Local tourism always peaks in August. Hotels on the coast and mountains are rammed and Nicosia most days looks like a provincial village traffic wise. It’s so nice driving round the capital without all the bottle-necks and heated cursing between drivers.

So this summer we headed for the beach and hills, on day trips. Cyprus is not the biggest place in the world but we do have a big variety beaches. We went to Malta last summer and I was pleasantly surprised so much so that my piece on it in the Cyprus Mail was picked up by a Maltese web site. Beach wise though Malta was is fairly bland and rocky – excluding the Blue Lagoon – which we didn’t actually get to see.

Cyprus however has beaches, lots of them, and each one is different. This week the fams and me visited two radically different places.

Governers Beach probably got it’s name from the days of British Rule, when some Governer visited it. I guess it had another local name. But Governors has for some reason stuck with us, despite independence in 1960. I call the place Guv’nas Beach. It may not have the best horizon, the power plant and cement factory in the distance, but it is a pleasant enough setting, clean water, and relatively speaking not too over crowded. The sand here is manageable, washes of easily and there is only room really for one row of sunbeds, all of which are a metre or so from the sea. Great for the kids, who jumped in and out the whole day long without getting lost in the plethora of sunbeds, umbrellas and overtanned tourists – think Fig Tree Bay Protaras. Generally speaking I am not that impressed with Limassol beaches but Guv’nas is an exception. The water was clean but quiet salty. Most of the people on the beach were locals, probably because there is a big camp site up on the cliff. The restaurant, whose name will go unpublished seemed like a good option but service was lousy and one of the waiters, poor sod, was constantly sweating. This was not very appealing when drops of sweat appeared poured going all over the place! The Tuna Salad I had was lame – possibly cut hours before and chilled in the fridge. The Cyprus coffee was top notch though. We also ordered grapes which took 15 mins to land on the table. A plateful of small sweet sultana grapes were nice a tasty despite the wait – but the 5 Euros price tag seemed like extortion for the baby sized bunches. Not sure if I’d do Guv’na’s again, unless it was for a party. These happen fairly often in the summer.

Ayia Thekla is a different vibe altogether. Located just before Ayia Napa its a quiet place, easily accessible from the highway. Mainly tourists here and some locals. I guess that’s due to the proximity of Napa and a few people wanting to get away from a place like Nissi. The water is clean, not painfully salty on the eyes like Guv’nas. There is a little island about 100m out. It looks tranquil, despite two rows of sunbeds. Getting there however is a little tricky as Ayia Thekla is a bit rocky with some sand. Originally it was all rocks but many were removed. It’s very shallow though. Ideal for a young kid with a snorkel and people often fish on the other side of the island. Tread with care though my wife Marina had a very sore thigh from an anemone – oh those damn sea nettles. A bit back from the beach there’s a little sandwich bar. It’s not really a restuarant but the people who run it are friendly, cooking home dishes and some delicious chips. This is largely due to the region being famous for its potatoes. The Red Villages as they are called or in the Cyprus vernacular, Ta Kochinoxorka due to the fertile red earth used for farming. As I once said in a song, sweeter than the flava in a Cyprus potata!

The people at the snack bar also gave us a fine plate of Verigon grapes, which were compliments of the house and grown in the backyard. Verigon are the grape giants of Cyprus. Light purple and green in colour they often reach the size of a small plum and they are so juicy.

Richard the Lionheart lands in Cyprus

They took their name from a story in local history. Richard the Lionheart, that bod from England came to Cyprus during the turbulent Crusader era and took over the island from Isaac I. Up til then Richard had not married but in Cyprus he tied the knot with Berengaria of Navarre, making her Queen of Cyprus and England. Oh those royals conquering islands here and there, and giving them away to their newly weds. Any way whats all this got to do with grapes?

Apparently, local legend has it that the Lionhearted one tasted the local grapes and proclaimed them as ‘Very Good’. Well from this statement, local people who were not that well versed in the tongue of the new conquerer, took ‘Very Good’ to make it into ‘Verigon’. Reminds one of the bible in a way. Any way soon enough The Lionheart was Very Gone as he sold the island to the Knights Templar. Imagine that selling a whole island to a bunch of knights! Oh those oppressive feudal kings and queens ruling ruthlessly by divine right. So the Lionheart, who as far as I am concerned did not really live up to his name, despite the statue outside the Houses of Parliament left us ‘Verigon’ grapes and Kolossi Castle.

Back to Ayia Thekla, despite the rocks and sea nettles I’d go back there again. The place has a peaceful aura, not too over-crowded, it some times feels like a big shallow natural swimming pool.

Next stop Paphos!