Cyprus is a paradise for family holidays at any time of the year. In summer, the flat beaches are perfect for all ages. Starting from autumn, the island is a great place to explore. Two families, four children. Here’s our field report:
First and foremost: children are always welcome in Cyprus. You will never spark any dirty looks with children in tow, whether at points of interest, museums or restaurants. The island may even awake a sudden interest for culture and cuisine in otherwise very demanding teenagers.
But let’s start from the beginning. We are two families. Our children are aged between ten and fourteen and we will be spending the next four days in and around Larnaca. Three of the children are typical teenage girls who can be a challenge to motivate. The youngest, the only boy, clearly doesn’t always have an easy time. Perhaps that explains why his holiday focus is almost exclusively on animals – that is to say, on one particular animal that he automatically assumes to be male. An assumption that turns out to be wrong. But we’ll come to that a bit later.
Sun, beach and food glorious food!
As soon as we land, we make our way to the Larnaca Salt Lake located near the airport. There they stand, neatly in a row – the pink flamingos in the lake and our three teenagers by the shore. The difference: the flamingos are standing on one leg, the girls on two. Our girls are armed with sunglasses and mobile phones, which they use to photograph the pink beauties. "How awesome!" Aline exclaims. "I’ve only ever seen flamingos in the zoo before." We parents breathe a sigh of relief. It is day one of our holiday, and we have already managed to impress our teenage daughters. Hooray!
The sun, the sea and the pedestrian esplanade at Finikoudes Beach cause our hearts to beat faster. How wonderful to trade Switzerland’s autumn fog and rain for oodles of sunshine, and to be able to walk barefoot in the sand! Our children are magically drawn to an ice cream stand. Then it is time to go to our hotel. We have dinner in a typical taverna, where the food just keeps coming… Pita bread, Tzatziki (Greek yoghurt dip with cucumber and garlic), salad, grilled fish, Moussaka (gratin of mincemeat with eggplants), potatoes and, finally, freshly picked oranges and tangerines. The true advantage of such a plethora of culinary treats? Even the fussiest of children will find something to suit their picky palate.
"Boxer", the kitten, and "Alain Delon", the donkey
The next day is something of a game changer. We are on our way to breakfast. The hotel cats are basking in the sun on the terrace. One of them, a spotted kitten, decides to follow my son, Gian. And when he leaves the restaurant after breakfast, it is waiting outside for him. The kitten proceeds to follow Gian as he makes his way to a deckchair beside the pool. Anything but shy, this feline creature sits itself on Gian’s lap and proceeds to defend its position against all the other cats, with much hissing and "hitting". Gian decides to call the cat "Boxer". From now on, Boxer is Gian’s constant companion.
But today’s focus is on another animal: everything at the "Golden Donkeys Farm" is centred on donkeys. The children love the donkey treasure hunt – possibly because they can watch how their clumsy parents struggle to stay on top of these four-legged creatures. Needless to say, we adults are hopeless at getting the donkeys to move in the right direction. Despite these hiccups, we earn ourselves a "Donkey Licence". But it gets even better, when I discover I have officially earned my "Donkey Licence" on a burro named "Alain Delon". That piece of information sets us mothers off into fits of hysterical laughter. "Alain Delon" obviously means nothing to our children who are seriously bewildered by their mothers’ outburst. After all the donkey excitement, the men go for a local KEO beer while we ladies opt for some stress-reducing retail therapy. We buy soap, chocolate made from donkey’s milk and shampoo made from olive oil at the small farm shop.
Olives and citrus fruits from the tree
Day three. Boxer spent the night on our terrace, in a "bed" of hand towels that we had left on a chair. The night before, I had forbidden my son to let the kitten into our apartment. Gian and the kitten have become inseparable and spend every minute together, except when Gian has to come on excursions with us. We go olive, orange, tangerine and lemon picking. The fruit fresh from the tree has an incredibly intense fragrance and aroma. "Try", I say and hand a piece of tangerine to my daughter. "It tastes different from the ones we buy in the Migros supermarket," Gioia concludes as she finishes chewing. "Is that good or bad?" I ask. "It’s OK," she says, which, in teenager jargon, is quite a compliment!
Our next excursion is to the hinterland, to the village of Choirokoitia. We are told that this is where the best Halloumi cheese and Anari (Cypriot whey cheese) of the island is made. We take some Anari back with us and deliver it to the hotel kitchen, where the staff will fill it into fresh pasta and serve it to us at dinnertime. But before that, we visit Lefkara, a mountain village known for the production of silver handicrafts and lace. And sweets. Since I have no real enthusiasm for crochet doilies or heavy silver, we end up buying five boxes of Lefkara’s third speciality: "Cyprus Delight", a soft jelly baby-like sweet with powdered sugar available in every imaginable flavour. The children love chocolate and pistachio, I favour lemon.
When I wake up on our last morning in Cyprus, Gian is already out and about with Boxer. Last night, the chef de cuisine who feeds the kitten had informed Gian that his feline friend was a female. "It doesn’t matter," my son tells me. He has spent the last two days trying to convince us to take Boxer back home with us. So far, unsuccessfully. After breakfast, we start packing, and I almost give in. Gian is so terribly sad, and the kitten looks at me wide-eyed, suggesting it might know that its friend is about to leave. "Boxer belongs to the hotel. We can’t just take him with us," I explain to my son. "He has his feline friends here and would feel terribly lonely in Switzerland." "She", Gian corrects me with a sniff. "Boxer is a girl." Be that as it may: Gian decides he doesn’t want to separate Boxer from her buddies. "I will be back," he promises her, as we depart.
Before we return to the airport, we do some sightseeing in Larnaca. The Pierides Museum, the Kimon bust, the castle and, of course, the Church of Saint Lazarus, which is Larnaca’s landmark. The church is dedicated to Saint Lazarus who, according to the bible, was raised from the dead by Jesus and served as a Bishop in Larnaca. Not that you can get teenagers to like history. But the girls seem genuinely impressed by the opulently adorned church. And we have quite the discussion about whether it is actually possible to raise someone from the dead. After enjoying dessert and Greek coffee in the Alasia Café by the beach, and giving our children a last chance to throw tons of sand at each other (the consequence of which will be a "sand-enriched" return flight), the time has sadly come to make our way to the airport. "Did you enjoy it?" I ask in the departure hall. "Yes, of course!" the four children chime in unison. Which, in their vernacular, can only mean: awesomely fabulous. We definitely want to come back!
3 tips for families in and around Larnaca
1. Golden Donkeys Farm: The "Golden Donkeys Farm" is located halfway between Larnaca and Limassol. Home to more than 170 donkeys, the farm offers young and old the chance to experience these friendly animals up close. www.goldendonkeys.com
2. Governor’s Beach: Situated in the village of Tochni near Larnaca, Governor’s Beach is one of the nicest in the area. White cliffs, dark sand and crystal-clear water are an invitation to swim, take a stroll or enjoy a picnic.
3. Ktima Georgiadi: A small farm in Skarinou with a highly recommendable restaurant and lovely gardens with orange and lemon trees and a small playground. www.ktimageorgiadi.com