Seeking sweet (& cheap) sunshine, I discovered Cyprus

Me going on, quite briefly really, about a cheap winter holiday to Cyprus – which I’d recommend. And also complaining about not being let through check-in. Had the same issue again this year at Dublin airport. Different airline. I know it’s important to get there in time but damnit 5 minutes?! Seriously…

seeking sunshine
The pier a few steps down the road from the hotel.

I took a week’s holidays and didn’t end up crashing into any purple taxis or any kind of celluloid entities at all. No, I went to Cyprus. Much better way to spend a week. It’s like summer over there. Well, by Irish standards – low 20s (Celsius) sort of temperatures. Lovely. And since it’s not really known as a winter sun destination it’s really cheap to holiday there at this time of year. It’s cheap to get there, stay there and do the holiday-maker stuff like renting a car, but the prices in the shops and restaurants seems to be the same as Ireland (which unfortunately is not that cheap).

I decided on the spur of the moment, two weeks before, to head off somewhere. I was looking for somewhere chilled and relaxed but I also wanted there to be a choice of things to do. And most importantly I wanted a holiday that didn’t cost the earth because I’m on a tight budget. And also because I was worried that I might not make it there at all and it would be money down the drain. Why? Well … O.K. before I tell you about Cyprus I’ll tell you quickly about my “shopping trip” in December.

The “Shopping Trip”

In December, again spur of the moment, I booked flights to London, a day-return trip for some Christmas shopping. I’d got recommendations from people about where to go for different sorts of presents and I was kinda delighted by the whole idea of it as I’d long been thinking about doing this sort of day-return shopping trip . London is only an hour and a half away from Dublin and sometimes (admittedly not often) it can be cheaper to go there than to take the train to Galway. So I’d had the idea of doing this for a while but I didn’t know if it would be too tiring or too expensive to be any use.

the gatekeeper of aerlingus
Are you the keymaster? … Ah … no, I’d just like to get on the plane please … please … hello?

And I still don’t know because I was 5 minutes late for check-in. 5 minutes! I’ve missed flights before but in those cases not only was check-in closed but so was boarding so fair enough. And when I say 5 minutes, honestly it was 5 minutes. I’d tried checking in online the night before and got an error message. When I got to airport the check-in machine told me to go to the check-in desk. So I headed over to the desk – and met the Gatekeeper. She was not hovering over a bed, no, she was in full possession of herself. I find it quite cold on the plane when it’s up in the air so I tend to wear a lot of layers whenever I’m flying, also it was an early morning flight and I don’t tend to wake up (mentally) until midday (some days I don’t wake up at all), so I trundled up to the desk looking sort of like the lovechild of the Michelin man and a zombie and said in a confused, not-yet-awake sort of way, “The machine told me to go to the desk”. Possibly not the best first impression. She looked me up and down and, with an air of polite reserved disdain, wordlessly expressed her thoughts “People like you think they can just fumble through life and everyone will accommodate them and sort out their sh stuff for them. It’s high time people like you learned.” So in the ensuing to-and-fro, where I basically begged her to let me check-in, I tried to wordlessly express my thoughts “Listen, people like me never learn – we aren’t able to, when are your kind going to get that? .. And find it charming … loveable even … ?” And I believe she picked up on this … and was having none of it.

michelin zombie lovechild at check-in
Michelin zombie love children – so loveable!

So that was my experience with Aer Lingus (normally my airline of choice for trips in Europe) so when I booked the trip with Ryanair I was sure that not only would I not make it to Cyprus but I would also ended up paying more for – well, not doing so. In the past, I avoided using Ryanair because I have been charged extra at the airport so many times either because I hadn’t checked in online or because I couldn’t fit my handbag into my one piece of luggage. They are much more reasonable about things now, they send timely reminders about checking-in and you can have one cabin-sized bag, one handbag and you can buy things at the airport that will fit into one normal sized shopping bag. So yes, provided they don’t roll back on this, they are now much easier to fly with. Ryanair don’t fly direct to Cyprus from Dublin though. You fly to Stansted and from there you can get a flight to Paphos. I was originally looking at going with Aer Lingus (see my kind never learn) who fly Dublin to Larnaca direct, but they don’t fly everyday at this time of year and I couldn’t get the dates I wanted – but by that time I’d already read a little about Cyprus and thought it would be a good destination so that’s how I found the Ryanair flights to Paphos.

view from plane window of wing
Coming into land in Paphos.

 Why Cyprus?

It’s going to sound strange but what actually swung me towards Cyprus was finding out that you could go skiing in Troodos. I haven’t been skiing and Cyprus is not a ski-destination but I liked the thought of going for a half-day of skiing there. They don’t use a snow machine and they don’t get much snow so it’s not guaranteed that skiing is possible but during January and February it can be.

You can also go sea-diving there and at a different time of year, I think sort of late summer early autumn time, you can see giant turtles. And there are other water sports, like surfing and wind surfing on offer, it is an island after all.

For those interested in history there are some sites where you can find ancient Greek and Roman artifacts/structures. More information on that here.

tombsofkings2
The tombs of kings in Paphos – you can walk in and around the tombs and they have a little bit of information about the large tombs on stands in front of the tombs.

There is such an amount of things to do that I decided to hire a car – and then forgot to bring my driving license but was able to get a scan of it sent to me. I hired the cheapest car I could find – a cute little (can’t remember the make or model but it was like an old style mini). It was perfect for getting me around but if you are planning on going skiing hire a 4×4. If conditions are right for skiing this type of car will not get you there. The roads up the mountains are narrow and winding, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. It’s a dizzyingly delightful (and so slightly maddening) drive.

my hire car in Cyprus
My cute little hire car. – I blurred out the reg because car sellers seem to do this. Is it actually necessary? Dunno…
near dam
It really is lovely as you head up the mountains.
mountains in Cyprus
And it’s gets prettier the further up you go…
more mountains in Cyprus
But see that winding little road there … yes it can be a little dizzying. But who knew the long and winding road would be so scenic?

I didn’t go skiiing the conditions weren’t right, but even if they had been the car I had wouldn’t have made it up steep snow covered roads I think.

As well as forgetting my driving license I also forgot my swimsuit. How??? I don’t know… just seem to forget things. Anyway, because it’s winter over there I couldn’t find any swimsuits in the shops. I just checked Debenhams but when they didn’t have them I gave up. So not having a bathing suit did stop me from trying sea-diving and other things that would have involved hiring a wet suit. But it didn’t stop me swimming. The beaches are pretty much deserted there at this time of year so no one’s going to look at you sideways if you go in your undies or whatever.

coral bay deserted
The beach at Coral Bay, mid-afternoon on a Sunday. The water is cold but still a little warmer than the water in Ireland in summer. And the waves are wonderful.

A Bit About Cyprus

I’m afraid I didn’t do much research on Cyprus before going over. And I was fine because everyone seems to speak English. The UK took control of Cyprus from the late 19th Century to the middle of the last one, and so they drive on the left and use 3 pin plugs – it’s the little things that makes one feel at home.

Cyprus is split into Northern Cyprus which is under Turkish control and southern Cyprus which is under Greek control. The currency for the south is the Euro – and hopefully it will continue to be so (however it affects Ireland, I hope Syriza will be successful with their agenda – it’s what the people voted for – what’s the point of voting if there is no hope of getting what you’ve voted for?). The currency in the north is the Turkish lira but I believe most business will accept the Euro (and other foreign currencies like Sterling and US dollars). There doesn’t seem to be much of an issue with traveling from one part to t he other but the car hire company I used don’t offer breakdown assistance once you are in the northern part – which was enough to make me decide to visit it another time. The history of Cyprus is long and complicated so if you would like to find out more here’s a link to the wikipedia page on it.

The whole island covers 9,250 km². I should have checked that out before going, simply because I had this daft idea I would get to see it all over the course of a few days and some travel blogs I read seemed to suggest this (I tend to skim through things though so that could just have been my reading of it) – you can see a fair bit of it but if you’re planning on touring the whole island I would say you’d need at least 2 weeks. There are a lot of things to see and do there.

And it’s the land of summer – well, that’s how it seemed to me at least.

stone bather
A sun bather turned to stone near Petra tou Romiou, the birthplace of Aphrodite.
sunset
A sunset near Petra tou Romiou…
sun descending into the sea behind a rock
Watching the sun descend into the sea on my last evening in Cyprus. Haven’t seen it since… OK, I have. But it’s so cold here.

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