I have been writing about the Mediterranean since the early 1980s, when my various, arduous treks across the Greek mountains and islands – out of choice more than poverty – resulted in a cult guidebook, Greece on Foot, the first English-language hiking guide to the country, later re-issued by Lonely Planet as Trekking in Greece. Since then I've branched out into more mainstream travel writing, authoring, co-authoring or updating guidebooks to several countries for a wide variety of publishers.
Over the years I've also rhapsodised on Aegean ferry travel for The Independent, covered tourists behaving badly for The Times, and done assorted best-of roundups for both the Sunday and Daily Telegraph. My love for, and interest in, Greece goes well beyond tourism – I have compiled two CDs of Greek music for World Music Network (London), written about real estate and ruin renovation in Cadogan Guides' Buying a Property: Greece, and was for many years the London-Greek restaurant reviewer for the Time Out Eating and Drinking Guide.
Since 1989 I have divided my time between London and the island of Samos, from which it's just a hop and a skip to Cyprus. Although my Mediterranean travels began in 1978, I was relatively late in coming to Cyprus (1992); given my long familiarity with both Greek and Turkish culture, my publishers hoped that I would bring an objective eye to bear on a complex situation. The resulting Rough Guide to Cyprus, six editions later, has been hailed as the "single most comprehensive guide to the country" – thanks to my penchant for driving, hiking, diving and eating just about everywhere – and as having "the only accurate and incisive coverage of its history". I've also been privileged to photograph the magnificent painted churches of the Cypriot mountains for Insight Guides, and recently compiled a guide to south-coast cruise stops for The Daily Telegraph.
Where I always grab a coffee: Hard to find in the tiny Papadopoulou arcade off Nikokleous street in old Nicosia, laid-back little Kala Kathoumena coffee house (which also occasionally hosts nightime concerts) is a welcome antidote to the same-y chain fare on nearby Ledras Steet. Sit out in the arcade when the weather is fine (which it usually is).
The most breathtaking view: Don't let the modest (370m) height of Mouti tis Sotiras outcrop in the Akamas wilderness fool you – on a clear day the view from up here extends from Cape Arnoutis below all the way along Krysokhou Bay into northern Cyprus and even to the Turkish coast.
My favourite stroll: RIght up against old Nicosia's Green Line barrier dividing the southern from the northern sectors, the part-gentrified, part-time-warped lanes of the Khrysaliniotissa district are remarkably atmospheric and traffic-free, with their old churches, historic mosque and even an orientalist palm tree or two.
The best spot for peace and quiet: Outside of high summer at least, the beach north of Cape Lara in the Akamas region, with no amenities whatsoever and a rough road in guaranteeing that few come here other than nocturnally nesting turtles.
Fiction for inspiration: Margarita's Husband, by Greek Cypriot Andriana Ierodiaconou sees the husband of the title, self-made pillar of society and womanizer, overtaken by events, amour fou and family tragedy during the 1920s. Low-key prose with just a touch of magical realism make for an unexpected page-turner.
Don't leave without: ...tackling a meze-format meal. Bring a friend (or three), and go hungry – first there will be a medley of small platters, ranging from vegetable titbits like kouloumbra (sliced kohlrabi), wild asparagus or pickled capers, via assorted charcuterie such as tsamarella (goat salami) or lountza (cured pork) before the big main courses arrive.