One day, likely a distant day still, I will learn the art of the Google search. I am old enough to remember the days when the BBC weather presenters would have to rescue the fallen clouds that were manually pinned onto their weather maps. Those were the days when it would have been more than acceptable to miscalculate the weather forecast ahead of your upcoming holiday. Nowadays, however, in an era when the power of Google has rendered it both a noun and verb, is it even possible to fall so wide off the mark with the weather? Apparently so.
My recent visit to South America was a case in point. Packing for Bolivia with coral denim shorts, a cold-shoulder royal blue vest and a bag of strappy sandals was nothing short of laughable when I arrived to find that what I actually needed was wooly knits and snug, toasty socks.
And that was the second time this year I had failed to look up the weather.
Thankfully, in Cyprus over Easter weekend, I had only misjudged it to the tiniest degree. It may not have been the sweltering Mediterranean affair I had imagined but the days were glorious enough for sun cream and balmy enough to shed layers; and although it wasn’t quite pool weather for me, I soon saw that there was more than enough to keep me occupied for the next five days at the exquisitely chic boutique property we had checked into.
Never had I pictured that a Brit-filled, tourist-laden resort would exude such elegance and grace as Elysium Hotel & Spa in Paphos (let alone during school holidays!) It may have been nippy by night and almost full to capacity in April but our mini Cypriot retreat was our passport to total rejuvenation in the first quarter of the year and today, I am going to demonstrate exactly why.
The Pillow Menu
Before we had even discovered the interiors, restaurants, activities or views, we discovered the pillow menu. At home, I can toss and turn inexplicably even in the comfort of my own bed and my most familiar surroundings, whereas my sleep is never better than it is during my travels. Perhaps, I owe that to the escape from the daily grind or perhaps, I am never more in my element than I am when exploring new terrains with my love by my side.
If a pillow plays any part in the sleep equation, however, then this was the place to find the one. Fully aware that it can take me twenty minutes just to choose a sandwich at a supermarket, I decided to leave the pillow decision-making (pillow talk, if you will) to my Insta family seeking their help to choose between lavender aroma or cherry stones. The former was the overwhelming victor and with its soothing notes transporting me back to the Mayfield Lavender Fields, my long held tradition of flawless holiday sleep only strengthened.
The Balcony Views
If there was ever a year for the balcony as an entity in its own right, 2018, for me, has been it. From our balcony overlooking Mount Etna in Sicily to the moment I watched the sunrise over Lake Titicaca, 2018 has given me a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures derived from having an outdoor seat at your immediate disposal.
After several years of adventuring together, one of our self-care steps that we have consciously vowed to focus on has been the art of slowing down, something we are habitually bad at. The beauty of a balcony is that slowing down comes with the territory. No one sits on a hotel balcony whilst frantically rushing between ceiling-to-floor to do lists.
The very charm of a balcony is the freedom to take a moment to pause and admire with only the occasional flash of a camera or sip of tea disrupting the chi. Ironically, on most of these occasions, we hadn’t even asked for a balcony – perhaps fortune favours the disorganised?! Either way, our delightful surprise balcony at Elysium afforded us a glimpse of the ocean, the fronds of palm trees and an idyllic spot from where I could read and finish a whole cuppa – the little happy moments that I rarely prioritise in day to day life.
With a whole host of free exercise classes on offer, we really had nowhere to hide during our retreat, particularly since I was seeking an opportunity to refresh and revtilaise – the kind of buzz words I normally hate but ain’t nobody going to argue about the fact that I need to do more exercise and so, we dragged ourselves down to the gym to sign up. Do book them in good time, as they proved popular and yoga was already full when I tried to reserve.
Instead, we put our names by the upper body class and fit ball pilates session. As novices to both, we were pumped and eager to go but we soon realised how flimsy our collective biceps were, when we were seen carrying the lightest weights in the entire class and when Pumpkin spent most of the following week asking me how to diagnose a muscle tear. Much more enjoyable, was fit ball pilates, which felt both relaxing and strenuous in one clean sweep.
The Spa and Relaxation Room
A spa, by definition, is already intended to be a pampering experience so when a 5 star spa hotel comes with its own dedicated relaxation room, you know you are in for a floaty few hours. I am not hugely experimental when it comes to spa treatments so you will only ever find me browsing the facial and massage sections of the menu and this time, I opted to work off my poor posture with an hour-long aromatherapy massage.
60 minutes of soothing body oils and a week of Mediterranean sunshine later, my skin was in tip top condition and after all that *strenuous* exercise at the gym, my muscles were in need of the massage after all… 😉
I may have been too chicken to actually get in the pool but I was totally in my element lounging beside it, book in hand, Vitamin D soaring and stuffed sandwich on my lap.
It isn’t often that I allow myself a carb fest and crisps for lunch but it was Easter Weekend and I was revelling in the smugness of not having dabbled in any chocolate.
Egg paraphernalia was scattered throughout the hotel from baskets of coloured eggs to eggs woven into plants by the concierge desks. And although my shoulders never made it into the water, my new pilates legs were certainly spotted dipping in and out.
Gourmet Pan-Asian Dining
Long time readers will know that I have a soft spot for authentic street eats and local foods when I travel. Over the years, I have given little glimpses of my must-eats in Tokyo and underground food tours in Marrakech. Just once in a while though, it is okay to be openly lazy on holiday and to savour the joys of a 4pm nap, a 6pm power shower and an 8pm slap up meal waiting for you at the bottom of the stairs.
Breaking away from our own conventions, in Cyprus, we allowed ourselves the luxury of eating at the hotel restaurants but for 5 star prices, I expect 5 star quality and thankfully, I found this a-plenty at Elysium’s pan-Asian restaurant, O’Shin with my firm Japanese favourites of sushi and tempura amalgamated into the novel tempura sushi rolls. And just in case this didn’t generate enough over-excitement, the quartet of dolls’-house sized ice cream cones sealed the deal once and for all.
The Atrium and Art Gallery
If you aren’t pleased by lazy poolside lunches, langourous massages and whiling away the hours on a sun-soaked balcony, then firstly, what is the matter with you?!Secondly, let me reassure you that even for you harder-to-please culture vultures, the very atrium of the hotel is a work of art with murals plastered across its huge walls, a step back into ancient civilisation in its stony courtyard and practising your princess poses in the hotel’s own little amphitheatre.
After days out exploring in our hire car, visiting nearby ancient ruins and ambling in unspoilt mountain villages, our afternoons and evenings were blended together seamlessly with the historical style of the interiors at Elysium.
Sunsets by the Sea
They call me a night owl and they probably always will. Until this year, I am not sure if I had ever intentionally seen a sunrise (even the unintentional ones were the product of jet lag and early flights) but sunsets? Sunsets have long monopolised a rather infatuated corner of my heart. I have admired them from the shores of Bali to the car park of the local supermarket but those warm evening hues never fail to captivate me and over at Elysium, we ogled at the dusky notes, as we found a rock to perch on by the edge of the momentum-gathering waves of the sea.
Easter at the resort had proved fairly popular judging by the number of full tables at dinner but sat on a large stone together staring out, it was hard to remember anyone else was there at all.
With a genuine thirst to explore, it isn’t very often that we allow ourselves a break away solely intended for relaxing and refreshing the minds and even on this occasion, the Robinson Crusoes within uncovered all kind of magical Cypriot villages which I will share with you in due course; but in Paphos, so often known for its party scene, the two of us learned the restful benefits of slowing down and stopping and the Elysium Hotel was just the place for it.
Are you more of a fan of relaxing retreats, adventurous exploring or a happy mix of both?