Cyprus Getaways


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Cyprus

Travel series. Joe Lindsay and Vogue Williams head for a Mediterranean break in sun-soaked Cyprus, visiting Ayia Napa, Limassol and the Troodos Mountains.


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Hello and welcome to Getaways.

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The show were we go...

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Where you want us to go.

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We're on a mission to check out some of your most popular holiday destinations.

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You've been sharing your top travel tips, telling us where to go.

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And what to do when we get there.

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This week, we're in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

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We're here to find out what makes this island

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a great family destination.

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We flew direct to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus, which takes a rather hefty

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four and a half hours.

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And we'll be visiting some of the most popular beach resorts along the coast.

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So what are you looking forward to in Cyprus, Vogue?

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I'm looking forward to seeing the other side of Cyprus.

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I mean, you always hear about the nightlife, the Ayia Napa, the crazy side,

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but it's a really beautiful island.

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There's going to be so many nice restaurants and I want to enjoy the sunshine and the beach.

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-What about you?

-Well, you see, the coastline here is absolutely stunning, right, but I've heard

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the mountains are beautiful as well. I've never really been inland in Cyprus.

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-Really looking forward to seeing that.

-Well, let's go and do it.

-Yeah.

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Cyprus is the easternmost island in the Mediterranean and is a popular

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sun destination for couples, families and the 18-30 crowd.

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Summer in Cyprus lasts eight months of the year, so it's great to come

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here outside of school holiday times.

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We're here in September and it is hot, hot, hot!

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Cyprus has traditionally been a popular destination for visitors from the

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UK and Ireland, with some of the busiest resorts along the southern coast.

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You've been telling us about the places you like to visit when you're here.

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High up on your list is the beach resort of Ayia Napa,

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about 40 minutes from Larnaca Airport.

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It has a reputation as a party paradise,

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with plenty of nightclub action at night and

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lots of packed beaches during the day.

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Nissi Beach is Ayia Napa's most popular beach and it literally

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means small island.

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It's made up of one long and lively beach and then you've also got a much

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smaller but quieter beach. It's just gorgeous here.

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It's fair to say that, during the summer months,

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Nissi Beach attracts a predominantly young party crowd, so expect music

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and a lively atmosphere.

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The waters are shallow so you can walk out 100 metres without it getting

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deeper than your waist.

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And as you can imagine, it's great for watersports, too.

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Paddleboarding, parascending,

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jet skis and paddleboats are some of the popular water activities along

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this stretch of the coastline,

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but I'm going to have a go on the Stingray with watersports instructor George.

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-Ready?

-Yeah, you? Come on.

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We're excited!

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There's not a lot to it - the Stingray can take up to four people,

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you hang on for dear life while you get towed behind a speedboat.

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If you want somewhere more family-friendly, then about 20 minutes from Ayia Napa is Protaras.

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The promenade here stretches for about 4km along the coast.

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It's accessible and pram-friendly.

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And has access to more fantastic beaches.

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This is beautiful Fig Tree Bay,

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named after a solitary tree that once grew right at the beach.

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Locals say it was brought here in the 17th century with invaders.

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It's survived many invasions since but it couldn't survive the invasion of tourism.

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Like Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, there are watersports on offer in Protaras.

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But there are fewer noisy speedboats and jet skis so, while it is really

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packed, it is much more family-friendly.

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The rocky part of the shoreline makes it perfect for fishing

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and snorkelling.

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Fig Tree Bay has been awarded a European Blue Flag for its

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clean water, and there's an environmental campaign to encourage locals and

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tourists to clean up.

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To really appreciate the coastline in Cyprus, you need to get out on

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the water, and there are plenty of boat excursions you can take.

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Party cruise boats come in all shapes and sizes and are a big hit with the

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young crowd.

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But I'm setting off from Protaras Harbour

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on board one of the glass bottom boats.

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Now, when they say the boat has a glass bottom,

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they mean these portholes and, if you're prepared to spend enough time,

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then you might spot some sea creatures in their natural habitat.

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But for me, it's up on deck where you get the best view.

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This excursion takes us along the coast,

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past Ayia Napa and Protaras, and up close to some sea caves,

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which are only accessible from the water.

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I bumped into young Corey from back home.

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Corey, what do you think of Cyprus?

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What would you say to kids your age? Do you think they should come?

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-Yes.

-Will I have a good time?

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-Yeah.

-Are you going to say anything else but yeah?

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Maybe.

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THEY LAUGH

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The highlight here is the Blue Lagoon,

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which is a perfect place to cool off in the clear water.

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CHEERING

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Whoo!

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You can see why it is called the Blue Lagoon, can't you?

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The colour of that water - so clear and beautifully warm.

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This is heaven.

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In Ayia Napa, we stayed at the Nestor Hotel.

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It's a short walk to the beach and has indoor and outdoor pools,

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a health club and a spa.

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Now, if you want to get a break from the beach or get that little bit

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closer to heaven, you could take the 172 steps up to St Elias Church.

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I'm told that the view alone makes it worth it.

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Now, if you're expecting some ancient historical monument,

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I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

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Although the original was built over 100 years ago,

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the Church of Profitis Elias was rebuilt in 1984.

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The chapel is a perfect place for a wedding ceremony,

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but the unique thing here is the custom of tying ribbons to the branches

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of the trees surrounding the church in remembrance of a loved one.

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The best time to come here is at dusk

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to catch one of the magnificent sunsets.

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Now, for a lot of people, it's not until after dark that Ayia Napa really

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comes to life.

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And these bars and clubs are bunged with revellers during the summer nights.

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Ayia Napa is synonymous with decadent wild 18-30s parties, where

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fish bowls and foam are the norm.

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A lot of you suggested that this was where you came for your youthful party

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holiday. We're going to join in.

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This is the square. Now, it's not busy tonight but, during July and August,

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this is where it's all happening.

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We've been recommended to go to the Castle Club.

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And the good news is that, tonight, there's no queue.

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This is the place to party.

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It regularly hosts some world-class DJs with 14 bars on three levels.

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We're having one drink, then home...honest.

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If the party resort of Ayia Napa isn't for you,

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then we're heading to another of Cyprus' key resorts, Limassol.

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It's about an hour from Larnaca Airport and it's the second largest city

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in Cyprus.

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Like Ayia Napa, Limassol has plenty of beaches,

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but the sand is dark and coarse.

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It isn't just as attractive to the young party crowd but it is popular

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with families.

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Limassol has had a makeover in recent years and the marina is modern and a

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popular stop-off point for yachts cruising the eastern Mediterranean.

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So your first impression might be of a built-up urban resort.

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However, like most European sun destinations,

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Limassol or Lemesos, as it's also known,

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has an old town, and that's where we're headed.

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There are some interesting buildings in the old town, like the

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colonial-style post office, the neoclassical town hall, the cathedral...

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..and at the centre of the historic old town is Limassol Castle.

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The original castle was built in the 12th century

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but, after many hostile attacks and earthquakes,

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it was eventually demolished and rebuilt as we see it today in 1590.

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Legend has it this is where King Richard the Lionheart married his

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Spanish bride, Berengaria, in 1191, thus crowning her Queen of England.

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Some of the remains unearthed here suggest this may have been the

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site of the city's first cathedral.

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But more recently, it was used as a prison during Victorian times.

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And today, it houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum...

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..displaying artefacts from the time of the Crusades.

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No holiday is complete without a little bit of retail therapy.

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Here, on Agiou Andreou Street, you can get your hands on some local souvenirs,

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lace, leathers, art and just a little bit of everything.

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OK, so don't expect any designer brands or high-street stores

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but, if you're just looking for a souvenir or something for the kids,

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then you won't be disappointed.

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There's also a market where the locals shop, so you can stock up on some

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fresh farm foods.

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As you explore the old town of Limassol,

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you'll be aware of the huge amount of graffiti on some of the beautiful

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old buildings here.

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But it's not all vandalism.

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In recent times, graffiti artists have been creating street art in these backstreets,

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some with political and social messages, and it's become a bit of a tourist attraction.

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So, if you're staying in Limassol,

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it's worth leaving your sun lounger for a dander round the old town.

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But if you prefer a getaway a little closer to home, then Joe has been on

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a short break to County Sligo.

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Around three hours' drive from either Dublin or Belfast,

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the city of Sligo is considered the gateway to the west coast of Ireland.

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It's famous for its culture, particularly it being WB Yeats country,

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its surfing and its music, and I'm here to check it all out.

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For my visit to Sligo, I'm staying in The Glasshouse -

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a modern hotel right in the centre of the city overlooking the Garavogue River.

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It has a good restaurant, on-site parking and modern rooms

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with good Wi-Fi.

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And just across the street is the headquarters of the Yeats Society, where

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I'm meeting Martin Enright, who runs a summer school for visitors to learn

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about Sligo's most famous son.

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So, Martin, tell me, how did the Yeats Society actually start?

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The Yeats Society began, you could say, as a tourist initiative

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to attract people to Sligo to see the Land of Heart's Desire -

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to see the Yeats landscape and the Yeats country.

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The term was coined then.

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I mean, it's quite extraordinary - when you come to Sligo, you really are in Yeats country.

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Well, you suddenly realise that you are in the middle of that lovely line,

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"Like a child's vow, sworn in vain, never to leave that valley his fathers call their home."

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So Sligo town with Rosses Point nestles between the landscape of Knocknarea and Benbulbin.

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And Yeats uses those locations, linking back to the mythology on

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-so many times.

-It's great, you sound so proud and passionate about it.

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Yeah, we love to share what we have here.

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We enjoy living in Sligo 12 months of the year, and we love to share that

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with the tourists.

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Motivated by Martin's love of the Sligo landscape,

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I'm going to take a look at some of WB Yeats' inspirations for myself.

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Just north of the town is Benbulbin,

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one of Yeats' great muses, and its distinctive shape overlooks Streedagh Strand -

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a safe, well-protected beach that is part of one of Ireland's most popular

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tourist trails.

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Sligo is on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way and a recent initiative

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launched brought out this - the Wild Atlantic Way passport.

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Now, in here, not only will you find little bits of information about the places

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you'll see but, look, everywhere you visit,

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there are blank spaces for little stamps, just like a passport.

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For example, here I am on Streedagh Beach, and there's my stamp, right there.

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It's a nice wee keepsake.

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And you can get your passport stamped at post offices and tourist information

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centres along the trail.

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But Streedagh Beach wasn't a very welcoming place for the sailors of the

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Spanish Armada, who came ashore here in 1588.

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How did all the Spanish sailors end up here?

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Well, they were on their way back to Spain,

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and about two thirds of the fleet actually had made it down

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as far off the coast of Kerry,

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and the ones that got left behind ended up being wrecked here...

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-Oh, right, OK.

-..after a horrendous storm.

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You've told us these beaches around Sligo have some of the best surf in

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Ireland, so I'm visiting nearby Strandhill.

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The Surf N Stay Lodge has hostel accommodation attached to the surf school.

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Cue surf music.

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Well, today, the surf isn't up, but no problem.

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Surfing instructor Melanie White is giving me a lesson on stand-up paddleboarding with a twist.

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This is Lough Gill, another location that featured in so many of Yeats'

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poems, and I am definitely feeling the mystical vibes out here.

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Whoa!

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And if WB Yeats did paddleboarding,

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you know this is probably how he would have done it.

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Namaste!

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So, refreshed and invigorated, I'm ending my trip to Sligo

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in the company of Damien Brennan -

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a Yeats aficionado who hosts dinners at his home of Broc House,

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overlooking Lough Gill.

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Damien, first of all, what a beautiful home you have.

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Yeah, we're very fortunate

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we sit on top of a hill overlooking Lough Gill,

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-and we built it with a view to the view.

-Yeah.

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And so we have a 40-foot window looking out on four of Yeats' main poems and

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it's a beautiful place to live.

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I mean, it's quite a unique experience to come to Broc House,

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but what do people get when they come here?

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What they get is an introduction to William Butler Yeats,

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an exploration of his life, and that's punctuated -

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I don't know which comes first -

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that's punctuated with fine, fine food and, on average, we have three

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to four groups a week from May through to November.

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-Wow.

-Groups of ten or more for lunch or for dinner.

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90%, 95% of them, have never heard of Yeats.

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-Really?

-Really. And they come through the door, thinking, this is another one of

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those things, they'd been sheep shearing the day before and tomorrow

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they're going to make brown bread in some thatched cottage,

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but they come in and, when I leave them out the door again, they say,

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"What books should we buy of Yeats' poetry?"

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-Isn't that incredible?

-Yeah.

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Passing that knowledge and that love on. It's amazing.

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-It is, it's really great.

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

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Well, Damien, thank you very much for having us in your home.

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-It's been a pleasure.

-Thank you, Joe, it was a pleasure having you here, too.

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We're on a getaway to Cyprus.

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So far, we've been checking out some stunning beaches.

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I've been exploring the coastline.

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And I've been getting wet and wild on the water.

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Another coastal tourist attraction famous in Cyprus is this little group

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of rocks, which has a history of mythical proportions.

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The rock is called Petra Tou Romiou or Rock Of The Greek,

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but most people know it as the Rock Of Aphrodite.

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According to Greek legend, this is where Aphrodite emerged from the sea.

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Now, supposedly, if you swim around those three rocks

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three times at midnight on a full moon,

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you'll be granted everlasting youth.

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So I'm basically going to stay here until the next full moon.

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See ya!

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Aphrodite or Venus, as she was known to the Romans, is associated with love

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and romance. So it has become customary for lovers to leave their mark on

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the beach for Aphrodite's blessing.

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It's easy to forget that Cyprus isn't just about beaches and tourism.

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And when you venture out into the countryside,

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it's clear that this is an island built on agriculture.

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And we're stopping off at Oleastro Olive Park and Museum -

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a good alternative to the beach.

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It's a working olive farm where you can learn the traditional ways olives are

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processed into olive oil...

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..and see some traditional farm animals and some non-traditional ones, too.

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Andreas Ellinas is the owner of the park.

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This is such a beautiful place you have.

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I love it here. You've a lot here for children.

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Yeah, families, they come here to see the process,

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to learn many things about olives, about olive oil,

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to try the traditional food and to play with the animals.

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It's good for families to spend the day here.

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Everyone, this is Olivia.

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Olivia, this is everyone.

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She loves carob, dried carob.

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Kids, you should carry this around with you at all times.

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You never know when you might bump into a camel.

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Come on, Olivia. You want some more?

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Come on. Ah! Looks like she's got the hump.

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Now, I can truly say, for both adults and children, this place does provide

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information and entertainment - infotainment, if you will.

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'In Cyprus, water was used to power the grain mills.

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'In other countries, like Greece,

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'they were also used for crushing the olives in the production of

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'olive oil. The water mill would be used to turn...'

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Look, I know it's not exactly Pirates Of The Caribbean, is it?

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But I find this very charming.

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And remember, every day's a school day.

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'..scrape the crushed olives from the millstones and place them in the centre...'

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And while Joe is taking the educational tour, I'm ordering lunch.

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And as you'd expect, it's all fresh, local produce.

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I'm home, dear!

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-How are you? Look what I have.

-Look at this spread!

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I know, and it's all local.

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This is the local olives, local olive oil.

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And then this cheese is from a halloumi farm just up the road.

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-Oh, my word!

-And of course, we have local wine!

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This is your local red.

0:22:120:22:13

-You've been reading my mind.

-Cheers.

0:22:130:22:15

The halloumi is so good.

0:22:160:22:18

Yum!

0:22:190:22:20

That tapenade is the best I've ever had.

0:22:200:22:22

-It's incredible.

-That olive oil is so good.

0:22:220:22:26

You could eat like this every day, couldn't you?

0:22:260:22:28

-Little bits of everything.

-Yeah, and that's what I love about it.

0:22:280:22:31

Yeah.

0:22:310:22:32

Cyprus is one of the oldest civilisations in the Mediterranean...

0:22:350:22:38

..spanning over 10,000 years.

0:22:390:22:41

Its impressive history is hard to miss as you're touring the island,

0:22:420:22:45

but there is one ancient site you should put at the top of your Cypriot

0:22:450:22:49

bucket list.

0:22:490:22:51

Joe Breen from Ballycastle recommended that we come here.

0:22:510:22:54

This is Kourion.

0:22:580:22:59

After the Trojan War, many ancient Greeks settled here,

0:22:590:23:02

and they chose this site specifically for strategic reasons.

0:23:020:23:05

It meant they could see any potential enemies coming from the sea.

0:23:050:23:09

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site,

0:23:110:23:14

the archaeological remains are rated as the number one thing to do when

0:23:140:23:18

you're in Limassol.

0:23:180:23:20

The Greco-Roman theatre at the centre of the site was built in the second century BC.

0:23:230:23:28

In the curved auditorium,

0:23:290:23:31

the spectator seating area held around 3,500 people.

0:23:310:23:35

As the influence of the Greeks spread across the world,

0:23:350:23:38

culture was a cornerstone of their civilisation.

0:23:380:23:41

It still uses the theatre today.

0:23:410:23:42

In fact, there is an annual Shakespeare festival.

0:23:420:23:45

To be, or not to be?

0:23:460:23:48

That is the question.

0:23:480:23:50

Oh, please yourselves, philistines!

0:23:500:23:53

Kourion attracts a lot of visitors, and it's open all year round.

0:23:570:24:01

You recommended that we visit early in the morning

0:24:010:24:03

or later in the afternoon,

0:24:030:24:05

if you want to avoid the crowds.

0:24:050:24:06

It can get very hot in the middle of the day,

0:24:080:24:11

so have a bottle of water handy if you're visiting in the summer months.

0:24:110:24:14

Cyprus is one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean,

0:24:240:24:27

so it's worth hiring a car to take in some of the sights.

0:24:270:24:30

Shane McCaffrey from County Antrim told us that we should come up here

0:24:310:24:34

to take in the beautiful scenery and gorgeous mountain air.

0:24:340:24:37

You were right, Shane, it's lovely.

0:24:370:24:38

They drive on the left-hand side of the road, which is really handy if you decide to rent a car.

0:24:410:24:45

I'm heading up the Troodos Mountains - the largest mountain range in Cyprus.

0:24:500:24:54

And while I'm only an hour from the beach in Limassol,

0:24:540:24:56

I feel like I'm in a completely different place.

0:24:560:25:00

The highest point is Mount Olympus, reaching nearly 2,000 metres.

0:25:000:25:04

And although it's hard to believe,

0:25:040:25:06

you can actually ski here in the winter.

0:25:060:25:09

With a car, I'm able to explore some of the more remote villages.

0:25:090:25:12

This is Arsos - in a region known for its vineyards.

0:25:140:25:17

It's a quiet, slow-paced lifestyle,

0:25:250:25:27

and it's perfect if you just want to chill out.

0:25:270:25:29

Cyprus is encouraging tourism in these rural villages,

0:25:340:25:37

and this type of self-catering guesthouse, like Arsorama, is becoming popular.

0:25:370:25:42

It combines comfort and luxury in a traditional setting.

0:25:420:25:45

My next stop is one of the larger villages in the Troodos Mountains - Omodos,

0:25:510:25:55

which sits beneath Mount Olympus.

0:25:550:25:57

And it's around a 30-minute drive from Limassol.

0:25:570:26:02

I'm in luck. Today is a holy festival,

0:26:020:26:04

so thousands of people have travelled from all over Cyprus to come here,

0:26:040:26:08

and the atmosphere is just amazing.

0:26:080:26:10

The central point of Omodos is the Monastery of the Holy Cross,

0:26:130:26:16

which dates back to the third century AD.

0:26:160:26:19

And during the Festival of the Holy Cross,

0:26:190:26:21

pilgrims come from all over Cyprus to pay their respects here.

0:26:210:26:24

Local food is at the centre of the festival

0:26:350:26:38

and, if you explore the narrow streets,

0:26:380:26:40

you can discover some interesting produce.

0:26:400:26:42

Dom Kozak from Belfast told us that the best way to save money on

0:26:440:26:48

holidays is if you eat local. And the locals told me that this is the best bakery

0:26:480:26:51

in town. And they were right.

0:26:510:26:53

This bread is delicious.

0:26:530:26:55

Wine is another important tradition here, and I'm visiting Ktima Gerolemo Winery,

0:27:020:27:07

where you can see the old wine press as well as sample some local produce

0:27:070:27:11

and, of course, the wine.

0:27:110:27:12

So, Felicia, tell me a little bit about the wine that you guys make in this winery.

0:27:140:27:18

So, we have a long tradition in making wine - 700 years old.

0:27:180:27:22

It's an old wine press.

0:27:220:27:23

-Wow.

-We do a large variety of wine from local variety of grapes.

0:27:230:27:29

Yeah. And this winery itself has been in the same family for 700 years?

0:27:290:27:33

Yes, yes.

0:27:330:27:34

And you can see on the pictures on the wall.

0:27:340:27:36

-Yeah.

-The father, the grandma.

0:27:360:27:38

Wow. Well, I'm a red drinker,

0:27:380:27:41

so I'm going to try the red because I'm driving,

0:27:410:27:42

-so I can only have a tiny bit.

-OK.

0:27:420:27:46

So these are all from Cyprus?

0:27:460:27:47

Yes. Actually, from this place, Omodos.

0:27:470:27:51

Yum! Thank you, it is very nice.

0:27:550:27:57

You're welcome.

0:27:570:27:58

So, Joe, what was your favourite part about Cyprus?

0:28:020:28:04

You know something? Cyprus is very well-known for its beautiful seaside

0:28:040:28:07

resorts, and rightly so.

0:28:070:28:08

But if you can get out and explore this island, you really should, cos it's absolutely beautiful.

0:28:080:28:12

And say, in terms of hospitality, you'll be hard-pressed to find nicer people.

0:28:120:28:15

I think Cypriot people are absolutely lovely!

0:28:150:28:17

I totally agree with you.

0:28:170:28:19

Even though I love the beaches and it was hard to get me away from them,

0:28:190:28:21

I really liked being up in the mountains and the gorgeous little villages.

0:28:210:28:25

There was so much to do up there. But I also loved the food.

0:28:250:28:28

-Oh, you loved the grub!

-I loved the food so much!

0:28:280:28:30

-And I love this coffee. Geia mas!

-Geia mas!

0:28:300:28:33

Joe Lindsay and guest presenter Vogue Williams head for a Mediterranean beach break in sun-soaked Cyprus. They visit the famous party resort of Ayia Napa, explore the old town of Limassol and take a drive into the Troodos Mountains for a taste of village life. And in this week's short Getaway, Joe visits Sligo, where he get his wild Atlantic Way passport stamped and discovers the inspirational landscape of WB Yeats's poetry.