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Dine around in Paphos August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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This is a dine around with a difference. Here are some of the best restaurants around Paphos! 
 
CONCERTO RESTAURANT

The Concerto is an attractive restaurant both inside and out, and overlooks the bustle of the centre of Paphos. They have a good choice of international food at reasonable prices.
 
AMALTHIA RESTAURANT

Reputed as the best French restaurant in Paphos, the Amalthia has a serene and pleasant interior, and offers a very high standard of cuisine and service. Ideal for small gala dinners.
 
DEMOCRITOS TAVERNA

Democritos Tavern is the most famous place in Paphos for Cypriot evenings, established as one of the oldest and most typical taverns in the area. They offer a traditional evening of Cypriot hospitality and a chance to try the “Cypriot Meze” – a selection of approx 15 different local speciality dishes, accompanied by local wines. Guests are entertained by Cypriot dancers in traditional costumes, having the opportunity to join in if they wish.
 
THE DOVER RESTAURANT

Recognised as the best fish restaurant in Paphos, the Dover has an excellent choice of fish, and again this restaurant also offers a high standard of food and service.
 
MANHATTAN RESTAURANT

This sizeable restaurant is situated in the centre of Paphos, and offers excellent steaks, but also a good variety of international dishes. An attractive looking restaurant, and also one with a good reputation for its cuisine.

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Cyprus > a plethora of activities to choose from August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus.
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Cyprus’s history goes back 10,000 years. Colonised by the Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and the Crusaders, traces of these cultures are abound everywhere.

But for the visitor, the British influence, the English language and driving on the left, are the most apparent. The standards of service and accommodation rank as the very best available anywhere in the Mediterranean and convenient flight departures allow for flexibility in travel plans.

The emphasis in Ayia Napa is on enjoyment. It boasts some of the best beaches in Cyprus with excellent watersports available. The town is full of life at night with a wide selection of bars, restaurants and nightclubs to choose from.

The resort also offers a rich history, as does the rest of the island. A beautiful Monastery sits proudly in the middle of the town and is well worth a visit. This is an ideal location for a successful conference or incentive.
 
Nicosia 

The island’s capital situated on the central plain between the mountains of  the currently under Turkish military controlled and occupation Pentadaktylos (Five Fingers) and Troodos, offers visitors plenty to see. A visit to the Cyprus Archaeological Museum gives the chance to admire the priceless art crafts of the island’s rich past. This is followed by a tour around the recently restored old quarter Laiki Yitonia, a city with tavernas and crafts shops lining the narrow cobbled streets.

Continuing along the green line, which divides the capital into two sectors, Greek and Turkish occupied, guests will pass the 16th century Venetian Walls and the Archbishop’s Palace. Next a chance to see the beautiful frescoes of the Cathedral of St John and the Byzantine Museum, which houses the largest collection of icons on the island. 
  
Private cruise of Ayia Napa and Protaras coastline 

Set sail for a relaxing lazy day cruise along the coast in a glass bottom boat. The cruise starts from the harbour of Ayia Napa and continues to Kounos Bay, where guests can have a break for swimming at one of the famous beaches of the area. The cruise then follows the coastline of Protaras where guests can view its famous beaches. For lunch guests will anchor off one of the most beautiful deserted beaches of the area and guests are taken on shore by boat for a delicious BBQ fish lunch. The more adventurous will have the opportunity to go on a “banana boat ride” or perhaps on a paragliding tour. Jet skis will be available and a “doughnut” for the real thrill seekers. The cruise continues along the coastline of Protaras where guests can view the famous Fig Tree Bay and Famagusta – the ghost town (in the Turkish military controlled occupied area). Whether they wish to take part in all the action or simply sit back and relax, the guests will love this day out.
  
Boat Trip to Liopetri 

This is a relaxing half-day trip to the only river in the area. Heading in the Larnaca direction, guests will have the chance to view the famous Nissi Beach, the local fish farm and the Ayia Thekla church. A stop is made at the Liopetri river where guests can get out to enjoy this picturesque fishing refuge and sit down by the riverside at one of the local cafes. On the way back a stop is made for swimming at one of the local bays.
  
Jeep Safari to Macheras

This is normally a full day event but may be tailored to the time available for the group. The participants, visiting a number of different places of interest where the guide will take time to give a sightseeing tour, will drive the jeeps. The delegates can see beautiful pine forests, sleepy red soil villages, where the locals spend hours in tiny coffee shops, the ‘kafenion’, drinking coffee and playing backgammon, Stavrovouni Monastery set in the mountains, the Chapel Royal and Kornos. Lunch can be taken at an authentic Cypriot taverna serving traditional Cypriot cuisine, wine and greek coffee. 
 
Cape Greco Horseback Riding Tour 

This tour takes place in Cape Greco, one of the most famous landmarks in the area with its rugged appearance and dramatic sunsets, a photographer’s dream. Guests can have the chance to walk through the national park of Cape Greko, explore the hidden caves and enjoy spectacular coastal views. A guide will brief the guests about the history of this place. At the end of the tour guests can have the chance to enjoy a barbecue lunch at a picnic area in the park and get in some sunbathing at a nearby beach. 
  
Tour of the Red Villages (Kokkinochoria)

This tour presents an ideal opportunity for visitors to acquaint themselves with their surroundings. It begins with a visit to the small fishing harbour of Potamos. Then continues on to the village of Liopetri where you will see the local basket makers at work. Dherynia is the next stop where you can have a break for refreshments and view the ghost town of Famagusta (occupied area), formerly the island’s favourite resort. Next stop can be at a local pottery and you can finish the tour with a visit to a typical house where you will be shown how halloumi cheese is made and have the chance to taste it, together with fresh baked koulouri bread.
 
Troodos Mountains and Kykkos Monastery

This tour takes you right to the heart of Cyprus, driving through a number of traditional mountain villages where life goes on as it has done for years. Passing below Mount Olympus, the highest point on the island, you can stop at the Kykkos Monastery, the largest and most famous monastery in Cyprus. Founded in 1092 by the Byzantines, this impressive building, set among the pine trees of Troodos, is where Archbishop Makarios, first President of the Republic of Cyprus, trained as a novice. A visit to his tomb, just above at Throni peak is next on the agenda. On the return journey back down the mountainside take a break at the picturesque village of Lania, home to many local artists. Here you will have the chance to try the local spirit Zivania and the dessert wine Commandaria.
 
Eastern Troodos Mountain Side

Your first stop can be at Pera Orinis in Nicosia, a small traditional village forgotten by time. There you will have time to explore the narrow streets of the village. Locals are very warm and hospitable and an invitation to see a house is probable. Driving through beautiful countryside will bring you to Fikardou Village. With a population of only 6 this village was deserted at the turn of the 20th Century and has since undergone an intricate restoration, which brought the Europa Nostra Prize and the declaration of Fikardou as a monument by Unesco. After Fikardou you can drive through unspoiled mountains and reach an 800 year old village, Vavla. There you can stop for lunch at an old house. The food there is strictly traditional: cooked in the old way with natural ingredients. Your last stop can be the convent of Ayios Minas, a 15th century nunnery. The nuns, alongside carrying out their religious rites, paint the most beautiful icons.  
 
Paphos and Kourion

Begin your day with a visit to Kourion, an impressive archaeological site that includes mosaics and a superb amphitheatre. Petra tou Romiou, the very spot where Aphrodite, the legendary goddess of love emerged from the foaming waves is your next stop. Once in Paphos visit the 3rd century House of Dionyssos where you can admire the excellent mosaics depicting familiar scenes from Greek Mythology. You can then pass by the catacombs of Ayia Solomoni, the Byzantine castle of Forty Columns and St Pauls Pillar. Spend the afternoon strolling around the picturesque harbour. 
 
Village Folklore Fiesta > An evening with a Difference!

The fiesta takes place in the beautiful, traditional surroundings of a village in the Ayia Napa area. On arrival, guests will be greeted with a glass of local wine offered to them by the local Priest and Mayor, while musicians serenade them with traditional music, escorting them to the Village Square. In a square lit by romantic lamps traditional customs such as throwing rice, rosewater blessings and incense-burning, all contribute to a truly memorable evening. Ladies dressed in national costume prepare some of Cyprus’ most delicious dishes and desserts in front of the guests. The evening includes entertainment from a Cypriot band with a folklore show and a famous ‘glass dancer’. Guests are invited to participate in the famous “Zorba Dance” as well as other traditional dances. Dinner is a sumptuous Cyprus ‘Meze’ washed down with plenty of local wine from barrels brought in on the back of donkeys – the original Cypriot way!
  
Night Barbecue

A relaxing event of sunbathing, swimming, dancing and fun. Setting sail from Ayia Napa fishing harbour to the sandy beaches of Protaras, discover the caves of Cape Greco and see in the distance the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta. A strolling duo will entertain you during the sail. A stop can be made at Konnos Bay where the Beach Barbecue Party starts. A rich barbecue buffet will be provided and offered under the stars of the clear Mediterranean night while a DJ provides dancing music.
 
Seafood Feast by the River

What better surroundings for a Seafood Feast than a fish taverna on the beach by the picturesque Liopetri river in a relaxed and informal environment. Dinner consists of the famous Fish Meze, many, many cold and hot dishes. A live band with authentic Greek songs and a folkloric show can be provided to entertain the guests until the morning hours.

Flashback > Athens Olympic Guide August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athens 2004 Olympics.
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As Athens takes is its mark, the writer is discovering more than the Olympics, but a city steeped in history and romance.
Article dated July 15, 2004

Anyone who was in Australia, particularly Sydney, this time four years ago have some idea about what the Greeks, particularly Athenians, are going through right now: Preparing to host an Olympic Games where the eyes of the world are upon your city.

Being host to the big event is a huge responsibility, and there are always critics who say it will never be finished in time and it won’t be as good as the last one. Add the unpredictable nature of the weather and workers’ strikes and it’s enough to give you a giant headache.

However, the Greeks are on a roll, and winning the world soccer championships a couple of weeks ago must have given their confidence and enthusiasm a huge lift.

Athens is in overdrive as it hasn’t hosted the Olympics since 1896. In true Greek fashion and tradition, they promise they will be ready for the opening of the XXVIII Summer Olympic Games. And, being the birthplace of the Olympic Games, first staged in 776 BC, they have a particular pride to uphold.

Athens will be host to 10,500 fit and excited athletes, from 199 countries, involved in 28 disciplines at 38 venues. 301 medal ceremonies will take place and 3000 team officials will ensure everything runs smoothly.

The Greek version of the Olympic torch, which earlier this year journeyed to Australia, is 68cms long, weighs 700 grams and resembles an olive leaf. The emblem of the Olympic Games is an olive wreath and the olive tree is the sacred tree of Athens.

Most of the city’s famous squares have been revamped and underground parking areas have been built. Restoration around the entrance to the Acropolis, Parthenon, Hadrian Library and Roman Agora has been completed, and classical buildings in the centre of the city have been renovated.

The Panathenean Stadium, built in the 4th century BC, has been amazingly preserved and was the focal point of the 1896 Games which were opened by King George 1 of Greece.

The crowning glory and final event of Modern Olympics is the Marathon, but this time it takes on another facet. It will follow the original course run 2500 years ago. Legend says the Athenian messenger Phiedippides ran 26.385 miles to take news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon. Participants will be in the very footsteps of the ancient gods and heroes who gave birth to western civilization. The finish line is in the Panathenean Stadium.

The Plaka is Athens’ most ancient living quarters. The narrow streets are already filled with Olympic souvenir shops, amongst the fashion boutiques and cafes selling Greek delicacies and excellent coffee.

So the Metro is ready, the hotels are shiny and ready, The Athenians are ready and the excitement is spreading in anticipation of the opening on August 13.

Flashback > Athens prepares for a sporting renaissance August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athens 2004 Olympics.
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As Athens prepares for a sporting renaissance, the big question is: will they be ready?
Article dated September 12, 2002

Athens. Named after Athena, goddess of wisdom, centrepoint of the ancient world, this city was the birthplace not only of democracy and western civilisation, but also the ancient and modern Olympics.

The city is attracting world attention these days as host of the XXVIII Olympic Games in 2004.

History shows that the first games were held in August 776 BC, lasting for five days, with events such as wrestling and chariot racing. The ultimate prize was an olive wreath, the emblem for the 2004 Games. Other awards were shields and woolen cloaks. From 702BC, athletes were made to compete naked to prevent cheating and those who made false starts were whipped. The games were banned in 339AD, as after 12 centuries they were deemed to be pagan.

The first modern Olympics were held in Greece in 1896, with foot racing, wrestling, javelin and discus the only sports remaining from the ancient Olympics. The 1896 Games had just 245 athletes from 14 nations, but spectator numbers at the Panathenaic Stadium were high. The next Games, held in Paris and St Louis, had disappointing receptions, so they returned to Athens in 1906. This time there were 900 athletes from 20 countries.

One large obstacle for Athens residents and visitors now is the sinister nephos (smog cloud), which hangs over the city making life quite unpleasant. Authorities intent on presenting a “clean” Olympics have banned cars from the central Plaka, limiting driver access in the city to alternate days only. And a mass-transit subway has been installed, with advertisement-free, marble stations which display archaeological finds discovered during construction. Businesses in Athens which produce any sort of pollution have been made to relocate and much work is being done on archaeological sites, classical buildings and public squares. A new airport is up and running.

Right now it seems that the city is just one big construction site, but locals, without exception, believe Athens will be ready.

One really successful step has been reunifying the city’s ancient sites. Places such as the Acropolis and Plaka will be joined by paths.

Restoration is centred around the Acropolis entrance, the Parthenon, Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora.

The Acropolis is the reason for Athens’s very existence and, with the Parthenon, it stands guard over the city, visible from almost everywhere. Floodlighting gives it a beautiful ethereal look at night and during the day, its white marble gleams.

The Parthenon (meaning virgin’s temple) was the largest Doric temple ever completed in Greece and the only one to be built entirely of Pentelic marble. It was commissioned by Pericles to house an enormous gold, ivory and precious jewel statue of Athena and as a treasury. The statue was completed in 432BC but disappeared from Constantinople in 426BC. The Roman copy can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum.

The Plaka is the oldest continuously inhabited section of Athens and has a number of archaeological sites, including the Greek and Roman agoras. It is also a place of restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, souvenir shops and hard sell.

Syntagma Square is home to much of the Athens government. The marvellous neoclassical building at the head of the square is the Greek Parliament building. Much construction has gone on to build an underground railway station there and there are lots of incongruous gaudy fast-food places as reminders of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Best Western Esperia Palace Hotel, not far from Syntagma Square, is rated four-star. It gives easy access to commercial and shopping areas and is walking distance to the Acropolis, museums, National Garden and Plaka.

Cost
Best Western Esperia Palace Hotel has rooms starting at around $305 per double per night, including breakfast.

More information

Hellenic Tourism Organisation
www.gnto.gr

Best Western Esperia Palace Hotel
22 Stadiou Street, Athens 10564
Ph: 210 3238001
Fax: 210 3288100
www.bestwestern.com

Heading to Athens? A short city guide August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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Heading to Athens? Here’s a short city guide: 

The city is bounded on three sides by Mt Parnitha, Mt Pendeli and Mt Hymettos. Within Athens there are no less than eight hills, of which the Acropolis and Lykavittos are the most prominent. The hills provide a peaceful respite from the clamour of the city, and offer stunning views to the glistening waters of the Saronic Gulf, the city’s boundary on the south side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city’s port. Just about everything of interest to the traveller is within a small area surrounding Plateia Syntagmatos (Syntagma Square). This area is bounded by the districts of Plaka to the south, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north.

Plateia Syntagmatos is dominated by the old Royal Palace, now the Greek Parliament, and is the beating heart of the business district, with luxury hotels, banks and airline offices. Plaka, nestled below the Acropolis, is the old quarter and virtually all that existed when Athens was declared the capital of independent Greece. Though Plaka is packed with tourists in high season, it’s also one of the prettiest and most atmospheric areas of the city. Monastiraki is the market district and a fascinating part of town to wander. Psirri, nearby, is brimming with stylish cafes and bars and makes a great place to stop for a spot of lunch. Kolonaki, a classy residential area tucked in under Lykavittos Hill, is full of trendy boutiques, art galleries and cafes. Omonia Square, a grimy zone known for its pickpockets and prostitutes, is an important transport hub, especially for buses and the metro.

When to Go

Spring and late autumn are ideal to visit Athens, by skirting around the summer months you can save yourself experiencing hell on earth. 40°-plus days make even the simplest activities a sweat and hordes of people in transit to the cooler islands make it hard to get around. Winter will save you money in accomodation and extras and, besides the odd rainy day, is quite a pleasant time with few tourists.

Getting There and Away

The state-of-the-art international airport is the primary gateway to Athens for most visitors, and – for transit passengers – it even has its own museum! In addition to flight, a well-run bus system, trains and ferries from the islands and Italy are also popular methods of arrival.

Athens is a busy European hub, well serviced by flights from most parts of the world. The swish new Eleftherios Venizelos international airport at Spata (27km/16.8mi east of Athens) opened in March 2001, making air travel to and from Greece a far more pleasant experience than it used to be. You can get to/from the airport by taking the metro or the suburban train. You can also catch the E94 express airport bus (about 25-35 minutes). You can also take the E95 airport express bus from Amalias Avenue in Syntagma, outside the Parliament (1 hour) or bus E96 from Plateia Karaïskaki in Piraeus.

Taxis can take longer than public transport if traffic is heavy. Trains to other parts of Greece leave from Larissis station and Peloponnese station, conveniently located near each other about 1km (0.6mi) northeast of Plateia Omonias. All Intercity train services are operating from the city’s new central station at Arharnon 20km north of the city centre.

There are two main intercity bus stations: Terminal A, about 7km (4.3mi) northwest of Omonia at 100 Kifissou Avenue and Terminal B, 5km (3mi) north Omonia off Liossion street. Drivers or motorcyclists can enter or leave the city via National Road 1, the main route north from Athens. 

Getting Around

The sparkling new metro system has made getting around the centre of Athens relatively painless, and the extension of the whole network should ease the city’s notorious traffic congestion. Athens also has an extensive bus, trolley-bus (electric cable bus) and tram network that was upgraded for the 2004 Olympics.

The blue and white Suburban Buses operate every 15 minutes from 05:00-24:00. They are inexpensive, usually comfortable and relatively fast.

Many of Athens’ ancient sites are within easy walking distance of Syntagma and many museums are close by on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, so chances are you won’t have much need for public transport. But if you do, you’ll find that the city’s upgraded metro system has made getting around the centre of Athens far less painful than it used to be. Journeys that used to take an hour above ground take just minutes below ground.

Driving in car-clogged Athens is an exercise in aggravation. You’ll encounter confusing signs, one-way street systems, cavalier attitudes to road laws and lack of car parks.  Athens’ taxis are inexpensive – though you should always check the meter is set to the right tariff – but hailing one can be incredibly frustrating. To try this from the pavement, shout your destination as one passes. If a taxi is heading your way, it might stop even if there are passengers already inside. But don’t count on it. If you absolutely must be somewhere on time, a more expensive radio taxi will save you the hailing headache.

Cable trolley-buses run from 05:00-24:00. You can buy tickets from most periptera (kiosks) and validate them on the orange machines inside the vehicles (same you should do for buses) while metro and tram tickets are bought at the stations or at periptera. At Syntagma you can obtain one-day, three-day or a week’s ticket or a montly card (if you are planning to stay long).

Events

The Greek Carnival season runs the three weeks before the beginning of Lent; festivities in Athens involve eating, drinking and all-around merrymaking. Easter is the most significant festival in the Greek Orthodox calendar. The candlelit procession climbing Lykavittos Hill to the Chapel of Agios Georgios is a truly impressive sight.

Cultural events rapidly roll in come summertime. Greek folk dances are performed from mid-May to September, and a nightly son et lumière runs from April to October. But the city’s biggest event is the Hellenic Festival, from mid-June to the end of September. Ancient Greek drama is performed at the Theatre of Herodes Atticus – a superb setting backed by the floodlit Acropolis. Plays run at other venues as well, and there are various classical music concerts and dance performances during the festivities.

Must-see sites

Acropolis
Ancient Agora
Benaki Museum
National Archaeological Museum
National Gardens
Roman Agora and Tower of the Winds
The Keramikos
Theatre of Dionysos

Greek Taste > Tzatziki recipe August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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2 (8-ounce) containers plain yogurt
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 cloves garlic, peeled

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients and process until well combined. Transfer to a separate dish, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour for best flavor.

Use this yummy dressing for gyros or Greek salad. You can also use it as a dip with pitta bread, along with other finger food, enjoy it with a glass of ouzo or retsina wine. It also makes a nice dipping sauce for veggies.

Narrowboat has a wide appeal August 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Young or old, trendy or traditional, the Narrowboat pub offers something for everyone 

THE NARROWBOAT | 119 St Peter’s Street, N1 | Hornsey and Crouch End, UK | Tel: 020 7288 0572

Old men who have presumably propped up The Narrowboat’s bar for years have peaceably moved over to share their local pub with young trendy types.

The venue’s tasteful makeover means there is much to attract the Upper Street brigade – not least the fashion and gossip pages from retro magazines plastered over the loo cubicle doors.

Its simple cream interior and pot plants make this canalside pub seem even more light and airy – and the perfect location for whiling away a summer evening.

Drinking and eating beside the canal is lovely, provided you have a sunny enough disposition to mentally block out the mountain of rubble on the bank opposite The Narrowboat.

The menu has a good selection- with a wide range of snacky options as well as choices for bigger appetites, including a good range of fish dishes.

My friend and I enjoy our starters – a simple antipasti dish with a range of tasty meats served with olives, gherkins and bread and a big, fat Greek salad.

Despite the fancy presentation this is no-nonsense, hearty grub. Our main courses come beautifully stacked but we don’t waste any time standing on ceremony.

I tuck into a juicy jerk chicken leg served on top of mashed potato with a red wine onion sauce and my friend tackles a grilled fillet of sea bass with roast tomatoes, basil and mascarpone cheese.

For dessert we opt for a meringue with summer fruits and vanilla ice-cream and strawberry brulee.

Wherever you fit along the spectrum of old codger to trendy Wendy – The Narrowboat is a fine option for a generously portioned and good value meal.