Mem­o­ries are made of this...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Skin­ner

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first, mainly busi­ness, visit to Cyprus in 1968. I wanted to come back for a hol­i­day, but it took three years to do so. As the tale goes, it was about 7pm on a dark and stormy night, in 1971, when we ar­rived. There were very few tourists on the flight and no-one else had hired a self-drive.

The car hire com­pany, with whom I had com­mu­ni­cated by air-mail let­ter, had told me a Vaux­hall Viva would be wait­ing for us in the car park, with the ig­ni­tion key un­der the floor mat on the driver’s side. (We paid for the three weeks’ hire when we re­turned it to the com­pany near Me­taxas Square – no forms or agree­ments had been signed).

We – my wife, her mother, and two of our chil­dren aged 6 and 8 - blun­dered out into the wind and rain. And there it was, some dis­tance away, alone in the cen­tre of the Ni­cosia air­port car park, with its side painted with a broad white “Tourist” strip. It was not a Viva in the first flush of youth; in­deed I wrote in my di­ary that it was “grotty”. Af­ter six goes at start­ing it, the bat­tery seemed about to ex­pire, so the fam­ily pushed hard, to turn the car down the slope, where even­tu­ally it jump started. Wet and cold, we took sev­eral wrong turn­ings, once go­ing through Turk­ish Army lines, even­tu­ally driv­ing “the long way round” to Kyre­nia.

We had rented a good sized house in the cen­tre of the town, but couldn’t find it. A kindly cof­fee shop owner, “Call me Peter”, he said, guided us. The own­ers had put heaters on, so we were soon warm and ap­pre­cia­tive of pro­vi­sions they had thought­fully pro­vided. We dined well on eggs and ba­con and fresh bread. Fed and wa­tered, we soon were warmly a-bed.

The next morn­ing was clear, crisp and sunny. Just around the cor­ner was one of those lovely shops you used to find in Cyprus – and in­deed all over the Mid­dle East – a store that had called Theo Pa­pas. The owner stocked us up with veg­eta­bles, fruit and all kinds of food stuffs, and told us where to get the best lamb – we had a su­perb that night – and bread, from a Turk­ish bak­ery, which was warm and yeast­ily lovely. KEO and ETKO red and white wines in 5-litre flasks were 800 mils (Euro 0.75) and when you took back the empty Peter gave you 400 mils back. The wheels were well oiled for the du­ra­tion of our stay.

The old Viva shook, rat­tled and rolled its away for hun­dreds of miles along the sin­gle track tarred roads, with gravel and stones at the sides to drive on when a lo­cal farmer came along the other way and re­fused to give way. We had Mezze for a Cyprus Pound a head by the sea- side, in hill vil­lages and towns. We spent evenings at the Tree of Idle­ness at Bella Pais, where the cooking was sim­ple and home-style: de­li­cious Trachanas, ke­babs (of course, but only made from lamb), and Tav­vas, the like of which I have not had since. All for a lit­tle more than a Pound each, which cov­ered ex­pert Cypriot danc­ing, with wa­ter glasses (full) bal­anced on the sway­ing heads of the per­form­ers as a fi­nale…

All this started our love af­fair with Cyprus and its food and wine, which cul­mi­nated in tak­ing up res­i­dence in 1992. They were good times.

One of my few regular con­trib­u­tors, who is not only a good busi­ness-woman and splen­did cook but is good at PR, too, is Elena at Orexi Cater­ing, Droushia. She does so much to pro­mote our lo­cal food cul­ture, she de­serves all the suc­cess she gets and I am happy to quote her press re­lease on her next event:

Koulla’s goat Farm

– Tues­day 24th March. This has be­come a much-loved event in the ‘Orexi’ di­ary. It’s a fab­u­lous day out and a chance to see a tra­di­tional Cypriot farm in all its glory! The timetable is:

9.30am - Meet at Orexi HQ for break­fast – freshly baked savoury and sweet ac­com­pa­nied by pots of fil­ter cof­fee or tea (builders’/herbal).

10.30am - Koulla’s Farm is just a short drive away – we will watch the goats be­ing milked, then have the chance to ob­serve the cheese-mak­ing process closely. Hal­loumi and the ri­cot­ta­like cheese Anari. You’ll get to sam­ple Koulla’s won­der­ful cheeses, have a walk round the farm and learn about ru­ral life in Paphos.

1pm - Re­turn to base for lunch at ‘Orexi’ HQ – en­joy our much talked-about Orexi lunch: Seabream baked and dressed with oregano, lemon and gar­lic and a cou­ple of other tasty dishes to fill you up af­ter a hard morn­ing at the farm, ac­com­pa­nied by a glass of our finest lo­cal wine. The cost for the day is 30 eu­ros which in­cludes break­fast, lunch and the trip to the farm. Space is limited, so call Elena on 99887293 if you’d like to join the group.

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