Some weekends you just want to kick back and relax and on others, you feel the need to shake off the week’s accumulated layer of stress and tiredness. This weekend was one of those, so I bundled my kids, their friend, and our dog into my car and headed into the mountains.
My daughter’s friend has never been up to Troodos for a proper visit, other than a brisk trip to Troodos Square and back with her class, so the kids decided that we should take her to one of their favourite places – Caledonia Falls.
We’ve been walking this trail long before they put in the bridges and steps that now make it an easy enough route for people to do in their Sunday-best and loafers. But regardless of how many times we’ve walked it, my kids never get bored. We don’t always do the full trail, finding it easier to park at the Trout Farm at Pano Platres and do the shorter walk up to the Falls and back from there.
The kids were particularly energetic today and wild-footed it over and under the little bridges and off the beaten path – touching every cascade of water they could reach, picking up sticks and pinecones. It had rained heavily for the past three days (so much so that Platres’ entire cherry crop was ruined this year) but it was a glorious afternoon. The filtered sun found a way through the overhead leafy canopy to light up the brilliant-greened moss underfoot.
They were infectiously happy – running free and wild – testing their limits, and balance, as they teetered on tree branches over the water and slid up and down boulders. The smile on my daughter’s friend’s face alone made it all worthwhile. I quickly forgot how tired I was from my busy week and stood in front of the waterfall with the girls, arms out wide, letting the cold spray refresh us.
On the way home, we decided to stop at the new premises of the Platres Chocolate Workshop for a well-needed sugar fix and ended up staying far longer than I’d expected we would when we first stepped through the door in our muddy boots.
Ah, those older gentlemen with a twinkle in their eyes!
John, if you’ve never met him, is wonderful. I have a soft spot for older gentlemen with a twinkle in their eyes. Entertaining and softly spoken, he let us try several of his unique handmade chocolates.
I particularly liked his ‘Jungle Chocolate’ (sourced from beans that no other Chocolatier will buy because they are ‘tainted’ by the peppery cinnamon taste of the Vietnamese jungle in which they are grown and, in my opinion, what makes his chocolate taste so good).
We also tried his FLAVA (pure royal jelly and cocoa) dark chocolate that contains no sugar and yet isn’t at all bitter. All the while, he patiently explained in his soft voice the stories behind each of his creations, including a 100g bar of rare-sourced chocolate layered with real gold leaf that cost a whopping 100 euros!
Our conversation was so engaging that we stayed for a very long time, but John kept the kids amused with his stories and free ice cream. Even his soft-scoop is unique – so velvety because of the higher content of cream than other local brands.
I personally loved his yoghurt ice cream – it’s amazing – with a hint of tartness to take away the sweetness of the cream.
I came home with some Jungle Chocolate and Royal Jelly goodness (because it really IS good for you), but I’ll be making an excuse to visit again soon, even if it involves a 2-hour hike with the kids beforehand.
John and his lovely wife Praxi also run chocolate workshops, where you get the chance to make your own chocolate (and eat it, of course)! They are now expanding their business to workshops for kids; in schools and for birthday parties and events in people’s homes, in their large apartment in Nicosia, or at their premises in Platres.
Contact details are on their site if you want to know more. And no, I wasn’t paid for this recommendation (forgetting of course the free chocolate and ice-cream tasting we had while we were there!).
Cherry picking in the orchard
The day was topped off with cherry-picking in Yiayia’s orchard (the ones that were left, at least, after the storm).
My kids can spend hours in that orchard, turning over stones, climbing the trees, whooping, and hollering with no fear of disturbing the neighbours.
Every time we return to the mountains after a noticeable absence, I am reminded of how much happier we are up there – breathing the fresh air, with the smell of damp earth in our noses, and mud between our toes.
2022 update: The chocolate workshop seems to have closed now, which is a shame. I often wonder what happened to John and Praxi. I hope that, wherever they are, they are still crafting chocolate and sharing it over coffee and while telling stories.