The first hint that this might not be my usual holiday was when my sister in-law and I started looking at hotels. I had my list – boutique, tucked away, discreet; Georgia had hers – water slide, kids’ club, entertainment. Oh boy. Or should that be oh boys – two of them: my nephews, aged ten and five.
I was going on holiday with them for the first time. Being single and childless I generally travel light, taking myself off to places where (comparatively) few women and even fewer children have been before, while my sister-in-law and brother are more used to transporting the entire contents of their London house on holiday with them. How is it possible that two small people should need so much stuff?
Looking for our accommodation, Georgia and I felt like Goldilocks. After the first couple of hours we had refined our elimination process to one word – “too”. Anything that was too big, too small, too quiet, too noisy, too far from the sea was out. Finally, we chose the Alexander the Great Beach Hotel, in Paphos, which turned out to be a superb option that offered plenty of activities for children and, crucially, also had an adults-only serenity pool and an adults-only restaurant, just in case the children got too boisterous for me.
Though I’m happy to say I didn’t step foot in either, because getting down, literally, with the kids was an absolute joy. Cyprus is in my blood – my parents were both born there – but though I had been to the island many times, I’d only really appreciated it through an adult’s lens.
I knew the mosaics at the House of Dionysus inside out, and had an even more intimate knowledge of their subject – wine; I’d gone skiing on Mount Olympus; I’d hiked for hours along the marjoram- and sage-scented Adonis Trail.
But what I hadn’t done was build sandcastles on the beach (well, not since before I could remember); go to a water park (we chose the award-winning WaterWorld in Ayia Napa, Europe’s largest themed aqua park); or taken George’s Fun Bus around Paphos. I had also never stood on top of one of the highest buildings in Cyprus, Shacolas Tower in Nicosia, to enjoy panoramic views of the capital or taken the Yellow Submarine glassbottom boat down the coast from Ayia Napa.
Nor, it has to be said, had I ever cried with laughter on previous visits, or stopped so often for a bathroom break. Again, how was it possible for two children to pee so much? I also discovered a new-found love for Cypriot cuisine. Dishes like makaronia tou fornou (mac and cheese, but with mince) and lamb kebabs proved surprisingly popular with the boys – and satisfied the adults’ discerning palates. Our top restaurants were 7 St Georges Tavern, in Geroskipou, and Oniro by the Sea, on the way to Lara Bay.
The wild beach at Lara is beautiful, but a lack of amenities means it’s not one of the 17 Blue Flag beaches found around Paphos and Larnaca, though it does share their wide expanses of sand and warm, calm water. It was also at Lara Beach that I discovered the clichés about Cyprus being so family-friendly are true. There I saw, for the first time in my life, a look of pure elation and triumph on a five-year old’s face, when my youngest nephew took his first unaided swim – to the applause of an octogenarian local sitting nearby. I didn’t capture the moment on film, but it will stay forever in my memory. That’s why, despite having been on a lot of grown-up trips, with some remarkable experiences, since then, Cyprus with the kids remains my happiest holiday.
For more holiday inspiration, take a look at our inflight magazine which is currently on board.