11 Apr 2012
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Wednesday 11th April
An early start this morning, we are up at 6am. The bus will be here at 6.45 to take us to the airport. Breakfast is a coffee and some of the carrots we got at the supermarket the other day. Reception calls to say the bus is here, and we head to the lifts, but the lift doesn’t come, again.
Finally we give up waiting and Tony heads down the stairs to reception, both lifts are sitting there unused, and have been for some time, reception tells him. He says that they had been calling the lift for some time, so the call button must be broken. They say that they had a bus load of 40 use the lift earlier that morning, and there was no problem, but didn’t say what floor the group was on. The lift is sent up for Cynthea and we finally get off to the airport.
We check in, and first they check the weight of our hand luggage (not had that before). We are allowed 5kg, Tony has 7kg, and Cynthea has 4kg, so they are not too worried. The bags go on, Tony has 14.7kg (15kg allowance). We decide to jam our coats in Cynthea’s bag while the staff are fluffing around. We ask if there is a problem, and we are told we are “not in the system”, despite the tickets we handed over. For an awful moment Tony thinks he messed up, but it turns out the reason is that we booked so late (3 days ago).
We head through security, it was quick, efficient and friendly. No sign of the heavy duty security Tony saw yesterday. We see a Weatherspoons Bar and decide to grab something for breakfast, a bacon roll each and a coffee for Tony, £8. We are disappointed with the bacon roll, a bun with a piece of hot bacon in it. We expected more from a Weatherspoons, they are well known for their reasonably priced food. However this is an airport bar, and like everything else here is more expensive than out on the street. We should have known that by now.
We board the flight and take off around 9.30am, the flight to Parfos will take around five hours. We have fruit (and carrots!) to munch on the flight, but feel we need a bit more (a dry bun and rasher of bacon at the airport didn’t quite do the trick). So we order some hot chips and a chicken fajita wrap, and a coffee to keep us going, pricey for what you get at £9. Tony spent a lot of the flight reading up on where we are going, there is a lot to look at and we didn’t get a lot of tour information before we left the UK. We could always consider a rental car, they drive on the right (ummm, correct) side of the road, so that wont be a problem, but if the Greek-Cypriots and their Turkish mates over the boarder drive like they do on the mainland, then there could be a problem. Tony figures the right-hand drive is a leftover from British rule (Cyprus was granted independence in 1960). Things are rarely done at speed over here (driving being the exception!).
We arrive at Parfos at 4.30pm (clocks have jumped forward a couple of hours), immigration is a doddle, no questions or comments, just a nice welcome. We wait for AGES for all our bags. It is some time before the luggage starts coming from our flight, and Cynthea’s pack is in the first bunch. That means Tony’s is right behind, doesn’t it? Wrong. There are still 20 or so people waiting (including Tony) when the baggage carousel stops some twenty minutes later. There are no more bags on it, can they possibly have cocked it up that much. Cynthea jokes that Tony will look funny in her clothes, Tony replies that he know were the nudist beaches are, so clothes wont be a problem. After a good ten minutes of worry the belt starts up again (they must have buggered off for a tea break?), and Tony’s bag is in the last few that come out. There are three customs doors to choose from, arrivals from an EU country (just walk straight through, no officials on deck). Then there are doors for arrivals from non-EU countries, those with goods to declare, and those without. No one on duty there either!
It has been an hour from landing by the time we get to the bus that will take us to Limassol (Lemesos), some 70km away. There are not that many on the bus with us, so we have either chosen a crap location or it is not “the season” yet. Most others on the flight appear to have opted for the “touristy” Parfos area at the western end of Cyprus. We will be more or less in the middle of the south coast, in the tourist strip just out of Limassol.
The road from Parfos is not what we expected, it is a dual carriageway all the way that appears to link all the major cities on the island, however we are told that the mountain roads are still a bit of thrill ride. Tonys’ Dad worked here in 1967 as part of the UN Peacekeeping force, and both his parents visited in 1982. Things have progressed since then.
We take about an hour to drive to the hotel, dropping others off on the way. We are about 15km from the city centre, and Tony is concerned that we are too far away from everything, but after a couple of drop offs we head back towards the city centre along the coast. We are told that Limassol is a very long city, spread along 18km. We have blue sky and sunshine, about 20 degrees, and it is hard to stay awake sitting in the sun on the bus ride in.
We are dropped off at the Altanica Oasis, which is where we thought we had booked into, until Tony read the “errata” on the booking confirmation that said we were actually at the Atlantica Gardens, across the road. We aren’t sure where to go, so just head to reception in the main hotel. The girls get offered a glass of orange juice, and Tony is hopeful of a beer, but nothing was offered. We are told we are at the wrong hotel, but someone will take us over the road to check in there, and our bags will be brought over soon.
We had booked a room with ensuite, but with this change were not sure what we were getting, so it is a pleasant surprise to have a huge room on the first floor. And we have a cooktop, utensils, and a balcony – we didn’t expect those. Certainly a big step up from last nights’ broom cupboard!
The setup is a bit unusual. The Oasis is the main complex, with four six storey buildings of rooms and suites. This is where everything happens, the restaurant, the bars (two poolside), coffee shop, ballroom, kids entertainment, etc. Free Wifi is throughout the lobby, bars and coffee shop, but in places it is slow as a wet week, coming in at dial up speed. There are several swimming pools, including a kids only one, and an adults only one. There is an outdoor cinema, but it probably isn’t running because it isn’t the season…
When we checked in we were taken a cross the road to the first block of apartments, thinking that is where we will be staying, but then we are taken across another road to the reception area in the second Gardens building. Tony had a bit of a scout around, and it seems the room they have is one of the bigger ones in the building, nice one.
Considering what we paid (£730 for both of us, included flights, accommodation, breakfast and airport transfers), we were worried the place would be a bit of a shithole. At the Gardens there is a nice big garden area (could have been a clue there?), a bar (closed, not the season yet – haha), and a swimming pool. Oh, and a five more six storey blocks of apartments. It is much quieter here, no noise from the bars, very little traffic as the second road we crossed was more of driveway leading to the other apartments, and no exit. There are cats, lots and lots of bloody cats. They are everywhere.
Tony is surprised that the power sockets are geared up for UK appliances, but figures that has more to do with keeping the tourists happy. The toilets, however, have the same problem as in Greece – the pipes are too narrow to take toilet paper, and there is a bucket beside the toilet. Never did get used to that in Greece. We would have thought that being British rule until 1960 would have meant a decent sewerage system. At least it is not a squat hole in the ground!
Our first night here we didn’t do a lot. Around 7pm we wandered down to the main street to see what was about, and to make sure our cards worked at the bank ATM. “Town” was not too busy, but the food and the beer is quite cheap. There are lots of little markets open, selling snacks, beer and water – good to see they have all the essentials covered - as well as beach gear. We call into a “supermarket””, but the prices seem high for food, with not a lot to choose from (cheap beer though!). Tea tonight is a couple of doner kebabs from a Lebanese place. Got to watch these buggers, the sign out front said the price was EUR3.50, so we ordered two. When Tony checked the charge EUR9.00, it was because there were three sizes, and we had been sold the bigger ones. Very nice feed though. There are a number of “British” pubs to cater for the tourists who don’t want to eat the local food.
Back at the hotel we battle with painfully slow internet in the lobby, and later find a decent connection near the coffee shop. Then we have a quick look in the bar. The bingo is over, but the karaoke has started. The adults’ pool shut at 6pm, but it is a bit cool to swim now the sun is well down.
We crashed around midnight (about 10pm back in the UK), but it had been a long day…
We get up around 8am to head over for our buffet breakfast. We expect it will be pretty much the same as it was in Tenerife, and find that to be the case. The only difference is a big sign up saying not to take food from the restaurant, gee I wonder who would do that? Lots to choose from, and we manage to put a couple of slices of bread, cheese, bacon and boiled eggs into our bags (lunch sorted!). We get an apple and orange each too.
After breakfast there is an introductory meeting with our holiday rep. He gives us a few lame jokes and tells a bit about places to see on the island. We check the rental car options, but feel we would get more out of taking the tours. We tried to find a couple of tours last night, but everything was closed up and we couldn’t get an idea of prices. In Tenerife we had people everywhere selling us trips, but there is nothing here, probably not the season? This weekend it is Easter, again. The Greeks celebrate theirs a week after everyone else. We are not sure if markets will be closed or not, but being in a tourist area everything nearby is likely to be open. On Sunday (every Sunday), pretty much everything is shut except for restaurants and cafes.
We decide on three tours. Friday we get a tour around the divided city of Nicosia (Lefkosa in the North, Lefkosia in the South – just a tad confusing). We will leave the southern (Greek) Republic of Cyprus and visit the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, and will need to remember to bring our passports.
On Saturday we tour the ghost town of Famagusta, the locals call it Gazimayusa. Previously, this area was one of the playgrounds for the rich and famous (in the times before Easyjet, etc). Holiday makers and residents had just two hours to evacuate when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in 1974.
On Tuesday we take a tour to the pretty harbour town of Girne, also known as Kyrenia. This is also “across the line” in North Cyprus.
There are other trips offered, but we have made a serious dent in the budget already. We would like to go into the mountains, and will see what the local bus service is like if we haven’t had enough running about. The ski season has just finished, so there is still a lot of snow about, and can be quite cool in those parts. Thomson was offering a day trip to Egypt, and we ask about that, but they are not running it because of the troubles there. The NZ government still has a “don’t go” travel advisory, so we will look at it again later in the year.
If we had walked just a bit further last night we would have found the “real” supermarket, so we will head down there later today. The bus into Limassol is cheap, just EUR3.00 ea for an all day pass. The buses are frequent, four an hour during the day and two an hour at night.
Cynthea is not feeling too well, so she heads off for a lie down. Seems to be getting into a habit, getting sick the minute we leave the UK, hope it doesn’t happen again. Tony takes a wander around the hotel to take in the sights, and there is plenty to see. There is a strict dress code at the hotel, but that only applies inside. Outside at the pool, topless is just fine if that is the way you want to go. Tony parks up in a sunlounger and reads for a couple of hours (yes, he did do “some” reading while taking in the sights). School holidays are over, and it isn’t the season yet, so the hotel is not that busy.
Back to the room for a coffee and a very late lunch. Cynthea is still not feeling well, but we will go out for a wander before it gets dark and hope that helps her. A couple of false starts heading out (reception will regret not giving us two keys, we have to leave the room key behind in case one of us goes back to the room early!). Tony goes back for the camera, and then the camera battery, and nearly leaves the bloody key on the desk in the room. We need to pay for our trips tonight, and the Thomson’s rep will be at the hotel to sort that out at 6pm, so we wander over on the way out. There is a bit of a queue, and when we finally get seen we are asked for our passports. They cannot book the tour without passport details (we will need passports on all the trips as we are crossing the boarder on each one), so back to the bloody hotel room, again. It would have been helpful if there had been a note letting people know passports were needed just to book, everyone else in the queue booking the same trips had the same problem.
It was near 7pm by the time we head out for a walk, getting near dark too. We turn left at the bottom of the street to see if there is beach access, but most of what we find is private, only for residents. Not that it matters too much, if we want to swim there are a few pools to choose from back at the hotel.
We head back towards the main shopping area and find a proper supermarket, one that sells more groceries than alcohol or cigarettes, but by now we can’t be biffed cooking. We buy some water for tomorrow’s trip and head back to the hotel. Cynthea is after some jandals or sandals, and we look in a few shops. No jandals, but Tony needs a new belt (EUR3 for a leather one, not bad), and we get some souvenirs for the kids. On the way we are “approached” by a number of people wanting to drag us in to their restaurants. We decide on one that had a three course menu for EUR10, and share a platter as we were not that hungry.