Pandemic travel: Paphos, Cyprus

I went to bed at 10pm on Thursday night with my alarm set for 3.30am and a taxi to the airport booked for four. Like a zombie I rose with the alarm. Surely the horror stories of the security queues at Dublin Airport due to lack of trained staff were exaggerated. The queue that greeted me at the airport at 4.15am looked apocalyptic – stretching back to the check-in desks. Thankfully the chaos of the previous weeks seemed to have been resolved, as the ever growing queue moved fast and I was through the check in about thirty minutes. My timing was perfect – boarding began just as I arrived at the gate.

The five hour flight was an uncomfortable experience. I was in the middle row – punishment for having checked in too early. Ryanair allows you free online check-in between 24 and 2 hours before your flight. If you opt for random seat allocation, rather than paying for a preferred seat then you should always wait until 3 hours before flight to check in. The eager beavers who check in earlier will be assigned middle seats to punish them for not paying  I was one of those unfortunates in this instance.

As I exited the airport I unconsciously started singing ‘Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, mysterious girl, I wanna get close to you.’. Peter Andre was born in London, moved to Australia when he was six, and has Greek Cypriot parents. The song seemed appropriate. The bus from the airport to Paphos old town took about forty minutes. I was staying in a Venetian era hotel. Dumping my bags I went exploring. It was still only 2pm.

The weather was pleasant – a balmy 25 degrees. I discovered to my dismay that Mediterranean destinations are off limits to me from June to September due to the oppressive heat. This was manageable. I walked to the Tombs of the Kings about half an hour from my hotel, buying an apple from a fruit vendor en route. The Tombs of the Kings is necropolis lying about two kilometres north of Paphos harbour. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aphrodite’s Rock

The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are the burial sites of Paphos aristocrats up to the third century AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here). It was an impressive coastal location. Afterwards I walked to the Harbour – where the old castle stands, along with a multitude of bars and restaurants and seaside shops. I had gyros for lunch. When in south Cyprus, do as the Greek Cypriots do…

On Saturday morning after a deep sleep, I strolled to this bus station, close to the hotel. I purchased a 5 euro bus day pass and boarded the 645 bus to Polis Chrysochous. My destination was The Baths of Aphrodite – a  tree covered spring where the goddess of love and beauty used to bathe and fornicate with Adonis. Afterwards I did the Aphrodite Cliff Walk. It felt swelteringly hot, even though my phone said it was only 24 degrees. I completed the walk after about two hours , having slipped and scraped my knee – something that happens on every foreign trip I take.  I consumed a chicken pita lunch shared with a persistent cat, and then to Coral Bay for a dip in the sea followed by a local beer on a terrace.

Tombs of the Kings

On Sunday it was back to the bus station where I travelled on the 631 bus to Pétra tou Romioú – Aphrodite’s Rock and where she originally emerged from the sea. It’s sea stack located off the shore along the main road from Paphos to Limassol. The beauty of the area and its status in mythology makes it a popular tourist location. The evening was spent back in the Harbour where a very kind waiter agreed to make ‘Meze for one’ for me. On all menus this dish is listed as ‘Minimum for two people’. This was unfair I thought. He couldn’t have been nicer when I politely asked if I could have a portion for one. He even gave me a complimentary yoghurt dessert – perhaps he pitied me? Perhaps he’s just a lovely guy?

Aphrodite Cliff Walk

Cyprus is a beautiful country with friendly people, fascinating history and great food. My trip was whirlwind and last minute. Someday I’ll go back for longer and maybe visit to the Turkish controlled north part of the island while there?

My return flight was at 1.30pm on Monday – the same plane as used on the incoming flight. With my newly acquired dull cunning I only checked in three hours before the flight and was ‘randomly assigned’ and aisle seat. What ‘luck’.

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