Getting to our hotel in Limassol meant sampling the rough charms of Larnaca Airport. On arrival we thought our plane had been rerouted to the Seventies. We spent an enjoyable few minutes at the carousel, watching through the rubber strips while moustachioed baggage handlers took turns to kick seven shades out of the jammed cargo container holding our suitcases.
Soon after signing for our rental car in the bazaar atmosphere of the arrivals hall we were heading west on the motorway, with Mr Smith earnestly exploring the fingertip cruise control, and Mrs Smith looking for any correlation between the road outside and the Everest of maps given to us by the airport tourist office. Cyprus has treasures in abundance, but an odd parsimony when it comes to road signage. Nevertheless, as the sun set we were cruising the Miami-like strip in Limassol, looking for the discreet flag marking the entrance to the our hotel, Londa.
Parked under the towering palms flanking the driveway, we ascended fragrant steps lined with geometrically-manicured herb beds and were blasted with a ravishing view through the ground floor of the Londa. Clean lines and glass walls lead the eye through the stylish bar to the mirror-smooth ultramarine sea beyond. Breathtakingly Zen.
Charming staff greeted us and in no time we were taking in the same view from our balcony – Which was far from the room’s only appeal. Cyprus’ first couture hotel smacks of class. Incredible to imagine that the Milanese design duo, Letizia Caruzzo and Paolo Rancati, have custom-made everything; from the ‘Cavallino’ carpets to the hand-carved headboards. No surprise that their Studio is the Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferrè’s first port of call when creating a new boutique. A wall of weaved wood and white-paper screens in the sitting room slid open to reveal the bedroom, where crisp linen and voluptuous pillows met Mrs Smith’s exacting standards. A cheeky green fabric sculpture of an oversized peapod adorned the bed.
Further exploration revealed two bathrooms well-stocked with robes, slippers and Molton Brown’s finest elixirs. The larger bathroom also boasted that item so welcome in a hotel but so derided in a home, the Jacuzzi. Ours was of such capacity that after filling it we half expected to look outside and find the sea empty. We turned the jets on after a few minutes luxuriating and wished we hadn’t been so gung-ho with the bubblebath.
Refreshed and ruddy, we headed down to the bar for a pre-prandial cocktail. The Londa’s general manager, Jochen Niemann, greeted us with warmth and discretion and guided us to a sea-view table. Come sundown, the bar and restaurant are illuminated by concealed lights which twinkle through holes pierced in the Brancusi-esque pillars. The effect is as restful as it is striking. We savoured a brace of flawless mojitos and pored over the menu. The restaurant is operated by the renowned Caprice of Mykonos, and their dishes cleverly blend influences from both ends of the Mediterranean, centring on Italy.
After an epic night’s sleep, we stumbled down to breakfast and were dazzled by the same dining room in its white daytime livery. A vast spread of goodies was laid out on several tables, and we did our level best to sample the lot. Linen-clad waiters were kept busy fetching shots of Cypriot coffee; a buzz beyond compare.
Mrs Smith bounced to her appointment at the spa, clinging stoically to her theory that spa staff are trained by cult leaders to talk in hypnotherapeutic tones, luring you into buying armfuls of products. Her contrary disposition, usually inclined to bellow in rebellion over the hushed voices was given no such occasion at the Londa Spa. The delightful Dragana’s lively chat and enthusiasm had Mrs Smith leaping onto the comfy bed, conspiracy-free. Supine, after a rigorous scrub and power shower, Mrs Smith was massaged from highlights to nail polish and covered in a firming mask. Cocooned in a heated blanket and left in the dark, the last thing she remembered was the soporific ‘tick tock’ of the timer until Sade, rather aptly, woke her up singing ‘…it never felt this hot before’.
It seemed appropriate after such a soul-lifting experience that this Mrs Smith should seek out her Mr Smith, who was busy investigating the pool area. Another design tour de force; clever use of different levels and varied furnishings creates a seamless transition of indoors to outdoors, of bar to restaurant to poolside, which made a welcome change from most hotels’ ranks of sunloungers resembling field hospitals in disaster areas. After a few lengths, Mr Smith padded the few steps down to the beach, onto sand of the softest variety and into water warmer than the pool. The beach nestles in a man-made cove, secluded from the occasional parasailor or jet skier who dot the horizon during marine rush-hour. Thus cloistered, Mrs Smith felt honour-bound join in.
Mrs Smith so enjoyed her treatment that she decided to find one we could share, and the Four Seasons down the strip obliged with a his ’n’ hers mud extravaganza. Resplendent in disposable paper underwear, we were shown into a steam-pod built for two where we smeared each other with three grades of mud and pretended to be hippos. The experience was more hilarious than sensual, but made for a jolly curtain-raiser to an excellent massage.
It was a Herculean task leaving the hedonist embrace of the Londa but conscious of the embarrassment of riches on the island we set off to visit the ancient city-kingdoms of Kourion and Paphos, where exquisite mosaics and stonework are still being uncovered. A toddler beside us was chuckling fatly at the excavations, ‘Rock! Look, rock!’. We shared his enthusiasm entirely. Stopping en route at the ‘birthplace of Aphrodite’, we were charmed to see one man’s Goddess of Beauty (all 15st of her) heave herself atop a low rock offshore to do her best seductress impression for the camera. The power of Aphrodite ensured that he saw a siren in his viewfinder.
There are other delights inland, and it was well worth driving up into the wooded Troödos mountains to visit the jewel-like painted churches, most of which are World Heritage Sites. We plumped for Archángelos Michaíl in Pedhoulas and dropped in on the pocket-sized Byzantine museum across the street. Stavros, a charming bobby-turned-curator whisked us round the exhibition, housing extraordinary icons dating back to the twelfth century. We were as entranced by images of The Hermit Saint as we were his curiously dark whiskers. Culturally sated, we stopped for a marathon lunch at the delightful Agrovino Taverna in Lofou and stocked up on bottles of their homemade red.
We uncovered further gastronomic riches closer to home on a night out in Limassol’s Carob Mill area. Slickly converted stone mill buildings now house the city’s most stylish bars and restaurants. We started at Stretto for drinks, Mrs Smith choosing a brandy sour — the traditional Cypriot cocktail — while Mr Smith wanted to try Commandaria, a sweet fortified wine made from the world’s oldest vines. We landed at a pavement table outside Karatello and took on generous libations of local vino and meze on an industrial scale.
Back at the Londa we lay on our island of a bed, too full to move, and listened to the waves lapping the cove outside; one of those rare moments when life takes on a rosy hue of impossible dimensions. If anyone’s after an affidavit of support for the Londa, we’d be willing to provide a gilded copy.