Friday, 28 June 2013

Don't go camping...with your BIG dog

Right. As with dog beaches, dog-friendly campsites in Cyprus are a bit of a mystery. Campsites in Cyprus generally seem to be a bit of a mystery. I'll tell you what I found out, and you can take it from there.

The website for the Department of Forests, states that there are 5 official campsites in the Republic of Cyprus. It doesn't, however, provide phone numbers or websites. http://www.moa.gov.cy/moa/fd/fd.nsf/22fb7da65c7abdf1c22570580031586b/bb0570cf9d8556c6c2257058003269b8?OpenDocument

These campsites are mostly different from those listed on the Camping.Info website : http://en.camping.info which lists 4 campsites that I did manage to contact (although they have not provided phone numbers or web addresses to this website either).

Finally, on the Cyprus Travel Secrets website (and campsites in Cyprus really are kept secret apparently), I found telephone number for 5 campsites: http://www.cyprus-travel-secrets.com/cyprus-camping.html
Camping with Sage and my nephews, Crete 2011
So I called them all to ask whether dogs were permitted on their campsites. You would think it was a straight forward question wouldn't you?

1 of the campsites from the 5 on the list, Geroskipou Xenon Gardens (Pafos) told me the campsite no longer existed. That's one down.

Polis Beach campsite (near the town of Polis) was the only one that gave me a straight answer - NO, DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED AT THE CAMPSITE. I appreciated this straight answer and the fact that they seem to have a policy on the issue..... Except, I have been there with my dog. We were there in May this year. True, we didn't camp there, we went and ate at the beach bar that belongs to the campsite. However, there were at least 4 or 5 dogs running around the tent area, clearly belonging with campers. I have also read reviews on TripAdvisor complaining that dogs should not be allowed there if their owners don't control them... Perhaps they changed the rules in light of this? Anyway, I called them today, and I was told categorically 'NO'.
Tel: 00 357 26815081

Fegarri Campsite, in Coral Bay, 11km North of Paphos. For a start, this campsite has received such bad reviews, everything I've read has been negative, I'm not sure I want to include this without going to check it out for myself. Anyway, unfortunately I couldn't understand everything I was being told, but the general gist was: How big is your dog? and How long do you want to stay at the campsite for? I tried to communicate the idea that I might not come and stay, I just wanted to know what their policy was. But it kept coming back to the size of the dog, and whether it would be worth their while to say yes. In summary, you might get away with it, especially if your dog is small. Definitely better to phone and check first.
Tel: 00 357 26621534

Governor's Beach Campsite, Kalymnos (between Lemessos and Larnaca). This was a similar conversation to the Fegarri Campsite one. I was asked how big my dog is, what type of dog she is, if she is well behaved (as well as when and for how long we would be staying etc etc). Finally I was told 'YES', as long as I cleaned up after us. I find it reasonable to have rules like 'Only well behaved dogs' and 'Clean up after yourselves'. I can't really see that you can discriminate by size or type of dog. I just wish there was a clear policy, yes or no. Again, I would recommend phoning in advance to check.
Tel: 00 357 25632878

Troodos Camping (2km north of Troodos resort) on the Kakopetria Road - no answer. I'll keep trying.
Tel: 00 357 25420205

In other words... none of the 4 formal campsites could tell me officially that dogs are permitted. They are not permitted at Polis Beach Campsite. Fegarri and Governor's Beach, I don't know, they didn't sound too sure.

Ok, this has nothing to do with camping. This is just a beautiful tree on the Aphrodite Nature Trail, Akamas Peninsular -for your enjoyment
From the same website - Cyprus Travel Secrets - there are 3 further sites mentioned that are not formal campsites, but areas in the Troodos mountains with basic facilities. I think this is more like a hiking/climbing retreat type of deal. If you don't mind roughing it, these might be a better bet.

Stavros Forest Station. Tel: 00 357 26991860
Kampi tou Kalogirou. Tel: 00 357 25422625
Platania. Tel: 00 357 22924225

Of the 3, only 1 answered my call. Stavros Forest Station told me sensibly, and clearly, that they don't have an official policy, but that dogs are permitted if dog and owner behave responsibly. This wasn't said as a kind of concession, or barter (as I felt with the campsites described above), rather an attempt to accommodate everybody.

My opinion, for what it's worth: If you like being out in nature, and don't need lots of facilities (maybe  not even running water...) I'd give the informal campsites a go. It seems like they would be quieter, more relaxing, and you wouldn't have to spend the whole time worrying that your dog is barking or whatever.
If roughing it is not your thing - go for one of the many lovely rent rooms up in the villages and use that as a base to explore.







Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ilios Beach Bar, Latchi... with your dog



Back in late April I hiked around the Aphrodite Nature Trail at the Akamas Peninsular, with Sage. It was a wonderful day, but pretty hot and hard going. We arrived back in civilisation exhausted and starving hungry. Picking a taverna at random somewhere that looked like it would have good food, but also a relaxed dog-friendly atmosphere, we settled on Ilios Beach Bar on the road from Aphrodite Baths towards Latchi.

Evening at Ilios Beach Bar
Photo: http://www.eliasinnlatchi.com
It seems like the Beach Bar is connected with the Elias Inn, they share facilities and a website. The menu was quite extensive with reasonable prices. We ordered a tasty homemade burger, a not so great omelette, and a couple of beers. I think we paid around 25 Euros total. 

Most importantly, the staff were all super friendly to Sage. One waitress brought her a bowl of water, unasked. The owner stopped to stroke her and talked to us about her own dog. We all felt very welcome.

This was a nice, relaxed, dog-friendly place to eat and drink, with lovely views over the beach. Perfect after a long hike around the Akamas

Beer at Ilios Beach Bar after Akamas hike


Have a look at the photos and menu of the Elias Inn too: http://www.eliasinnlatchi.com

Monday, 24 June 2013

Stay at the Vouni Lodge... with your dog

Breakfast in the courtyard outside our apartment

I've just got back from a really lovely weekend away at Vouni, in the Lemessos district, and have to tell you about the beautiful apartment that we stayed in. I found the Vouni Lodge from the Responsible Travel website: http://www.responsibletravel.com, actually because I read a review from a previous guest who claimed they had problems with a fellow guest's dog (all the other reviews were extremely positive, I should add). Always on the lookout for dog-friendly hotels and apartments it caught my attention, so I did a bit more research - even negative reviews can bring in customers, see?

Anyway, the Lodge is in a very quiet and peaceful village - Vouni - about 30 km from Lemessos and the lovely coastline around by ancient Kourion, and about 20 km from the Troodos mountains. It is a beautifully restored old stone house, which buffers the extreme temperatures of outside and stayed lovely and cool all through the day. It's a perfect escape from the heat of Cypriot summer. Saying that, we were quite tempted by the idea of a Christmas/wintery stay too, huddling around the fireplace....

Bedroom of the Helena Apartment
Living and kitchen area of the Helena Apartment
There are 3 apartments at the Lodge, two on the ground floor opening onto the courtyard, and one on the upper storey with a large balcony and great views out over the village and surrounding hills.

We stayed in the Helena, which was gorgeous. The owners have put a great effort into keeping the traditional feel of the place, displaying lots of timber and exposed stone throughout the space, and decorating with simple furnishings. On the other hand, all the facilities were new and in good condition - bathroom, kitchen etc, and they have even provided wireless internet!

It really seemed a place to escape to for at least a week (you could even bring your laptop and continue working), and a great base to explore the other  small villages in the area, as well as trips into the Troodos mountains for walking, cycling, nature watching....

And the best part? It is pet-friendly. This is stated on the website. I still checked, and the owners were very accommodating. Reading the Visitors' Book, it seems like quite a few people have brought their pets with them (including a cat!), or otherwise enjoyed adopting the small, friendly stray from the village. But not to put off those who don't have pets - the apartment was spotlessly clean.

As well as the courtyard area which was completely sealed once the gate was closed, there was a small garden for Sage to explore, full of flowers, olive trees and overhanging vines.
In the garden at the Vouni Lodge
This weekend there was nobody else there, so we could relax and let Sage have the run of the place. Inevitably, if there were other guests in the other apartments, we would have had to keep more of an eye on her. The local cats who sunbathe on the balcony are also a minor consideration, depending on your dog.

Prices start from 45E per night if you are staying for a week or more, and I got the feeling it might depend a bit on the season too. We paid 60E per night.

Email: Vouni.Lodge@cytanet.cy
Telephone: +357 22 323385
Mobile: +357 99 685395




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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tochni Heritage Cafe Bar... with your dog

Courtyard at Tochni Heritage Cafe Bar
Photo: https://www.facebook.com/tochniheritage
Exploring around the small villages of this area, between the towns of Larnaca and Lemessos, we came across this taverna. I think it was April, and quite late in the day, so we weren't really expecting to find anywhere serving food in the village. We were pleasantly surprised.

The owners of the Tochni Heritage Cafe Bar are an English couple, who told us they had fairly recently taken over management of the taverna. They were extremely friendly and welcoming. As well as asking lots of questions about Sage, they sat to pet her for some time. They talked about the dog grooming salon that they run, and clearly had a love of animals.

It is a beautifully restored building, with rent rooms and dining area around a courtyard, with a fantastic shady arcade on one side. At the time of year that we were there you could hear frogs croaking in the small stream just outside of the taverna.

There was generally a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the taverna, and a mixed clientele of rather elderly locals and desperately muscular, healthy tourists on cycling holidays.

Being completely honest, the menu was a bit uninspiring. We ordered chicken salad, haloumi sandwich and chips, which was most of the menu. However, it was early in the year, so I think the owners were keeping it simple until the tourist season picked up. They provide updates on facebook about changes to their menu, specials, changes in opening hours etc, plus art exhibitions and events taking place in Tochni:   https://www.facebook.com/tochniheritage
It was fairly standard prices for Cyprus. I would definitely like to go back and see what they have done with the summer menu.



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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

About us

Sage when I adopted her, at about 6 months
I found Sage outside the post office in Heraklion, one Saturday morning. I still don't know why I stopped to play with her, but she had me under her spell right from the start. I had set out that morning to buy groceries, and came home with a young, excited, slightly scared, little black dog.

We have been inseparable ever since. I bought an old car so that I could take her with me when I went to work in other parts of the island (and for fun trips of course). While I was living in Crete I was lucky enough to work in a dog-friendly environment, and would take her with me every day. My boss and colleagues loved playing with her!

I made lots of friends among the dog walkers of Heraklion. We would go out walking and talking along the walls, and sitting and drinking in the parks of Heraklion, with our dogs. We'd take the dogs on hikes, days out, for camping. Sage has been to live concerts and festivals in the park, to archaeological excavations, to deserted beaches, and to snowy mountains.

Playing in the snow on Mount Psiloritis, Crete (January 2012)
Sleeping on the beach near Agia Fotini, South Crete
After two and a half great years we left Crete and moved to Cyprus. On the one hand, this was really difficult, as we had to leave people and places behind that we love.
Sage and her best friend Mayia

On the other hand, we have a whole new island to discover. Almost every weekend we have been exploring, a new hiking trail, a new coastal area, going for lunch at a new taverna, stopping for drinks in a new village...






And, we get to spend more time with people we love here too.

So I'm going to write up the experiences we had during our time in Crete, in the city of Heraklion where we lived, and the many amazing places we visited all over the island. At the same time, I'm reporting on the new places we're finding here in Cyprus. I'll be describing our typical walks and 'entertainment' in Larnaca where we are living, as well as the trips out to the Troodos mountains, to the beautiful coastal landscape of the Famagusta District, to the mountain villages and hiking trails of the Akamas Heights, and many more.

This blog is intended as a travel guide based on personal experience. Traveling with Sage provides an excellent test. She is big (+30kg), black, and scary (to those who don't know her). However, she is very well behaved and calm, I really trust her, and she rarely barks. So I know that if we are welcomed in somewhere  A) most other dogs, whatever their size, will also be welcome there, and  B) the owners won't regret it. 

I hope it helps others to enjoy traveling and exploring these beautiful places, together with their 'best friends' .....



Monday, 17 June 2013

Walking, cycling, or jogging around Athalassa woods... with your dog

I will say from the beginning - I did not enjoy this walk.

We turned up at the large woodland area called Athalassa Park, a short distance from Nicosia, and the first thing I saw were signs on every tree and gate saying 'No Dogs Allowed'. It did look like the main part of the park was fairly lovely. We were there on a Sunday and it was full of cyclists, families out picnicking, couples out having romantic walks. But, no dogs. And very explicitly so.

They had designated a small area of the park to be dog-friendly, and this was clearly marked on the maps displayed in the park. So off we went.
Area of Athalassa Park where dogs are permitted
Actually, this is the only designated dog-friendly area I have seen  in Cyprus, (I am sure there are others, but so far this is all I have seen).

Despite being an area for dogs, however, there was not a single bin provided along the route. We had to temporarily stash our bag of poo in a conspicuous place so as not to carry it all round the park. Another negative for me was that, in contrast to the Anti-Dog section of the park that looked densely wooded and green, this section was barren and burnt and brown. I'm sure Sage didn't really mind, but had it been a hotter day we would really have suffered.  

Sage and I on the Dogs Permitted path at Athalassa Park
To make matters worse, we got quite lost at some point. It seemed like the Dogs Permitted path just kind of tapered out, and we found ourselves among fields with a distinctly military feel. At some point the path we were on ended in a field, and we were considering crossing the field when we saw a notice nailed the gate warning of land mines!!! 

And then it started to rain. This is a kind of rain that is more typical of the tropics than Europe, although it does rain like this in Greece too. It's the kind of rain that begins out of nowhere. It doesn't drizzle a bit and pick up force, it's as if someone suddenly starts emptying entire buckets of water on you, and doesn't stop this flow for at least half an hour. The path we were on turned into a muddy river that literally starting coming over the top of my shoes. My skirt was wrapped around my legs, glued there with mud and rain. I'd optimistically put on sun cream in the morning, which ran into my eyes rendering me blind. And we were still lost. 

We started heading in what felt like the right direction, cutting across paths and small patches of woodland, but couldn't see the sign posts anywhere. We couldn't really see anything at this point. Sage seemed like she was having a good time though - she always liked rain. Then the storm really caught hold, with thunder rumbling continuously all around us, sounding dangerously close, and intense bright flashes of lightning. Reaching a point that was clearly wrong, where we could either continue our present path up to a military base at the top of a steep hill, or cut across a corn field, we decided to go cross country. I could see Sage bounding ahead, circling round, leaping up and down through the corn - having a wonderful time. Myself, I was trying to decide which was the biggest threat to our safety - snakes, lightning, or land mines? 

Anyway, we made it out of the field and somehow got back to the car park, and our adventures ended there. We never did go back and collect the bag of dog poo though. 

So if you are looking for a place to go with your dog for walks, jogging, or even cycling, in the Nicosia area, you could try the dog-friendly section of the Athalassa Park. I hope you enjoy it more than I did. 

See the description on the website for the Department of Forests: http://www.moa.gov.cy/moa/fd/fd.nsf/DMLparks_en/DMLparks_en 





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Friday, 14 June 2013

Join the Eastern Cyprus Walking Group... with your dog


EC Walking Group
This week Sage and I joined the EC Walking Group for one of their fortnightly walks. They proved to be a very welcoming, friendly group. Their goal is for sociable 'rambles' and exploring the countryside of Eastern Cyprus, more than scaling mountains and trekking through the wilderness.

Their website : http://www.ecwalking.com states that dogs are welcome, provided that they're kept on a lead, and that dog poo is picked up. It's really nice to see this - firstly that they have thought about the matter and decided to invite dogs, and secondly that they set down the rules clearly and reasonably. 

So we went along. We started near the Kermia Beach hotel, walked inland to the church of Agia Paraskevi, then followed some paths round to the beach road (Kryou Nerou) and back to the start point. It was a route of about 5.5km. 


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I must admit that I did struggle a bit to keep hold of Sage on her lead, while carrying enough water for the both of us, as well as, for about 10 minutes until I found a bin, a nice steaming bag of poo. It's not the way I usually like to introduce myself to a new group.

One little adventure we had happened while I was mid-conversation with one of the group members, and suddenly saw Sage stooping to lick some pile of blue powder off the ground. I am particularly anxious about mysterious blue powders after a horrific incident when Sage ate (blue coloured) rat poison we had put down in the storeroom where I was working... that's a story for another time. The EC walking group organiser reassured me that local running groups mark out their routes with blue coloured flour, and such markers as these are commonly found on the paths around there. And if you think it's strange that my dog would eat flour, that's because you don't know my dog.

Short break at the church of Agia Paraskevi
Flowering thistle I saw along the route
The walk was a bit short, especially since we'd travelled quite far just to get to the starting point, but it had been shortened due to the heat. The group will meet on Tuesday evenings from now until the end of the summer, so that it's not too hot. I'm looking forward to joining them for some longer walks once the weather gets cooler and they revert to the morning programme.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Go to the beach... with your dog


It seems to me that there is almost nowhere in the whole of Cyprus where you can let your dog run around, get the exercise they need, chase after a ball, get covered in sand...

Every evening, around 7 o'clock when it starts to cool down, I see hordes of people out circling the streets of Larnaca. They stop, dog straining at the leash, and have a quick sniff at a pile of rubbish, or a grass verge, a car tyre. Then they shuffle on. Both dog and walker have done this route hundreds of times, there seems very little joy in the whole thing.

I do understand that there needs to be strict laws to ensure that dog owners act responsibly, and have control over their animals at all times when out in public spaces. BUT, should there not be a place that you can all let your hair down? A place where you can relax and not have to worry that person coming towards you is going to complain, or that parent over there is looking at you anxiously. A place where dogs are actually allowed. And if you go there, as a non-canine, you know the deal and you can't complain about it.

Everything is prohibited at Finikoudes beach,
including dogs of course 
I have been trying to get to the bottom of whether or not there are legal dog-friendly beaches in Cyprus, and it has not been easy. Firstly, there are a million different, contradictory articles online. I have asked pet owners, pet shop owners, and vets, they all tell me different things. I have been hunting the coasts looking for 'dogs allowed' signs......... everybody seems to have a different understanding.

In fact, there was a law passed in 2003 that each of the 5 districts of (southern) Cyprus should have a designated dog-friendly beach. Let's be specific here, when we say 'beach' - we're not talking about the areas of outstanding natural beauty with golden sands and palm trees, we're talking small, rocky areas that nobody goes to, where there is access to the sea.

Between 2003 and 2011 nothing much was done about this, with one big, notable exception...........
     
In 2008, an area of coast was designated dog friendly in the area of Louma beach, Agia Napa, organised and maintained by the municipality. This is still a designated dog beach today.  
      

In 2011, 5 areas were put forward to be dog-friendly beaches, including the existing beach in the Agia Napa (Famagusta) area:  

    Sign on deserted coast in Softades area, Larnaca District:
    'Dogs are forbidden on the beach and in the sea' (tr.)
  • Famagusta Louma Area 
34 58.796 N 33 56.584 E
34 58.820 N 33 56.603 E
  • Larnaca Softades
34 49.001 N 33 32.776 E
34 49.015 N 33 32.838 E
  • Lemesos Tsierkezoi (port)
34 38.477 N 33 00.642 E
34 38.423 N 33 00.617 E
34 39.492 N 32 38.842 E
  • Pafos Acheleia (airport)
34 43.721 N 32 27.439 E
34 43.750 N 32 27.376 E
  • Nicosia District Mansura (Pirgos)
35 11.624 N 32 38.756 E
35 11.637 N 32 38.677 E

These coordinates are given on various English and Greek websites, such as Cyprus Highlights: 
http://www.cyprushighlights.com/en/index.php/2011/12/04/table-positions-areas-for-dog-beaches-famagusta-area-louma/

Very sensibly,  this was set up as a trial run - to be reviewed at the end of 2013. There were all sorts of plans including bins for dog poo, sign posts to show the limits of the dog beach, toilets for owners etc etc.....

See the article on the About Larnaca website : http://www.about-larnaca.info/2011/09/sand-and-sea-for-dogs-at-last.html

But inevitably, this didn't happen. The authorities did not put in the infrastructure, nobody knows whether the beaches were officially declared dog friendly or not, there are stories of people reported to the authorities in Lemesos for taking their dog to the designated area. See:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Dog+beaches+'exist+only+on+paper'.-a0300600641

This is no small issue. As well as regular complaints, being reported, and life generally being made unpleasant - there are hefty fines for having a dog on the beach anywhere out of the so-called 'designated areas', and even, so it is claimed, a possible prison sentence (ok ok, I'm sure this is reserved for extreme situations, but still...)

***In summary, the only dog beach that we can be sure of is the one at Louma, near Agia Napa in the Famagusta District ***

Party in Agia Napa anyone?
Photo: http://weinterrupt.com/2011/07/friends-dont-let-friends-drink-and-buy-puppies/

Follow link below for legal document (in Greek) concerning the protection of beaches. Section 5Δ  (e) deals with dogs on the beach and in the sea:  http://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/mcit/psc/psc.nsf/All/91CC7AF137BCB01FC2257AD00037D2F9/$file/Ο%20περί%20Προστασίας%20της%20Παραλίας%20Νόμος.pdf

Drinking in Larnaca... with your dog


My list of dog-friendly (and dog-unfriendly) bars in the Larnaca area is more advanced than my lists for the other areas of Cyprus because we live in Larnaca and, well, we like a drink. There's nothing better than combining an evening dog walk with a cool beer in a square or by the beach somewhere. So I'm going to give a list of the places that have welcomed us, those that have tolerated us, and those that have turned us away (sniff). I'm going to edit this post, and add to it as we discover more places.

It should be said before we start, a lot of this comes down to the people working at the time, usually whether they like dogs themselves, rather than a stated policy of the bar. It's probably a good idea to always check first that it's ok.


Dog-friendly
Name: Stoa cafe bar   
Address: Opposite the church of Saint Lazarus (Michalaki Paridi Street)
Comment: We went there twice in the Spring. Both times Sage and I had been at the beach with my nephews, sister, brother in law. We were covered in sand and mud, and still they happily agreed to let us sit inside. Food was simple, but good and cheap. There are several tables outside for sitting enjoying the view of the late 9th century church, watching the people go by


Name: Stone Age Pub
Address: Laiki Geitonia (few metres up from Finikoudes Beach in a side street)
Comment: We went there fairly early on a Thursday evening, in May. The barman told us he had a dog that he often brought in to work with him, so he had a little plastic bowl of water ready for Sage when he brought out the beers.  I imagine if it was late on a Friday or Saturday, especially in full summer, this might have been a chaotic nightmare to have Sage with me, but mid week and not too late, it's a nice dog-freindly bar. The music is rock (Greek and American mostly), but they advertise reggae nights and live music
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stone-Age-Pub/158724704203647



Name: Aquarium Cafe-Bar
Address: Larnaca Marina
Comment: Very welcoming and friendly. Owners helped us to arranged tables to sit out on the marina, and said we could sit inside (on the top deck) if we wanted. Great decor, lovely atmosphere. Animal loving owners (regularly feed local stray cats on the marina)


Dog-tolerant
Name: Da Vinci Cafe bar
Address: St Lazarus Square
Comment: I think this depends on the bar/serving staff, but we were not made to feel welcome at all. As nothing was said about Sage being with us, we sat outside and had her tucked under a chair to one side,  this cafe has been rated 'dog-tolerant', although I must add that I don't recommend it apart from for location


Name: Savino Rock Bar
Address: 9 Watkins Street
Comment: Nothing to say. We were tolerated. It was fine



Name: Pelagos Mediterranean Bar & Grill
Address: Larnaca - Dhekelia Road (opposite Police Oroklinis)
Email: angelossavva@aol.com   Tel: 00 357 24647721
Comment: This place is a bit 'posher' than the kind of bars and restaurants we normally go to. They have a large indoor section, and an outdoor terrace right next to the sea. Prices were a little high, about 20 Euro for a main dish. We just sat and had a glass of wine by the sea. The waitress was lovely, even though she was clearly not a dog-lover, she made us feel welcome


Name: Finis Beach Bar
Address: Finikoudes Beach
Comment: We often popped in for a drink after an evening wander around Finikoudes during the winter and early spring. We would sit huddled in jumpers and coats against the cold wind from the sea, and never asked to sit inside. Still, we never had any problems from owner or staff. Since the beach bar is very crowded during the summer, and dogs are strictly not allowed on the beach, this is absolutely a no-go until October/November. Prices here are among the most expensive in Cyprus too (4E for local draft beer)
http://www.finisbeachbar.com


Dog-unfriendly
Pretty much all of the bars and cafes along the promenade at Finikoudes are out of the question with a dog, at least during the summer. I stopped at one for a take out coffee in the winter and the waitress nearly had a heart-attack, even though I held Sage on a lead outside of the cafe. In the summer there are just way too many people along this stretch. Perhaps with a small lap-dog this would be ok, but with anything bigger I would strongly advise against even trying




Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Imogen's Inn, Kathikas... with your dog

In the courtyard at Imogen's Inn      
Photo: http://www.gmbds.com/imogensa.htm
As well as keeping you posted on any new adventures that we have, I'm trying to fill in some gaps retrospectively (the many lovely places we visited before I made the decision to write this blog).

So, we spent a long weekend in the village of Pano Arkourdalia back in late April (see Places to stay > Chloe's House). Realising that there were no shops in the village, and so nothing to eat, we got a bit frantic. Food is kind of a big feature in this family, at least for Sage and I it is.

Even though we had stocked up in the nearest supermarket on olives, cheese, bread, a nasty cheap box of wine (yes - box!), we were still feeling like we were missing something. Looking up in our guide book I found out that the nearby village of Kathikas is famous for wine producing. This seemed the perfect excuse to forget about our lowly picnic, and go up to Kathikas for dinner and some local wine.

For wineries in the area see K and K Vasilikon Winery:  http://www.snooth.com/winery/k-and-k-vasilikon-winery-kathikas-ltd-kathikas/ and Sterna Winery: http://www.gmbds.com/sternam.htm

We arrived, as usual, one of us standing back with Sage, looking awkward and hungry, and trying to make her seem smaller and 'sweeter' than she is. Ok, to me she is desperately sweet, but first impressions, you know? The staff there were incredibly friendly, petting her, getting us some water without us even asking, a smile or a pat every time they went by. It's always such a relief when we get that kind of response.

Interior of Imogen's Inn
The food was great, and reasonably priced. I don't remember exactly, but we paid around 15E per person, for mixed meze and a bottle of local wine. They are particularly recommended for a good range of vegetarian dishes.The taverna inside looked lovely, and outside in the courtyard was really atmospheric. This is the link to the taverna:  http://www.gmbds.com/imogensa.htm   You can find their menu online.

It was all very romantic... even when the electricity was cut and we were pitched into darkness. But then, with a great crash, the taverna opposite started up a very old, very noisy generator, right outside Imogen's courtyard. The staff at Imogen's tried to reason with them, as they continued their own cooking by candlelight with gas, but they paid no notice. After that it was pretty hard to hear each other over the death rattle of the generator, and it kind of killed the mood.

I really liked this taverna, even with the power problems. And Sage appreciated the attention, and the few bits of sausage that fell into her lap.

For the location of Kathikas, see link below
https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&oe=UTF-8&q=kathikas+cyprus+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x14e70bee5771fdc5:0xf8a674781df51754,Kathikas,+Cyprus&ei=Ij23UY75KMbBtQazjoGYDA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Monday, 10 June 2013

Periptero H Mesaoria, Pyrga... with your dog

Periptero H Mesaoria, Pyrga (Cafe "In between the mountains", Pyrga)

We stopped at such a lovely little cafe yesterday, at the entrance to the village of Pyrga, in the Larnaca district. The name means "in between the mountains", which is the name of the large plain between Morfou and Famagusta through the centre of the island.

For directions click here:   https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&oe=UTF-8&q=pyrga+larnaca&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x14e0a1de017aae67:0xc767b6bfa0be64db,Pyrga,+Cyprus&ei=XsS1UanoF4Sw4QSK_4DABw&ved=0CJEBELYD

Google Map of area of Pyrga and Kornos, Larnaca district
The cafe was extremely basic, with a few plastic tables set out beneath a huge, dazzling pink bourgainvillea. Sitting in the shade, playing tavli (backgammon), were a few of the local men of the village. There were flowers in pots all through the small, shady garden, which backed onto a small woodland area full of pine trees. This place really reminded me of some of the hidden away cafes and tavernas I have discovered in Crete.

We only had a beer, so I can't say anything about the menu. A board at the entrance mentioned sandwiches, souvlaki, and meat cooked in the oven - but there was no sign of this while we were there.  Although there was an amazing old oven in the garden.
                                                   
Traditional wood oven 
The woman serving us was so sweet about Sage. She was anxious to make sure Sage had enough water, and asked all sorts of questions - she was really welcoming and friendly.

I think Sage enjoyed it too - all sorts of interesting smells from the garden and the woods, cats prowling around, some shade to relax in, and lots of attention from everyone there.

In the area:  We had just been hiking around the area of Stavrovouni, a 4th century monastery with fantastic views of the Mesaoria below (more about that in the next post). An alternative day out would be to explore the pottery village of Kornos, although when we drove through yesterday we didn't find anything open. In the village of Pyrga itself is the beautiful church of St Marina, founded in the 12th century, as well as the Royal Chapel (14th century, dedicated to St Catherine). There are some amazing wall paintings surviving in both. For the Royal Chapel see: http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/DA/DA.nsf/All/40727CE6E1B36148C225719900323A59?OpenDocument

I suppose hiking up to the monastery, which is on the E4 route, is more dog-friendly fun than admiring churches, but it's a question of compromise, right?

In the cafe garden 


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Chloe's House, Pano Akourdalia, Pafos district... with your dog

Traditional oven between our apartment (left) and the main house
I was looking for a picturesque, traditional holiday apartment for a weekend away. Searching on the Cyprus Agrotourism website: (http://www.agrotourism.com.cy), which lists a large number of lovely looking houses, studios, apartments, even spas, in all areas of Cyprus, I found a suitable looking place in a village called Pano Akourdalia, in the Pafos district. A little more searching and I got the phone number of the house owner, and called to ask if I could bring Sage too.

Chloe Stylianou, who rents out the house and studio apartment, immediately put my mind at rest about bringing Sage. We stayed in the smaller apartment, which admittedly does not have the beautiful furniture, traditional wooden four-poster beds with hand woven bed covers, nor traditional Cypriot pottery that the 2 bedroom house does.... but she allowed us all in to the house to have a nose while we were there, and invited us to come and stay there in the future.

Breakfast outside the apartment
Our apartment was very basic. The furniture was old and quirky, in quite an interesting way, although not exactly what you'd consider 'traditional' (for example, matching faded cameo panels on the white wardrobe and matching bed head). Dotted around the terrace were a variety of kitchen containers, now housing slightly sad looking geraniums. Below the terrace was a field of dense vegetation. We had a spider above the bed on the first night that could pretty fairly be called a tarantula - which meant that it took me half an hour to get the courage to go to the bathroom in the night, checking every wall and floor surface...

But in case this all sounds negative, I actually had lovely time. The village was peaceful. The views from the terrace were lovely. The surrounding mountains were beautiful - the drive up to the village from Pafos was spectacular. Built in 1900, and tastefully restored in 1999, the main house looked gorgeous. It was great not to worry too much about tidying up after ourselves (I did sweep, but Sage leaves a trail of black hairs and mud wherever she goes). It really felt like an escape to a place that was comfortable, and was ours.

The apartment had a double bed, a kitchenette, and bathroom. The terrace was shared with residents of the house next door. Sage particularly liked all the outdoor space, the terrace, the field, all enclosed with a sturdy gate. We paid 50E per night for the apartment; the house costs 80E per night and sleeps up to 5 persons.

The village was a bit of a disappointment. We arrived fancying a glass of wine on the terrace, to enjoy the evening light over the fields - but there was no shop in the village. There was nothing much of anything in the village. It seems these villages now survive only for this kind of agrotourism, with very few people managing to live there permanently. There was something called a "Herb Garden" (http://kypros.org/Projects/Laona/), which looked intriguing, with a kafeneio inside - but it was closed whenever we went by.

On the other hand, I loved the area more generally. The nearby village of Kathikas had some lovely places to eat (I'll be writing about that later), the town of Polis was quite inviting, the Akamas Peninsular was fantastic (again, for a later post), the Avakas Gorge was amazing - and all this was reachable within a 15-20 minute drive. After the dry, flat plains of much of southern Cyprus, and the busy, sprawling towns, it was just lovely to be out on winding mountain roads, enjoying the small villages, trees and fields and green spaces of this part of the island. I absolutely recommend it for anyone who likes being out and about in nature, especially if you have a dog.

Sage at Avakas Gorge



Melander Beach Taverna, Pissouri... with your dog





Although a great number of tavernas and bars have either welcomed us, or at least turned a blind eye to the big black beast lying under my chair, I wanted to recommend a few in particular, individually. I mainly want to recommend those places that have done a little bit extra to make us feel welcome. Some of the places, however, will make the list by virtue of being at least semi dog-friendly, and just really nice places to eat/drink.

Melanda Beach Taverna. Photo:
http://www.exclusively-cyprus.com
One of the best tavernas I’ve been to here in Cyprus has to be Melander Beach Taverna, Avdimou Beach, Pissouri. We were driving back to Larnaca from Paphos, looking for somewhere nice to stop for food. A few places we stopped at around the Petra tou Romiou area, from the old Paphos-Lemesos road, seemed from the car parks to be too busy to turn up with a dog. Some point along the B6 from Paphos (before ancient Kourion and Lemesos), we saw a small sign for Melander Beach Taverna, and decided to give it a go. 


After quite a long drive down an unmade road, following sporadic signs that showed which fork in the dirt path to take, we arrived at the beach. It was well worth the detour.  The beach itself is not particularly amazing, but it is a nice stretch of mostly undeveloped coast line, with the typically brilliant, clean, blue sea found all over Cyprus. It was quite early in the year (late April), so it could be that the beach gets jam packed in the summer months ...a great excuse for me to go back and check, maybe this weekend... but there were a few people there, mostly families, and it seemed a nice atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon. It goes without saying that I did not take Sage onto the beach itself, however. 

Melanda Beach Taverna. Photo:
http://www.exclusively-cyprus.com
We checked if it was ok to have Sage come in, and they were fine about it. Another woman came in a bit later with a golden lab, and seemed like they were regulars there. The taverna is mostly outside, with tables on a sheltered platform above the beach. It is all a bit sandy, which takes the pressure off when arriving with a beast. 

We ate a very reasonable pork steak, and fish (grilled octopus and prawns), and Sage finished off various prawn heads and whatever else fell her way under the table. The food was good, the atmosphere was lovely, the view was great, and dogs are welcome. We paid around 10E per head for one course, salad, and several beers.

My photos are not great (another good excuse to go back), but I did find some nice photos and positive reviews on TripAdvisor, and from this website: http://www.exclusively-cyprus.com/restaurants3.htm






Saturday, 8 June 2013

Hiking, jogging and picnics at Lake Aliki, Larnaca.... with your dog



Picnic area near entrance to Hala Sultan Teke
The area of lake Aliki, the largest of the four salt lakes at Larnaca, is an excellent place for dog walking. You can stop almost anywhere around the edge of the lake and find a bench to sit on and admire the view, or a series of paths that wind through woodland, marshy areas, parkland. And I have not yet seen a ‘no dogs allowed’ sign. 


One approach to Aliki is from the Kamares area of Larnaca, close by the road (B5) from Larnaca to Limassol. Here a number of paths criss-cross around the nearby fields and lake. Cyclists, joggers, and dog-walkers share this space, mainly harmoniously. 

Another option is to turn off the road that goes to Larnaca Airport from the town (B4) and there, next to the lake, you will find parking areas, a nice pic-nic area with benches and canopies for shade, plenty of bins for dog poo, and wonderful views of the Hala Sultan Teke or Mosque of Umm Haram (I’m sure I should have said mosque before dog poo bins... but this is dog travel guide after all). 

Pathway around edge of lake to the mosque

According to some accounts, Umm Haram, who was the prophet Muhammad’s wet nurse, fell from her mule and died during the first Arab raids on Cyprus (c.649). She was buried on the spot, and later, during the Ottoman period, a mosque was built around her tomb. The mosque in its present form was completed in 1816. 

The Department of Antiquities of Cyprus describes the history of the mosque, and provides summer and winter opening times:  http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/All/18513FF955C9F917C225719900332619?OpenDocument

Further on up the road from the mosque (away from the airport), are the sites of several excavations of the Bronze Age settlement at Hala Sultan. During the 1960s, the Department of Antiquities excavated a series of Late Bronze Age tombs. From 1971 until 2007 Swedish excavations were undertaken, the publication of which has been taken over by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (see website: http://www.vub.ac.be/mari/HalaSultanTekke.html). More recent excavations, by the Department of Antiquities and the Univeristy of Gothenburg, Sweden began in 2011: http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/All/C8FF86C38B382F40422578EA003B5BED?OpenDocument. The site is not open to public, and does not have information boards, it is an on-going excavation, but the area all around there is wonderful for exploring. 

The area around the mosque is completely colonised by cats. It probably is not possible to leave your dog anywhere outside while you pop in to see the mosque, unless your dog is especially fond of cats (we counted 17 on our last visit). However, the whole area is lovely for walking, jogging, sitting on a bench and admiring the view. 

A final warning, we have tended to go to the lake in the evenings, to avoid the heat of the day - this is also the favourite time (and place) of ALL mosquitoes of Cyprus. Definitely worth visiting, but definitely need mosquito repellent. 

Lake Aliki in the summer...
Walking on the salt deposited when the lake evaporates during the summer
 In the summer months, the lake shrinks to almost nothing, and leaves a thick residue of salt. We went recently, in late September, and I hadn't seen it like this before! It's a very strange sensation to walk over the salt, like hard-packed snow.

There is another parking spot at the side of the lake, before the turning for the mosque. Here you will find a very thorough information board, that describes the history of the salt industry in Larnaca, the flora and fauna around the lake, archaeological sites, and how the lake was formed. It's well worth going for a look, if you are in the area in late summer.

Hike around Cape Gkreko, Agia Napa...with your dog



As usual, we didn’t do the full walk as described on most hiking websites, such as WalkCyprus (http://www.walkcyprus.com), which suggest starting out from the Sea Caves at  Cape Gkreko, around the coast to Konnos Bay (10.8km, moderate walk).  Instead, we left the car in the parking area by the church of Agioi Anargyroi, and walked back around the coastal paths, towards the Sea Caves.

This was a pleasant walk which took us around the peninsular. We stopped following the directed paths at some point, as the weather was just too hot for serious walking, and we were trying to find a way down to the sea. We did find a place where we could all cool off, although Sage didn’t brave a full jump from the rocks. 

I would definitely recommend this walk either during winter/early spring, or early in the morning/evening (as with most hikes around Cyprus in fact), as there was very little shade, and few places to access the sea. In addition, we seemed to time our visit with the lunchtime stop over of about 5 different day tripping boats, competing with each other to see who could play the loudest, most irritating music. These boats stopped, unloaded their passengers into the sea for a few minutes, then carried on around the coast, so I think we were just unlucky with our timing. 

Sage watching a boat full of tourists cruising around the peninsular
I didn't see any signs forbidding dogs, which you do see fairly frequently in woodland areas and parks in Cyprus, so we could relax a bit. On the other hand, there were only a few bins along the paths, so we ended up carrying steaming bags of poo around with us for half of the route.

I don’t think this was one of Sage’s favourite walks; the lack of shade or water to play in definitely count against it. From my side, I really enjoyed seeing all the coastal plants, many of which had been marked with information panels, including sea fennel (kritamos) and thyme. For information about the flora and fauna of the area: 
http://www.visitcyprus.com (click on Experience > Rural & Nature > Cape Gkreko National Forest Park). Also, the caves around this part of the coast are quite spectacular, and definitely worth seeing. The sea was looking beautiful, glistening in the sun, almost impossible to resist. I am sure that a well-timed visit, possibly early evening, would be a lovely experience. 


I've been back to this area, since I wrote this post, so just thought I'd add a few details...
We brought some visitors to Cape Gkreko, one evening in late June. We stopped off at the sea caves, just before you reach Cape Gkreko (there is a sign post, they are easy to find), and it was well worth the visit. 
Sea Caves, Cape Gkreko
This area is really unique in Cyprus, and incredibly beautiful. We didn't walk much, just stood around admiring the view and taking photos, but this would make a really dramatic finish to the walk described above (from Konnos Bay or the parking area at the church of Agioi Anargyroi.

After that, we drove round to the church, and again left the car there, close to the picnic and bbq area, which also looked a lovely place to spend an evening in summer, or lunchtime in the autumn.

At the sea caves 
Then we walked the 1-2km down to Konnos Bay, along a nice, easy path that runs next to the sea. I will admit, there were more day-trip boats with loud music and megaphones, which did slightly ruin the sense of tranquility. But again, they left after a while, and we could enjoy the walk.

I can not really recommend Konnos Bay with your dog. There are signs forbidding animals on the beach, and it is a small, sandy cove, with sun-chairs and umbrellas...not ideal for dogs. We took it in turns to swim, while the others waited in the small cantina. Again, I'm not sure how dog-friendly this place would be in the middle of summer - the bay is overlooked by a very large hotel, and it is a popular beach destination. I imagine it would get pretty crowded here in August. We were lucky, we got there as the cantina was closing - in time to buy a beer, and sit quietly looking at the view. They closed up and allowed us to stay.  


And finally, I really enjoyed the hike back. In the dark. We had an amazing view of the stars, and the path and surrounding coastline all to ourselves. However, tripping over rocks and tree roots, and loosing your way along the edge of a steep cliff may not be everyone's cup of tea...
In which case, I'd recommend that you head for the picnic area, which is organised with tables, areas for bbqs, bins for rubbish and dog mess etc, and less chance of falling off a cliff.