Wet Reading to sunny Polis.........by Lucy Coelho - Sept 2005
As a chill wraps itself around Britain and leaves turn blazing colours before curling and drifting to the ground, my mind leaves these shores for Cyprus which is still lush, green and full of sunshine.
Before long, I am able to leave autumn behind for those shores with two friends from university. We have shared the ups and downs of living away from home for the first time, glorying in dizzy freedom, procrastinated over tea and HobNobs in the communal kitchen during extended breaks from our dissertations and nursed immeasurable hangovers. Having spent an inordinate amount of time together at university, we had decided to relocate somewhere more appealing than the wet drizzly suburbs of Reading, namely Cyprus. With my friend Ali being a wheelchair user and a previous guest, she had been full of enthusiasm for C & A Apartments in Polis which is more commonly – and affectionately – known as Eva’s Apartments.
It is a wheelchair friendly complex which is largely down to the efforts of ‘wheelchair warrior’ Chris Neophytou, the owner and operator. He has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic and progressive neurological disorder that attacks the nervous system, wasting away the nerves and muscles. This has meant he has spent the last 14 years in a wheelchair. However, this has not prevented Chris from earning the apt warrior tag after campaigning for Polis to be more accessible to wheelchair users. One such result of a successful campaign is a specially installed wheelchair ramp at the beach.
With Chris at the helm, it is to be expected that the complex provides excellent facilities and this is reflected in the swimming pool area. It comes complete with a remote controlled lift which allows disabled guests to lower themselves into the blissfully cool water. A roll in shower is also available and loungers come with optional extra large mattresses to enable those in wheelchairs to lift themselves easily out and onto the lounger to bask in the sun’s rays.
Impressive and well thought out, this only sets a precedent for the accommodation. There are several studio apartments available that are larger than the average studio with roll in showers and more than adequate space for a hoist if it is needed. However, as there are three of us, we are to stay in one of the complex’s best features: a spacious three bedroom apartment.
It seems almost impossible that there should be so much space: the lounge area stretches the whole length of the apartment and fanlights whirr cool air on to hot, sticky and grimy complexions that can only be acquired after seven hours of travelling. One bedroom has a remarkably spacious ensuite with a roll in shower and the kitchen leads to a balcony overlooking the pool area, swaying palm leaves within arm’s reach. You will feel your body unwinding and relaxing in the balmy quiet.
What follows are several days of complete relaxation and we do not venture very far afield, except for when we take a tour around the island in a glass bottom boat. Disabled passengers are accommodated quite easily on this trip due to a ramp, adequate space for around three wheelchairs and a hoist that lowers you in the water if you fancy taking a dip into a blue lagoon. Once in the sea, rings keep you afloat but you do need upper body strength to be able to take part in this marvellous experience. Floating in the lagoon is like stepping into a postcard, one of thousands that plop through letterboxes up and down Britain, full of sunny promise.
Unfortunately, it is not possible for wheelchair users to make it down to the lower deck where you are offered a glimpse of the underwater world through the glass bottom. However, others are able to observe seaweed, rocks, tiny shoals of fish and, above all, the gloriously clear waters of the Mediterranean.
When not frolicking in the shallow waters of the lagoon, devouring ice cream at the local ice cream parlour is rather pleasurable in whiling away a baking hot afternoon. It appears to be the only one around but you won’t be disappointed – the delicious array of flavours will have you returning for more.
Laid back Polis is lively at night, and has much to offer by way of dining out inexpensively on what can only be called superb quality food. If you fancy watching the world pass by on a balmy night with a whisper of a breeze, Chix Choix, with its central location in the small but compact town square, is ideal for the purpose.
Or, on the other hand, if the idea of a meze grabs you, the only place for it has to be Finikas. With its bewildering entrances from all sides of the restaurant (about four, to be exact), wheelchair access is guaranteed, and there is even space to park your motorised scooter, if you have one. Ours is hired from Chris’s Paraquip rental agency and spends the evening parked by our table, a source of amused glances.
Finally, I would be doing a disservice not to mention two restaurants a few doors away from each other and complete opposites, but nonetheless equal in many ways. There is the modest, budget minded Alekos, with simple, filling dishes, which proves a favourite with my friends, and then there is Archontariki. Its sumptuous setting with candles and lush green plants as well as delicious food makes for a memorable evening.
The only problem is that there are no disabled facilities so it’s vital to make that trip to the bathroom before your jaunt into town. Needless to say there is an ongoing campaign by C & A Apartments for Polis to provide such facilities.
If you don’t feel like an evening out, make enquiries about the next barbecue held at the complex. Lively conversation and a long table heaped high with Cypriot dishes are guaranteed. The magnificent food is provided by Eva, mother of Chris and lynchpin of C & A Apartments, hence the name Eva’s Apartments. It is a superb opportunity to taste traditional dishes that are not always on restaurant menus and a bit of everything is heaped onto our plates.
A sunrise swim with Eva also comes highly recommended, despite having to drag yourself out of bed at 5.30 a.m. It allows you to experience the island at a shimmering, almost holy hour, before the everyday hustle and bustle takes over.
For more information on C & A Apartments, go to www.ca-hotel-apts.com
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(Activities are only in May-Sept, weather permitting!)