Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

10 Fun Facts about the Island of Cyprus

by Carol Montrose

Although Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a little bit like the kid who came from the milkman; it sort of looks like the rest of the family, but it definitely seems different. This could be because it rests at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and it has been overrun and ruled by many different nations. If you plan to visit this enticing island, here are a few fun facts that set it apart from the rest.

1. It is nicknamed the Island of Love. As the story goes, Cyprus was the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. But its long history of love also includes the fact that it was a gift from Antony to Cleopatra; she apparently used native plants to make her own exotic perfume. Another myth has it that Richard the Lionheart skipped a year of the Crusades to live there when he fell in love with a local woman.

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Fort on the coast of Pafos, Cyprus at night. From wikimedia/Marcobadotti

2. Independence came late. The Republic of Cyprus was not born until 1960. Before that, control of the island had passed from one nation to another over the course of hundreds of years, finally resting with the British Empire until independence was granted.

3. It’s an island divided. Although the population of Greek Cypriots holds majority over the Turkish Cypriots, the many wars between the two peoples of this island necessitated a separation of cultures. For this reason, the Greeks live in the southern portion of Cyprus while the Turks occupy the north.

4. The summers are long. You might expect an average season to last about three to four months (depending on the location). But thanks to its sub-tropical climes, summer on Cyprus lasts an incredible eight months, from April through November, with average temperatures holding around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

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view from Mount Olympus, Cyprus. Photo from flickr/p2-r2

5. You can ski and go to the beach on the same trip. The gorgeous beaches are something of a trademark in Cyprus, but thanks to the height of the Troodos Mountains (around 6,400 feet at the highest point) residents and visitors can stroll the beaches (which feature temperatures in the 60s during the winter) and hit the slopes in the same day (their first ski resort is currently in the works).

6. It’s home to a famous mountain. Mount Olympus, which is notable in Greek mythology as being the home of the gods, is the tallest mountain in the Troodos range.

7. The food is fantastic. Anyone familiar with typical Mediterranean cuisine will no doubt enjoy the abundance of seafood and veggies included in the local cuisine. And visitors will also want to sample their native cheese, halloumi, which is made from a combination of goat and sheep milk.

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church ruins in northern Cyprus. Photo from flickr/Speedboat

8. The wine is impressive. Some of the Cypriot vineyards are thought to be the oldest in the world to continuously produce wine. It’s worth a sip to see what that tastes like.

9. There’s plenty to do. Whether you love art and architecture, you’re more of a sports nut, or you prefer to hit the beaches and then go shopping, there’s plenty to keep you entertained when you travel to the island of Cyprus.

10. They support tourism. The Cypriots are known as a welcoming people, and whether you’re keeping your trip low-key by staying at a B&B or you’d prefer to live in high style at Cyprus Villas, you’re going to enjoy all the hospitality that the people of Cyprus are renowned for.

Carol Montrose is a writer for Aphrodite Hills, a luxury resort and one of the most prestigious holiday destinations in the Mediterranean. In her spare time she enjoys reading and she is currently writing a book on the joys of freelancing.



09 2011

Going Solo in NYC

by Lisa Turner

A few years ago I made my way to the US from my hometown in France to check out the East Coast for at least a year. Going there on my own taught me a lot. How to be responsible for myself how to appreciate another culture, for example. I studied in Boston during that year and because the bus tickets were between $1 and $10 I spent a few weekends in NYC to see what it was all about.

solo in central park, NYC

How to pack?

So when I started to travel on my own, the question was what and how to pack? As a woman going to a fashion capital like New York City, the biggest dilemma for me was shoes. A girl can never have enough (until you try to fit them into a suitcase).

My trick is to pick only two pair of shoes, one that is comfortable and another that makes me feel sexy. And I decide of one particular style I want to go for during these few days so I can make many outfits out of less than 6 pieces of clothing.

So, now I have packed everything, I need a place to stay, and that was the other question that popped up.  If I’m a women traveling alone and on budget, where is it safe for me to stay?

How to find a safe place to stay?

There are many hostels in NYC and I have tried some of them. When you’re with friends, its fine, you don’t have to worry so much, but when it comes to going solo, then you think twice before booking a $20 hostel on the upper east side, because it seems like it’s too good to be true.

Because women now travel the world alone, there are more and more places for them to stay that don’t accept men.  For example in NYC they have Jazz on Amsterdam Ave or Pink Hostel. These are great places and very well located in the heart of NYC that will guarantee you a safe stay and a friendly ambiance. You can have a 2 people room, 4 or 8, it’s up to you.

These places are known for being fun, and very entertaining.  You meet other girls there who usually share your values and are also traveling on their own, just enjoying the great experience of being independent.

How to have fun on your own in NYC?

What I liked about going to NYC for a day or two was that I was a real tourist there and could enjoy all the fun of just walking around and getting to know the city.

Going to hostels is a sure way to meet people and make good friends.  We’re on the same boat here so I had the chance to meet nice people and hang out with them while I was in NYC and get some new addresses to go to on my next trips.

But if you want to spend some time alone, there are plenty of things to do in the city that never sleeps.  As you may expect there are many museums to go to. One of my favorites was the Frick Collection. It is a very small museum but one of the most important art museum in the US. Another great place to see is The Cloisters, a small branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was built and inspired by architectural element of French medieval monasteries. These two are small museums that won’t take long to visit but that are very interesting to see and very popular.

Even though NYC is a big city, there are many parks to go to. Of course there is the famous Central Park that you don’t want to miss. But you can also go to Battery Park, where many memorials are to be found there and it’s an opportunity to take a good look at the statue of Liberty if you don’t feel like going all the way to Liberty Island.

If you want to meet local people there’s an association called Big Apple Greeter. It aims at introducing New Yorkers and tourists to one another. I have never contacted them, but I have heard it is very successful and reliable. It is free and guarantees you a one of kind visit of NYC through the eyes of a true local.

This post was written by Lisa Turner, a traveller and blogger for who provides vacation rentals in NYC.
Photo courtesy of flickr/Ed Yourdon


08 2011

Weird Albania: 5 oddities to notice while passing through

This article originally appeared in the blog.  See the original article here.  September 2010.

A “deeply weird place” is how New York TImes travel columnist Seth Kugel aptly described Albania in 2006. While still coming of age as destination itself, it attracts more adventurous travelers who treat it as an odd little piece of the larger western Balkans puzzle. Some quirks of note in Albania:

1) Bunker madness

If good data existed about military bunkers worldwide, Albania would probably top the list for bunker density. By some high estimates, the 750,000 bunkers built during communism translate to 28 bunkers per square km and one bunker for every 4-5 citizens. The numbers square away with the landscape — these “concrete mushrooms” are ubiquitous.

weird albania: bunker madness

2) Car washes and Mercedes Benz

The chaotic traffic in capital city Tirana is Benz-heavy. Old ones, new ones, even the taxis are Mercedes Benz. Why? By one account, the Benz went out of style in the rest of Europe in the mid-90s when more fuel-efficient vehicles were introduced, so Albanians bought them at clearance sale prices. Others chalk it up to theft and corruption.

To keep the Benz fleet shiny where roads are gritty, an industry of car washes has sprung up. These “lavazh” stations are about every 100 meters. The fully automated car wash is still a thing of the future. Here, it’s usually a guy with a high pressure hose in a covered parking spot.

3) Nodding “no” and shaking “yes”

This source of endless confusion can be enchanting. Shaking one’s head from side to side does not mean “no” here. It means “right, I agree, I’m listening” while someone else is talking. Conversely, nodding one’s head up and down does not mean “yes” here. It means “sorry, I’m afraid not” and seems to accompany bad news.

Talk with the older generations to get these reversed gestures. Younger and more urban Albanians have caught on to more international non-verbals.

4) Stuffed animals at construction sites.

Where there are unfinished buildings, there are also large teddy bears hanging eerily for all to see. This is pure superstition — it wards off the evil eye. Other superstition on construction sites: mixing ram’s blood into the foundations and hanging horseshoes over the front door.

Occasionally you can spot dolls hanging in gardens and crop fields. This is for the more practical purpose of scaring off birds, but can have the added effect of spooking tourists.

5) Boxy buildings painted in technicolor.

Edi Rama, the mayor of Tirana, is also an artist. His efforts to beautify the capital have been recognised internationally. His most famous endeavor is the vibrant painting of Tirana’s previously uniform buildings with “Edi Rama colors” such as violet, green, and orange.

Some buildings are even painted in fantastic patterns like colorful plaid and argyle.

Albania is growing steadily as a destination so check it out soon. This off-beat place will only be off-the-beaten-path for so much longer.


11 2010