Thursday, September 30, 2004

Cypriot After Thoughts 

Reflecting back on the holiday a few extra things struck me about the holiday;

Driving in Cyprus was so easy, not only do they drive on the same side of the road as us Brit's but they are ever so courteous as well. In traffic jams, there is not the mad Italian style rush to be first into an opening gap, drivers let people queuing in jams in ahead of themselves. Drivers will even stop in a busy main road to allow pedestrians to cross, which at times felt strange. All the road direction signs are in both Greek and 'English' so it isn't hard finding your way about.

Drivers not traveling as fast as you will slow down and pull over to the left and wave the faster traveling traffic when gaps in oncoming traffic permit. Got yourself in the wrong lane in a busy city centre like Limassol or Pathos, no problem a quick flick of the indicator, and someone will toot their horn and let you cross to the lane you want.

There are a few 'timeshare' type salesmen about who claim not to be timeshare, strictly speaking they aren't but they are using the same techniques to sell holiday properties on developing complexes. We found the easiest way of dealing with them was to say we were flying home that day, they soon cleared off, as they want around 12 hours of your time to harangue you with heavy sales techniques. Mrs C theoretically won 2 luxury Mediterranean holidays whilst we were in Cyprus, but declined to attend guided tours of holiday properties, no doubt accompanied by a heavy handed sales pitch. Don't get me wrong the situation is nowhere near as bad as I've encountered in Spain and the Canaries where during the bad old days you were pestered as soon as you walked down a main street. Just be aware that such charlatans are still around.

By the way, the Plaka restaurant, which I recommended in my earlier post, is located at 65, Posseidonos Ave, Pathos, situated between the Amathus and Rania Hotels. It hands out survey forms at the end of your meal where you can win various prize in a weekly draw including money off coupons for meals in the restaurant. The survey is actually a way for holiday property companies to get your details for a sales pitch. If you aren't interested in a sales pitch just don't fill the form in, no one will pester you for it.

On our penultimate night we dined at the Oleastro Mediterranean Restaurant which is very near Plaka's, as it had been recommended to us by a few people staying in our hotel. It's so popular that we had to book a table 24 hours in advance. The food was excellent but more expensive than most of the other restaurants that we ate in. The claim of the owners is that meals are about food and mood, which I think is true, but I didn't like the mood they created. Only one waiter seemed to be allowed to take orders, the rest of the staff just cleared tables, served the meals and poured your wine. I thought the head waiter was over officious, in fact he didn't like the fact that two of the meals I ordered were not available, I can't remember what the first was, but second was Mousaka. One of the girls who wandered around topping up glasses with wine always at the last instant spilled some on the table because she was too busy looking around for someone else, possibly more important to attend too.

I did notice too that the head waiter had favourites, customers he would fawn over, they were obviously well off locals, which is too some extent fine if they are regulars. But the way he was fawning and ordering his minions around to attend to his favourites every whim, at the double, reminded me of someone in fear of upsetting a local Mafia boss. In fact, I am probably entirely wrong in the assumption, but customers concerned looked like wealthy gangsters. More than likely they were wealthy timeshare touts. Suffice to say that, though the food was very good, I pesonally didn't like the much too officious atmosphere, I'll stick to good value restaurants with friendly staff. Having said that there was one particular waitress in Oleastro's who was very good and very helpful. She even chased us 300 yards down the road to return a cardigan that Mrs C had left behind after paying the bill. She deserves better treatment from her boss than he was dishing out.

If you happen to be in the Coral Bay area and are looking for a reasonable restaurant, I can recommend, The El Faro, again good food at good value prices. I had the fresh Sea Bass, it was excellent. El Faro's is the restaurant with a statue of Colossus straddling the entrance. I'm also told the Hippopotamus restaurant is good in Coral Bay too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

My Family And Other Animals 

That was the title of a book by Gerald Durrell that I remember reading at school. It was about the time the auther lived in Cyprus as a boy, and fired a desire in me to visit the island at some point in my life. That point was reached this month when Mrs C and I took an 11 night holiday in Paphos located at the South Western end of the island. Sometimes when you visit places that you have read about you come away disappointed, that wasn't the case for either of us this time around, as we both admit to having had one of the best holidays that we had ever had. We liked the island so much that we would consider buying property over there if we were ever in the position to be able to afford to.

The weather throughout the holiday was great, as you would expect in that part of the world, the local people were brilliant, always friendly and very helpful in their dealings with stupid tourists. Wherever we went the locals actually did their best to make visitors feel like they were honoured guests on the island. It's not often you can say that in many holiday destinations. One of the first things we did after arriving was to book a day trip to see the Pyramids in Egypt, more of that later as that was taken in the second week.

The first part of the holiday was spent alternating between lazing around the hotel pool/gardens and visiting local archeological sites in Paphos, there are a few and they are all worth a visit. Visiting these sites from our hotel, The Riu Cypria Bay (the grounds of which are pictured above), couldn't have been easier, regular buses to Paphos and beyond stopped nearby and wherever you were traveling to the fare was only 50cents each (around 60pence). That included the 8 kilometer trip from the hotel (located near the end of what is locally known as the hotel strip), to Coral Bay which was 6 kilometers to the other side of Paphos from where we were staying. The buses ran from 8am in the morning to 10:30pm in the evening. I wish we could say the same about buses back here in the UK.

The first site we visited was "The House of Dionysis" famous for it's vast numbers of well preserved Roman Mosaics, which were not found until late in the 1960's. This site is well worth a visit, it is huge and you can easily spend half a day or more slowly wandering around it, and at £1.5 Cypriot pounds each to get in, it's a bargain. Even better visit it on a Sunday and like all Greek museums/Historic sites, it's free. The site is situated next to the harbour so is handy for refreshments when you decide that you've seen enough. The only problem we found was that there was little shade and nowhere inside where you could have a coffee or snack, but that would spoil the historic setting and there is plenty of choice outside anyway.

Another site that we visited was the Tombs of The Kings on the outskirts of Paphos, this too was much larger than we expected, and though the tombs never actually housed the bodies of kings they did once contain higher dignitaries that governed the island during one of the Egyptian dynasties. At around 75cents each to enter it's another site well worth a visit if you are in the area. Another location that costs 75cents to enter is the Harbour fort which whilst not as old as the other sites, is an interesting point of interest. It also gives a high viewpoint over the harbour and main tourist/restaurant area of Paphos. We actually visited the fort on the Sunday so it was free.

The highlight of the whole holiday has to be the day spent in Cairo. It started with a 1 hour 8am flight from Paphos to Cairo where we were met by our guide, security guard and coach for the day and what a day it was. The guide, Hoda, was excellent and gave us a running commentary on everything of interest we passed on route to our first stop at Saladin's Citadel, where we got a talk on it's history and a tour of the magnificent mosque situated in the grounds. It was also a chance to take in a view of Cairo from high point on the ramparts. Next was what everyone goes to Cairo to see, the Pyramids and Sphynx at Giza. Again the absolute scale of the site is hard to conceive unless you have been there to see it for yourself, it was brilliant. The time spent at the pyramids was followed by an excellent lunch at a nearby 5 star hotel. In the afternoon we spent time in the Papyrus museum and a gold bazaar where Mrs C bout a gold necklace and cartouche inscribed with her name in hieroglyphics. That was followed by a guided tour of the Cairo Museum and all it's treasures. We were then treated to a 1 hour cruise with snacks and refreshments on the Nile and the day was rounded off with a sample of late night shopping, Cairo style in the street bazaars. I've never seen so many people and cars in one place in my life. You have to be there to believe it. We returned to Paphos on the 10:30pm flight out of Cairo. The trip cost us a lot more than we planned for but was well worth it. It was just another world.

The remainder of the holiday was spent touring around the island in a hire car, and there are some amazing sights to be seen in the Troddos mountains, including those I found whilst driving 28 kilometers along a forest track swhen we ran out of road following signs for the Kykkos monastery. The views from Mount Olympus, the highest point on the island, were tremendous and would have been better but for the heat haze. There are a fair number of archeological sites located between Limassol and Paphos, including the rock that are said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite's, also famous as the spot where the Kraken emerges from the sea to receive sacrifices, in the film The Kraken Awakes.

This was one brilliant holiday and I can honestly say, I will return to Cyprus again at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. A few photographs of our holiday can be found here. As a final tribute to the title I present a photo of some strange local flying insect, that looks rather nasty but is probably harmless and though I saw a few around none seemed interested in human beings.

Oh one final thing if you do find yourself in Paphos and are looking for somewhere to eat along the hotel strip, then I can thoroughly recommend Plaka's restaurant, both for good food and good value.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Whatever You Do Don't Go There..... 

Luton that is, it's been voted the worst place to live in Britain. There were one or two surprises in the top 10, such as 2nd placed Windsor, and maybe Bath at number 7, though Pogo who lives in Bath would probably agree with the poll.

My home town came in at number 10, which I suppose is no surprise as it's well known that the job situation in the area is pretty lousy. I personally wouldn't want to move back to my home town, though I would move to somewhere in the surrounding North York Moors when I retire.

I've still not had any time to sort out any holiday snaps yet, hopefully I should get a bit of time tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Just Passing Through (For This Week Anyway) 

We made it back from our holiday safe and well and had a brilliant time. I can't say any more than that for now, as we have to get all our code ready for a first phase delivery on Monday, consequently it has been mayhem this week at work.

I'll try to get a post of what we got up to along with a photo or two, when things quieten down a bit sometime next week.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

And Now, Another Goodbye! 

Well that was some weekend, spent in a haze of head and alcohol. Both "Do's" were excellent and there was plenty of free ale, wine or whatever else tickled our fancy. Suffice to say I was very drunk, but didn't do anything to disgrace myself I'm happy to say. The buffets put on for both events were marvelous too, with plenty to please all palate's.

Now, having recovered from the hangovers by working them off in the garden it's time to look forward to another break. A bit of last minute shopping at lunch saw me blow a wad on 2 shirts and another pair of cut-off trousers. Unfortunately the sales had disappeared, it must have something to do with the hot weather that has suddenly arrived out of the blue, so I had to pay the full retail price, but hey-ho you only live once.

Anyhow this is my last post, for a couple of weeks, unless I find myself in an internet cafe in Paphos or something. Have fun whilst I'm gone, now where did I put that insect repellent?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Have A Good Weekend.... 

Right that's it for this week, I'm off to watch my 'Brother-in-Law' get married and will then attend the post event celebrations. Tomorrow will see us attend the Silver Wedding Anniversary celebrations of Mrs C's boss. What with all that and work, it's all go up here.

Have a great weekend. I will.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Making Music Maps 

Now here's a cool site that maps the musical artist of your choice to closely related artists, with pretty colours.

Steel River Blues 

Last night I watched the new TV drama Steel River Blues, which on the face of it seems to be a rip off of the of so old once favourite; London's Burning. I have to admit that as a drama it held little interest for me, but I watched it out of interest of how they would portray my home town; Middlesbrough.

Well I think I can safely say that as a drama it is crap. Not only is it a pale imitation of London's Burning, which by the end of it's run was pretty poor itself, but it seems to me that it portrays every character as a total pratt. If it's based on real life firemen & women, then I think we'd be all much safer putting our own fires out.

The drama is based in Teesside Central Fire Station in Middlesbrough, a station that seems to be crewed by around 8 officers with two engines. Now this unit appears to cover the entire area of Teesside, not just central Middlesbrough. Why do I say this?

Well the new Station Officer, who happened was brainy enough to have his car stolen by a hitch hiker he had picked up en-route to his new job, surveyed his patch from what I presume were the Cleveland hills, the patch he was referring to covered ICI Wilton, the Tees estuary, probably Redcar and yes you could see the Transporter bridge in the background. The car, incidentally, was involved in a hit and run in Durham later in the programme. Other shots of him getting a tour of the area included him looking out onto the River at Paddy's Hole, a small boats harbour near the South Tees Breakwater, and area of land once owned by British Steel, I think Corus now probably own the land. In the background is a view of the Neuclear Power station, which apparently is also on his patch, well that is just south of Hartlepool on the North side of the river, if my memory serves me right. So before we really get started, the area covered by this so called central station and it's two fire engines is already over 100 square miles.

Things get worse, towards the end of the programme there is a fire at a Chemical Works, in Stainsby Street, started by a chemical leak, one of the officers was having a bonk in his car, with a local police sergeants wife (she looked more like a street walker than anyone's wife), on the unlocked and unsecured premises at the time. The engines were scrambled and shown to cross from one side of the Tees to the other over the Newport bridge, to get to the fire. That is absolutely miles from other parts of the patch covered, a quick look at Streetmap.co.uk shows Stainsby Street to be in Stockton, yet another town that the two fire engines have to cover.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think the shots of the Fire Station might have been taken at the Redcar Fire Station, which is certainly not Teesside Central. ICI Wilton for the record has or at least had it's own Fire Station on site, such was the potential risk and danger of fire breaking out. Middlesbrough Fire Station is about 10 minutes walk from where I used to live and, is a lot bigger than the one portrayed in the drama, as is Redcar Fire Station for that matter, I believe both operate more engines than two.

So far we have a drama that doesn't stand up in the reality stakes. Now onto one or two of the characters, we had a 23 girl who wanted to join the force and had passed her courses etc, but her mother wouldn't let her, until the Station Officer persuaded her otherwise. I'm sorry, the girl is 23 and can do what she bloody well wants, no matter what her mother thinks. She for the record was about the only one with a passable Middlesbrough accent, there was possibly one other that had a local accent. The rest of the main characters appeared to be more Geordie than Middlesbrough and were total twonks anyway. The one that got really up my nose was the Chief Officer, he kept calling the new Station Officer 'Pretty Boy'. I'm sorry he would have been floored before 5 minutes were up in that part of the world.

At one point the station was put out of action when an old gadgie took in a hand grenade, the fireman who wanted the Station Officers post but didn't get it, called in the police and cordened off the area, only to find it was a plastic grenade. Of course the usual stupid high jinks went on involving jokes on new officers plus, one lunatic fireman fell off his mountain bike whilst trying to ride it, down the station stairs. I ask you?

All in all it was total unadulterated crap. Yeah it was nice seeing scenes of areas I knew and grew up in, but I doubt I'll be watching it again. The story lines and characters would have to improve immensely for a start, but then there would always be that nagging niggle at the back of my mind that said, "there's no way they could have got from there to there in 9 minutes".

I wish I hadn't watched it now.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I've always enjoyed a glass or two of red wine and obviously was overjoyed to hear some time ago that not only does it taste nice but it is supposed to be good for your heart.

Well I've just heard that: Small daily doses of dark chocolate improve the ability of blood vessels to contract and dilate.

So that means both red wine and now dark chocolate is also good for blood circulation.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Referencers