“Look, Paphos is check in desks 24-26”
“Paphos? Where’s Paphos?”
It was 6am in Birmingham Airport and we were all brain dead, but even by my sister’s standards this was unacceptable. Usually a 4am start marks the beginning of the annual Bennett Easter holiday abroad so we usually take such comments as part of sleep deprivation. However on this occasion there was no way I was letting my younger, Geography student, sister get away with this.
“Paphos is where we’re flying to you muppet.”
“I though we were flying to Cyprus?”
Ok Alice, deep breath.
“Yes, we’re going to Cyprus, but Paphos is the airport we’re flying to. Like you fly to Birmingham, not the UK.”
“Oh, I thought Cyprus was a town/city?”
“Why don’t we just head to check in? I think we all need a coffee.”
And thus, our holiday had begun.
The Bennett Easter holiday has been something we’ve been doing for years, every year since I was four years old in fact (excluding the one year we went to Florida in the summer when I was 11). In the many holidays we’ve taken we seen and done it all. Ridden camels, seen the pyramids months before it all went to pieces, the Colosseum. All the Euro sites.
We’ve also been through the rubbish. I’ve spent two nights sleeping on an airport floor thanks to Hurricane Charlie (followed by a taxi journey all the way from Edinburgh to the Cotswolds), I’ve been stranded abroad for a week thanks to an ash cloud, and I had the horrible experience at 13 where I thought our Nile cruise ship had left me and papa Bennett behind on the shore. Luxor, place where the only language the locals understood was a girl crying her eyes out (and, respect where it’s due, they did all they could to put me at ease and find someone who spoke English to help).
Apart from India wanting to discuss terrorism checks at security (the girl has the gift of timing) and the pair of us answering the “what do you do if security stop you?” question on the wall with the answer “C. Do the hokey cokey!” the airport was fairly uneventful. On the plane this song kept playing constantly, which made India and I debate how many plays it would take to turn you insane.
After two plays the novelty had definitely worn off on me. The cabin crew were hardly making up a new dance routine to the song either.
Four plus hours later we landed in Paphos, Cyrpus. Bags collected we hoped on our bus with a Thomas Cook representative which sparked a new debate, although this one had to be more hushed for the sake of diplomacy.
“India, why are all holiday reps scouse?”
“Seriously, every English rep in Europe is unnaturally orange and scouse. Why do they want to be reps and why would you buy fake tan in a sunny country? Do you think there’s a reason?”
“Why haven’t you eaten your meal deal snack yet? You’re just going to save it up and eat it in front of us with that smug look on your face like you always do!”
Most of the holiday was spent like this, random half conversations picked up and dropped. Without context you would be very confused about what was going on. Examples: we sang Bonnie Tyler down the promenade, I got increasingly old lady aggressive towards a man reading out bingo numbers (“why is this guy wearing a shirt too tight for him? Why are there inflatable banana’s behind him? Why is he saying ‘you whoo’ all the time?!!”), and India and I sang this song many times:
(I mean, when you’re on an all inclusive in Greece it has to happen! Staff definitely gave us a knowing smile and look whenever we sang it)
Ok, so let’s get some holiday snaps up… (#HolidaySpam)
There are some genuinely nice pictures of us, but you guys didn’t come here for the “for God’s sake Alice, stop pulling faces!” Mumma Bennett photo reel, you came here for the “India, India, photo this tea stain on my trousers that looks like Cyprus!” mobile phone photos. So here we are:
This cat that who was sleeping in a basket…
We genuinely thought this was one of those awful cat’s in baskets made from hair we do not think about. But no, this was someone’s cat, sleeping in among tourist souvenirs. The shop owners accepted it, so we accepted it.
This Toothless backpack
It’s impossible to describe the gasp of joy India and I let out when we saw this.
This Toothless window hanging…
…which is now hanging up on my bedroom window.
A place we visited called Pissouri
Now, we pronounced it Piz-or-ree, however if you were so inclined you could prounce it differently. Before you ask, it actually smelt of flowers (on account of the blossom).
This sign that was grammatically incorrect on every level in Pissouri
A Choice of 39 DifferenD Crepes, by Andreas ‘The crepe Man”
Now why would you pay the money on two signs without getting someone to check them first? And why offer 39? Why not 35 or 40? Where was Andreas storing all these toppings in that hut?
This sign I want to show all my English-studying friends:
“Littery is Strictly Prohibited”
Thank goodness I didn’t bring my Shakespeare and Chaucer to read on the beach.
This section in a local Pissouri shop that stocked Tesco value food:
As a family we didn’t know what to make of this. Either Tesco are big importers to the area (the British base was only a 15 min drive away) or there’s a serious Tesco value smuggling problem. People were clearly buying these products although why there was a demand for Tesco value jam and coffee was a bit confusing. The Greeks produce these products too! We stared at this section for quite some time. Tesco value tomato soup had never looked so interesting.
“Middle Aged Man”…guards the beach
Sorry dad, but you know every holiday needs a MAM shot.
“What’s so special amount those?” I hear you cry. Well, just look at what they look like translated into the European alphabet…
You try saying that with a straight face and no concept of Greek pronunciation.
This sweet food that looked like something else (not like coconut):
(Sweet memories from Cyrpus)
And you thought only the Brits worked the commercial pun (http://wp.me/p5kuli-45)
This baby who chills out in a giant sandal
This requirement is a must for me. I will not buy a pair of shoes unless I can go to bed knowing that a baby could chill out in them.
As with any tourist destination there was plenty of tourist tat about, if I stopped and took a photo of everything I wouldn’t be enjoying my holiday to the fullest. This is just a sample.
This tea stain I made on my cut offs that I swear looks like Cyprus
If you look really hard you might be able to see it…
I was so happy at this. A little too happy…
Photobombing the Photobomb
THE GODS ARE EATING THE SUUUNN!!!
This man who serenaded us all – with mixed reactions
This guy sang at our hotel one night and came round people while they ate. We thought we’d avoid him but as people left and the evening wore on we became sitting ducks to his charms.
India smiled politely
Dad had a good old sing along
I personally would have been up for marrying the guy right then and there
But mum on the other hand…
But then in the end she decided this was the best photo of her from the whole holiday
So really we all won that evening.
India got a new hair style…
…And I got my first ever fish pedicure
I paid a massive eight euros for a foot massage and 10 minutes with the fish. For the first five minutes I was laughing constantly. My feet are the most ticklish part of me and far from nibbling, it felt like tens of tiny fish sucking at every part of my feet. It was an experience to say the least. Would I do it again for the soft feet? No. Would I do it again with friends? For eight euros, yeah, I probably would.
All joking aside…
…It was a great holiday. We’d been to Cyprus before, but it was on this holiday that the four of us went to the North of the island for the first time. It was the first time we had really experienced the awkward underlying tension between the Turkish Muslims and the Greek Orthodox Christians. No one says anything, but you sense it. From the stubborn border control (India and I unexpectedly became cigarette mules for one man who bought four packs instead of the two per person limit the Turks impose), to the massive North Cyprus flag painted on the mountain side to overlook the Greek half of Nicosia:
Since the fall of the Berlin wall, Nicosia is now the last divided capital in Europe. Check points everywhere and it just feels weird. I suppose this is what many people felt in Berlin a generation ago. At least now people can cross over the boarder (with a passport). Until 2003 even that wasn’t possible. But there’s no escaping the elephant in the room, although the Greeks don’t hide away from it. This cafe positioned on a check-point border I thought summed up the situation well.
(Berlin No. 2)
Anger mixed with grumbling acceptance. As generations have grown up with the dividing line it has become harder to explain to younger generations what life was like before 1974 and as time goes on it seems more and more likely a peaceful solution will never come about. People were forced of their homes and live from both sides of the border, foreigners have bought and sold land, built houses etc. As our tour guide said, ‘it’s like a divorce, if you do something quickly about it you may be able to come to a resolution. However if you keep leaving it you’re only going to make things worse.”
Don’t get me wrong, the north of the island was lovely. I genuinely could have sat with a book and a coffee and chilled out at Bellapais village/abbey all day.
(I can’t really think of anything like it in England, other than the love child of Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire, and Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire)
Kyrenia also had a very pretty harbour and various doors (too many photos were taken of doors this holiday to include them all in this post but this will do):
And then there was the odd road trip where we were reminded that Cyprus has a lot of history to offer:
This was part of a big area of temples for worshipping various Greek Gods, converted over the years to dormitories, baths, houses etc. It’s existence today has certainly been aided by Cyprus not having the shortage of land for development which exists in this country.
However it did mean there was the odd spooky development that had been abandoned to let time and nature do with it as it wished.
That said, as a holiday overall it was brilliant. Just what we all needed. Fun, laughter, cocktails and all the humus and Cypriot (not Turkish) delight a girl could ask for. And as I stood on a bridge over the pool one evening, two cocktails in hand I felt as ease. While mum, dad and India argued over the camera flash I thought, ‘this was as good as family holidays get’.
“See! No flash!”
“Give me the camera. You’re pressing the wrong button. Press that one! No, the other one! The one with the lightning bolt”
“India I’m pressing that one! Oh, now I’ve set the timer on!”
“Still not coming out right. Your father and his silly ideas for taking a decent photo at night.”
“It was just a suggestion…”
“Mum, just give me the camera already!”
Yep, life certainly does not get any better than this.