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January 2011

Lofou

Lofou

by Clare Mansell
Apokryfo bedroom

This weekend a group of us spent two nights in the pretty village of Lofou in the Troodos mountains. We weren’t high enough to be in the snow again, or close enough to the sea for the sunshine, which meant only one thing… rain… and lots of it!

Fortunately rain is still a bit of a novelty for us in Cyprus, and as the aim was a snug wintery weekend playing board games in front of an open fire, it didn’t dampen our spirits.

Apokryfo : Games

The accommodation was a revelation too. It looked good online, but was stunning in the flesh. A group of six of us (5 girls and Jim!) stayed in a recently renovated traditional house. Being low season we got a good deal which included breakfast, a meze supper, use of the sauna and steam room and the largest house to stay in… None of us wanted to leave!

Apokryfo : Main room

It’s typical really that we always discover these places just before we leave somewhere, but maybe we’ll be able to squeeze in a visit in warmer weather just before we go… the pool and barbecue area looked lovely!

While were there we also had another chance to visit the abandoned Berengaria Hotel, which has really taken a battering in the storms since my last visit in November. With the mist swirling through the woods around it and the building crumbling away, it took on a whole new rather spooky character. But I was glad to discover I wasn’t the only person who finds it a strangely compelling place to visit…

And of course as always there were loads of photo opportunities… You can see a few pics on Flickr.

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I can’t believe it’s Cyprus…
Troodos snow day
Macy & Bella
Macy in her element!
Tipsy & Bella
Yeah!

For a few weeks every year the peaks of the Troodos mountains are covered in snow. Only an hour’s drive from our house on the coast, the temperature plunges from 20c, to just above freezing and there’s a decent enough snow covering for a few ski runs to open and children to toboggan. Even the tourist shops open for a second season, selling knitted hats and snow boots alongside the more common Cypriot fayre.

Although the main square at Troodos was busy, (mainly with locals and their kids) further along the road we were able to park up near the woods and walk a little way down a trail and let the dogs run free. You don’t need me to tell you how much they loved it – just look at their expressions!

After snow balls, sledging and photo opportunities, we drove back down the hill to Troodos and had a traditional Cyprus lunch of Shefalia and chips whilst the dogs dozed in the car… Probably we should have finished the day with a dip in the sea (to complete the traditional Cyprus snow and surf in the same day) but the open fire and a cup of tea at home was calling!

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Awesome banana muffins

Awesome banana muffins

by Clare Mansell
Banana muffins

At this time of year, despite the fact the temperatures in Cyprus reach about 19c, our army housing is bitterly cold. We have no central heating and rely on a wood burning stove (which we bought) and three military issued oil filled radiators. We are pretty used to living like this, but it does mean the kitchen and bathroom and always very cold.

Another of the joys of our army house is that we also have a spectacularly inefficient gas oven, which has to pre-heat for at least half an hour to even start to generate any sort of respectable internal heat. The cold kitchen and the inefficient oven actually make pretty good companions, if you time it well, you can have the oven running for most of the afternoon and evening just to cook supper and do some baking and most of the gas that’s burnt warms the room, not the food.

So this afternoon I decided to make some muffins, mostly just to have an excuse to heat the kitchen. I found this recipe, which is fool proof, quick and produces fantastic results. I added chocolate chips and I think walnuts would also work well. If you have half an hour to spare, a hungry husband or a cold kitchen, give them a go.

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Best dog walk yet…

Best dog walk yet…

by Clare Mansell
This morning we were treated to the rarest of Cyprus pleasures… a long off-lead dog walk. On lots of occasions I have blogged about the difficulty walking dogs here, which largely comes down to a lot of poison, local attitudes and it being illegal to walk dogs on all but one beach on the island. Our two dogs usually have to make do with two 30 minute mainly on-lead walks around our local area.
However today we were invited to join a local dog walking group who were doing a pre-planned two hour route close to the base in Akrotiri. There were 21 dogs and about 40 humans and with that many of us there was a certain degree of ‘safety’ in taking the dogs on the beach… not only was the beach remote, but it would have taken quite a few policemen to contain and fine all of us!
We had visited a limited section of this area before (definitely not the best bit) and so went along with very modest expectations, which were quickly exceeded. After two hours running backwards and forwards in the group, chasing other dogs and swimming in the sea, Macy & Bella were (perhaps for the first time) well and truly exhausted.
We brought them home, washed them and they have been dozing in front of the wood burner ever since. Normally there is no way they would allow it to get dark without reminding us to take them on an  afternoon walk, but today they haven’t stirred. Happy tired humans and animals all round!
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I do like to be beside the seaside

I do like to be beside the seaside

by Clare Mansell
Thornham Marina
Beach Huts
Wooden sleepers
Along the promenadeWest Wittering

I love beaches, but given the choice between the sunbaked Mediterranean or the slightly cold windy British coastline, I would opt for the latter (almost) every time.

It’s probably partly to do with the tendency to romaticise a place that you are far away from, but it’s also a lot to do with the colours of the English seaside and the very British freedom to walk dogs on the coast.

Will the beaches in Scotland be like this? I do hope so.

One thing is for sure, 2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year… Hope you can join us for the journey.

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