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Trip Report Trip Report-- Cyprus, Rome, and Athens in Feb

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Sorry for the re-post, but first time somehow didn't tag Italy and Cyprus. I'll continue on this thread...

We had a fantastic trip to Cyprus, Rome and Athens, thanks in large part to the wonderful advice I received from Fodorites. I will start by saying that this trip was initiated by my DH's business trip to Cyprus. Roughly, he needed to be in Cyprus on two consecutive weekends, with some free time in between. Perfect opportunity for a trip for me! So I started researching easy flights from Cyprus, and Rome quickly became the obvious choice. Our theme of our trip turned out to be "we wait in no lines," which again was mostly due to the great info I received from this forum.

We flew easily from Newark to London to Larnaca. Not much is written on this board about Cyprus, but we found it to be lovely. Of course, it is primarily a beach destination but we were there in February, so did not get to enjoy the typical tourist areas. We were also staying in Nicosia, which is an inland city, so did not really see the coast. Coming from the US east coast, though, we found the weather (15-20 C every day) to be spectacular. I enjoyed several days strolling around Nicosia while hubby worked. Ledra Street is the main shopping street in the old city and has lots of cafes, shops etc. One of the main social experiences of Cypriots is drinking coffee... it seemed like every other business was a coffee shop. Frappes or espresso freddo (ice coffees) are especially popular, and I must say I quite enjoyed sampling them. I walked all around the old city, including the walls and Famagusta gate, and crossed the green line several times into North Nicosia . Nicosia is a divided city, as the north part of the city (and country) are Turkish-occupied. It was very easy, though to cross between the two sides just by showing your passport. On the Turkish side, we had a delightful lunch in the sun, eating within the walls of the Buyuk Han. I also spent an afternoon at the hammam, experiencing a Turkish bath for the first time in my life. Magnificent!

One day I took the bus from Nicosia to Limassol. It was an easy and pleasant ride, and I got a nice view of the water as we rode along the coast. I wandered around the old port area, and enjoyed the castle/ medieval museum. A very nice day. On another evening, DH's business associates treated us to one of the best meals of my life. We went to a traditional Greek taverna. It was the kind of place we never would have known existed if traveling on our own... we walked through a non-descript, unidentified door into an open courtyard with an outdoor stove, then indoors again to our table. We were a group of 8 (4 couples). After the wine was poured (Cypriot wine is really good!) the food started arriving... and arriving and arriving. First there were several different vegetables, then pita and tahini, then cheese, more vegetables, sausages, and then plates and plates of meat (souvlaki). More wine, more toasts... we felt really welcomed to this small little country and made new friends in our wonderful hosts.

We really enjoyed Nicosia, though after a few days I felt I had really seen and done everything there was there. I'm guessing most visitors to Cyprus would be satisfied with a day trip. I should add that the economic difficulties of the country are apparent in the number of empty storefronts throughout the city. Ledra Syreet and several other areas are bustling, but there are many streets in the old city that are essentially abandoned. I should add, though, that I always felt completely safe everywhere I went, including walking by myself at night.

After a long weekend in Nicosia (Thurs- Mon) we were off to Rome! Just like on our flights over, no lines at the airports, sailed right through. Oh the joys of traveling in February!

PART 2- ROME

One challenge was that we were not exactly sure which day DH would need to return to Cyprus the second weekend (somewhere between Thurs night and Sun morning), so planning had to be a little fluid. I planned enough stuff for us to do in Rome for five days, in case we had the good fortune to stay that long. It turned out we were there for four, so my planned day trip to Orvieto got scratched.

We absolutely loved our hotel choice... the Hotel Campo de Fiori. Outstanding location with a fabulous rooftop deck. I thought it was reasonably priced given the quality and location, but again I think traveling in Feb got me a good deal. We arrived around lunchtime, and were blessed with glorious weather for an outdoor lunch on the Campo. We then walked over to the forum area. First, we hiked to the top of the Vittorio Emmanuele II memorial and took in the views, and the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Next we started strolling toward the Colosseum, snapping photos of the forum along the way. Then I noticed the forum ticket booth, and told my DH that this is where all the Fodorites say to buy their Colosseum tickets. No line at all, so we bought our tickets, then had a lovely stroll through the forum on our way to the Colosseum. I was surprised at this time of year to see a such a lengthy line for tickets at the Colosseum (I'm guessing an hour wait), but felt very smug as we walked right past them with our tickets in hand. Once inside, however, it didn't seem overly crowded and we had a delightful time poking all around.

Then for our walk back, we crossed the street to see Trajan's markets up close and then wove our way through the city to see the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona on our way back to the Campo de Fiori. To be honest, I was surprised that we were able to cover so many great sites in one afternoon, as I have only ever been to Italy before in the summer. I think both the heat and the crowds would have significantly slowed us down during the summer months, but we had a really delightful February afternoon! After a little rest at the hotel, we had a great dinner in Trastavere.

The follwing day we had a lovely breakfast at the hotel, then set off for the Vatican. Depending on what time we got started, I had several ideas in mind for how we might best approach the day. Turns out we got a late start (it is vacation after all!) so we decided to do the Vatican museums first. We probably arrived there around 10:30 or 11, and miracously there was no line! Again, I had been here before in the summer, and the whole experience felt liked a packed, sweaty forced march to the Sistine Chapel. This time, though, we really enjoyed taking in all the museums had to offer. Don't get me wrong, the place wasn't empty... there were plenty of other people around... there was just ample space to really be able to explore and wonder at all of the extraordinary beauty. Of course, there were loads of people in the Sistine Chapel, but it was possible to walk around easily and even sit on a bench and gaze at the ceiling for a while. It was especially interesting knowing that the conclave will be meeting here in just a few weeks to elect a new pope!

Again, thanks to Fodors, I knew to take the "group" door on the right to exit directly to St Peter's. Another line successfully avoided! As it was now around lunch time, the basilica seemed delightfully uncrowded too. Walked right up to the pieta, Bernini altar, and anything else we wanted to see. Also went underground to the crypt area... very cool. We weren't especially keen to climb up to the dome, but when we saw a long line for that we definitely ditched the idea, and repeated our mantra, "We wait in no lines!" For lunch, we sought out a place in Vatican City reccomended by our Fodors guidebook, but sadly it wasn't open. So we went to the place next door and had a really delightful meal (fettucine with artichokes, with pear and riccotta cheesecake for dessert!. Walked by Castel St Angelo and over the bridge of angels to return to our hotel for sunset on the rooftop deck! Later we strolled back down to the Colosseum and Forum to see them lit up at night... beautiful! After such a big lunch, we had a lighter dinner of pizza and wine.

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