I go to Nicosia in Cyprus to my family home a few times a year but only in winter or spring, which is my favourite season. It’s 20 degrees, really green and has a wonderful light – in summer it is so bright it bleaches everything out.
I’ll get up at 7am and have a coffee with my father before he heads off to his weekend house in Limassol on the south coast. There is a lot of debate about whether the coffee we drink is Greek or Turkish. It’s finely ground, boiled in a pot with water and served unfiltered, so it’s quite grainy. I think it’s Turkish.
After we say goodbye, I’ll go for a run in Academias Park, near my parents’ house. They moved to the Acropolis neighbourhood in 1972, into a place designed by the late Neoptolemos Michaelides, one of Cyprus’s best-known modernist architects. Afterwards, I’ll shower and have breakfast with my mother. She’ll serve bread and eggs and, if she’s making a proper Cypriot breakfast, tomatoes and halloumi too.
I’m out again at 9am. I’ll visit Brew Lab, an excellent coffee shop run by two guys who roast their own beans. I’m a coffee obsessive and discovered it near the Point Centre for Contemporary Art, a non-commercial gallery that focuses on artists connected to Cyprus.
I’ll say hi to my friend Andre Zivanari, who is the director at Point, and then I head to the Leventis Municipal Museum, where my chandeliers hang in the central atrium. The collection is quite conservative but very representative of Cypriot and Greek art. Then I go on to the Cyprus Museum where the collection, I believe, surpasses those of the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum. It’s a colonial building, a bit rundown, and you feel like you can almost touch the treasures. I love this. When museums are too polished, something is lost.
I’ll go for a walk around the old town. Its streets will be buzzing, and then suddenly you hit the Green Line [the buffer zone established by the UN in 1974] and everything stops. Nicosia is still divided and you can only cross from one side to the other at certain points. I was six when the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1974 and I remember the long years of recovery, but there’s no tension any more.
I’ll meet some friends for lunch at Pantopolio – I love its Greek and Cypriot dishes, with pulses or lamb. It’s absurd, but there’s not much fresh seafood in Cyprus, because of overfishing. Then I’ll pop into the Moufflon Bookshop, which specialises in English books on Cyprus.
I’m a keen swimmer. I always carry my trunks and goggles with me when I travel. At 7pm I’ll go for a swim for an hour at the heated municipal pool, which is outdoors. Meanwhile, my brother Costas will reserve a table at Taverna Kyriakos. It’s a sacred place for Cypriot souvlaki, a dish of healthy pitta filled with lean pork, fresh salad and sheftalia, a sort of sausage.
On Sunday, I’ll go to Limassol. My parents’ house there has a huge garden full of fruit trees, so for breakfast I’ll pick whatever is in season. On my way back to Nicosia, I’ll stop off at Lady’s Mile Beach for a sunset swim. I’ll arrive in the city in time for lahmajoun – a pizza-like bread topped with minced lamb or beef, spices and lemon – from Little Armenia. I’ll chat to the owner and chef Alvart, a wonderful, bubbly lady whose paintings decorate the entire space. She claims to have sold works to every politician in Cyprus.
I’m an early riser, so I’ll turn in straight away once I’m home. Although I moved to London 27 years ago, my bedroom has remained virtually unchanged. Like every other part of Nicosia, it is filled with childhood memories.