The Travel Issue: Cyprus in October
Saturday 02 February 2008
There are some things that are a given when you have a baby. Ready meals are the gourmet option, every night is telly night, sleep is optional. But the biggest wake-up call during our first year with Lily was the absence of a holiday. There are any number of hotels that are keen to show off their hyperluxe spa, zillion-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and exquisite fusion cuisine, but most would rather go bankrupt than cater for anyone under the age of 16 (and preferably 40).
But then we were told about a mythical place: where nappies, bottles and cots would be readily provided, babysitters would sit with your child as she slept, and the chef phoned every afternoon to see what m'lady would like for her tea. Thank Zeus for Aphrodite Hills.
The resort is 15 minutes from Paphos airport on Cyprus's southwest coast. At first glance, it's a soulless place – a sprawl of mock-vernacular villas and hotel buildings that stretches to the horizon. Aesthetics aside, though, it has everything you need with a baby in tow. There are few steps to negotiate; rooms that back straight on to the gardens, some even with private pools; a Kids' Club; and a shaded children's pool. The food (both for fussy grown-ups and even fussier toddlers) was superb, and the head chef Stefanos Chrysanthou really can tailor a week of meals for your children; the only drawback was that Lily developed an expensive taste for whole baked sea bass and swordfish kebabs.
October is the perfect time to visit: pleasantly warm, and barely a sound except the susurration of wind in the carob trees and the scratchy song of a Cyprus warbler. Oh yes, and the whine of electric golf buggies. The golf course cuts through the middle of the entire resort and is so big that a round takes four-and-half hours even with one of the infernal milk floats. Despite its omnipresence, the course is reasonably well disguised, and it's quite easy to wander down a grassy verge and find yourself being shouted at by people wearing bright yellow plus fours for spoiling their view.
There's a wealth of other stuff to keep you cosseted on site: tennis courts, a beach club, an adventure playground and a Grotto Fun Club for grumpy teenagers. My wife Fiona went horse riding on the dusty slopes above the resort. On the way she passed a band of camouflage-clad desperados with rifles, who turned out to be local hunters: the bunnies didn't stand a chance. Meanwhile, in the spirit of testing out everything for the gentle reader, I spent a couple of hours at the excellent Retreat spa, which "evokes a Graeco-Roman village", whatever one of those is. I went for the thermae experience – a succession of tepid, hot, steamy and even hotter and steamier rooms; and just when I thought I could take no more I was persuaded to lie down on a slab of warm marble and was soaped vigorously for an hour...
We forced ourselves to venture out for a day and hired a car. First stop, just minutes along the spectacular coast from the hotel, was Aphrodite's rock. It's said to be the site at which the goddess of love was born, emerging fully formed from the foaming waves (which were a byproduct of Uranus's severed testicles – who makes this stuff up?). Locals say that if you swim round the rock three times naked at midnight you will meet your true love, who will, presumably, be another gullible exhibitionist.
We then headed up into the Troödos massif for a spot of frescoed-Byzantine church gazing and then back down to the coast and into Lemasos (Limassol). The old city is worth a detour: not a sanitised tourist destination but a proper working place and a little rough around the edges. After a quick stroll around the castle where Richard the Lionheart allegedly married Berengaria (and as an afterthought crowned himself King of Cyprus), we had a lazy lunch at the stylish Stretto Café in the nearby Carob Mill. And then drove back west into the sunset, and to our gilded cage.
Seven nights at Aphrodite Hills from £655 per person, b&b, through Tots Too. This includes return flights and transfers; 020-7284 3344 or www.totstoo.com
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