Setting off to Prague, as always, without a plan. We descended upon the city of Prague with three weeks ahead and no idea where to go, straight from visiting my family and friends in England. The usual sightseeing and such took place upon arrival, but the square with a few beers at night was certainly thehighlight of the day. Earlier we climbed to Letenske Sady to a coffee house and an incredible view of Prague. The gardens there are very nice and you can sit on the concrete edge and see all of Prague in its glory. Prague is steeped in history and stag parties, if you fancy a drink and a dance, Flanagan’s is the place. Its just around the corner from a jazz bar in case you fancy a different vibe. After the second day I asked Senna to surprise me with the next flight, which she did to Rome, but for the morning after.
So, Rome it was, although we will have to return to Prague at some point as two days was surely not enough, especially whilst avoiding the torrential downpours. So our second day in Prague was packed as full as possible. We viewed the royal gardens, Sint Vituskanthedraal which is beautiful, and the main attraction, Mala Strana. This amazing area builds up to a central castle surrounded by walk around gardens and the Zahrada Na Valech meaning ‘garden of the ramparts’. This whole area is steeped in beauty, the best part of Prague, with the most amazing looking Starbucks ever.
We managed to find a relatively cheap Airbnb with a view of the Vatican, which we booked, and arrived in Rome, which for me, was the first time and Senna’s sixth. Over the five days we did the usual Rome sightseeing, Sint petersplein and Basilica, Imperial Forum Ruins, Colosseum, bars in Pigna, Piazza Navona Fountains and so on. Plenty of Rome advice and travel plans exist and over five days we saw quite a lot. So here are my top three, only slightly obscure but certainly known (as everything in Rome), things to do in Rome. Firstly, there is a sort of hipster area with art and bars and a certain chilled vibe called Trastevere.
With its cobbled stone paths and incredible character inspires greatness, best of which, the legendary Sergio Leone and Ennio Morriconne of the great spaghetti westerns. They shared a school here, which I imagine is where it all began, even before Eastwood knew it. If you get the chance, finish a day of sightseeing here, and drown in this cultural paradise surrounded by street music and flowing flowers from above. Secondly I would like to mention the Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini, a little park with an incredible view. While we were there a wedding parade arrived to have the special days photographs with this amazing backdrop.
The park is famous for the first ever orange tree planted in Rome, but far more intriguing is the keyhole lookout. If you exit this small park and turn left, immediately on your right is a large door with a keyhole. If you peer through this hole you see a perfect view of the Vatican set behind two rows of trees. It is almost impossible to take this photograph, so you must imagine, but its perfect. Some things should be saved for the memory anyway. We heard a story that it was for a little girl whose family had become exiled from Rome so her father created this, so she could always see the Vatican and never forget her faith. I don’t know how true this is, but it is a wonderful tale, so I will continue to believe it. Thirdly, but not finally is the Villa Doma Pamphili park, with caves, fountains and one hell of a villa. This area is peaceful, calm and charming. We spent a fair few hours here, listening to a couple play the guitar and sing then walking the gardens hand in hand, romanticizing our next destination.
Before we left we spent one evening in Prima Porta in a caravan to relax, do not walk this. It took us three hours in searing heat and we constantly regretted it. There was totally a train. Senna swam in the pool and I watch football and washed our clothes. In the morning we departed to the airport.
Onward good steed, to Cyprus, the country of, literally, two sides. Landing in Paphos I must admit, I may as well have travelled to Benidorm. This is English. Our hostel was in a dire state and the receptionist spoke no English. I have absolutely no problem with this but our booking was lost and it took us forever to get a single bed to share. The dorm was downstairs and you had to walk through the only private room to get to the toilet, not so private after all, which two dorms and two tents shared. So, the tents were literally pop up tents on a concrete floor in the common area outside which looked incredibly uncomfortable and noisy. The second worker we met stayed there on a mattress outside without pay and we instantly felt sorry for him, he was victimized as a lost soul there. Trip yard hostel was not the best, but we didn’t mind so much as feel sorry for certain individuals. Paphos is rather lovely and we watched Englands opening world cup game there.
In the morning we arose and found a campsite with tent rental on the beach for ten euros per night in a place called Polis. The tent was tiny, with my legs stuck out the end and a broken zip but, the area was incredible.
We didn’t care about the sleeping conditions here as the staff were wonderful and the beach was one hundred feet away. Its not the comfort, it’s the experience. Senna found the Blue Lagoon on the internet and asked if we could walk there the next morning, citing the eighteen kilometers it would take. I was really up for that, but I did question her if thirty-six degrees and that distance was okay with her. In the morning we set off and I bought six large bottles of water and two sets of snorkels. Senna questioned the six bottles extensively, but I thought nothing of it and we set off. After maybe thirty minutes she started shouting at Google maps on her phone and I questioned her. She complained that after walking this far we were no closer to our destination. I asked, and she replied, ‘we are thirty three minutes away but we are getting no closer’. After much giggling, I explained that the distance was certainly further than the time, at which point she realized she had it set on car mode. Once rectified, the two and a half hour enraged Senna directed at herself and the phone while I joked that when she ran the marathon in two hours, it was probably faster to walk by her reckoning. Anyway, the walk was amazing and we loved every second, the snorkeling was incredible and the lagoon, one of many on the way, was well worth it. Until we had to walk back. Legs out, back down and pillow less we collapsed to sleep.
After a few days of world cup football, meals out and exploring the area whilst spending incredible amounts of time at the beach we departed to the best part of our trip. Across the border at Nicosia/Lefkosia, the Greek and Turkish names for the same city, separated by the UN border.
Kyrenia, a little-known area with incredible mountains, lovely coral beaches and the most amazing host we have encountered on our trips. The trip there was rather confusing, and we ended up in the wrong place, luckily only forty minutes away from where we were supposed to be. After speaking to Linda and finally making our way in the right direction we arrived. Firstly I would like to send a big shout out to Linda, she was amazing. We spent most of our time together and watched the football, drank and ate, but mostly, she showed us all the magical spots in the area. The huge ‘Fez’ mountain backdrop from her home was incredible and also a ten minute walk to the beach. Kyrenia is an area seemingly half finished at times, due to land ownership problems, with an incredibly homely feel (or maybe that was because of Linda). She took us to the harbor, next to the castle. This is one of the strangest harbors I visited, with ancient trade home converted to restaurants, large yachts parked next to tiny fishing boats aged in character and poundings. You could lose yourself with a beer here for a few hours. It felt adventurous again.
She even took us to a party she was invited to and introduced us to all her friends, who took us in as one of them instantly. My favourite place was the St Hilarion castle, which Linda took us to and waited for our return with a coffee. Senna struggled with the climb as the heat that day hit thirty eight degrees.
We viewed Bellapis Abbey, in a wonderful area and almost unrestricted access, Senna’s most beloved area I believe. Near our home away from home they had natural mud baths where we happened upon two Smurfs.
The whole area, people and general laid back vibe really suited Senna. We spent time at the beach and pool side, or relaxing at Linda’s home, and booked two extra days. We had adventures climbing to the mosque and Abbey ruins up the ‘Fez’ and when it came time to leave, it felt like leaving more than just a country. It felt like we left home. That’s all due to Linda. When we left, Linda took us to the border and we said farewell, stopping for a photograph opportunity on the way.
To Lanarca for one evening, after the travel we basically ate, packed and depressively departed at 5 am. Farewell tour, we will miss you.
You can book Linda’s awesome house with this link