Monday, 4 September 2017

A Second Summer of Love in Ibiza

Half way into our second visit to the White Isle I found myself googling "English School Ibiza." Window shopping took on a new meaning as I found myself drawn not to Ibiza Town's boutiques but its estate agents instead. And I spent a good few hours distracted from my holiday reading by considering the feasibility of buying a holiday apartment in our complex (sadly not really feasible in my current financial circumstances.) 

I never expected to feel this way about Ibiza but it's true what they say - there's a unique and special magic about this place that has me well and truly under its spell.

So what is it about this island that makes it so different to other destinations in the Med? Like other places in Southern Europe, it's got all those classic associations of summer holidays - sunshine, olive groves, sandy beaches and cicadas - but there's another something Ibiza brings to the mix, a hard to quantify ambiance that you just don't get elsewhere. 

With a long heritage of being a place of hedonism, experimentation and liberalism, Ibiza has - despite attracting an increasingly monied clientele - a very inclusive, welcoming feel about it. There's a sense that anything is possible here and the zest for life of its lucky inhabitants permeates the island. There's a lot of joy and playfulness in Ibiza and coming back to the UK after a two-week break can feel a dispiriting and grey experience. 

But before you get to enjoy the wonder of the island, you do need to steel yourself for what can be a "lively" outbound journey. Those with a low tolerance of stag and hen parties might struggle to contemplate a 2.5 hour journey surrounded by large groups looking forward to the prospect of a holiday in San Antonio. In our case, we were surrounded by a group of about 20 lads hitting the island's notorious resort for a "three day bender." Sitting behind a couple of them made for informative listening - let's just say that my nine year old now knows the best place to purchase drugs on the San An strip...

But if you can grit your teeth, be assured that Ibiza is not in any way defined by the bright lights and brash nightlife of San An, and you'll find a completely different side to the island everywhere else. Our base just outside Santa Eularia offered easy access to all corners of the island - the great thing about Ibiza is that no journey seems to take longer than 40 minutes making wider exploration of the island really easy. I'd definitely recommend getting a hire car if you want to experience Ibiza properly - it's the only way to explore some of the less obvious beauty spots on the island's stunning coastline, as well as penetrating its tranquil rural heartland. 

New discoveries on this trip included some breathtaking beaches on the Northern Coast, the least developed part of the island. This is my favourite corner of Ibiza, a tranquil and authentic mix of lovely villages and idyllic coves where the water is spectacularly clear and the snorkelling is outstanding. We loved the tiny Cala Xuclar and the blissful S'illot des Rencli, both of which are blessed with incredible waters swimming with an array of fish. 

Inland, Sant Joan is the epitome of Ibiza's hippy identity, a sleepy village that comes to life on market day (Sundays) and features a smattering of lovely cafes and restaurants, including the outstanding Giri Cafe. On the expensive side, we opted to combine a visit to the market with breakfast in the Giri's gorgeous gardens - a truly lovely treat that didn't dent our wallets too badly. 

Brimming with atmosphere and lovely things to buy, the Sant Joan market encapsulates Ibiza's creative and colourful vibe - it's the kind of place where proper old school hippies rub shoulders with beautiful girls selling handmade espadrilles, and open air yoga sessions take place amongst the stalls. A little further up the road lies another of our favourite discoveries this year - the amazing Los Enamorados, a boutique hotel, bar, shop and restaurant in Portinatx. 

A stunning 1960s hotel, this quirky space is a retro lover's dream. Filled with mid-century furniture, '60s glassware and armchairs covered in loud palm tree-printed upholstery, Los Enamorados combines an amazing aesthetic with a lovely position overlooking a quiet bay away from the more touristy end of the town. 

The perfect setting for a sundowner, when I wasn't gawping at the view I was making lots of mental notes for integrating a bit of '60s Ibiza into my own home (do have a look in the gallery to see how pleasing the owners' vision is.)

If '60s-style boutique hotels don't really do it for your children, head up to the Can Marca caves close to San Miquel for something totally different. An underground wonderland brought to life with atmospheric lighting and music, these remarkable caves offer a fun alternative to beaches and swimming pools. 

Heading South, a real highlight of our trip was a visit to the cosmopolitan Cala d'Hort beach, a lovely bay overlooking the famous Es Vedra rock. Come dusk, we headed up to the cliffs for an experience that no visitor to the island should miss - sunset casting a pinky hue over the mystical landmark that has inspired all sorts of myths and legends over the years. It's the perfect place to watch the sun dip into the sea, although in August you'll be joined by quite a lot of other onlookers. 

But there's something very lovely about the elemental experience of a group of people quietly observing this everyday happening. And the sunsets in Ibiza really are very special, inspiring the crowds to speak in hushed voices and clap when the sun finally disappears on the horizon. 

We fell in love with other discoveries on the coastline too - tranquil Cala Mastella on the East Coast for its unspoilt, undiscovered feel (despite being the location of the highly regarded El Bigotes restaurant); S'Estanyol, a lovely bay a short distance from Ibiza Town and venue for one of our blow-out lunches (at the gorgeous Cala Bonita - expensive but idyllic beach-side dining); and Cala Saladeta, an impossibly beautiful sandy beach with breathtaking turquoise waters just 5 minutes from San Antonio. 

We returned to old haunts also, which didn't disappoint second time around - the rural restaurant of La Paloma was every bit as magical as I remembered it, shopping in Sluiz was mental and Ibiza Town was as vibrant and exciting as ever - we even got to see some of the famed club parades this time around and finally made it to S'Escalinata for cocktails. 

Another highlight which we loved first time around was Las Dalias, the venue for our have-kids-will-club experience. Host to a brilliant club night called Acid Sundays, it's a great place to soak up the inimitable spirit of Ibiza's club culture without having to pay epic entry fees. Colourful and fun, this place is everything I love about Ibiza - it's a celebration of life for anyone and everyone, with all ages and nationalities welcome to join the party. 

But all good parties have to come to an end and my children have made noises about trying somewhere different next summer. So perhaps Ibiza in the spring might be nice for a change? Or maybe we'll fit in a child-free weekend so I can realise my ambition to dance the night away in Pacha. One thing's for sure - I'm not ready to put Ibiza out of my mind just yet...

You can read my previous blog post about Ibiza for more travel recommendations here. 


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