Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Summer In Ibiza

For reasons I'll never know, I have only just had my first experience of Ibiza. I've been reading about, dreaming about and mythologising this place since, oh, about 1990, so it's only taken me 26 years to get there. From hungrily reading about the Ibizan club scene in The Face magazine back in the late '80s to devouring virtually every Ibizan-based Instagram account out there, I've been mesmerised by the idea of the White Isle for most of my adult life. 

But as a natural pessimist who always expects everything to fall short of expectation, part of the reason it's taken me so long to is that I didn't want my gilded idea of Ibiza to be ruined by what could possibly be a less romantic reality. And then it became really expensive. And then we had kids and, well, you know how it goes. 




Anyway, one miserable day in January, an idle internet search threw up the perfect combination of reasonable flights and reasonable accommodation and a summer holiday was booked. I'd already done some research into where to stay and had picked up tips from friends, including old timers who've been going for years and know the ins and outs of the island. And all those hours gazing longingly at Instagram gave me a good grounding in the geography of the place and helped me put together a loose travel itinerary.



We stayed in the east of the island, just outside the resort of Santa Eularia, and were very happy with our self-catering apartment at the Siesta Mar complex. The staff were lovely, it was very clean and well maintained, with a fantastic pool that was literally steps from our accommodation. We had convenient parking and could walk into Santa Eularia, with a mini supermarket just across the road and larger supermarkets a short drive away. 

While I found Santa Eularia itself a bit too commercialised for my tastes, it's not an unpleasant resort and has some superb restaurants and cafes, as well as a nice marina and sandy beach. But with lots of other more authentic places on our doorstep, we didn't spend much time here, aside from picking up breakfast at a fantastic bakery on the main street and dropping by the Pacha shop.



Hiring a car is a must if you want to experience the more authentic side of the island. Enchanted by all those images of beautiful instagrammers wafting round the hippy markets and swimming in deserted coves, I wanted a piece of the action so we made the very most of our car, driving North, South and inland to experience its different personalities. Near to our resort we found some lovely beaches - Cala Pada and Cala Llenya, both about 10-15 minute drive, were particular favourites. 



For August they never felt too crowded and delivered on clear, calm swimming waters. It's true what they say about the Ibizan beaches - they're perfect for families with many enjoying shallow, safe swimming conditions for little ones.



We loved every beach we visited, including the idyllic and part nudist Aiguas Blancas, the stunning little cove of Cala d'en Serra and the mythical Benirras, THE place to watch the sun go down in the North of the island. I'm not one for spiritual experiences but if I was going to have a spiritual experience anywhere, watching the sun dip into the seat Benirras might be the most likely place this would happen.



Inland, we enjoyed visiting the lovely villages of Santa Gertrudis, San Carlos and San Juan, as well as the super sleepy Sant Llorenc, a tiny village and home to the stunning La Paloma restaurant and cafe, a real highlight of our holiday. We spent a blissful afternoon here, enjoying lunch on the tree studded terrace and looking out over the beautiful surrounding countryside. For me, this place typified the luxe-hippy vibe of the island I was hoping to experience, but thankfully wasn't as prohibitively expensive as I'd been expecting. Highly recommended. 



Now, remember I said I'd been intrigued by the idea of Ibizan clubs since the olden days? Well, despite going with the kids and being - ahem - perhaps a little past my clubbing prime, I wasn't going to go all the way to Ibiza and not get any where near a pair of decks (or whatever it is they use in the clubs these days). The obvious place to do this is, of course, at San Antonio's Sunset Strip or the mega clubs of Pacha, Amnesia and Space...but sadly they don't let kids in, even for the foam parties. 



So our experiences were limited to Las Dalias Hippy Market, home to some brilliant DJs, and Las Salinas beach where you can choose from The Jockey Club or Sa Trinxa for your have-child-will-go-clubbimg moment. The former was our beach club of choice and meant we could hang out with the beautiful people, listen to some nice tunes and embarrass our children by dancing. But that's fine as they can distance themselves from you while you do this a few metres away on the beach - win, win. The drinks here are very expensive, though.



I have to give Las Dalias a mention again - I loved it here. I'm partial to a market at the best of times, but when you can mooch about looking at hippy-style bags, flip flops and other gorgeous trinkets, under the moonlight, to the perfect soundtrack of balearic house, I was feeling on particularly good form. You can get very good cocktails here and food, plus there's even a children's area with the most amazing hand-made carousel, run by an amazing old hippy - the stuff of Ibizan legend, basically. 



Ibiza Town is a must-visit too. Cosmopolitan, vibrant, bustling - there wasn't anything I didn't like about this place. Gawping at the mega yachts in the harbour was a highlight for the kids, while I adored the old town - Dalt Vila - with its atmospheric alleyways, stylish restaurants and fairy-light strung plazas. We made a couple of visits to the fantastic La Bodega for really good, well-priced tapas in a cute side street just outside the old city walls.



Another highlight of the trip - marred slightly by the crowds and nausea-inducing ferry crossing - was a trip to Formentera. Everyone had told us to go and I'd seen enough pictures of Jade Jagger reclining on the island's beaches over the years to have my own serious yearning to experience this place for myself. And it is truly breath-taking.



Like the beaches of Sardinia, you can't quite believe water and sand can be this clear and this white this side of the Idian Ocean. It's just spectacular and even a difficult journey to get there (you need to get a bus, taxi or bike from the port to the beaches) and crowds can't detract from its beauty. Do be sure to take your own supplies and parasols as there is no natural shade on most of the beaches. 



If you get an overcast day and don't know where to go, there are some outstanding shopping opportunities on the island. Santa Gertrudis has some cute little boutiques while I fell in love with just about everything in both Sluiz and La Galeria Elefante, both situated on the road into Santa Gertrudis. Sluiz is a bit like Ikea meets Antropolgie meets the Conran Shop meets Tiger...but even that description doesn't really do justice to its uniqueness. 

It's the sort of place where you'll be happily browsing the quirky homewares and a gospel choir suddenly appears and starts singing '90s R&B at you. There's a restaurant and cafe/bar, plus the weirdest toilets I've ever been in. All in all, well worth a detour. 



Over the road La Galeria Elefant is a much more bohemian affair with a beautifully curated collection of fashion, jewellery, home ware and more. It's the kind of place that makes you want to give it all up, buy a rundown finca and furnish it with Indian cushions and stuff made from reclaimed wood.



But sadly, I'm some way off giving up the day job or affording a second home to fill with bohemian knick knacks. Also, just going on holiday to Ibiza isn't the cheapest of options - you can spend some serious money here. 

That said, we didn't find it as pricey as we were expecting - we made economies by taking our own parasol everywhere (this was provided in our apartment), taking picnics to the beach and seeking out the more authentic, wallet-friendly places on the island (the cute little restaurant Bar Anita in San Carlos is much loved by the fashionable set but the food is fantastic value; another budget-friendly option is Destino in Sant Josep.)



We swapped an expensive dinner at the gorgeous Amante Beach club for a couple of cocktails - we still got to enjoy the amazing views and DJ but decided that splashing out on a pricey meal with kids in tow might not be money best spent.



So yes, we'll be back. There's still so much we want to see in Ibiza - we didn't touch the western side of the island and I'd love to go back to Formentera out of season. As someone for whom disappointment is my default emotion, I was fully expecting to come back from Ibiza saying "Well, I can't see what the fuss is about!" But that didn't happen. I really loved it. 


I think we chose a good place to stay and I'm kind of glad I'm too old to go clubbing - I think experiencing that side of the island nearly 30 years after 'The Second Summer of Love' would have totally shattered the illusion for me, now that the clubs are dominated by superstar DJs and little of the original balearic house scene appears to remain intact. 



And aside from the music, beautiful people and expensive beach clubs, Ibiza is simply stunning, with a huge choice of wonderful beaches, pretty villages and tranquil rural scenery. All the other stuff and that inimitable Ibizan vibe is just a wonderful and unique bonus...



For a guide to Ibiza and Formentera, this beautifully illustrated guide book is perfect. EasyJet flies direct from Bristol to Ibiza.








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