Dreaming of your next sunny trip away? Jacqui Deevoy tells us all about her glorious trip to Cyprus, complete with cooking lessons, cats, and a 16 course mezze…
How are you finding your Dry January? If you’re already ready to rip, and counting the hours until it’s over, let me tell you about a trip I had to Cyprus with an itinerary including gin and wine tasting.
I’d been trying to hop on the wagon before I went, but that went out of the window almost immediately. On arrival at the luxurious Asimina Hotel in Paphos, abstinence became a distant memory as soon as the champagne appeared. A cocktail or two later and I’d well and truly fallen.
Later in the stay I was treated to a gin-tasting and education session from a very knowledgeable Cypriot chap called George. These sessions can be arranged in advance for guests.
Fortunately, there was food…
Lucky I wasn’t on a diet, as that too would have been all but a distant memory once I stepped over the threshold of one of the four on-site restaurants. The outdoor eatery, nestled in a leafy corner of the resort, was my favourite.
The terrace restaurant is five star and classy, with low lighting and a medium-sized a la carte menu. A team of international chefs do the cooking, not only of traditional Cypriot dishes but also of Thai and Italian delights.
Dining under the stars, with a view of the sea, being served exquisite food (the grilled swordfish, and garlic and chilli salmon were especially good), and divine cocktails was a complete joy. The French Martini – vodka, peach juice and Chambord – quickly became my new favourite cocktail.
The second morning, a cookery lesson on the terrace – courtesy of the hotel chef – was fun, despite my slight hangover. We made moussaka Cypriot style (beef and pork instead of lamb) and a veggie version too, made with layers of aubergine and mushroom. That was lunch sorted.
The lush life
Relaxing by one of the two large pools was delightful, and waiter service considerably enhanced the experience. There’s nothing quite as decadent as ordering French Martinis from a supine position and going for dips between sips.
There’s nothing quite as decadent as ordering French Martinis from a supine position and going for dips between sips
The evening view from my suite – no rooms here, just luxury suites, complete with comfortable lounge, kitchen area with a well-stocked mini-bar, sumptuous bedroom with queen size bed and spacious marble-clad bathroom with a gorgeous deep bath and huge shower – was stunning. (Twelve of the 111 suites have their own private sea-view pools.)
From my second floor apartment, I could see terraces, an array of shrubs, flowers, tall palm trees and one of two outdoor pools. A few steps beyond the pools the Mediterranean Sea, edged by the Kato Paphos beach, sparkled as the orange sun dipped into the hazy horizon.
The weather at this time of year (mid-October) was more than clement: a comfortable 25 degrees with a warm and gentle breeze. No jacket required – not even when eating out in the evenings. When it’s cooler, staying in isn’t a bad option as the hotel has an indoor pool and jacuzzi, four bars, a hair salon, a gym, a shop and evening entertainment.
Historical tours and Cleopatra
A full day tour took me to the harbour in Paphos where we explored Pafos Castle (a 13th century Byzantine fortress, dismantled by the Venetians and rebuilt by the Ottomans in 1592) and to the Paphos Archaeological Park in Nea Pafos where I – and other tourists – viewed the ancient mosaic floors of Roman ruins (comprising five houses built around the second century and unearthed in the 1980s).
The tiled floors are mostly intact and depicted all kinds of myths, one being the tragic love story of Dionysis and Ariadne, the tale on which Shakespeare allegedly based Romeo And Juliet.
The tour guide explained how Cleopatra’s descendants once ruled Cyprus. She also told us how the pods of the indigenous carob tree, each being exactly the same size and weight as the next, were once used to weigh gold, giving rise to the word ‘carat’.
I learned that cats were brought to the island many years ago to kill off the snakes. (It didn’t work; the island is now home to many species of snake and a whole load of ownerless but very well-fed cats).
Another fascinating fact is that English king, Richard The Lionheart, got married in Cyprus in 1191: the only British royal wedding that’s taken place somewhere other than the UK.
Along the coast, I stopped at Aphrodite’s Rock. Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love – was said to have been born in Paphos, not in the usual way of course but by emerging from the foam of the sea.
Wines fit for the Gods
Despite the island’s 6000-year history of wine-making, most Brits aren’t familiar with Cypriot wines. And probably wouldn’t think of Cyprus for wine tasting. An hour by car northwards, by the Troos mountains, was Ktemo Gerolemo, a winery where I keenly sampled an array of Cypriot wines.
Many of the wineries are run by families, who have not yet got into the whole business of export. The white, red and rosé were delicious and surprisingly smooth, the dessert wines were syrupy sweet, and the fiery Cypriot brandy called Zivania (which I necked as a shot, and really shouldn’t have!): it felt so medicinal that I now feel 100% safe from lurgies of all kinds this winter.
The village of Omodos, a little further north, is quaint and hilly with cobbled streets and many cute little shops and restaurants.
We lunched here – at Stou Kir Yianni – on a decadent, 16 course mezze of Greek salad, spinach pies, Cypriot sausages, chicken kebabs, roast pork and roast potatoes. I learnt something new about myself too – that, after years of disliking them, I suddenly love truffles. Maybe Cypriot ones are different to British ones – I don’t know – but the truffle pasta was out-of-this-world delicious. The mezze was so huge, the tour guide ended up with a takeaway big enough to feed her and her family for at least a week.
Other nights out included champagne at the glitzy rooftop bar at a neighbouring hotel, a meal at Fetta’s Corner in Paphos town, followed by cocktails and shisha at a lively bar until the early hours.
So much for sober October!
Visit the Constantinou Bros Asimina Suites Hotel
If you’re looking for a good value spring break, consider Paphos. And definitely consider this amazing hotel. Winner of over 16 awards in the last two years, the Constantinou Bros Asimina Suites Hotel, Paphos – with prices from £999 for 7 night departures in May 2023 in a Junior Suite land view room on B&B with flights from Gatwick including private transfers – are taking bookings now. (Early booking discount: save 20% for all bookings until 28th February 2023.)
For further information please call the Constantinou Bros Hotels UK Sales office on 01924 380160
Jacqui Deevoy has been a freelance journalist for over three decades, starting out on teenage magazines, then later working for women’s magazines worldwide, and national newspapers including the Daily Mail, the Mirror, Express and Telegraph. These days, as well as writing for magazines, papers and websites, she produces documentaries and hosts a Friday night chat show for Unity News Network.
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