Another Day in Paradise – Limassol, Cyprus
We started the day off by a visit to the Tourist Information Office just down the street from our hotel. We walked into this little building where there were three ladies behind a desk ready to help the next people who walked in – that was us. The tall lady asked us what information that we needed. I replied that we were staying in Limassol and would like to know what local attractions we should visit. She gave us a local map and began drawing circles around the points of interest – the Old Port, the Market, the Cathedrals, and a few archaeological sites.
We then asked her about restaurants, specifically ones that serve Cypriot and Greek food were the “locals” go to eat. She then went in the back and brought out a book of restaurants in the area; however she wanted us to know one of her favourites and circled the street on the map and wrote the name next to it. She asked us about a few other towns and cities that we might be interested in and they were the ones that we had on our day trip list. Again she went into the back and brought out specific maps for each of those areas and continued showing us on the map the best route to get there and back. She was so helpful. We thanked her very much for her help and wished her a good day and she relied “good day to you too.” Steve and I left feeling so fortunate to have found someone who is so passionate about her job. She really wanted us to have a great visit to Cyprus and enjoy what one might think is our holiday. Remember Steve is here to work, but has been working mostly at night.
By now it was time for lunch and we were off to the recommended restaurant. We drove about 3 kilometres to the Old Port area and parked the car on a side street where we took out the map from the Tourist Information Office and followed it to the restaurant. It was on a side street with almost no inviting storefronts. The restaurant itself was very inviting, indeed. Especially after walking through the hot, dusty streets. The whole Old Port area is being renovated from the ground up. A large marina is in the plans, and all of the neighbourhood streets are being dug up and rebuilt.
Lots of beautiful granite-looking blocks are being cemented into place on the walking paths, and streets are being repaved. Although it doesn’t look like things are moving very fast, we’ve seen many changes over the last few days. New pavements here, new paths there. They are probably hard at work in the morning before it gets too hot.
It just goes to show that if you go a bit off the beaten path – just a few streets away from the touristy area you can find some of the best places that the locals go to eat and shop. Steve and I always make a point of doing that when we travel. It allows us to meet the people of that country and learn about their culture. As soon as they hear our accent (I forget that we have one – I always think that everybody else has one) they ask if we are from America. When we say, “Yes, Southern California.” they just melt and go “ahhh.” They can’t wait to start telling us their stories about visiting there or family and friends that live there. Before you know it we have made new friends. I feel that this is what makes the world go round. You leave feeling that you have touched someone in a positive way and shared something about American (and British!) culture with them as well as learning something about their culture. Instead of hearing about and seeing all of the horrible things going on in the world on the news every day, it is refreshing to visit these countries and meet the people and see the beauty of the country. In other words, seeing and experiencing the positive in life. There really is so much out there. You just have to go and see it for yourself. People get so excited hearing our stories as we do theirs. Many times it makes our day and many have told us that it has made their day to meet us and hear our stories.
Which brings me to the restaurant that we ate at – Sykaminia. We walked into the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was air conditioned. We were greeted by a lady named Demetra, wearing a white apron and hair covering to match. She is the chef, and together with her husband Lakis, own the restaurant. She spoke excellent English. There was a board at the front describing what was on the menu. We were about to ask questions since the board was written in Greek, but Demetra quickly said that it would be much better for us to come over to the kitchen where she would show us each of the choices, and to explain the ingredients to us. The authentic Cypriot food had some similarities to Greek cooking, but unique to Cyprus. There were different kinds of beans, rice, soups, fish, and a variety of meat dishes as well as fresh salads with feta cheese. The bread was freshly baked and when we dipped into the tahina that was homemade by Demetra, our taste buds did a dance.
Fortunately we arrived at the start of the lunch period and Demetra had the time to sit down with us to share some of her stories with us. Our conversation took us from Southern California to England to Australia and back to Cyprus. Learning a little about her and her family, and her about ours. Before long the restaurant came to life as more and more people, mostly locals and businessmen, entered the restaurant. Now the place was buzzing with conversations in Greek, German, and of course English. A grandfatherly type man sat down at a table near us, but then proceeded to visit other customers. A couple and their young baby then sat down at that table. A few minutes later the man returned to his original table, now occupied by the young family. The baby’s eyes’ lit up and he said, “Papa!” and it all made sense.
Lakis came over to talk to us and to make sure we were happy with lunch. We told him how much we enjoyed the food as well as the ambience, and he told us that theirs is one of the few real traditional Cypriot restaurants in the city. He then offered us coffee or tea. We noticed on the bill that there was no charge for the coffee and tea and he said that it was a present from them. That is what makes the difference in going to a family owned local restaurant. You become friends and they treat you like family. We are planning on going back for a few more meals on this visit to Limassol, Cyprus. A magical moment on Monday. Another day in paradise.