a turn down a perfectly good road. After a few hundred yards, the evidence of the rock falls began in earnest. After a couple of K the road stopped dead by some deserted holiday complex that clearly hadn’t made it. We turned round and drove back. We then set off down a dirt track again. It quickly became vicious. The bends were hairpin, the surface rock and sand. The descent was vertiginous. For mile after mile, we bounced, we grounded we bounced on and on. In one way it was the drive from Hell. There was no way back, and there was complete isolation. If the car broke down or the road suddenly stopped, we were going to be in deep trouble. In another way as we bounced through the gorges and through the trees, it was exhilarating.
In any case we eventually made it back to the road and civilisation and the hotel.
The next day was Monday and we decided that the Tomb of Kings which was just down the road was the place to explore. The weather was stunning and we wandered into the world heritage site. The sign explained that it wasn’t really the Tomb of Kings but the tombs of some fairly important Greeks who had only made it onto the C celebrity list. Thus amused more than conned we wandered around for an hour or two. We went back to the hotel, had lunch and went Jet skiing.
The Jet skis were seriously lethal pieces of equipment. Amazingly powerful, they jetted over the sea surface bouncing from wave to wave. They pulled at your arms, they thumped into your private bits. They were WILD. Talk about a buzz.
In the evening we drove up into the hills and visited one of their dams. Such is the excitement of life.
Surprisingly enough the next day was Tuesday. We decided to explore the Salt lakes up country. There was confusion as to which salt lake we were headed. The one we went to was at Akritiri, by Lady mile beach. There was an enormous flat area of sand and salt where the area the water had dried up. My sons and myself took it in turns to throw Puggy around. I decided to watch when the car stopped still. It had sunk up to it’s axles in sand. We tried to dig it out and after every attempt we’d get back in gun the engine, and the wheels would spin. After about an hour of this effort to dig ourselves out under the midday sun some blokes in a 4 wheel drive land cruiser happened by, offered to help, lifted the car out and we were off again.
More Jet Skis in the afternoon, a trip out to a dam and a Chinese meal rounded off the day.
Wednesday dawned and we decided that shopping was in order. We took in the local department store, Ermes, which turned out to be a posh Debenhams clone. I bought a T shirt and some 96% booze. We wandered into Paphos and contemplated all the cheap tat that they could think of to sell. Who buys the obscene T shirts? The same people I guess that like the hotels pay channels.
We wandered round Paphos harbour in the afternoon and took out a 145 hp speed boat round the sea front. It was a minor wow. More hotel food in the evening. This was beginning to annoy us.
On Thursday we headed up into the Hills that surround Paphos to visit the Baths of Adonis. They were two small pools fed by a stream. A whitish green in colour you were invited to plunge in and swim. They were cold. They were expensive £4 each but they were diverting. By now the sea was too rough for more water sports and so we just wandered round a bit. Then we took Puggy out to Aphrodites rock. It is as described a rather nice big rock. You can climb it. Rumour has it if you swim 20 times round it then you lose 20 years in age. However since it is not surrounded by sea- you can’t do it. Some myth- huh.
By Friday we had run out of things we wanted to do. We took a drive to the end of the Island. We had a sprint race. Then we went for a walk. It rained. We swam in the outside pool which was bitterly cold. We read. We had tea. We went for a drink.
The Pope seemed to be about to die.
On Saturday we hung around waiting for the plane. Which of course is where I am now typing this. We all want to go home and the coach hasn’t even arrived to take us back to the airport.
I have just ripped off my red all inclusive wrist band which entitled me to free food all week. It strikes me that if I wore it permanently and kept coming back (which is completely unlikely) then I could continue to be fully inclusive for life. A tagged cow for ever.
The plane flew us back uneventfully to Birmingham in a little over 4 hours. It was crowded, hot and unpleasant.
The Pope died.
On Property in Cyprus
There are a couple of things that strike me about buying property in Cyprus. The Island is full of estate agents and developers advertising everywhere. There are developments half finished everywhere you look. Drive into the hills and there are villas hanging off mountains in the most unlikely places. All in all there is clearly a real estate boom happening.
I’d just make 2 points.
1) This island is politically unstable. It is divided into two.If you take the trouble to read the local press, you will see that the Turks bitch about the Greeks and vice versa. When we were there , there was an overflying incident. It only takes a few bullets whizzing about the place and your property is worth zero.
2) The local property bulletin advertises there are 10,000 properties for sale. It then goes on to say, (although it doesn’t want you to relate the facts) that they sell around 200-300 a month. Lets be generous and work out how long it will take to sell your home then. It will take on average 10,000/300 months i.e.333 months or around 25 years. Not a very liquid resale market then.
Sorry to mention it but just might help your deliberations.
On Health and Safety
I’d like to make a plea for some sensible approach to health and safety.
Thomson the tour operator hands out health and safety leaflets, warns you how dangerous coaches are. You get on the plane and they warn you what to do in the event that the plane is about to crash. As if it made any difference.
Then we get to drive hugely powerful Jet Skis with 30 seconds of tuition, which goes along the lines - go fast, don’t hit things, enjoy, give me the money. I hired a 145hp speedboat with no tuition except on how to turn it on and off.
There has to be a middle way between the nanny and the madman.
Cyprus is not cheap. The Cypriot pound is worth about 1.25 UK pounds. Prices look similar in number terms. So it is very expensive.
There is not much traffic. They drive on the left. Rules seem none existent. Petrol is cheap in UK terms. Roads sometimes just end, often they go from tarmac to dirt. Overall it’s good. Beware the distances though, Cyprus is a big island.
Cypriots are nice and friendly. The Island has some great bits if you get away from the tourist tat. The scenery can be stunning. I hate package tourism (but I knew that, anyway, so it’s all my own fault)