Onward to D – Destinations: Favourite, least favourite and Why
I know it sounds a bit whimsical, but I like to think that my favourite destination will be the one I arrive at next. Having said that, the place (not the nation, that would be Spain and its islands if we totted them up) we have visited the most often must be Paphos in Cyprus. Why is that then?
Well Mab and I are both amateur historians with a keen interest in the Classical World and the Ancient Near East. Situated in the eastern Mediterranean, the island of Cyprus has been fought over by Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Crusaders, Venetians and Ottoman Turks. It’s also a great jumping off point for cruises to Egypt and the Pyramids.
Cleopatra, St Paul and Richard the Lionheart are just a few of the legendary historical figures who have figured in the island’s history. Adding to the cultural melting pot were almost 100 years of British administration before the granting of independence in 1960. All of these cultures have left something behind whether it is in the archeology, the food, the folklore or even the odd pillar box.
When we first visited the island back in 1989 we stayed at a small family run hotel called the Nereus. Over the next 15 years we probably went back every other year, and almost always stayed at the Nereus because we liked the people who ran it. At times eccentric, they were also really warm and welcoming. George the patriarch of the family would even get up early in the morning to perform conjuring tricks to amuse the younger guests. Cyprus is a great place for kids and that’s another of the reasons we chose to return because it is relatively safe and hygienic, so less chance of those little tummy upsets that can be so spectacular with the small ones, while my daughter was young.
Then there is the food and wine. I suppose after Spanish one of my favourite world cuisines is Greek, although the Cypriot kitchen also has many influences from Turkey and the Levant, making it that little bit more exotic. Humous, Tzatziki, Taramusalata, olives, pickled chilis, Mousaka, Halloummi cheese, Tavas, Stifado, Sheftalia and Souvlaki, it makes me hungry just to think about it and a Cyprus Meze is a great sharing experience with friends and a bottle of deep red Othello wine.
And finally the people are just some of the friendliest and most open in Europe.
As our daughter grew up though we drifted away from the island, going around the world and exploring most of easyJet’s network, but last year we went back. George and the Nereus were still there as were Chris and the Princess Georgia Meze House and the Pinguini Ice Cream Parlour and despite membership of the EU and the Euro pushing up prices a bit, we enjoyed our stay so much we decided to return later this year
OK so where didn’t I like? You know I don’t think there have been any destinations that I haven’t got something positive out of, but some of the hotels we have stayed in have been real stinkers.
I suppose my least favourite holiday would have been the one in Menorca where a weak hotel manager was unable to control his staff. Aside from the broken tiles and paving in the public areas, algae growing up the walls, broken light fittings and lack of towels, I can vividly remember coming back to our room to find the maid wearing my hat. The hot water was so sporadic that it gave up when I was mid shower and the manager was lucky that I stopped to pull on a pair of swimming trunks before, covered in shampoo, I stormed down to reception to tell him that he was running the worst hotel in the world!
But then there was also the hotel in Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat where, while we were waiting for our airport transfer, a guest accidentally discharged a revolver in reception. In full view of everyone, he’d been casually swinging the chamber in and out and off it went, taking a huge chunk of marble out of the wall. It’s a wonder no one died. I can’t remember the establishment’s name, but it was a dirty little hovel and as if being next door to an airport wasn’t bad enough, the restaurant staff tried to pull the old trick of adding an extra meal to our final bill and I ended up suggesting that they call the police before they backed down with the obviously forged docket.
And not forgetting the UK, the hotel in Ramsgate where the manager tried to palm us off with a room without an en suite bathroom because he thought we had specifically asked for one without!