Greetings from Larnaca

The view from my balcony at sunset

This is a catch-up post about my travels earlier this year

After almost 20 hours door-to-door, I arrived yesterday in Larnaca, Cyprus, to 52-degree weather. My departure just before yesterday’s ice and snow extravaganza in Virginia was very timely.

My flight experiences were a mixed bag. The administrative part (test results, health declarations, etc.) went smoothly, but my actual flights didn’t. My United flight from Dulles to Frankfurt left late, had just nine cabin crew members for almost 300 passengers, and included two bouts of prolonged air turbulence that were the worst I’ve ever experienced. The United lounge at Dulles was excellent but the onboard Business Class food, drink, and space was not as good as that of many competitor airlines. Yeah, I know, First-World problems.

Connecting at Frankfurt Airport could have been a disaster had I not hired a “guide”. Yes, that’s a thing now. You pay a hefty fee and someone who knows the place and all the tricks meets you when you arrive and walks you to your next flight – and I thought it worth every penny. My big piece of luggage was checked through, so that I didn’t have to deal with it. My guide met me as I entered the terminal and took me through back stairs, nooks, and crannies I suspect are usually reserved for airport employees, onto a bus to another terminal, and thence past my departure gate so I’d recognize it and on to the nearest lounge. Frankfurt is a labyrinth of an airport, I kid you not. We apparently avoided two security checkpoints and a customs area. No questions, no hassles, wham-bam, thank you ma’am.

My Lufthansa flight on to Cyprus was quite good and, though in a much smaller plane, was in many ways a nicer experience than my fancy United transatlantic flight. For one thing, on the UA flight there were two stewardesses for 44 Business class passengers, on the LH flight the ratio was two to 12 passengers. For another, the Lufthansa food was better.

Here’s one interesting fact: the only time I went through an extendable “air bridge” from the gate to the plane was at Dulles. Every other time we parked away from the terminal and used a portable stairway to board or deplane, then took a bus to/from the terminal?! Said buses did not necessarily meet my standard of social distancing but the rides were brief.

Prior to my flights I had to apply for the “Cyprus Flight Pass” online, so there was no need to flash my test results and other docs (except passport, of course) when we landed on the island.

They do have a requirement was for all passengers to get a PCR test on arrival, no matter what, and the Cypriots really had this down to an art form. Starting with the fact that the plane-to-terminal bus only carried 12 passengers at a time, controlling the testing area crowd. Then they had a dozen folks at desks waiting for us, where we each paid 15 Euros (compare that to the $200 or so charged in the U.S. by some for same-day PCR results), and moved on to another dozen gowned folks who took our nose swabs. I never had to wait in line, just kept moving along, and was out to Customs and Border Control in no time at all. My bag was already doing donuts on the baggage belt when I arrived. Very impressive. I got my negative results by email two hours later.

It’s very tight here as far as COVID restrictions go – masks in all indoor spaces and you have to have your EU health pass (my Cyprus Flight Pass) scanned when you enter. However, it’s not perfect – only about 55% of the country is fully-vaxxed and the infection rate for this wave is just starting to descend. Still, it feels pretty safe.

And, of course, here and in transit I saw a wide variety of barely-wearing-it mask practices. I wore an N-95 all the way, changed it every four hours, and wore some protective eye wear over my glasses.

What’s Cyprus like? Well, Larnaca is a tourist beach town. Think of Ocean City, MD. So, it’s loaded with tourist places (my apartment building is flanked by a McDonald’s, a KFC, a Burger King, and a dozen coffee shops, including Starbucks and Nero). It’s not crowded now but must be pretty bad in summer. I did a big grocery shopping run today and that cost me 53 Euros (about $60) so it was a little less expensive than a similar run at Safeway in Falls Church.

My lovely Airbnb apartment

My Airbnb apartment is nice, in a slightly run-down, beachy sort of way. As you can see in the photo above, I have a 4th floor balcony, and I enjoy watching the passing scene and the freighters anchored off shore. Hot water comes from solar, so I have to remember to turn on the “Booster” heater ten minutes before a shower on cloudy days, but the water pressure is good. The thing I like least about it is the prohibition against putting anything that didn’t come out of me down the toilet, including toilet paper. Yes, the used TP goes into a trash can with a lid. Ugh. Seems unhygienic to me, but not unusual on islands, I’m told.

I’m enjoying the beach and the ocean, and I’m looking forward to exploring the neighborhood tomorrow.

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