Holiday to Southern Cyprus - 10th to 17th May 2016

Day 1 Anogyra, Arsos and Limassol

Day one found us watching the making of carob toffee (pasteli) in a very hot stone house in Anogyra. The pasteli
is made from the beans of the carob tree, which is found in abundance in Cyprus. It has very deep roots and is well suited to the climate.
Nicolettino Winery was our next stop, where we tasted Red, White and Rose wines - very much appreciated by all. A buffet lunch followed
at a restaurant where the owners were endeavouring to establish a herb garden, still in its infancy.
The outing ended with a visit to the Castle and Museum of Limassol, where Richard Coeur-de-Lyon married his fianceĢe Berengaria of Navarre, where she was crowned Queen of England. An excellent start to our holiday culminating in a welcome drink and Lebanese dinner on our return to the lovely St Raphael Hotel.   Hope

Day 2 - Akrotiri, Kourion and Omodos

On the western side of Limassol lies the Akrotiri Peninsula. You may have heard of the British Base at Akrotiri, but did you know behind
the Base is the largest of three salt lakes in Cyprus? We flew over the other two as we came in to land at Larnaca. Through the
telescopes at the Environmental Education Centre overlooking the salt lake we were able to see the last two flamingos, who were yet to
leave these wintering grounds to return to Africa! The many thousands had left two weeks before!! During our visit we were shown
the many different types of baskets that are traditionally still being made in Akrotiri village from reeds collected from the marshes
surrounding the salt lake. Much of this marshy area has been drained and is now cultivated citrus groves.
The archaeological site of Kourion lies on the higher ground behind the peninsula. Anita (our tour guide) explained the history of the site
and guided some of us around, while others just enjoyed exploring for themselves, soaking up the peace and tranquillity, as they gazed from this eyrie out across the landscape to the sea.

Hot and hungry, we then travelled to the village of Omodos, where a meze lunch awaited us at the Katoi restaurant. After a superb meal and a recharge of batteries we went forth to explore the lovely village of Omodos; the highlight being a visit to the 17thC monastery Church of Stavros. It was here that we first encountered ostrich eggs (suspended above our heads), symbolizing steadfast watchfulness, as the mother bird buries her eggs in the sand and keeps her eyes fixed on the spot. We then had some free time to wander around the village and then it was back to the hotel to either swim or unwind before dinner. Len & Julia

Day 3 - Troodos Mountains

We left the hotel in beautiful weather (blue skies, sun, no wind) for our day in the Troodos Mountains. After an hour’s drive, we
reached the mountain village of Kakopetria. The village was in two halves, split by a small river. One half is centuries old, the other
half just very old!!! Our walk into the old part was very steep and narrow, but very picturesque. The newer part was an easier walk and
we completed it in a little coffee shop in the town square.
From here, we boarded our bus for a short trip downhill to two very small kirks, the Churches of Archangelos Michael and Panayia tis Podithou in Galata, crammed full of fascinating frescoes. The churches could not hold more than 50 people each. Our guide gave us a detailed explanation of the history and meaning of each fresco .... there must have been 50 of them! From there, via the bus to the Church of St Nicholas of the two roofs. The second, higher roof was to reduce the heat that the frescoes were exposed to. Three churches, many frescoes, all depicting a long history of religion.
After that, hunger called. Off we went, up even higher, to Troodos Square and a buffet lunch at 1,750 metres. We then walked around the little shops before re- boarding our bus for a last climb to Mount Olympus. You can no longer get to the summit as “our military men” have
put a listening station in! So, back down this long and steep, but beautiful, very winding roadthrough the Troodos Mountains, covered in umbrella pine trees, to our hotel outside Limassol. What a great day!  David & Helen

Day 4  - Paphos

Yet another sunny day here in Cyprus. We drove to Aphrodite’s Rock where Anita told us Aphrodite’s story. A stop next at Ayia Paraskevi Church in Geroskipou to marvel at the story and life of Jesus depicted in outstanding frescoes dating back through centuries, explained in great detail by Anita. Next, a visit to the factory of a local family, who make the “Cyprus Delight” in so many varieties. Then on to Paphos itself, passing through fields of agriculture - citrus, strawberries, hay crops, goat farms - to name a few. A visit to the Tombs of the Kings, where we saw how the early Cypriots lived in chambers built centuries ago. Another visit to the Church of Chrysopolitissa, where again Anita explained its origin and that of further and earlier buildings.

A break for lunch at the harbour, then we visited the world famous mosaics - the beauty of those found and preserved is mind blowing.
The stories of the Greek history and myths. Houses of Greek heroes, Gods and Fables. Achilles and his heel, Leda and the Swan, Theseus, Ambrosia, Narcissus, Scylla the sea goddess - part woman, part fish, part dog. Too much, but the mosaics depicting tigers, zebras, antelopes, etc. - marvellous! A very interesting day and a desire to visit our local library to find more of ancient Greece.
Mike & Sheila

Day 5 - Rose Festival and Village Festival

Another trip along winding roads with spectacular views as we drove into the Troodos Mountains to visit the Rose Festival at the village of Agros. The event was popular with both tourists and locals. We learnt how the locally grown roses were used to make rose water. There were many stalls selling sweets, cheeses, pottery and other craft and food items. Two gentlemen playing a bouzouki and a lyra and singing about life and love entertained a large crowd.
We left Agros to have lunch at a family taverna in the village of Pelendri - and an amazing-mouth-watering lunch it proved to be. The
main course was Kleftiko; the lamb shank had been slow-cooked in a clay oven for 16 hours; just fell from the bone and was tender and savoury. After lunch, we made our way down from the mountains to the village of Lania. The name is said to originate from Lania, the daughter of Dionysus the Greek God of wine. The village has traditional stone houses and cottages set along narrow lanes. Many of the cottage gardens were open to visit, indicated by a wreath and a poem on the garden gate. Several artists (including British artists), live here and have studios show-casing their work. Today was also the village festival. We gathered with the locals in the village square by the church to watch Greek and Cypriot dancing and listen to singing and poems by the local children. Our visit was concluded with a glass of the locally-produced Commandaria wine and snacks, courtesy of the festival organizer.   Keith & Marian

Day 6 - free day to relax, shop, swim and sunbathe. In the morning, Demitri provided a shuttle service in the coach into the heart of Limassol, to enable us to see the new marina with its smart yachts and cruisers, followed by some retail therapy in the nearside markets. The afternoon was spent enjoying the many facilities of the St Raphael Resort and generally relaxing after quite a busy few days! In the evening, we gathered on the Captain's Terrace for a farewell drink, followed by a memorable dinner in The Phoenician restaurant.

Day 7 - Lefkara, Larnaca and return to Marlow
We said our goodbyes to St Raphael Resort, which was looking picture perfect under a clear blue sky and were driven up to the hillside
village of Lefkara. Here, we wandered through quiet, narrow, cobbled streets and alleyways, many of which were lined with tubs of
colourful plants and flowers. Lefkara is famed for its embroidery, lace and silverwork. Local ladies, sitting and stitching outside
their homes and shops, added to its attraction and, of course, they also attempted to encourage us to buy their intricately crafted wares.
Demitri then drove us back down to sea level and into Larnaca. We crawled along with the traffic (something we had been free from during the past week), past some old municipal buildings to the seafront and along 'Phoinikoudes', a straight road lined with palm trees. The Church of St Lazarus was our next stop; a large basilica containing not only a very impressive number of icons, a long row of suspended ostrich eggs (depicting devotion to a single being) and also the (empty) tomb and some seemingly genuine relics of Lazarus himself.
Back to the seaside we went, but this time to the fishing port of Larnaca, beside which we were treated in a restaurant to a final delicious

Cypriot meal of meze and a variety of freshly cooked fish.

Thank you so much to Kristian and John for giving us this opportunity to discover, or re-discover, some of the fascinations and joys of Greek Cyprus. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting holiday!   Alison & Caroline