Discovering the European South – Beaches and mountains of Cyprus

 

We travelled to Cyprus last year, in September. For residents of the European North, September is the month when we start to become itchy for another break in the Sun. This is especially when summer means two weeks with temperatures above 20 in June and two weeks again in August, if we are lucky. September is also when prices start to get back to more reasonable levels as most of schools holidays draw to a close.

 

I have been to Malta, Greece and Southern Italy before so decided to give this last bastion of the European south a chance as well. Drawn by the prospect of tasty Greek-style mezze and lazy beach days, we hopped into the only direct flight out of Brussels (Ryanair) and jetted 4h 30 min to Larnaca. I should mention that this was the third family escape with our baby (6 months at the time) so we got the hang of airport travel, car rental and hotel necessities before.

First impressions:

  1. Airport arrival was easy. Car rental was straightforward. Finding our way in the dark (landed around 8PM) from Larnaca to Limassol not so straightforward even if there is good road signalling system. Bring a GPS :)!
  2. Child seat was provided by the rental company but you might want to bring your own. The one we got looked like it was well loved for at least 5 years before arrived in our rental car

 

The hotel we booked was really nice but quite pricey as well (Amathus Beach Hotel). It had easy direct access to a private beach area of 2000m2 via a stroller/wheelchair accessible slope which was a plus for us. In the end, it turned out to be less important as the baby decided to get a bit sick and spent most of his time in the room. Then, I got a virus which meant that in the end we booked a really nice hotel for both me and my baby to recover from sickness. If you do decide for this hotel and have a baby with you, know they are prepared for everything; even have paediatrician doctors on call.


Food wise, their breakfast spread was impressive. I even think I spotted some sushi one day. But then it might also have been the fever I was running at the time. For lunch and dinner, we have sampled some of the restaurants on site (Limanaki Fish Restaurant was original and good but then this is to be expected from a 5-star resort) but also fully enjoyed more classic eating options as the Nama Tavern Restaurant at about 10 min walk from the hotel. The portions were huge and the food fresh and tasty. I am getting hungry only thinking about it. There were other options, in particular UK-inspired pubs and add-day breakfast but I did not find them very appealing.

The beach is nice and in September you can expect very nice bathing weather. It might be however that public access to this part of the beach (a bit in the outskirts of Limassol) is limited due to the string of sea front hotels. A nice beach with public access is Lady’s Mile Beach, about 10 Km from the hotel. You will need a car to reach it. Think a few lounge chairs and nice clear water. There is only one restaurant on site.

After 5 nights in Limassol with limited sightseeing options due to my general “less-than-stellar” health state, we moved in land to escape the crowds and try to get a glimpse of the more traditional Cypriot life. We booked a guesthouse at the foothills of Mt Olympus in the village of Lofou. By now both I and the baby were feeling a bit better so we were ready to explore much of the area on foot (me) and carrier (him).


The accommodation was a great stone-built guesthouse by the name of Apokryfo. A super nice couple was running the place and they made sure there was nothing missing. Our studio (called Almond) had a little kitchen and fire place. We have not used any of them. The dinner that they cooked on site was out of this world.

There was no menu to choose from, only a selection of the day that they would prepare in the kitchen and bring it out to your table, on the terrace facing the pool. Most of the guests went for this option and after a couple of nights we understood why. Great vegetable base options but also meat, all in plentiful supply. I must have gained 1 kg just at Apokryfo. You have a menu with selected local wines to choose from. Without being wine experts, all the recommendations made by the hosts were spot on. The combination of great food and nice wine plus the outstanding atmosphere and deco often lead to guests starting to chat with each other, sharing travel stories and dinners going well beyond 11PM.




And if you were wondering how come we enjoyed such long nice dinners with a 6 month old baby, bring the baby phone with you. The location is compact and chances are that, after your baby goes to sleep at night, you can slip out to enjoy a nice dinner on the terrace with full coverage on your receiver. Even better, your room will only be a few meters away so you can always have a quick check between courses.

Lofou is a quaint little village with cobbled stone streets. It can provide for some interesting leisurely strolls and great vistas over the area. There also steep steps on some parts as the village is built on two levels. We loved the old school area and the view from the school yard.

From Lofou, you can easily venture out in the Troodos Mountains where more serious hiking options are available. The wine valleys are reachable by car and there are a few wineries you can visit.

We took a day tip to Paphos (about 30 km out). We visited the harbour – quite touristic with high priced restaurants – and the Archaeological Park. The archaeological park was very interesting but challenging with a stroller or if you have reduced mobility. There is virtually no shade so if you are visiting at mid-day during a hot day, take water, sunscreen and a hat. The House of Dionysus is definitely a highlight. It costs next to nothing to get into the park so added to your list if in the area. All in all, there are some amazing historical ruins without the crowds you see in places like Athens and Rome.

We now consider Cyprus as a serious contender to Greece for the great food, variety of landscape and more manageable crowds. However, as far as the variety of beaches goes, Greece still holds the crown.

Happy travels,

 

September is the best time to visit Southern Italy – Top 5 things to do in Apulia

If you are still in search for some sun bathing opportunities and warm weather in September head to the South of Italy, in Apulia region! You will love the food, relax in the true ‘Dolce vita’ style on the Adriatic coast and most importantly, pay half the price of a holiday in August.  

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Just back from a road tripping week-end in the North of France – Le Touquet, Hardelot-Plage and Boulogne-sur-Mer

Against my own best advice as regards travelling in August, the weather in Belgium just managed to chase us out of the country once more. This time direction France, Nord-pas-de-Calais region. Now, this is not exactly the European South so we did not expect 30 + degrees and warm seas but we did want some sun and a change from the grey Brussels scenery.  

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Blast from the past – how we spent 5 days in Malta in 2012

Most of my friends travel in August. I am doing everything possible to avoid travelling in August which is the European peak season and corresponds to traffic jams spanning from Spain to Greece (ok, a bit of an exaggeration but you get the picture) and airports testing their passenger capacity limits. My shoulder season preference is however often broken by family and friends visits that, on most occasions, require both a car and plane ride. So, week-end trips aside, I try to stand by the “No travel in August!” rule.

To fill the current ‘non-travelling’ time, I am compensating with some travel writing and travel planning. As I was recently sorting photos, I came across a few nice ones from Malta, so here is a short post of our tour there from a couple of years ago.

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A chill out August break in Copenhagen 

This week-end we visited friends living in Copenhagen. For us, visiting people living around the world is the best way to combine our two favourite things: travel and spending time with friends. Also it has the perk that you do go out with a local which is often much more interactive and informative than going out with the Lonely Planet guide. So, we try to do this quite often, especially around Europe.

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Positano – the end of my short South Italian escape

The trip from Matera to Salerno (my jumping off point to Positano) was more tricky than initially thought. The plan was to take a Miccolis bus leaving at 8.15 from Matera, changing into another bus from the same company somewhere at Salandra and continuing to Salerno for a trip lasting about 3h30. The fault in the plan was

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Island discovery – Mauritius outside the 5 star resorts

It is Summer in Europe, therefore the time when everybody travels. I am between travels myself but using the time to catch up on about 6 months worth of trips that I was not able to document due to a busy work schedule. So, Mauritius. First, if you tell your friends that you plan a Mauritius holiday, you will probably get a few ‘wish I were you’ looks. Mauritius is a synonym to paradisiac beaches and infinity pools in 5 -star resorts.

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Komodo Dragons – Island of Flores, Indonesia

There are three things you will find about Indonesia on all travel blogs: 1) relax and visit temples in Bali; 2) dive and go to the beach in the Gillis and 3) visit the Komodo Dragon. You probably wonder why all the fuss about a lizard. Subject of countless documentaries and TV nature programs, the main thing about this lizard is that, like many other rare animals, it is only to be found on two little islands in the vast archipelago that is Indonesia: Komodo and Rinca. This usually involves either a long boat trip from Bali or a flight with a local carrier. These lizards are fierce creatures, the size of a large crocodile but more agile and ready to attack pretty much anything on two or four feet. Komodo National Park is a UNESCO site and is the only place to see the world’s largest lizard in the wild.

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Outside Bali – Gili Islands

Few visitors venture outside Bali or even southern Bali for that matter. Accommodation is definitely high standard and you can get pretty much all the amenities you are used to in Europe/US. Also in Bali, there a still a few places that managed to keep their pristine beauty but they are getting less and less as big hotel chains advance toward the center of the island. East of Bali is Lombok. Somewhat less traveled than Bali but still firmly established on the tourist map. The north of Lombok holds a few treasures in the form of the Gili Islands. We have travelled to Gili Ayer and spent a few days in the sun. The atmosphere is very laid back. You can go about your business around the island without any shoes.

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