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A Cypriot Siesta Before Jetting to the UK

Friday, November 11, 2022

The final morning in Egypt dawned far too early for my liking, but such is the price to pay for morning flights. I was awake at 04:00 so I could quickly gather my things together and then head downstairs to the lobby. Said had arranged for a driver to take Maria, Andrea and me to the airport this morning as we all had flights around the same time. When I got to the lobby, I was surprised to find Said waiting there to say a final goodbye; it was kind of him to get up so early. The drive to the airport was quick and uneventful. Maria and I were dropped off at our terminal first, so we said goodbye to Andrea (who was flying out of a different terminal) and we went to get checked in.

The entire process of security, check-in, and passport control was a cluster-fuck of insanity. To reach the check-in counters, we had to go through a security screening, which is perfectly fine (I've traveled through many airports that have this same procedure). However, the people at the security lines were very disorganized and inefficient. The line that Maria and I waited in did not move for several minutes because a passenger was clearly lost and not understanding where to go, and the security agent was talking with him. While good to help the passenger, the agent should have had someone else assist so he could actually do his job. We moved to a different queue and got through slightly faster.

I had to drop my hold luggage at the airline counter, and it was here that we ran into the next bit of inefficiency. The queue snaked through the check-in lobby and there were only two agents at the counter checking people in for flights. So many passengers had an absurd number of bags to check-in, which made Maria and I wonder why anyone would need so many bags; luggage carts were piled with bags for only one or two people! I noticed that the counter open for first-class passengers had no queue and decided to ask them if I could simply drop my bag. Luckily, they didn't mind and I was able to get everything completed in minutes.

We then moved on to passport control, where I handed over my ticket, passport, and the immigration form I was given when I dropped off my bag. The passport control agents didn't have an extra form for Maria though, which was absurd, so she had to go back to the check-in counters to get the form. She had done online check-in and nothing indicated that she would need to speak with an agent since she just had carry-on bags. About 20 minutes later, she had the form and made it through passport control.

We walked around the terminal for a bit and then grabbed some coffee at a small cafe. We had enjoyed Egypt, but we were also ready to leave. After chatting for a little while, we said our goodbyes and made our way to our respective gates.

My flight to Cyprus departed at 08:40 and we landed just after 10:00, giving me the entire day to enjoy the city of Larnaca. I took the local bus into town from the airport and then walked the short distance to my new hostel for the next couple of nights. The hostel is very charming with quite a bit of character: the building was an old villa that had then been converted into a hostel, but they retained as much of the villa as possible. It was too early for check-in, so I dropped off my bags and went to explore the seaside town.

Larnaca is not a very large city, which makes it rather peaceful and relaxing – a needed break after the intense chaos in Egypt! Next to my hostel was the old medieval fort of the city, so I decided to pop in a have a look around. The fort itself is quite small without much on display, but it was well preserved. I walked up to the walls of the fort, which had some pretty views over the sea.

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I spent some time walking along the waterfront area. The beach was large and clean, though there were not many people out enjoying the sun or water. Along the beach was a nice boardwalk area, which was lined by shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. Some holiday decorations had already been put up along the walkway as well. I enjoyed my little stroll through town, but there was not much else to see or do, so I went to a nearby Starbucks to do some reading. It had a large outdoor terrace that faced the sea, so I settled in there and spent some time reading.

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It was getting late by the time I finished up at Starbucks, so I returned to my hostel and got settled into the dorm room. I spent the remainder of the night there, blogging and then watching Netflix.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

I managed to get a decent night of sleep and was up at 07:00, ready for another day of exploring Cyprus. I was taking a bus to the nearby city of Nicosia at 09:30, so I spent the intervening time back at Starbucks so I could have breakfast and read (the Starbucks was also just across the street from the bus stop).

The bus departed on time and the entire ride lasted just over an hour. The bus itself was slightly uncomfortable because all of the seats were permanently reclined – none of them could be adjusted to sitting upright. I enjoyed being able to admire some of the scenery of Cyprus throughout the bus ride though.

The bus dropped me off in the center of Nicosia, the capitol of Cyprus. Nicosia is a divided city due to the conflict between the break-away country of Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus declared its independence back in 1983 after the Greek-Turkish conflict over the island. Only Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus as an actual country, making it one of many de facto states in the world. Nicosia itself was split between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus, with a border zone running through the city.

I took a leisurely walk through Nicosia, which is another small city on the island. There is a nice pedestrian shopping street running through the city center which is where I spent most of my time. I stopped to grab a quick lunch and to peek in at some of the shops (though there was nothing I wanted to buy). It was a nice walk and I enjoyed the city a little more than Larnaca because it has more culture to it (as opposed to just being a beach town).

Further up the pedestrian street was the Ledra Street Checkpoint, which is where one can cross into Northern Cyprus. Despite the conflict between the two regions of the island, the checkpoint was quite easy to cross. I presented my passport when exiting Cyprus and again when entering Northern Cyprus, though there was no stamp made at either point. It was a fairly straightforward affair and soon I was in Northern Cyprus.

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I was torn about counting Northern Cyprus as another country on my list of places I've visited. I've decided to count it, however, because it fits the criteria that I set for myself years ago when I was debating about Transnistria in Eastern Europe: (1) it de facto governs a set territory and has for an extended period of time; (2) it has passport controls to enter or leave the territory. So, Northern Cyprus is my 107th country that I had visited!

I found the northern part of Nicosia to be far more charming than the south. There was more of an identity and cultural feel to this area of the city. I was reminded a bit of Turkey when I walked by many of the street shops. I followed the winding streets around until I arrived at the Buyuk Han, an old stone caravanserai. It is now a bustling courtyard with dozens of local artists selling their art and some small cafes.

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The plan was to visit the nearby mosque next, but it was undergoing some renovation work and I couldn't find a way to enter, so I took a roundabout walk through the surrounding area. The final stop I had for the mini-tour of Nicosia was at a nearby square. It had two names, with Northern Syprus calling it Ataturk Square and the rest of the island calling it Sarayonu Square. It contained a large pillar outside of a very pretty colonial-style building.

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As I walked back through Nicosia towards the checkpoint, I found a very nice cafe on a side street and decided to have another cup of coffee. The place had a lovely patio with seating and the interior was lined with books – the perfect place to spend a little time reading. While the coffee was just alright, I enjoyed the ambiance of the place.

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I crossed back through the Ledra Street Checkpoint and then went to the bus station, where I took the 15:30 bus back to Larnaca. Once back, I spend the rest of the evening relaxing at the hostel. While Cyprus is a pretty place to visit and is very laid-back, I struggled to find enough to truly keep me busy during my visit.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

This morning was a lazy one as I didn't have to leave for the airport until noon. After getting my bags packed up, I went out to have breakfast and coffee. It was nice to have a stroll along the seafront again this morning and I could just relax, take my time and not stress about rushing around.

I caught the bus to the airport just after noon and was soon at the gate, waiting to board the flight to London. We were delayed by 40 minutes because the incoming flight was late, but, happily, the time was made up during the flight to the UK and we landed on time!

I flew into Luton airport, which is to the north of London itself. I had never been to this airport before, but finding the busses to London proved to be quite easy. My bus left the airport at 20:00 and it took just over an hour until I exited the bus at Paddington Station. My hostel was only a short walk away from the station and I was very glad when I finally got into my dorm room.

I did nothing this evening as I was tired and just wanted to get some sleep.

Monday, November 14, 2022

This morning I had an appointment scheduled with a podiatrist. The ingrown toenail on my left foot was starting to be painful and I wanted to get it resolved now that I was done with the major tours. Had luckily found a podiatrist who was able to squeeze me in during my visit to London. The appointment was at 09:45, so I hopped on the Tube to head to the office. I arrived early, so I grabbed breakfast and coffee.

At the appointment, the doctor was very friendly and she agreed that the nail needed to be removed. I was given the option of having the nail regrow again or of killing the root to prevent the nail from every growing back; I opted to have the root killed. After injecting some local anesthesia to numb the toe, she quickly removed the nail and then applied the acid to kill the root. The entire procedure lasted around 15 minutes and I felt nothing; I spent the entire time talking to the doctor and her assistant. I was very glad to finally have the nail taken care of and removed.

My plan for the remainder of the day was to relax at the hostel to help the toe properly heal. Before heading back, I stopped in at Gregg's to have a chicken bake and another coffee. The chicken bakes remind me of a dish that my mom cooks sometimes and it is one of my favorite foods for dinner. My toe was starting to ache just as I finished eating at Gregg's, so I took the Tube back to the hostel. I grabbed my computer and settled in to do some blogging for the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon I left to take the train north to the city of Milton Keynes. A few friends (Jess, Hayley, Dom) that I had made during my tour in Turkey live in Milton Keynes and we were all meeting up for dinner. The train left from the Euston station and the ride took less than an hour, but it was already dark by the time I arrived.

Hayley picked me up at the train station and drove us back to her house, which she shares with Jess. It was really great getting to see her again and catch up together. Her house is really nice and I poked around a bit while she took a quick shower. Jess and Dom arrived shortly thereafter (Jess had picked up Dom on her way home from work). We grabbed some beers and sat around the couch to hang out. The four of us spent a long while chatting, laughing, and having a fun time together.

Dom told us about his house and the elderly woman named Gwen he bought it from a couple years ago. Dom knew... a lot about this woman, which the rest of us found both fascinating and hilarious. Gwen, who has since passed away, had a lot of very dated décor around the house, which Dom was in the process of replacing. Somehow, Dom managed to meet up with Gwen's son-in-law and grab drinks with him after he moved into the place (which is how he learned so much about Gwen). We joked that Gwen's ghost haunted his house – we even had the brilliant idea to have a séance to contact Gwen when I come visit again!

Hayley made a delicious dinner for us that we ate ater hanging out for a little while. Her house is very clean and organized, and Jess hilariously put the fear of God into us when she warned us about spilling anything in Hayley's house. For dessert, Dom had baked brownies for us – the first time he had ever baked brownies from scratch! They were quite good and I had some ice cream with mine.

We spent some more time chatting and drinking after dinner. We all planned to have the next dinner party at Dom's house, primarily because the rest of us wanted to see what his house is like. He promised to cook us dinner, while Jess and I decided to have a bit of a bake off with dessert. I'm really looking forward to whenever I made it back to the UK so I can see them all again!

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At 22:00, I ordered an Uber to take me back to the train station; the trains back to London were more infrequent this late at night, so I wanted to make the 22:25 train. I made it just in time and I was feeling rather tired by the time I reached London again. I took the Tube from Euston station back to my hostel, where I crawled into bed. Thankfully my toe was not hurting much anymore, even after the long evening out!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

I was surprised when I woke up this morning that my toe was still not hurting, especially since I had only taken two pain killers yesterday. I had another breakfast at Gregg's this morning; it's a cheap meal, but I enjoy it (mostly due to the nostalgia related to the food). It was raining this morning, which made it a bit miserable to be out and about.

After breakfast, I walked over to the British Museum, where I had booked a free entry ticket for 10:00, but I found a very long queue outside of the museum. While waiting in the queue in the rain was not ideal, the queue moved quickly and soon I had made it inside.

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I had visited this museum several years ago, but I wanted to visited it again this time after having visited Egypt. The British Museum has some of the best collections in the world, with artifacts from countries around the world. Some of the pieces are becoming controversial because there is a strong feeling that Britain should return the items to their native countries (the Elgin Marbles from Greece are perhaps the most famous).

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I spent some time walking around the Egyptian wing of the museum, recognizing many artifacts from my tour in Egypt. The statue of Ramses II was particularly interesting for me since I had visited the site where it was excavated. The Rosetta Stone was temporarily on display in a special exhibition at the museum, which cost money to enter and I thus skipped.

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The museum began to fill up with many school groups and the kids were running around being obnoxious, so I decided it was time to leave. I grabbed some coffee and did some reading for a little while before heading to the Tube station. I was meeting another friend for a late lunch this afternoon at London Bridge Station.

I met up with my friend Tom at 15:00 just outside the railway station. Tom and I had met in Turkey (he is a paramedic who helped me take care of my thumb after it got cut). I was quite glad to have this chance to meet up with him again. His work schedule this week was, unfortunately, all night shifts, so we had to meet in the afternoon before he started work. We walked over to a Thai restaurant that Tom knew and ate there – we were the only customers in the place!

I thoroughly enjoyed the time catching up with Tom: looking back on the Turkey trip, talking about what we've been up to in the intervening weeks, plans for the future, etc. Tom is a very thoughtful individual. I was fun to have time to just chill, chat, and laugh. We didn't have much time to spend together since he had to get ready for work in the evening. When we left the restaurant, we walked along the bank of the Thames to get back to the train station. We said our goodbyes and Tom left for work, while I went out for a short walk.

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I had my follow-up appointment with the podiatrist this evening at 18:00, so I had plenty of time. I decided to walk there rather than taking the Tube. It was a pleasant walk across London Bridge and then through the streets around Bank station to reach the office. The visit lasted less than ten minutes as the doctor was just changing the bandage on the toe, showing me what I needed to do to properly care for it over the next several weeks.

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Once I was done at the doctor's office, I took the Tube back to my hostel, where I waited for my friend Lotta and her partner Patrik to arrive. I met Lotta in August as we walked the Camino and I was glad that she was flying over to UK from Sweden for a mini reunion. They were staying at a hotel a block away from my hostel, so we planned to meet for drinks and dinner tonight.

I met them at a nearby pub at 19:30, where we had a couple rounds of drinks and did some catching up. I was really glad to finally meet Patrik because I had been messaging with him ever since the Camino. Lotta had thought it would be funny if I messaged him out of the blue one night and we've been friends every since. It was also nice to see Lotta with Patrik because she had talked about him a lot during the Camino, so now I could see how great they are together as a couple.

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After finishing the drinks, we did a quick stop at their hotel so they could check-in, and then we walked over to an Indian restaurant for dinner. The food was good and we had a great time together. Lotta and Patrik are hilarious and a lot of fun to hang out with. They were in London for the next few days and I was very excited to have this time to spend with them. We had hoped that others from our Camino Family could have made it to London, but everyone else was busy, sadly.

With dinner done, we walked back to our hotel/hostel and made plans for meeting up again tomorrow morning. I spent the rest of the evening watching some Netflix before going to bed.

Posted by Glichez 20:23 Archived in Cyprus

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