Cyprus, Paphos

Cyprus trip : Day 3 & 4

Mr.A and I spent most of the 3rd day of our Cyprus trip in Ayia Napa, but set off for Paphos late afternoon. It’s a 2-hour drive to the city on the western part of the island. The highway boasts of good road conditions, sometime winding close enough to the sea to offer stunning views of the shiny sea, and at others, winding inland between sand coloured hills dotted with short bushes. It was a hot day, so we kept the air conditioning going and carried an ample stash of chilled iced tea to sustain us along the way. The radio blasted away and we sang along when a familiar melody came up.

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We reached the Capital Coast Resort and Spa just short of sunset. I was quite impressed by the property with its multiple pools, luxurious spa, spacious apartments, great sea view and pleasant restaurants. Since sunset was around 8 o’clock, we had enough time to splash around in the outdoor pool before that. We got changed and were back in the lawn to watch the golden sunset. It was in a long, long time that we had taken out time to sit and watch both sunrise and sunset together in the span of a single day… that was special & romantic 🙂

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We decided to visit some historical sites the following day. The forecast warned of a sweltering day. Covered in multiple layers of sunblock, armed with scarves, caps, sunglasses, umbrellas, bottles of water and so on, we set off! The Tombs of the Kings are a network of underground crypts from the 4th century BC, supposedly belonging to rich members of society but not kings per se. The sites are spread over a considerable area and have graves of varying sizes. Some of the complexes exhibit enclosed courtyards with Roman columns which are in impressively good shape, given the amount of time they have weathered the elements! We walked through many a mirage shimmering over the heated earth. But history always intrigues the two of us, and in spite of the heat waves, were happy to have been there.

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Few kilometers away is the Kato Paphos Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. This area has been a settlement during several eras over history, but the most dominant and well-preserved remains – one can visit houses decorated with elegant mosaic floors depicting mythical stories – date back to the Roman era. These sites are excellent examples of craftsmanship and symmetry.

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We returned to the hotel and practically walked right into the pool to cool off. Thoroughly revived, we checked out & headed back to Larnaca to catch a red-eye flight. At Larnaca, we visited the Salt Lake and left our footprints on the slightly mushy surface. We also headed to the Hala Sultan Tekke, a mosque that has stood on the edge of the lake since the Ottoman Empire. Although we reached beyond admission hours, I’m glad we went – to our great surprise, we were met by a clutter of cats so large we had never seen before :-O They were everywhere, more and more of them kept crawling out from the shadows. We declared Cyprus as Cat-country right there and fled before they could enslave us!

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Dinner was at a traditional restaurant where we ate a truck-load of fish, no kidding. Lucky for us, some local artists performing song and dance at the restaurant. With still some hours to kill before the flight, Mr.A and I strolled by the water and found beach beds by a hotel. Nobody stopped us, so we lay down for an hour enjoying the cool sea breeze, listening to the slosh-slosh of the waves, counting stars… couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this lovely Cyprus trip 🙂

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Croatia Day 5: Pula, Rovinj

… Continued from Croatia Day 4: Plitvice Lakes

Refreshed after our hike through the Plitvice National Park, we travelled north-west towards the beautiful Peninsula of Istria, or Istra.

Highlights

  • The road-trip. It was such an enjoyable drive! As we drove out of the Park area, we hit some smaller scenic routes for a while before we came upon the highway. The highways were in excellent shape and traffic was low, so we covered around 250 km in about 3 hours, stopping for coffee and cake on the way. There were several tolls to be paid, but hey, the infrastructure deserved it alright. The views were again splendid, greenery everywhere and mountains on the horizon, it was so soothing to the eyes. The sun and clouds played around, making a pleasant game out of light and shadow.
  • Pula is the largest city on the Istria Peninsula, located practically at its tip, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The town has much to offer, from a bustling harbour, to an old town, to local wineries. But the reason why we were in Pula, was the arena, constructed between 27 BC and 68 AD. Mr.A and I love all things Rome! So when we found out that Pula has a well-preserved Roman arena to offer, we just had to add it to our itirenary 🙂 This is an awe-inspiring structure, the only remaining Roman amphitheater where all four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders have survived through the aeons. We sat there imagining how it must have been in back in the day… one of the many moments I have said to myself, oh how I wish I could go back in history and see for myself…
  • Rovinj is yet another pretty coastal town on the Adriatic, about a 40-min drive along the highway to the north of Pula. It is a fishing port as is obvious by many a boat docked at the harbour. We had the perfect lunch of xxx and lazily strolled around the town. The cobbled streets jumble into one another, offering views of rows of colourful houses, tastefully planted window boxes, glimpses of the blue sea in between, and oozing a relaxed charm all the way. This could be the ideal place to unwind oneself, which is why it serves as a popular tourist town and a stop for long-distance bike teams. We ended our tour with yummy ice-creams which appeared to be another popular ‘activity’ here 😉

Followed by Croatia Day 6: Motovun, Hum…

Croatia Day 2: Split

… Continued from Croatia Day 1: Dubrovnik

Day 2 in Croatia was all about a bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split, and exploring Split’s charming Old Town.

The Highlights

  • The bus ride started at 8a.m. from Dubrovnik’s main bus station or the Autobusni Kolodvor. The ride was quite comfortable with beautiful seaside views. The road would rise to a height and then slowly slope down to sea level revealing sometime cliffs and sometime beaches with pretty villages nestled in between. The bus itself was clean and seats were snug. It wasn’t very crowded so we could choose to sit where we liked. The journey took some 4 hours and I was able to catch some shut-eye on the way.
  • Our hotel was at a super convenient location. Right next to the bus stand / railway station, and just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre and the Split Old Town. The room was decently equipped and the balcony had a great view. All for one night’s stay, I’d say it was a steal.
  • Diocletian’s palace, built by the Romans far back in the 4th century AD is the Old Town of Split! This is a town masquerading as a palace or perhaps the other way round, but all in all, it’s just not possible to separate one from the other. There are homes sharing palace walls, restaurants in royal courtyards, and stores in the arched pathways leading to ancient temples. It’s a wonderland, I tell you! Quite natural then that the Palace complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The palace basements were just another bonus on our Game of Thrones journey. These are supposed to have been completely filled with debris and waste over time and have been recently undergoing massive restoration and reconstruction. The basements are the site that serve as the Meereenese catacombs where Daenerys locks up her  dragons after they kill a child and threaten to become dangerous. Mr.A and I were so excited, we were nearly jumping in our seats while watching the recent Season 6 episode when Tyrion unlocks the dragon’s shackles 😀
  • The marina was another absolutely gorgeous place. After our afternoon full of walking the cobbled streets of the Palace, we rested for a while with our feet dangling inches above the water. We watched a seaplane take off, which was a first. We sat at a pretty cafe for coffee and some delicious cake, one of them called Miss Berry, how cute! We also walked into an information centre and met the sweetest people at the counter who talked about their delightful city with such love, and also advised us on our trip ahead. The beautiful palm trees, the spring flowers, the city wall on the one side and the blue water on the other side, made it the perfect stroll to end our day in Split.

The Flipsides

  • Sigh! We could surely have spent more time in this beautiful city! But we had so much more exploring to do, we decided to look forward to the next day’s itinerary 🙂

Followed by Croatia Day 3: Trogir, Klis, Salona, Zadar…