Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lovely Larnaca ❤

hello chums, so it's been a month since my last post and as you can see I appear to have completely ignored my own resolution about trying to blog more this year! But in my defense i've been away for the past 2 weeks and I didn't take my trusty macbook with me, and it turns out that I simply do not have the mental patience to put together a proper blog post on an iPad.

So here we are, I got home on Sunday afternoon, spent all day Monday attending appointments and yesterday I was rearranging my Etsy shop and reading Neil Gaiman's new book so I guess now seems like as good a time as any for telling you a little bit about my recent holiday.

Now if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you'll probably have spotted a few snaps of blue skies and sandy beaches and if you follow me on Instagram then you'll have seen a whole bunch of holiday photos, like this one...

a visit to Ayia Napa
Anyway, just before Christmas my lovely parental units surprised me with their plans for a family trip to Larnaca in Cyprus. Now it's been rather a while since I last had a proper holiday anywhere that involved planes and warm weather (don't get me wrong, I adore my near annual trips to Southern Ireland and visits to the West Midlands to see my family, but I get there by boat and car so it's not quite the same).

flying over snow-capped mountains in Austria on our way to Sunny Cyrpus

 My last proper trip abroad was to Tivat in Montenegro in 2011 (read about it here and here if you like) and since then I never really managed to go anywhere because I was finishing my Art degree and then I got a job and so on and so forth.

But now, due to my current unemployment and apparent inability to find other work, I was truly free to travel further afield that Coventry or Cork, hence the trip to Larnaca.

day 1: the view from my balcony!
It was actually my second time visiting Cyrpus, although the last time I was there I was three-years-old and in a buggy so you'll forgive me if all I can remember of my previous trip is sandy beaches, ice cream and a big colourful plastic toy truck I begged my parents to bring all the way home with us (they totally did!), so naturally I was excited about visiting somewhere I hadn't really seen before.

just call me the bird lady! look at all my sparrow friends...

I'm not sure if i've mentioned it on here before but i'm a bit of an Art History nerd and I have an eternal love of Classical Architecture, in particular the original Greek orders, so I was looking forward to seeing crumbling ruins, mosaics and other such lovely sights. As it happened, I didn't really manage to see many of those things. Despite the fact that my dear old dad rented a car during our visit, he refused to drive through any of the cities (although we drove past and around a few of them, several times while we got lost) so I didn't get to see any of the famed historic sights I was promised.*sad face* :(

Dekelia Beach
We did however spend about 6 hours in the car driving to and from Paphos (deemed too busy by my dad) and soon enough Limassol passed us by as well (we didn't even attempt to go near it) before accidentally ending up having coffees in what i'm fairly sure was someone's sitting room up near the Troodos mountains. Getting lost on the road is a normal part of almost every family holiday i've ever been on, my dad always encourages us to 'Look upon it as an Adventure' but after 6+ hours in a car driving past everything worth seeing you start to get a bit fed up.

pretty little candy coloured house in Larnaca
Nevertheless, I still had a lovely time in Cyprus, although the hotel we stayed in was literally in the middle of nowhere (between a gas company, a power station and a British Sovereign Army base) I managed to visit Ayia Napa (eerily quiet during the Winter months, I can only imagine how packed it is in the Summer when the party-goers of Europe descend en masse!) and Larnaca of course, as well as trips to Paralimni, Liopetri, Zygi, Frenaros, Deryneia and sort of Famagusta,

Larnaca Marina

You see one of the most frustrating days of the trip was when we tried to find our way to Famagusta on one of my dad's daft whims. On the maps we had it was only up the coast from Ayia Napa and looked to be a sizeable town, so we headed out and carefully followed the routes with me as map reader in the front while my mum distributed sweets and water from the back of the car. So we stuck to the right roads but kept getting lost because for some strange reason the main roads and motorways had next to no mentions of Famagusta anywhere on the route. 

Lost again! Mama and Papa Boylan in the rental car, time to get the maps out!
 Never one to give up on something like this (ha, tell that to Paphos and Limassol!) my dad kept on until we finally saw signs for Famagusta Hospital and a Famagusta view point. We followed the signs until at last we reached a Military checkpoint.

delicious Greek almond milk chocolate, isn't the packaging gorgeous?!

A Turkish checkpoint I might add, because it turns out Famagusta is in the Northern Turkish part of Cyprus and is in fact... a Ghost Town. That's right, we drove all day trying to find a place that doesn't even really exist anymore, I mean the town is still there but the section on the border is empty and can only be viewed from special view points along the Cypriot border, which cost €2 each, so naturally we didn't get to climb up one and see.

blue skies in Ayia Napa
So after all that we couldn't even get to the ruddy town, so we turned around and drove back to Larnaca scowling and laughing about yet another daft 'Adventure' my dad led us on. In retrospect i should've just googled the place before we went but the hotel didn't have wi-fi in the rooms (shock horror!) and when the public wi-fi areas were busy i neglected to check up on things. So that was that, a wild goose chase that ended with a scary Military checkpoint and a Ghost Town devoid of life. Smashing.

Orange trees growing right outside the hotel + all around Larnaca
I might sound a bit whingey but was actually a really lovely trip, having grown up on an island with the seaside at every turn (the first 4 years of my life were spent in a house on a beach and my high-school was across the road from a beach) i've never really been a big fan of seaside holidays, because the sea is something I usually see several times a day at home.

collecting shells with Mama Boylan

But I can't pretend it wasn't brilliant being able to take off my sandals and go for a paddle every day along the beach behind the hotel, brilliant mainly because I could walk in the surf for hours without complaint whereas if I tried to do that at home i'd probably lose both feet to hypothermia before half-an-hour was up!

paddle paddle!
It's strange but my parents seem to have a habit of island hopping when they go on holidays, after all we live on an island! Over the years they've taken me to Jersey in the Channel Islands a few times, to Majorca, Madeira, Mauritius, Sentosa island in Singapore, Bintan island in Indonesia, Vancouver island, Iceland + Lanzarote, Gibraltar and of course Cyprus (technically a hotel we stayed at in Dubai was on an island but that was man-made so i'm not sure it counts!) So we're quite the island hopping family!

beautiful sunset in Larnaca, as seen from my balcony

Cyprus is the closest i've ever gotten to Greece or Greek Culture, so it was fun to learn a bit about local customs and music. One of my highlights of the trip was getting to visit Agios Lazaros or the Church of Saint Lazarus in central Larnaca. I'd read about the church when I researched Larnaca before we left for the trip, but nothing could compare to seeing it in the flesh.

Agios Lazaros bell tower
This incredible 9th Century church was originally built in 890AD over the original tomb of Saint Lazarus of Bethany, (before most of his remains were taken to Constantinople in 898AD and later to Marseille during the Crusades in the 13th Century where they were subsequently lost)

The Church of Saint Lazarus
although parts of the Church have been rebuilt and replaced over time due to damage from Ottoman/Turkish occupation and fires, it's incredible to think that parts of the building have stood there for so very long. There's a real sense of history surrounding the place, even as you walk across the square that holds the church, you can't help but marvel at how old and worn the stonework is.

beautiful old cloisters
 Agios Lazaros is one of only three surviving Byzantine churches in all of Cyprus, it's impressive from the outside but the interior is so unbelievably beautiful, filled with an intricately carved baroque iconostasis covered with gold leaf and dozens of 17th and 18th Century painted icons. It's breathtaking inside, I could've spent all day wandering around looking at everything but it's a busy place drawing locals and visitors, so I lit a candle in remembrance of my grandparents before heading back to the Marina.

Interior filled with Byzantine, Baroque, Rococo and Gothic details
Unsurprisingly I came back equally as pale and pasty as when I left. My parents caught the sun and actually look like they've been on holiday but I only have to look at sunlight to burn like a lobster so although I made time to sit outside and paddle in the sea each day, I didn't really get anything close to a sun tan. It was deliciously warm after the icy chill back home though, with temperatures of 21˚ and blue skies filled with sunshine, it was a bit of a shock coming back to 5˚ when we landed in Liverpool, even the immigration officer at passport control teased me for my lack of tan and the fact that I was shivering so much. (hey we landed at 11:30pm and it was ruddy cold!).

Hotel Beach

As far as retail therapy goes i have very little to report, although Larnaca was filled with darling little shops filled with handmade jewellery, designer sunglasses/handbags and divine retro styled cosmetics, I didn't really buy much. I know I usually fill my Holiday posts with snaps of my latest purchases, but I flew this time meaning I was restricted on luggage and couldn't really fit much in my case, I mean I got a few cute tops + souvenirs for my friends but that's about it. Boring I know. To make up for it, here's a shameless snap of my face.

Holiday Sunglasses Selfie!

I really enjoyed my time in Cyprus, I was there for 12 days after all, and it was truly lovely. Even if I maybe didn't get to see quite as much of it as i'd have liked, what I did see was beautiful and I think i'd like to go back someday (maybe this time to actually see the famous ruins and mosaics!) but who knows. It can't hurt though right? third time lucky and all that :)

last afternoon in Larnaca before flying home

so... yeah, that's about it. I think I've probably written enough haven't I? I do tend to get a bit carried away when i've been away somewhere and as we've already established it's been years since my last proper trip away, so you'll have to forgive me for all the holiday spam!

the next post will probably involve some sort of new illustration or painting, you know... normal service shall be resumed!

so until next time, that's all folks!