Living in and out of Cyprus - June 2001

June 5th

By the end of May things are winding down for summer; the big fair on the sea-front for Kataklysmos is set up, usually around the last week of May, although this year Easter was late so it's the first week of June. Kataklysmos is a celebration which somehow combines Pentecost and the Flood (Noah's grandson was apparently one of the founders of the original Larnaka). The fair lasts all week, and attracts thousands of people every evening, to eat sweets, ride on dodgems, or buy from the various brightly coloured stalls. It's quite an experience, so if we have guests we usually take them to see the fair one evening - however as I don't like bright lights, loud noises and crowds, I tend to stay quietly at home!

The weather has definitely turned into Summer, with 32C outside in the shade from about 10am; too hot to do anything much. Everything takes me about three times as long as usual in the heat, even simple things like hanging out laundry! The entire kitchen feels like an oven, and I'm thankful that my husband and younger son often volunteer to cook - they don't find the heat as unpleasant as I do. If I have things to do - laundry, housework etc - I do them when I get up (around 6am) and then switch the air conditioning on in our dining room/living room - leaving the room as little as possible for the rest of the day! It's quite amazing how, within a month, the weather can go from pleasantly warm to almost unbearably hot.

June this year is particularly busy as we're planning a trip to the UK: but instead of flying as usual, we're going to drive through some of Europe, staying overnight at Youth Hostels, which have family rooms these days, and seeing some of the famous sights. It seems a good year to do it, the first year we've had a car, and with the boys - now 12 and 14 - quite old enough to be reasonably sensible in the car on long stretches of motorway, and to appreciate - and remember! - some of what they see.

Unfortunately, 'this is Cyprus' - as the locals say. Trying to organise a schedule is not easy. Finding definite dates for ferries is extremely difficult! We checked everything on the Internet, and Richard went to see the travel agent. In April, they told us that they couldn't give any fixed dates or prices until the end of May. When he went back, they said they'd have to get back to him a few days later, after the Monday bank holiday for Kataklysmos.

According to the Internet the ferry from Cyprus (Limassol) to Piraeus (Greece) leaves Limassol at 2pm Saturdays, so we're assuming that's the one we'll get, on Saturday 23rd. We're then getting another ferry from Greece to Italy, so we don't have to drive through Yugoslavia or Albania, and seeing Rome and Naples and probably Pisa over a couple of days, then on through Paris so the boys can see that. We're not going to do much sight-seeing on the way as we want to do the trip in 6 days, with the final channel ferry crossing in the evening of 29th June (a Friday).

June 8th

The Poseidon ferry that took us from Cyprus to GreeceWhen Richard finally got back to the travel agent, everything changed! They told us that they couldn't book the ferry from Greece to Italy, and that had to be done via an agent in Greece. So Richard phoned the agent they suggested. This agent in Greece said that the ferry from Limassol did not run on Saturdays at all, but Tuesdays.

So he rang the port at Limassol. They said it was Wednesdays.

Finally they apparently got together and agreed that it was indeed Tuesdays. As we need to be in the UK by July 1st for a meeting Richard is speaking at, and can't possibly do the trip in five days, we decided we might as well do some more sight-seeing en route, and take it a little slower. So now we leave on June 14th - and what a rush to get everything done.

The weekend before we leave we're going camping in the mountains with the home educators' group, so we have to get everything ready by June 11th... Richard is frantically faxing youth hostels to book rooms, printing maps and directions from the Michelin site, and finishing all the work he needs to do before we go. I've arranged that various people will use our house and feed our cats, and am trying to organise files and get rid of extraneous clutter as well as think about packing and so on... all of which is no fun at all in temperatures of 30 degrees or more.

June 29th

Well, what an experience it has been! We drove at least 300km each day, sometimes 600 or more, and did a lot of sight-seeing. I've been keeping jottings, and the boys have too rather to my surprise as they used to hate keeping 'journals' when in school. We've taken dozens of photographs too!

The Colosseum in RomeWe saw some of Rome, which was pleasantly quiet although full of football fans - apparently Rome had won some national cup and had been celebrating for a week. We wandered around various monuments and saw the Colosseum, which was awesome, though we didn't go in as there was a queue about half a mile long. We tried to find Vesuvius national park but failed after an hour and a half of driving, which was disappointing. We did find Pompeii, and even had asandwich there, but it was a grotty old town.

We managed to find the Leaning tower of Pisa, which was also deserted as we arrived in Pisa on the one day of the year when the entire city gathers at the bridge for some traditional competition . They try and push some boat over the bridge. As everyone else was at the bridge we didn't try and go there but managed to park right in fron tof the leaning tower, took some touristy photos, and ate some Italian ice creams.

We were most impressed with the Italian roads; clearly that Roman mechanical mind hasn't left them. They were long and straight and superbly egineered, with tunnels going through all the hills so we didn't have to climb up or round them. Even their A-roads were motorway standard. if that's what you get for paying tolls it seems like a great idea!

We spent half a day in Switzerland - actually rather longer than we had intended, because we hadn't realised the Mont Blanc pass tunnel is closed - apparently it hasn't been open for two years since a nasty accident. Fortunately a helpful information person told us before we got too far so we went a longer way round, through Lausanne. Swiss roads were not as impressive as Italian roads but the scenery was fabulous and the air wonderful. We ate kebabs in Switzerland so we felt more 'at home'.

Then on to France, where we stayed at a huge youth hostel in Dijon, run like a business, with a school party having various meeting s there. Excellent breakfast provided. Then we stayed at a small family-run one in Vernon, which is about 60km from Paris, and met a pleasant Swedish family who had sons the same age as our two, so they played table tennis and table football together, with a exciting match between Sweden and Cyprus!

It took us two and a half hours to drive the 60km to Versailles from Vernon due to awful traffic jams, but we saw the palace - though again we didn't go in due to amazingly long queues. We cuaght the train to Paris, leaving our car in a carpark in Versailles (as this is what French people recommended), and saw the tourist spots of Paris - Eiffel tower (which was much vaster than I'd expected), Notre Dame cathedral, etc. Ate some extortionately priced crepes which were really just pancakes - not the wonderful thin french crepes I remember from years ago.

Then yesterday (Thurs) we drove to Dieppe, which was a rather English-looking seasisde resort, with stony besch, hardly any tourists and grey skies. We had an ice cream and coffee there, then on the boat, a hoverspeed ferry which took 2 hours to get to Newhaven.

We're here with Richard's mother till Sunday when we drive up to Birmingham, from where we'll be based for a fortnight seeing friends locally, then back here for a week, then to Birmingham for another week and then to Norfolk for a couple of days before driving back from Harwich to Holland, then through some of Germany, Austria, and to Venice. Then we'll get a ferry right the way down from Trieste (near Venice) to Greece, and have a day in Athens.

So far we've driven 2700 km and the car has coped extremely well despite being over ten years old. I'm glad we had it thoroughly serviced shortly before leaving the country!

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