Cyprus 7

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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Friday

We went to The Tombs of the Kings. The guidebook said the best time to visit is early morning. It probably is. We went at midday. (We all have to go out every day, otherwise we distract M, who is finishing his Masters.) Unbelievably hot. Wasted some time looking at some interesting rocks with holes in them. By the time we found the actual tombs, we were too hot to be interested. Which was a shame, because actually they were pretty amazing. Great underground caverns with pillars and courtyards. But hot. When the family declared they would pay me the admission fee just to be allowed to leave, I figured they’d had enough. We left and went to McDonalds (it pains me to write those words. But it was wonderfully cool. Plus they have coffee milkshakes in Cyprus.)

IMG_5095 Tomb of the Kings. Even though, they were not built for kings.

Swam/read. J did some kind of physics experiment involving an empty cola bottle suspended mid way in pool. Something to do with pressure. Absolutely no idea why. M worked. Weather clouded over, so D began a Google search for “Holidays in Sahara” (he will be going alone.)

Dressed for dinner. J tried to push H into pool, so I pushed him in. Boys then pushed H in. Were late for dinner. Went back to the Chinese restaurant in Pathos.

Saturday

Our last day. Feel rather fond of villa now, despite the uncomfortable bed and sofa and the brown furnishings. M wanted to work for the morning, so we all went to a museum that showed the struggle of Eoka – the fight for Cyprus to be independent of the Brits in the 1950’s. It’s when Grandpa was doing his National Service here (as one of the ‘baddies’, according to the museum. There weren’t any photos of him though.) It was hot and not especially interesting, mainly a few photos and notebooks copied and enlarged several times and displayed in different ways. But it used up about an hour. One feature that was extremely interesting was the dragon’s nest. Until the early 1950’s, dragons were still wild in Cyprus and they have preserved one of the nests next to the museum.

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D and I walked in the hill town of Pegeia. Lots of signs of ‘normal’ Cypriot life, away from the tourists. Fruit trees, families eating outside, gardens with urns of flowers, steep roads, battered cars, and amazing views down to the sea.

Returned to villa to find H had swam FOUR lengths underwater. Males in awe.

Last dinner at Old Cinema Tavern. Good food, relaxed atmosphere, friendly service. The owner gave us a bottle of wine as a leaving gift.

It has been a lovely two weeks. Everyone is seems contented. Packing always awful. My slightly too tight shorts that I brought to wear at the end of the holiday, after I’d lost weight swimming, never left the suitcase. Instead my ‘baggy’ shorts are quite snug! Might do some exercise next week.

Cyprus is a mix of very old remains and extremely new builds. I do hope the rate of growth is sustainable. The people are mostly friendly and helpful (though beware anyone who balances glasses on their heads.) The weather is hot. In August, it’s very hot.

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Thank you for reading. Next Monday I’ll write another letter to my sister, explaining why I might never see my boys again…

anneethompson.com

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Cyprus 6

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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(Photo of our villa.)

Wednesday

We decided to go back to Old Pathos (the place that was completely deserted and inspired the creepy story:https://anneethompson.com/short-stories/other-stories/old-paphos-cyprus/) I just could not believe the guidebook could be so completely wrong. Only J wanted to come with us, the others all checked where we kept our will and where the passports were, just in case…

It was completely different. The car park was full, there were tourists everywhere. The market was full, lots of lace, leather goods, local wine, fake designer handbags and wine. I bought gifts and had a good look round. Then spent a few hours sitting under a convenient fan while J chose a wallet. Seriously, took hours. Important decision. (Will mainly hold used train tickets, but who am I to judge? Might be a need for them one day if anyone opens a train ticket museum.)

After lunch, we drove to look for a shipwreck I had spied from the hill top. Organised D had done a Google search of “Shipwrecks near Pathos”, found the exact location, and marked it on our map. J then left map on kitchen table. Drove west along coastline, saw lots of sea caves in the white cliffs. Found wreck. Apparently it had hit a rock further out to sea, veered off course, and hit the shore. I cannot imagine how such a huge boat had managed to not see the coast. Perhaps the pilot was looking for Pokemon or something. Interesting for us though. We could walk right up to it, and someone was swimming and climbed up onto the deck.

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There is another wreck, nearer to Pathos. That one is slightly out to sea, and has grounded on some rocks near the surface. It’s a bit of a worry for the hoteliers I should think, as if it breaks up there will be lots of sharp metal shards on the beaches. At present it’s an interesting view. You can see the waves breaking where the rocks are (though obviously the pilot missed those. Or rather, didn’t miss those.) Expensive mistake for someone.

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Dinner back at The Old Cinema Tavern in Pegeia. We shared a Mini Meze (nothing mini about it) and D and J shared a Full Meze. This amounted to a lot of food. It’s served in many courses, a bit like Spanish tapas. Meats, olives, pittas, beans with sage, feta, grilled halloumi. The males planned an eating strategy, H and I ignored them and ate what we wanted. J took photos of every course and then every empty plate. To be honest, I think the empty plate photos will all look quite similar…must be a Physics thing.

Finished with grapes and shots, and played charades. H had trouble counting number of words in titles. M had trouble miming “Texas”. Restaurant owner ignored us (which was good.)

Thursday

A lazy day. They all made sandcastles on the beach (doesn’t seem to be something they’re growing out of. Though they are more sculptures than sandcastles these days.) I walked around a development of new houses near the villa. This area of Cyprus has a LOT of new houses being built, whole streets of them. In some areas they have just built the roads, in preparation, others have whole streets. They tend to be built in order, the walls and roof first, then solar panels and a water heater on the roof, then they plaster the walls, before adding windows, woodwork etc. Lots of streets have one or two finished houses, I guess to entice buyers. They even fill the swimming pool and plant flowers in one garden (a bit strange when it’s in a half built street.) I had noticed that many of the road signs and all the estate agent signs, have writing in Greek, English and Mandarin. It’s unusual to see Mandarin on street signs outside of China. A waiter told me that this is because if you buy a property over €300,00 then Cyprus will issue a European passport. This makes it a good investment place for rich Chinese people.

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It was M and H’s anniversary, and they wanted to cook and eat together at the villa, so the rest of us arranged to eat at Trattoria La Vigna, an Italian restaurant in Coral Bay that we could walk to.

Thank you for reading. On Monday I’ll tell you about our last day and the Tombs of the Kings.

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anneethompson.com

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Hidden Faces – a book to make you smile, think, and enjoy. Have you bought your copy yet?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Faces-Anne-E-Thompson/dp/0995463204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472483499&sr=1-1&keywords=hidden+faces+by+anne+e+thompson

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Cyprus 5

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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We checked out of Annabel Hotel, Pathos, and drove along the coast to Coral Bay. We had rented a villa for the last week of the holiday. R and S had left to return to work, so it was just M, girlfriend H, J, with me and D. We drove there via a supermarket (parking always stressful, but foreign supermarkets are usually interesting. This one was fairly standard, disappointing.)

The villa, booked through James Villas, was fairly basic, very brown, but will be fine as long as nothing breaks. It has air conditioning (essential) but only in the bedrooms – so I decided pretty quickly that home cooking was not on the menu. Coral Bay is a mix of beautiful coastline and trashy restaurants. We ate in a ‘traditional’ restaurant that wasn’t traditional at all, just over priced and full of ‘Brits Abroad’. Hope we find somewhere nicer tomorrow.

Monday

Woke late after a terrible night. Lazed around, swam/read. M worked (still finishing dissertation) then stepped fully clothed into swimming pool. As a suicide attempt it was lame, but I can think of no other reason.

Found washing line (most exciting feature of villa) and hung up classy fluffy expensive beach towels that we bought in the supermarket. (The expensive bit is true.) Ate stale bread for lunch.

Drove to catacombs. Quite interesting, though spoilt by all the litter. One cave had a pool of water (hard to see in the dark) which J washed his muddy shoe in and then worried might be a leaking sewage pipe. Afterwards read guidebook (why does my family always read them after the visit?) and discovered that actually it was miraculous water. All hoped it might improve his rather ugly feet, but no change so far.

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Drinks in McDonalds (so nice, mainly because it was cool in there.)

Stopped on way back to villa to photograph banana plantations. This area has lots of them. It was interesting because you could see the various stages, from flower, to tiny beginnings to full bananas – which were then covered in blue plastic bags. Never found out why, so do tell if you know.

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Walked from villa to beach. D claims this is a 7 minute walk. It isn’t. It is 10 minutes of fast walking to the top of the cliff. Beach crowded, sea nice – not cold, wonderfully blue with gentle waves. J looked for fish and saw a mammoth (no alcohol involved, so not sure how he managed that.)

Dinner at The Old Cinema Tavern next to the church in Pegeia square (99380842). It was very nice, traditional Greek food (without the dancing or pervy glass balancing man.) It was recommended by the woman who works in the supermarket. {Top travel tip: Forget guidebooks, just ask the woman who works in the local supermarket for places to eat. They will be better, cheaper, and more traditional than anything you’ll find in tourist guides!} When we finished our meal, they brought us plates of fresh fruit and shots of zivania. This was a little like drinking paint stripper. H was surprisingly proficient at drinking shots…

Drove back to villa. Saw the glasses balancing man doing his act (complete with “hand up volunteers’ skirts” routine) in a different Greek restaurant. Evoked an extremely strong reaction from both boys. This is how wars are started. So glad we hadn’t chosen that particular place to eat.

Tuesday

I read the book of Acts, about Paul visiting Salamis and Pathos 2,000 odd years ago. Pretty cool to read about places we’ve visited ourselves.

Stale bread and cereal for breakfast. D tried to educate everyone in early eighties music and played Alan Parsons Project. Loudly. Not sure everyone appreciated it. I washed my extra expensive quality fluffy towel with tee-shirts. Tee-shirts now covered in fluff.

Bought a selection of pastries for lunch. Olive bread a challenge due to olive stones. One pastry seemed to contain toothpaste, wasn’t popular. Also, we keep having ants in the kitchen. Have designated Dustbin Dave to empty rubbish regularly (he is objecting to name.)

Went for drive. Followed signs saying “Waterfall: Road suitable for all cars”. Followed signs for a long way – until they led off tarmac road onto gravel track with sheer drop on one side. Decided we didn’t want to see waterfall that much. Fantastic views of Pathos and coastline from hills. Walked along deserted hills for a while, then came to some leather chairs under a sunshade. Bizarre.

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Dinner in Imogens Tavern in Kathikas (another recommendation from supermarket lady.) Sat at tables with chequered cloths with candles under vines and fig trees. Not bad at all.

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If you enjoyed this, you will love my new book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
I have always written a diary on holiday, so last Christmas, I decided to find all my old diaries and blogs, and make a book for my children. However, several other people also asked for a copy, so I have written a public version – it’s available on Amazon and has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson”!

Why not buy a copy today? I think it will make you laugh.

The US link is here:

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The India link is here:

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The UK link is here:

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Strong characters and light humour in an easy read novel – why not buy a copy for the weekend?

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

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Cyprus 4

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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Pathos has a beach front full of shops and restaurants designed for tourists. Most of them seem to be English. We ate in Bacchus, a Bistro overlooking the sea. They were very friendly (the old man who enticed us in gave us his home-grown cucumbers to try). Food was a bit rough.

Drank cocktails in bar.

Friday

Breakfast at 9. Everyone surprisingly awake. Apparently, if you have a room overlooking the restaurant, it gets noisy from 7am. Breakfast was busy, but had a huge variety of food to choose from.

M worked (beware, gentle reader, if one does a Masters course for one year from September, it can somewhat eat into your holiday.) Rest of us considered sitting in silence to support him, then swam/read/sunbathed instead.

Nice lunch in cafe opposite hotel (a fraction of hotel prices.)

Swam in sea, which was cold and had big rocks near the surface, so you had to be careful. Played ‘netball’ in the pool and didn’t get shouted at by attendant (we sometimes have rather unhappy relationships with pool attendants on holiday.) S swam a length underwater. H didn’t, which was tactful of her.

Chinese for dinner. Very nice, though slightly strange being in a Chinese restaurant where no one at all was Chinese. Perhaps the cooks were.

Saturday

Breakfast a bit ‘old’ – had been there a while I fear. Not everyone made it to breakfast due to extensive clubbing the night before (will remain nameless, but they know who they are…)

Swam/read on balcony. Pleasant.

Lunch at La Place Royal opposite hotel again. M dropped a chip and a whole deluge of ants arrived (waitress swept them away with a broom.) Big telly was showing Olympics.

D and S played table tennis (obviously inspired by Olympics.)

Drove to Pathos old town. Guide book showed bustling markets, interesting churches and mosques, historical sites. Hmm, not what we saw. Firstly, we got lost trying to leave town, as there were random one-way streets and closed roads not marked on the map (apparently – J was map reading.) Found some ruins, with St Paul’s pillar, by chance. This was where St Paul was tied when he was whipped (I have to say, this story does not appear in my Bible, where his trip to Pathos was relatively smooth, but perhaps I missed it. There was a pillar, clearly labelled, so who am I to doubt its authenticity?)

Finally made it to old Pathos. A large sign directed us to parking, but we realised just in time that it was pointing to a steep flight of steps, so didn’t drive down there. No other cars in carpark (which perhaps should have been a clue.) Wandered around. It was very hot. Everywhere was deserted. There was a gun on the floor, and sounds of chanting from the church. The shops had mannequins straight from a horror movie, all the roads had been dug up, cafes and market were all deserted. A few isolated cars and bikes passed us – we began to think they were all driven by the same few people. It was very weird. It also made for a perfect story, so I wrote one (I didn’t have to use much imagination!):

https://anneethompson.com/2016/08/25/the-story-of-old-pafos/

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Decided we would visit again another day. Returned to the seafront. Arrived back at Annabel hotel. D drove up to the barrier and spoke into the intercom.
D: Hello – Guest-e-o (why??)
Reply: Hello, welcome.
D: Welcome (why?? Why repeat welcome?)
Reply: Are you a guest?

We all refused to walk in with him.

J informed me that, “Physics is all the interesting parts of maths.” So much I do not understand in that statement.

Went to Democritos, which promised to be a traditional Greek restaurant with music and dancing. There was a good menu, a pretty atmosphere, and live music by some talented musicians. Had a very nice selection of starters to share. And then the dancing began… I have to say, Greek dancing is somewhat repetitive by the time it is in its fiftieth loop of repeated steps. A man came and balanced glasses on his head. Lots of them. He wore a badge declaring he was a Guinness World Record holder – was tempted to ask him what for. He asked for volunteers to add glasses and then put his hand up their skirts. M and J decided he was a pervert. It was a very long evening. I think perhaps Greek restaurants are something you only need to experience once in your lifetime. It has been much discussed since. At the time, I was just bored – I now realise how lucky I am that M and J didn’t get up and punch the glass balancing man (I much prefer the bored option.)

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Thank you for reading. Tomorrow I will tell you about our villa in Coral Bay (and how we saw the glasses balancing man again…)

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If you enjoyed this, why not sign up to follow my blog?

anneethompson.com

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Cyprus 3

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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Wednesday

Nice breakfast, huge choice (The Colony hotel in Kyrenia, northern Cyprus.) Waiter was from Ukraine, had rings on his thumbs. Learnt ‘thank you’ in Ukrainian – ‘jack-queer’ (not unlike the Polish, ‘chink-queer’. Spelling my own, in case you were wondering.)

Family swam/sunbathed. H swam TWO lengths underwater. I wandered around the lanes of Kyrenia. Pretty town. Saw tiny shops, an abandoned church, a mosque, and lots of cats and dogs who wandered freely and seemed content.

Pizza lunch on hotel roof. Then most of us drove south, to Salamis (this was M’s choice, strangely. Either due to latent historic interest or because it features in certain computer games. I expect it was for intellectual reasons.) Salamis is old Roman/Hellenic city. Lots of random walls and pillars left. Very relaxed rules, we could walk where we liked (later read sister’s blog, which warns of snakes, but we didn’t see any.) Toilet incredibly clean (in case you ever visit.) Apparently Barnabus (New Testament character) lived there (in Salamis, not the toilet.)

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Drove to Famagusta. Eventually found the part that has been fenced off (after lots of stress free U-turns by good natured husband.) It is weird. The deserted area runs right to the seafront, with fences and warnings going into the sea. What a waste. We could see houses, boutique hotels, shops, all left to crumble into ruin. Lots of barbed wire and notices warning people to keep out, that photos were prohibited, soldiers with guns – right next to kiosks selling cold beer, ice-cream and flipflops. I cannot believe it has been like this since 1974 and nothing has changed. No wonder people are angry. What a waste.

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Didn’t get shot/arrested. Drove back to hotel. Buffet dinner in hotel. Not especially nice.

Thursday

The males have been clearly impressed/perturbed by H swimming so far underwater. This morning J nearly died, but also managed two lengths underwater. H then swam THREE lengths. Am worried J might die attempting this, have forbidden D from trying to keep up.

12:00 Checked out of hotel. Well, D checked out, it takes a long time for seven people to all arrive in the same place at the same time. About an hour.

Drove for a few hours, doing a slight detour to Mount Olympus. Grandpa was stationed here in the 1950’s, as part of his National Service. We weren’t sure what exactly he did, nor where exactly he was, but it was somewhere in the area and something to do with signals. Personally, I think that if Husband inherited his DIY skills, I might have found the aerial he put up….

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Journey enhanced no end by D taking photographs of everyone for a very long time in the very hot sun.

Eventually arrived at Annabel Hotel, Paphos. J did a better job of map reading than yesterday (when we were suddenly aware he had fallen asleep….) Hotel seemed very nice, though crowded with English people. It has beautiful pool area with plants and lazy rivers and pillars and rows of sun beds. There’s even a pool bar, where you can sit on stools in the water. A few steps lead to the beach and a promenade you can walk along for miles, towards touristy shops or other hotels. Seems lovely.

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Tomorrow I will tell you about Paphos (sometimes spelt Pafos.)

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Thank you for reading.

anneethompson.com

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If you enjoyed this, you will enjoy reading my book, Hidden Faces. Strong characters and light humour in an easy read novel set in a school. Available from Amazon and local bookshops, £7:95.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Faces-Anne-E-Thompson/dp/0995463204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472483499&sr=1-1&keywords=hidden+faces+by+anne+e+thompson

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

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Cyprus

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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Saturday

Met R and S at Gatwick. Ate big brunch in Lebanese restaurant. Males drank beers. At 11am.

I took my book to WHSmith to try and persuade the manager he might like to stock it (not easy to meet an ‘airside’ manager unless flying somewhere and it’s easier to persuade in person than by email.) He was surprised, said no one had ever asked him before, but promised to look into it (he was unsure if being at an airport meant he had less choice than a High Street branch – where the store manager has discretion over what he stocks.) Asked if he could have a copy of book for his staff to read. Left one (though losing a book had not been part of my plan!) I will email him when I’m home, in a couple of weeks, and let you know if he agrees to stock them.

Flight uneventful. 4hours.

Paphos airport efficient (empty, wondered why.) I used toilet. You can sometimes tell a lot about a country from the toilets. These were clean but I was slightly perturbed by the signs…

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Bought water, collected hire car (which, for 7 people, is more of a van.)

Drive to hotel long. J map read, relatively little abuse from family. Hotel (Hilton, Nicosia) nice. Dinner by pool. Hotel has a glass elevator. Rooms nice. Learnt Greek for ‘thank you’ – ‘ef-harry-stom’.

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Sunday

Late breakfast. Males very late. Nice range of food. I ate too much (meant to be losing weight.) Males didn’t drink beer.

Swam/read. Weather very hot (might be why airport was empty. Last year, in Malta, it rained one day. Hence D now booked us in near Sahara resort. Hoping it doesn’t rain this holiday…)

Drove to Nicosia Old Town. Van very wide for narrow streets. Parked (stressful) and walked around. R didn’t buy flipflops. Wandered, by chance, to border with Turkish controlled northern section. Saw sandbags and barbed wire and a young soldier who picked up his rifle as we approached. Decided not to try and chat (wasn’t sure my eight words of Turkish would make much of a conversation. Plus thought he might shoot me.)

The whole divided Cyprus thing seems strange to me. I missed it at the time, so will explain briefly: After the Brits left in about 1960 (Grandpa did his National Service here) the Cypriots were a mix of Greeks and Turks, who lived peacefully alongside each other. In 1974, according to the Turkish Cypriots, a few Greek Cypriots were pressing for the island to be joined to Greece. They staged a coup, backed by Greece, trying to overthrow the government by force. In order to protect the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey sent in their army, who marched down from the north. This history is told rather differently in the south, where they claim the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, unhindered by the UN, and have since refused to leave. They now state the north of their country is under Turkish occupation.

I can offer no insights as to which is the true opinion. Probably there is some truth on both sides and ordinary people, who just wanted to get on with their lives, were hurt on both sides. I can tell you that the border is odd. It looks temporary, like something students have erected as a dare overnight. But with armed guards (who also look like students.) The country is now divided, north and south, with what is called ‘the green line’ running through the middle. This is patrolled and fenced, with passport border controls and military and signs telling you not to take photographs or enter certain zones. It is odd. However, for a marriage, I can see that a green line has certain benefits. Tried to instigate a green line in hotel room (when in Cyprus…etc) It didn’t work. I clearly also need Turkish soldiers.

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The old town in south Nicosia seemed a bit run down. Not sure if this is because we were seeing it mid summer (when sensible people are elsewhere.) There was a strange mix of very expensive shops right next to very cheap shops. We wandered round for a while, then ate dinner in a boiling hot kebab place (which said it had air conditioning, but if it did, they hadn’t turned it on!) D worried about the drink/driving laws half way through a Keo, which boys kindly finished for him. We were given tiny pots of bitter yogurt for dessert. Most of us passed them straight to S.

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Went back to hotel and chatted in lobby. J played the grand piano (proud mummy moment.) D made up a quiz (which got a bit long to be honest.)

Tomorrow we plan to walk through border into Turkish controlled section. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

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Thank you for reading.

anneethompson.com

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The Story of Old Pafos

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They came on a Saturday, the sun baked stones giving as much heat as the low sun. There were five of them, their car old white and large, more a van than a car, as it clunked its way up the hill. They drove through the new town first, carefully, avoiding stray pedestrians and independent dogs, winding their way through narrow streets of flashing lights and the colourful tat that waited for inebriated tourists to buy.

The young man held the map. More of a boy than a man, only his willowy height and deep voice giving clues to his age. He swore loudly as they met yet another unmarked one way street, another road they couldn’t drive along. Finding the old town was difficult, more elusive than even the spelling, which changed from Paphos to Pafos on nearly every signpost. He directed them through ever narrow streets, almost touching the tiny painted houses on either side, heading first towards the sea, then doubling back, playing an elusive game of hide and seek, determined to win.

The other man bent towards the map, offering advice, pitching his own wits against the traitor roads and the misleading map. This man was older, though not significantly so. He was thicker set, with tanned skin and eyes that gave witness to Japanese ancestry. Together they solved problem after problem, directing the driver around taverns and shops and historic monuments, until at last the road, in defeat, allowed them to climb the hill, to leave the modern sea front, to approach the old town.

They climbed steadily higher, the buildings became less well loved, in need of paint and repair. The man-boy announced they had arrived, the driver, his father, began to search for somewhere to park. There was a sign, a large arrow, announcing the entrance to the municipal carpark. The father swung the car-van round, ready to angle through the narrow gap, realised in time that beyond the side of the building, in the dark shade, the sign pointed not to a slip road but to steps, steep and sheer. Steps that plummeted to who knows where. They laughed, the family, laughed. The wife praised her husband for stopping in time, looking into his face, noticing he had caught the sun and his eyes were very green. The girl leant into her tanned lover, she looked younger then her years, of fragile build, with a waterfall of brown hair. They thought it a joke, an oddity of a foreign town. They drove on, unperturbed.

The carpark lay below the town, curved roads leading to tree shaded spaces. Theirs was the only vehicle, which they considered to be lucky. The husband selected his space, the man-boy searched the map for where to walk, the mother pulled on her hat, the girl flicked her hair. They left the car, followed the winding path that led into town. They were alone.

It was still hot, the air muggy despite the low sun. An old car passed them, its engine loud in the silent street. A bald man was driving, a tiny headscarfed woman beside him. The family stepped onto narrow paths to allow them to pass, the father checking the map before leading them on. There were no signs, but they found the church easily enough. Before they reached it, they could hear singing, deep, male, chanting. The church sounded full, must contain the whole town they reasoned, wondering if today was special, a festival they didn’t know about, not one listed in their guide book. The road to the church was in need of repair, great pot holes caused them to watch their feet, to tread carefully. Which is why they didn’t see the eyes watching. And is how they saw the gun.

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It was lying in the road, right in front of the church, dust covered, old. The man-boy bent as though to retrieve it, cautioned by his father to not touch it, it was obviously a toy, probably germ-ridden, better left in the dust. The tanned man recognised the model, gave it a name, thought no more about it. They walked on. The gun lay, photographed but useless.

The father checked his map. Bored, the young couple and the boy wandered around the church. There was a wall lined street, covered in graffiti, the pictures clever, artistic, enticing. The girl posed in front of them. Became part of them.

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The father, following the map, had wandered down another street. His wife hastened to follow, warning him that the younger party had gone in the other direction, suggesting he should stop, let her go back for them. She was cross, irritated at his marching off, worried by their wandering, fearing the air was too hot for unnecessary walking. He stopped while she went back to the church, stood still, wondering which path to choose. She couldn’t shout, the worshippers in church would hear her. Instead she whistled, long and shrill, hoping the boy would recognise the sound from frequent dog walks. There was silence. Then, at last, a series of answering whistles, short and responsive, coming nearer.

The two young men rounded the corner. They were laughing, whistling, making too much noise for people outside an occupied church. She frowned at them, waved towards her husband, hurried back. They followed. It wasn’t until they had all arrived back, were peering at the map over the father’s shoulder, that she noticed the girl wasn’t with them, asked where she was. The boy shrugged, muttered about her not keeping up, being too interested by the graffiti, she knew where the car was, would find them later. The mother refused to move, said they should go back, her daughter would be cross, had wanted to see the market. She insisted they retrace their steps.

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Back they walked, over the broken road, past the gun. They still left it lying there, didn’t even notice it now. The singing inside the church continued, the sky heated the stones still hotter, they walked back down the painting lined street. The girl was gone.

A man cycled past, whistling between his teeth, a black cap pulled low over his face, the bike wheels rattling over the uneven street. The family paused. The boy was all for going on, repeating that his sister knew where the car was, she had probably found the market, it was too hot to keep walking. He checked his phone, tried to send a text, but there was no signal. The boyfriend offered to continue looking, checking the map, choosing a route that would join with the market place. He would find her, join the family there. If he failed, they would all meet at the car, drive around until they found her. A motorbike zoomed past. When it was quiet again, the father agreed. He took his son and wife, headed towards the market. The boyfriend rounded the corner behind them, was quickly out of sight.

The boy followed his parents. They were arguing, his mother unhappy at going ahead without her daughter, the father cross and hot. It was terribly hot. The road had deteriorated, was barely a road now. There were fences set up at odd angles to stop the cars. A great digger must have come in the night and removed all the tarmac. Drains stood up, waiting to trip them, stray bricks lay in the dust. The shops they passed were all shut, some with shutters closed, others with goods piled against the doors. As they moved further from the church the air became silent, only their footsteps could be heard as they picked their way along the dusty road.

They rounded a corner and the father lifted his hand, wanting to point to the restaurant he had selected for their dinner. Trip Advisor rating five stars. Hundreds of reviews. The restaurant was there. Empty chairs stacked on tables. Sunshades as closed as the door and windows. An old woman passed them, hurrying in the other direction, tiny, her headscarf pulled tight, face to the ground. They paused. No one would be eating in that restaurant. Not today. They walked on.

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The lack of people was beginning to bother them, but not badly. Not until they reached the market. The closed, shuttered, signs hanging limply, market. No people. No bustle. No local crafts spilling onto walkways. Empty. That was when they started to wonder. When irritation turned to unease. Not fear, it was too soon for that. But the weirdness could no longer be denied.

They waited for the girl and her boyfriend to meet them. Long minutes while the sun sent long rays into their eyes and their heads began to ache. The mother crossed the road, peered into a dark shop. Mannequins stared back. Their clothes were ancient, of the kind her own mother might have worn, their painted faces stared back at her. She turned, called to her son, told him to come and see. He arrived reluctantly, laughed when he saw where she was pointing. Lifted his phone for a photograph, turned to call his father. His father was gone.

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They walked together, mother and son. A taxi passed them, the driver an old man with his cap pulled low over his face, but they didn’t notice. They were scanning the streets, calling for the man, for the girl, for the boyfriend. An old woman in an orange dress appeared on a balcony, screamed back at them in an unknown language, was ushered back inside by a man, probably her son. Then nothing. No answering calls, no whistles, no footsteps.

They had no map but they decided they could find the car park, because that is where they all must be waiting. The mother tried to feel angry, to be cross that her husband had again wandered away, that her daughter hadn’t bothered to find them, that the boyfriend hadn’t kept to the plan. But some part of her stopped the anger, whispered that this wasn’t what had happened, gave her heart a faster beat, made something flutter within her.

They headed towards the cliff edge, looked down over the new town below them, the bay, the coast. They knew they needed to turn left, past the grounded boat way out at sea, past the map on the large wooden board, down the slope to the carpark. They passed a family, sitting in the evening heat. An old woman with her headscarf pulled low, sat on a wooden chair, a bald man sat next to her, his cap on his knee. They walked on, eyes watched their backs as they reached the end of the lane, turned left, towards the car park.

The car sat in its space. The carpark was still empty. No other cars. No other people. There was a low stone building, public toilets. The mother said she needed to use them, would just be a minute, the boy could wait outside, then they would decide what to do. He watched his mother disappear into the gloom, pulled out his phone. Still no signal. He waited. He was patient for longer than necessary, then began to call, to ask if she was alright, if she would be much longer. She never answered. Panic began to rise and he pushed open the door, peered into the gloom. No cubicle doors met his gaze, no sinks, no smell of human waste. Just a room. An empty room. No mother.

He gave a cry, leapt back. His mind was a flurry of snowflakes, a blizzard of ideas whirling round, uncatchable. No phone signal, no car keys, no weapon. The gun. They had seen a gun, dismissed it as a toy. Perhaps it wasn’t, perhaps it would save him.

Back up the winding pathway, back along the narrow street, back towards the chanting church, watching his footing, careful over the uneven surface. The gun was gone. Of course it was. Only the imprint of it remained, scarring the dust. All was still, all was silent except for the singing, those chanting voices within the stone church walls. Voices meant people. People who could help, who could explain, who would tell him it was alright, he was imagining things, his family was in a cafe somewhere, sipping cocktails and laughing at his lateness.

He climbed the steps, passed the iron bench, stood for a moment outside the great wooden doors. He didn’t see the mannequins that had walked, stiff legged after him, their old fashioned clothes fluttering in the breeze. He did not see their painted eyes watching him. Their silly painted mouths curve into smiles.

He pressed into the door, leant his weight against it. The door creaked open. Cold air seeped out. The pews were empty. The sound of many voices singing swelled towards him from speakers hung from chains on the ancient beams. The church was empty. Another sound came to him, a noise from behind. He slowly turned…….
#

It was a Wednesday when the family came. Two young children with their barely old enough parents, taking a break from the beach, searching for the market in the old town. The children, a girl and a boy, skipped beside their mother, oblivious to the heat. They found a space in the crowded carpark and followed the narrow path that wound up to the town. The pavement was old, patterned pebbles worn smooth by many feet over time. They strolled past the old church, as it gave silent shade to the pretty street. Passed shops beckoning them inside with air conditioning and cold drinks. Jostling with other tourists as they entered the market. Lace and leather goods hung from racks and were stacked on shelves. Bright cotton clothing swayed in the breeze of fans, cheerful shopkeepers smiled as they passed. There was turkish delight, and jars of olives and purses studded with beads. They wandered around, telling the children not to touch, the mother buying trinkets, the father checking his watch, suggesting they found a cafe before they drove back to the new town.

They left the market and the crowds, found a narrow street, saw the awning of a cafe, people sitting in the shade. They walked towards it, passing shops that the man ignored but the woman peered in. She was surprised by the mannequins. Some were very old fashioned, wore the sort of clothes her granny might have worn. Others were more modern. There were a couple of female models, one painted to look older than the other,which was very slim with long brown hair. There were also three men. They modelled casual summer clothing and were different sizes. She noticed that one had been painted to look vaguely foreign, a slightly Asian slant to his eyes. Another seemed almost to watch her with his green painted eyes. Then her husband called, and her daughter tugged at her to hurry, and she walked on to the cafe. Her drink was wonderfully cold.