A Quick-ish Review: Topsham, Exeter (Devon)

Speedy Summary

The website says:

Topsham is an attractive town on the Exe estuary, Devon, in England’s Westcountry. Now part of Exeter, it nevertheless maintains a distinctive identity. Loved by its locals, and savoured by those who visit, Topsham offers river walks; wildlife; a Saturday morning market; many characterful shops, restaurants and inns; and quiet space to sit and watch the sailing boats go by.

I say:

A former town now Exeter suburb, Topsham is a quaint little place to visit. Boasting independent retailers and several side streets, you are never more than a few steps away from undisturbed views of the quay. Be prepared to spend £15+ a head if you’re planning to stay for ‘proper’ food and arrive early to secure car parking in high season. Small, pretty and close to the buzz of Exeter city life, there’s a reason why it’s one of the more expensive places to buy/rent in the region.

Top Sights

If you’re a typical tourist looking to cover the main elements of the town in a short space of time plan your visit well in advance. Although the town has several car parks Topsham is notorious for its summer crowds as visitors flock to see a ‘quaint Devonshire community’. Even if you plan to visit outside of school summer holidays, then aim to visit on a weekday and early-ish in the morning to secure the best parking. It’s also best advised if you want the luxury of being able to stroll up the relatively car-free one way high street.

As a small town things to do are limited, but a must are the shops. Most of these are independently run and stocking a range of pretty items from interiors to clothing, wine to flowers. Just don’t expect to walk in and find a multitude of pocket buys. These traders operate in a well-established town with the clientele to boot. You won’t find sniff of a Poundland or Card Factory here.

If you’re like me however then you’ll find great joy rummaging through the multiple charity shops dotted up the high street. The wealthy resident effect, the keen eyed bargain hunter can pick up a number of star buys from high-value items donated by former owners. On this visitation alone I bought a beautiful 1960s retro tea pot to compliment my own property and a pair of mint condition retro curtains to be either reused or turned into cushions (I’ve yet to decide). Total spend: £7. My sister, a devil for vintage books, made a couple of sound purchases also alongside my cheeky purchase of a 1949 Ladybird book, all for £1 a pop. I’ve seen similar books retail for eye wateringly high prices. The money also goes to charity which is never a bad thing.

Also worth a look in is the Topsham Quay Antiques Centre, located right on the quayside at the far end of the town. Three floors of antiques, vintage and retro memorabilia gives much for the curious collector to look at and if nothing else is great for starting conversation. “What was this used for?”, “Did people find that fashionable back then?”, “Where could we put this?”, “Can you even legally display that nowadays?” etc.

Walk up the side streets to be filled with envy at the delightful houses of various periods before grabbing the chance to take in visually (and photographically) the quayside. This part of the river Exe is dotted with sailing boats yet has remained undeveloped on the opposite side, giving a pleasing vision out across the landscape whilst sitting down with a pint on a pub bench.

IMG_1167.jpg

 

A Note on Food

It’s not the cheapest place to eat. If you want coffee and a piece of cake then the choice is endless, however if you’re looking for a light lunch the cheapest you’ll be looking to spend is around £12 and upwards. This is based on looking at a range of menu boards placed outside various eateries in the town. As a result we unfortunately found ourselves looking elsewhere to satisfy our rumbling stomachs. That said, I am aware that for some people this might not be an issue and for others the price tag marks the sign of a carefully and well made meal, but when there are four mouths to feed it may be something to take into account.

Three Word Conclusion

Unique little shops.

A Quick-ish Review: Canonteign Falls, Dartmoor

Speedy Summary

The website says:

A hidden gem: Situated within Dartmoor National Park in the heart of Devon’s Teign Valley, natural and manmade waterfalls tumble down ancient rock formations to meet the tranquil lakes below, offering some of the most spectacular waterfall and woodland scenery in Devon.

I say:

A very tall waterfall, featuring a lot of climbing and (on occasion) some surreal looking wooden men. Nice views at the top as long as you don’t freak Mumma Bennett out by leaning over the edge. Plenty of old school Victorian folly lols. Not suitable for wheelchair users or those suffering with aquaphobia.

 

Top Sights

I like a sign me, especially if it’s one that covers the three important bases: 1) why am I here? 2) What are the things to keep me here? And 3) where can I go if the excitement of points one and two get to be too much.

IMG_2691

The estate is comprised of multiple lakes and two waterfalls; one natural, one man made and although the park is named Canonteign Falls, the star feature is the 70m drop Lady Exmouth waterfall which was built in 1890. The result is a very pretty cultivated area of land that would otherwise have been overlooked.

IMG_2706Canonteighn_top

And the views from the top are stunning:

IMG_2730.JPG

Here’s an India scale to show the enormity of view-to-human at the top of the waterfall:

 

20170702_124108

Looking for a bit of hands on History? Well look no further than a merry little climb of the original 90 rock steps constructed by the Victorian creators over a hundred years ago. Just be aware that they will kill either your soul or your knee joints, just a little.

IMG_2719.JPG

In short, it’s a rather nice Victorian folly (something created for no purpose other than to show off to your mates and say “oh how romantic!”) Lady Ex also used unemployed miners to create the Fall, so in many ways she was a real life Ross Poldark/goody two-shoes.

 

What Else is There?

As well as the tumbling cascades of water, Canonteign Falls also has a couple of other quaint features. For one it makes a real point of reaching out to far-right groups who have been feeling left out since Brexit. It is nice to see a tourist attraction throwing them a bone.

IMG_2720.JPG

There are also these funny little wooden people dotted about the site. A fair bit of thought has gone into these and their positioning, this one being a personal fave:

IMG_2747.JPG

A couple of others are a little more amusing to any grown up kids. E.g. there is the sad/possible suicidal figure about to jump into the mini waterfall with her wilted roses.

IMG_2712.JPG

And lets spare a thought for Hobo Harry…

IMG_2725.JPG

The guy has it tough (especially when people come along and take his booze)

IMG_2726.JPG

If wooden men aren’t your boat then there’s a great children’s play area full of lots of outdoor climbing frames. Not that India and I stuck to the rules, we had a go on all the cool stuff. It makes for a great thirty minutes, even if Mumma Bennett does cut off your  head in every seesaw shot.

20170702_133947.jpg

Reminds me of something…

 

There’s also a Victorian fern garden. I unfortunately took no photos of this so use this clip art image and your imagination.

free-high-resolution-graphics-and-clip-art-ObowWY-clipart.png

 

Three Word Conclusion

Dramatic and pretty

 

 

“I went to get Coffee but Came Back With Cava”: Lanzarote, Canary Islands

“…Right, so how are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers out of the country?”

“Well you’ll have made friends with a gigolo in the airport flying out.”

“When would you do that?”

“At check in. You get talking to her and strike up a friendship at that point. Then you find a way to damage her case at the airport on the other side, you apologise and offer to replace the damaged case. She accepts and then you supply her with a case with the goods stitched in on the inside.”

“You got a Roman chariot style attack planned? You’re going to attach spikes to the wheels of your case? And when are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers sewn in?”

“Alice, you know Jammy Dodgers is a euphemism for something else? We’re not talking about smuggling biscuits into Britain.”

“Is Lanzarote even the best place for smuggling drugs? I’d have gone for Latin America.”

“No, other than Alice’s smuggling of apricots I don’t think this island has much going for it. You’d do this in Mexico or the like.”

“What if the woman you befriend has a bright pink case? She’s not going to accept your scrotty old substitute.”

“Come to think about it, how are you planning on making friends in check-in? ‘Hello, nice case. You could stuff a lot of Jammy Dodgers in there’? No offense Dad, but I would hardly rush to exchange numbers if you randomly approached me with that opener.”

“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just pay her to bring the drugs in whilst you’re abroad and then murder her in the car park?”

“Well yes, but in doing so you’ve committed a worse crime than the one you were trying to cover up.”

“Remind me again how we ended up on this topic?”

***

“Pull over here! I need to post something!”

“You’re not posting your local election ballot are you?”

“No comment!”

It was 3:30am, the car was filled with baggage and the village post box was one letter fuller. I hopped back into the Volvo and we sped on towards the airport.

The Bennett holiday had begun.

This Easter the destination of choice was the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Spanish by nationality but located just off the coast of the African continent, the Canary Islands are uniquely blessed to have pleasantly hot temperatures early in the year while maintaining a laid-back Mediterranean culture. The warm climate was far from an automatic pleaser for everyone. As we stood waiting for our bags at Arrecife airport, a fellow passenger could be heard complaining down the phone over the amount of cloud cover outside. Trust a British tourist to moan about the weather thirty minutes after landing.

This wasn’t the first bemusing thing to happen on the holiday. That award would go to the poor directional signage that resulted in the entire plane accidently bypassing Spanish boarder control. As we walked down the ramp parallel to the booths, the border guards watched the heard of pale faced Brits with a mixture of confusion and disinterest.

 

“I wonder if they’ll be so lax once we’re out of the EU.” I muttered to India.

Bags collected, the reps verbally directed us to the buses. We hopped onto our coach and listened to the mumblings of a secondary rep (“what’s she saying?” “I don’t know, I think something about Pablo Paella’s Casa or the welcome meetings. To be honest I’m barely listening.”) The young lady leapt off, the coach doors closed and we departed.

This time around we were headed to the resort of Costa Teguise on the South-Western side of the island. Because we’re middle class this was to be the fourth time at the resort, although this time around the holiday planner (alias Mumma Bennett) had booked the hotel Teguise Grand Playa which was considerably closer to the pretty town of Teguise compared to the one we’d been to four years ago. After the terrible sun burns of 2013 when we badly misinterpreted the strength of the UV rays, we learnt several valuable lessons. A) always pack sun cream b) remember the pastiness of one’s skin and c) town is never a “fifteen-minute walk away”.

IMG_9235
mid-afternoon people judging, sorry, watching.

Anyway, to get back on topic, the Costa Teguise Playa is a lovely hotel, situated right on the beach (it is quite literally a stone’s throw away). This location suited me very nicely. During the day the beach was a hubbub of activity in the form of sunbathers, scuba divers and swimmers, but at dawn the little piece of man-made coast was completely empty of all human-shaped life. Granted it took me about five days to get into the practice of early starts, but for those few mornings where I ventured down to the beach at 7am the views were wonderful. I could listen to the sea, yoga a little and relax.

Within the walls of the hotel I learnt a couple of new things. Firstly, this man has a very high voice:

And secondly I discovered that Leo Sayer is still as relevant a figure today as he’s ever been. At least four times Papa Bennett got mistaken for the 70s pop star/icon/legend. For anyone not in the know, here’s Sayer’s music/photo next to Papa Bennett’s…

Don’t get me wrong, at first it was utterly hilarious seeing drunk British tourists rush up to Papa Bennett and ask him to sing You make Me Feel Like Dancing, or say “my wife absolutely loves you!” But in time it got bit much. When you’re put on edge because someone stumbling towards you way want an autograph, or ask what it’s like being Leo Sayer’s daughter on tour you start to wish Leo Sayer had been a one-hit wonder.

IMG_9152
Photo with Leo Sayer. Moral of the story: never meet your idols.

As well a large consumption of sparkling Cava wine which was served from breakfast to midnight free of charge (this post’s title being a choice quote by yours truly), our merry quartet also partook on an island tour whilst visiting Lanzarote. We’d already done the volcano tours some years ago, so this time around we went on a voyage of discovery to learn about the famous contemporary artist César Manrique who lived on the island. The tour stopped off at a number of the sculptures, paintings and buildings Manrique designed. Here is a summary of that tour in the form of a collage:

We saw some really beautiful things and all took away something different from the trip. Mumma Bennett was overwhelmed by art:

IMG_2018
I meanwhile struggled to comprehend why anyone would have a semi-transparent (external) bathroom wall.
18600675_1955472301145018_469646454_n
India on the other hand had her perceptions on nature and art transformed by a Cactus Garden, from this…
IMG_2081
…to this:
IMG_9175
(Coming soon to MHAM, a post dedicated to the Jardin de Cactus. The transformation will be explained!)
And as for Papa Bennett, well he felt compelled to do this:
IMG_2102
(And we still don’t know why.)
Other than that we all took pleasure in having a very laid back holiday. In the daytime we’d explore the local area and sit on the beach/by the pool and at night we’d drink cocktails and sip on spirits and chat away the hours. Some would probably look at this as mundane and very predictable but in fact it was anything but. Only after a few rounds of seemingly harmless drinks would the most random conversations come up. The opening of this post is one such example, another was a theoretical debate over how one would go about committing suicide with a Christmas Tree. Admittedly these were not conversations which one walks into at 10am on a Monday, nor are they discussions which anyone walking past, English or not, would be able to jump straight into. They are odd, random and sometimes a bit wrong but they are so the conversational glue of the Bennett family unit.
The local shops near to the hotel were filled with the standard tourist tat and other random items including mug clocks and washing machine covers.
I also think it says a lot about us as a family when we gather as one to admire this:
As we got to the end of the holiday I felt it was time to leave Lanzarote and return to normal life in the UK.  I had obtained my fill of sun, sea and endless sangria and was ready for a cup of tea and a bowl of Weetabix. I’d also a) taken a good couple of kilos of apricots and tea from the hotel to bring back home and b) broken our tour operator’s information board.
IMG_2132
To stay any longer would be putting me, my family and Brexit negotiations in danger.
Overall, it was a great holiday in a fabulous location (as per usual, thanks to Mumma Bennett). And it shall always be remembered as the Lanzarote holiday where three of us worshipped the sun and art while Leo Sayer worshipped the sparkling wine.
IMG_2310

Caves, Cannons and Geriatric Broadband: South Devon 2016

Some of you guys might be getting a little fed up of Alice posting “about me holidays”. Well, with the help of Simon Pegg, I’ve only got one thing to say to you people:

Haters gonna hate.

In true white, middle class style I’ve just got back from a break spent at the family’s holiday cottage (South Devon). The little village of Stoke Gabriel on the River Dart has, for many years, been a destination for the Bennett clan. It’s a location close to my heart, a little chocolate box of a village with plenty of charm and boats.

pontoon-through-flowers

happy-potted-flower-17433480

 

It’s pretty nice, huh? Well, as someone that’s been holidaying there for cracking on fifteen years I can certainly vouch that Stoke Gabriel is a village that keeps giving year after year.

Before we could reach our holiday cottage though we had to make a stop off in the local, equally pretty, town of Totnes. Not that Totnes isn’t a nice place to go:

totnes

Totnes

In fact it prides itself on being a very welcoming place:

img_0189

They even were very supportive and welcoming of national coffee shop chain Costa Coffee.

895487155totnescosta-welcome-to-clone-town

So much that Costa went “you guys are so nice that we just can’t build our coffee shop in your town, you guys use it for a charity shop instead.”)

It’s a nice enough place but it was just that, due to our desire to not spend Saturday parked up on the M5 near Bristol, we’d left the Cotswolds early enough to arrive in Totnes at 8:45am, six hours too early to get into the cottage. Morning spent doing the traditional Bennett activities of “Spotting The New Shops And Working Out If They’ll Last the Year”, losing Papa Bennett to the cheese stand in the farmers’ market, and Mumma Bennett going to Totnes Castle (owned by English Heritage). Not to visit the Norman castle, but purely to raid the English Heritage gift shop of raspberry curd.

Here is a helpful diagram to explain:

101816....jpg
(Not to scale)

Top Paint/design skills there.

Once we’d spent a sufficient amount of time and money on cheese, jam and pies (courtesy of Morrisons’ reduced aisle and the effects on Papa Bennett), we headed back to the cottage to unpack and unwind. Well, three of us unpacked. I took to throwing India’s clothes across the room in a political statement-come-demonstration in a bid to force her to put her socks and swimsuit in a less in-you-face location.

Sunday we went to Kents Cavern, an extensive series of underground caves and tunnels. Much to my surprise, despite the poor lighting my new iPhone (I have an iPhone now, don’t you know?) took half decent pics. img_0199

However, don’t be fooled, the caves were dark at points and even had spooky faces in the walls.

img_0197

Because India studies Human Geography she didn’t know what to make of it all. She felt very lost and confused in the cave systems.

img_0194

“India! Don’t go down there!”

At the end of the caves there was an exhibition, including a reconstruction of human settlers using the caves for protection. I didn’t really understand what the curators were trying to portray – all of my hungover mornings with friends look like this?

img_0206

Bacon, mindless staring into the abyss, a random baby showing up, what’s new there?

I found this guy very relatable:

img_0207

Following on from the beauty of the caves, we progressed onto another natural feature: the tourist gift shop.

img_0209

(David Tennant would have been very happy.)

Outside, India found a new outfit and posed for an attractive series of photos.

Another day we went to the up and coming town of Brixham:

img_0222

As long as you’re not OCD on your hygiene it has a great sweet shop:

img_0236img_0237

And if you’re not OCD on quality, there’s many shops stocking a wide range of products:

On the holiday there was also a family outing to the county capital of Exeter city. During our day out we went on a delightful free tour of the city which took us from the city centre right down to the historic quayside. Whilst we learnt a great deal of many facts and history about the city, highlights for me were posing with this cannon:

img_0289

And this ferry sign:

img_0281

Who said I wasn’t easy to please?

Speaking of education, I also got chance to visit a delightful little zoo in the village of Shaldon and learn all about a range of small animals, notably of the primate variety.

 

I even learnt a new language:

img_0299

“Ah! So that’s why I’m still single! I need to up m seductive face…”

img_0300

“…and learn how to get other females off my man whilst keeping his attention.”

img_0301

“Sorted!”

Shaldon also had some other charming features, such as the local custom of leaving labels on beverage fruits…

img_0321

…A large mermaid (one which puts my housemate to shame)…

…and a very large passive-aggressive sign targeted at dog fouling:

img_0315

It truly is a very wonderful place.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Devonshire holiday without a few technical issues and scraps in the cottage, the main one of this holiday being the internet. The broadband, for whatever reason, decided to be rather temperamental for most of the week. At the lowest point we had two laptops and my mobile phone all desperately trying to look up website information, with no one having any success whatsoever. Amongst the shouting “I’M TRYING TO LOG ONTO THE SITE!” and “try turning it off and on again” and even the classic “oh just give it here! You’re doing it wrong! Huh, it’s not working” I was sat in the middle just laughing. “Great family holiday this is, I come for some relaxation and get lumbered with a geriatric broadband connection! Get the leaflet drawer out, we’d have found out about the Red Coat guides half an hour ago if we’d gone there first.” Inadvertently the broadband issue turned into a family competition every time it went down. Never has Googling cinema times of Jason Bourne been so exciting!

Overall, aided hugely by good (well, half-decent) weather we all had a great time once again in Devon. Now that it’s SEPTEMBER…

(Sorry, not sorry)

…it’s all a go-go on Autumn/Halloween/Christmas. The day we got back from Devon the weather changed instantly. Seems God wants to start buying his tinsel early this year.

But if you think that’s miserable enough, just take a look at this pointlessly long sign for sale in a gift shop n Totnes:

img_0183

How did that make you feel Mr. Seagull?

img_0271

Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol is Free!

“Look, Paphos is check in desks 24-26”

“Paphos? Where’s Paphos?”

It was 6am in Birmingham Airport and we were all brain dead, but even by my sister’s standards this was unacceptable. Usually a 4am start marks the beginning of the annual Bennett Easter holiday abroad so we usually take such comments as part of sleep deprivation. However on this occasion there was no way I was letting my younger, Geography student, sister get away with this.

“Paphos is where we’re flying to you muppet.”

“I though we were flying to Cyprus?”

Ok Alice, deep breath.

“Yes, we’re going to Cyprus, but Paphos is the airport we’re flying to. Like you fly to Birmingham, not the UK.”

“Oh, I thought Cyprus was a town/city?”

“Why don’t we just head to check in? I think we all need a coffee.”

And thus, our holiday had begun.

The Bennett Easter holiday has been something we’ve been doing for years, every year since I was four years old in fact (excluding the one year we went to Florida in the summer when I was 11). In the many holidays we’ve taken we seen and done it all. Ridden camels, seen the pyramids months before it all went to pieces, the Colosseum. All the Euro sites.

We’ve also been through the rubbish. I’ve spent two nights sleeping on an airport floor thanks to Hurricane Charlie (followed by a taxi journey all the way from Edinburgh to the Cotswolds), I’ve been stranded abroad for a week thanks to an ash cloud, and I had the horrible experience at 13 where I thought our Nile cruise ship had left me and papa Bennett behind on the shore. Luxor, place where the only language the locals understood was a girl crying her eyes out (and, respect where it’s due, they did all they could to put me at ease and find someone who spoke English to help).

Apart from India wanting to discuss terrorism checks at security (the girl has the gift of timing) and the pair of us answering the “what do you do if security stop you?” question on the wall with the answer “C. Do the hokey cokey!” the airport was fairly uneventful. On the plane this song kept playing constantly, which made India and I debate how many plays it would take to turn you insane.

After two plays the novelty had definitely worn off on me. The cabin crew were hardly making up a new dance routine to the song either.

Four plus hours later we landed in Paphos, Cyrpus. Bags collected we hoped on our bus with a Thomas Cook representative which sparked a new debate, although this one had to be more hushed for the sake of diplomacy.

“India, why are all holiday reps scouse?”

“What?”

“Seriously, every English rep in Europe is unnaturally orange and scouse. Why do they want to be reps and why would you buy fake tan in a sunny country? Do you think there’s a reason?”

“Why haven’t you eaten your meal deal snack yet? You’re just going to save it up and eat it in front of us with that smug look on your face like you always do!”

Conversation dropped.

Most of the holiday was spent like this, random half conversations picked up and dropped. Without context you would be very confused about what was going on. Examples: we sang Bonnie Tyler down the promenade, I got increasingly old lady aggressive towards a man reading out bingo numbers (“why is this guy wearing a shirt too tight for him? Why are there inflatable banana’s behind him? Why is he saying ‘you whoo’ all the time?!!”), and India and I sang this song many times:

(I mean, when you’re on an all inclusive in Greece it has to happen! Staff definitely gave us a knowing smile and look whenever we sang it)

.IMG_7028

Ok, so let’s get some holiday snaps up… (#HolidaySpam)

There are some genuinely nice pictures of us, but you guys didn’t come here for the “for God’s sake Alice, stop pulling faces!” Mumma Bennett photo reel, you came here for the “India, India, photo this tea stain on my trousers that looks like Cyprus!” mobile phone photos. So here we are:

This cat that who was sleeping in a basket…

IMG_20150408_092706901_HDR

IMG_20150408_092730682_HDR

We genuinely thought this was one of those awful cat’s in baskets made from hair we do not think about. But no, this was someone’s cat, sleeping in among tourist souvenirs. The shop owners accepted it, so we accepted it.

This Toothless backpack

IMG_20150408_103624144_HDR

It’s impossible to describe the gasp of joy India and I let out when we saw this.

This Toothless window hanging…

wp_20150423_21_42_35_pro

…which is now hanging up on my bedroom window.

A place we visited called Pissouri

Now, we pronounced it Piz-or-ree, however if you were so inclined you could prounce it differently. Before you ask, it actually smelt of flowers (on account of the blossom).

This sign that was grammatically incorrect on every level in Pissouri

IMG_20150409_102235642_HDR

A Choice of 39 DifferenD Crepes, by Andreas ‘The crepe Man”

Now why would you pay the money on two signs without getting someone to check them first? And why offer 39? Why not 35 or 40? Where was Andreas storing all these toppings in that hut?

This sign I want to show all my English-studying friends:

IMG_20150409_093146565_HDR

“Littery is Strictly Prohibited”

Thank goodness I didn’t bring my Shakespeare and Chaucer to read on the beach.

This section in a local Pissouri shop that stocked Tesco value food:

IMG_20150409_100602525_HDR

IMG_20150409_100556660_HDR

IMG_20150409_100510406_HDR

As a family we didn’t know what to make of this. Either Tesco are big importers to the area (the British base was only a 15 min drive away) or there’s a serious Tesco value smuggling problem. People were clearly buying these products although why there was a demand for Tesco value jam and coffee was a bit confusing. The Greeks produce these products too! We stared at this section for quite some time. Tesco value tomato soup had never looked so interesting.

“Middle Aged Man”…guards the beach

IMG_20150409_093200084_HDR

Sorry dad, but you know every holiday needs a MAM shot.

These biscuits:

IMG_20150410_163954790_HDR

“What’s so special amount those?” I hear you cry. Well, just look at what they look like translated into the European alphabet…

IMG_20150410_163933351

Papadopoulos

You try saying that with a straight face and no concept of Greek pronunciation.

This sweet food that looked like something else (not like coconut):

IMG_20150410_164412351FOOD PUNS!

IMG_20150410_164715084_HDR

(Sweet memories from Cyrpus)

And you thought only the Brits worked the commercial pun (http://wp.me/p5kuli-45)

This baby who chills out in a giant sandal

IMG_20150410_165109418_HDR

This requirement is a must for me. I will not buy a pair of shoes unless I can go to bed knowing that a baby could chill out in them.

As with any tourist destination there was plenty of tourist tat about, if I stopped and took a photo of everything I wouldn’t be enjoying my holiday to the fullest. This is just a sample.

This tea stain I made on my cut offs that I swear looks like Cyprus

IMG_20150409_161933571

If you look really hard you might be able to see it…

IMG_20150409_161933571kj

cyprus_island_map

Close enough.

I was so happy at this. A little too happy…

IMG_20150409_162019983_HDR

Photobombing the Photobomb

IMG_7069Me discovering that the sun sets in the evening

IMG_20150411_171736697_HDR

THE GODS ARE EATING THE SUUUNN!!!

This man who serenaded us all – with mixed reactions

This guy sang at our hotel one night and came round people while they ate. We thought we’d avoid him but as people left and the evening wore on we became sitting ducks to his charms.

India smiled politely

IMG_6938

Dad had a good old sing along

IMG_6941

I personally would have been up for marrying the guy right then and there

IMG_6932

But mum on the other hand…

IMG_6933

But then in the end she decided this was the best photo of her from the whole holiday

IMG_6935

So really we all won that evening.

India got a new hair style…

IMG_20150411_105435326_HDR

…And I got my first ever fish pedicure

IMG_6953

I paid a massive eight euros for a foot massage and 10 minutes with the fish. For the first five minutes I was laughing constantly. My feet are the most ticklish part of me and far from nibbling, it felt like tens of tiny fish sucking at every part of my feet. It was an experience to say the least. Would I do it again for the soft feet? No. Would I do it again with friends? For eight euros, yeah, I probably would.

All joking aside…

…It was a great holiday. We’d been to Cyprus before, but it was on this holiday that the four of us went to the North of the island for the first time. It was the first time we had really experienced the awkward underlying tension between the Turkish Muslims and the Greek Orthodox Christians. No one says anything, but you sense it. From the stubborn border control (India and I unexpectedly became cigarette mules for one man who bought four packs instead of the two per person limit the Turks impose), to the massive North Cyprus flag painted on the mountain side to overlook the Greek half of Nicosia:

IMG_20150410_092838702

Largest_flag_north_cyprus

Since the fall of the Berlin wall, Nicosia is now the last divided capital in Europe. Check points everywhere and it just feels weird. I suppose this is what many people felt in Berlin a generation ago. At least now people can cross over the boarder (with a passport). Until 2003 even that wasn’t possible. But there’s no escaping the elephant in the room, although the Greeks don’t hide away from it. This cafe positioned on a check-point border I thought summed up the situation well.

131216122827-berlin-no-2-cafe-in-nicosia-horizontal-large-gallery

(Berlin No. 2)

Anger mixed with grumbling acceptance. As generations have grown up with the dividing line it has become harder to explain to younger generations what life was like before 1974 and as time goes on it seems more and more likely a peaceful solution will never come about. People were forced of their homes and live from both sides of the border, foreigners have bought and sold land, built houses etc. As our tour guide said, ‘it’s like a divorce, if you do something quickly about it you may be able to come to a resolution. However if you keep leaving it you’re only going to make things worse.”

Don’t get me wrong, the north of the island was lovely. I genuinely could have sat with a book and a coffee and chilled out at Bellapais village/abbey all day.

IMG_6787

IMG_6799

IMG_6801

IMG_6812

(I can’t really think of anything like it in England, other than the love child of Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire, and Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire)

Kyrenia also had a very pretty harbour and various doors (too many photos were taken of doors this holiday to include them all in this post but this will do):

IMG_6824

IMG_6847

IMG_6854

IMG_6856

And then there was the odd road trip where we were reminded that Cyprus has a lot of history to offer:

IMG_6874

IMG_6888

IMG_6887

This was part of a big area of temples for worshipping various Greek Gods, converted over the years to dormitories, baths, houses etc. It’s existence today has certainly been aided by Cyprus not having the shortage of land for development which exists in this country.

However it did mean there was the odd spooky development that had been abandoned to let time and nature do with it as it wished.

IMG_20150409_093845683_HDR

That said, as a holiday overall it was brilliant. Just what we all needed. Fun, laughter, cocktails and all the humus and Cypriot (not Turkish) delight a girl could ask for. And as I stood on a bridge over the pool one evening, two cocktails in hand I felt as ease. While mum, dad and India argued over the camera flash I thought, ‘this was as good as family holidays get’.

IMG_7061

“See! No flash!”

“Give me the camera. You’re pressing the wrong button. Press that one! No, the other one! The one with the lightning bolt”

“India I’m pressing that one! Oh, now I’ve set the timer on!”

IMG_7062

“Still not coming out right. Your father and his silly ideas for taking a decent photo at night.”

“It was just a suggestion…”

“Mum, just give me the camera already!”

Yep, life certainly does not get any better than this.