Holiday at Villa Rockheart Begins!

And we’re off!  We were up early on Tuesday morning, because our flight with Turkish Airlines to Ercan was at 1035 from Gatwick. It should have only taken us about 50 minutes from where we live in Kent, but the M20 and M25 were both absolutely chock a block with traffic, maybe because it was the first day after the Bank Holiday weekend. In any event, it took us an hour and threequarters.
We were still in plenty of time and we had meet and greet parking, so it didn’t take us long to get to the check in. We really like Turkish Airlines. Very quick, no fuss and great service on the planes. You get a nice hot meal, lots of drinks service and another snack before landing. Good films too. The only drawback is the need to change planes in Istanbul. No problems with it. We had a 2 hour layover so we used that to stretch our legs around the shops in the terminal and get some cold drinks and use the free wifi.
Arrived in Ercan airport just before 8pm and we were out with the luggage within 25 minutes. The chaps from Gunray car rental were waiting for us at the terminal door and even wheeled our suitcases over to the car for us. We were on our way within 10 minutes and home to the house by 920. Of course it was dark so we couldn’t see too much of the garden but enough to know that everything was growing well.
Marion and her cleaner had been in and got the place ready for us, good to have the groceries and drinks already put away. Enough for a first supper and breakfast, and a generous wine and beer selection.

We sat out on the terrace with a couple f brandies and relaxed, just enjoying being back in Cyprus. It was so quiet. Not even a barking dog.
This morning we woke up about 8ish and got on with the unpacking. It was a glorious day. Around 27C, hot sun all day. Once we were unpacked and we’d had some breakfast, we had an explore around the garden. WOW! We could not believe how much everything has grown and that’s down to Habibi’s work


and also the supply of constant water for the watering system now that the Turkish water is all online 24 x 7.

The wall is covered in different shrubs and climbers, an absolute mosaic of flower. The flowers up the banks are over 6 feet tall as are some of the new trees. The bottlebrush trees are back to full bloom after they had a very severe pruning a couple of years ago due to a “man with a bulldozer”. The screening trees we put along our boundary are also very tall and we will take the tops off them in the autumn so they don’t go up any further. Anyway, we are delighted and there will be lots of fruits and nuts this year for guests to enjoy. Already, we have about 8 lemons fully ripe on the little tree behind the bbq. It had been in a patio pot, and not too happy so I moved it about 18 months ago. It’s never looked back.
After our survey, we headed off down to get the shopping in. First to Y Belli, the fruit and vegetable stall. An amazing place. The farmers drive up with their lorries, unload the produce straight off the back and into the bays and you can buy it! Yes, lots of irregular shaped stuff, but soooo fresh and good. The potatoes here are the best anywhere. I’d forgotten the taste of good potatoes till we came here. Got a massive amount of veg, everything that was in season. I rarely buy anything that isn’t local because a. it’s obviously more expensive and b. there is just so much local stuff to choose from, you don’t need to. You just need to be a bit flexible. Today I got: spinach, green beans, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, sweet peppers, coriander, mint, a rope of garlic, spring onions, bananas (yes, local) and cantaloupe melon. Vegetables and fruit are much cheaper here as long as you buy what’s in season.
Then, to the supermarket. Starlings is right at the bottom of our hill. It’s all modern these days, like at home. Again, you can get everything you want at the supermarkets here, many English products, but if you buy local products, it’s cheaper.  They have lovely jars of things to make hors d’oevres with: sundried tomatoes, artichokes, canned asparagus.  I like the local olives of all sorts and also all the different canned beans and legumes which make gorgeous salads with some spicing and mayo.  The breads are amazing.  I try not to go near it, so bought myself some Ryvita so I have no excuse.

We got everything we needed there but I also wanted to go to Ileli supermarket which is about 50m down the road. They have a very good butcher in there, He makes a lot of nice things. True to form, he was making sheftali – a sort of lamb sausage wrapped in cawl which are perfect for the bbq. I bought a load from him, plus some nice beef ribs, some ribeye steaks and some lamb chops. The meat here is not cheaper than the UK but it’s all very good.

We also bought some local gin and brandy. The brandy was about £3 for the bottle. Honestly, it’s just the job with a coffee at night. It sounds like it should be rotgut but we really like it. The gin was about the same price. Again, mixed with tonic I can’t tell the difference and have never suffered any ill effects. My friend says it gives her a headache but its never upset us or any of our guests.  Maybe we are just used to drinking the local spirits in India!!!   It’s always on the bottom shelf under the premium brands. The old trick!
Unpacked all of that and then relaxed around the pool for a bit. All looking so nice.
Someone is building houses right down the hill from us. They have carved out the access roads. It doesn’t affect our house or views at all but it must be a sign that someone is optimistic for the economy. They built about 10 houses at the very bottom of the hill last year and a lot of them are now clearly occupied. Property is cheap out here compared to the UK and many places in the Med.

OH YES!!! HUGE NEWS!!!!  When we were here a year ago our local Mardos ice cream parlour at the bottom of the hill had closed up.  In many ways (except one!) this was terrible news.  We loved all their flavours and it was so incredibly cheap.  You could buy 16 scoops all packed in a special Styrofoam box to take home for just about a fiver.  Fantastic.  Such a treat.  Anyway, very sad to see it go.  BUT – it has re-opened and is now at least twice the size it was before!!!! The new franchise owners have bought the shop next door and expanded into it.  So, that’s fantastic news for the summer.  Everyone who stays at our house always loves Mardos.

PS: Bob just got back from a run out to buy charcoal with a small Mardos tub ie 8 scoops. Well… now we have a decision to make about tonight’s dessert.  Is it Cantaloupe melon or Mardos??? Oh god…. there goes the diet for another day….

Had our first bbq tonight.  Our traditional brick bbq was built for us by our friend, David, who went way beyond the call of duty, when he struggled through desperately unusual snow and ice to get it completed.  I mean…. yes, it gets cold in February, but cold here generally means about 16C 🙂 not…. snow…  Poor man had to buy a woolly hat, jacket and gloves!!!!   Anyway, it’s a massive part of the holiday experience and we love it. We grilled some of the sheftali along with a couple of the sweet red peppers.  You just put them on, whole, with a bit of oil drizzled on top.  Delicious.  Bob had his with some slices of the local bakery bread…. ommm ommm…. so good.  I didn’t have any.   I wish I could tell you I felt the better for it. 🙂

But…. I did have some Mrados ice cream…. with local strawberries.  Oh, divine!  I will take some pictures of the strawberries tomorrow.  They are grown in the west of the island around Guzelyurt.  Amazing.  There was a strawberry festival a week or so ago.  I have never seen such dark red strawberries, and so sweet too.  Strawberries in the UK are never this dark, almost maroon red rich colour.  They are light, bright red.  But the flavour goes with the colour… Honestly, the strawberries we had tonight were historically good.  We both remarked on them immediately.   And… yes…. the ice cream was really good too.  Although we both thought the scoops were not as big from the new shop as they used to be… maybe that’s why they went bust!