They say if you can survive the winter then you are meant to be here. It’s not so much that it’s an expedition worthy of polar or arctic preparations but Ibiza is financially a summer seasonal island ergo winters here are, economically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually testing. Everything here that you once considered important – the post office, the bank, the supermarket, the shops, the church, the doctor, the dentist, the hairdresser, the vet, all close at 2pm (though some re-open for post siesta business from 5.30pm till 9 or 10) on any ordinary day. These services are also reduced to a jangly boned skeleton (if they are open at all) from October until May. If you’re not splitting your location year 50/50 with another european city – London, Paris, Manchester (we occasionally like to feel the home turf beneath our feet and benefit from the city dweller’s social and cultural benefits so lacking here), you have to think hard about how you can live, work and in extreme cases, survive (without an up-to-date cinema multiplex showing films that aren’t overdubbed) on Ibiza when the summer is over.
However, it’s Easter week end, the almond and fig trees are in bloom, cats and dogs hunt and feast on nature’s ‘all you can eat’ buffet. Geckos, voles, cicadas – and whatever else fails to avoid the claws whetted to surgical sharpness on palm tree barks outside the house – make cats fat, happy and prone to sleeping their campo safari off in the afternoon sunshine. Chocolate eggs have been imported in from the UK, but I take it as a sign that they melt in the sunshine and heat before they even get a chance to melt in my mouth. That’s Ibiza – for worse at times, yet more often than not for the better, nothing happens as you would expect it to.
I wasn’t sure I would get to this point but here I am, a year and a bit on, bracing myself for my second summer season here on this island of dreams and dreamers. Now I am committed to living here, I know that somewhere, somehow, someway – I will find my proper place. But I must be patient. You can’t rush the fog here. No matter who you are, what you were or how you did before you got here, you have to forget everything, tear up your rule book and reset your life to zero. This is a good thing. You now have a blank sheet on which you can create the life you want. If you are inspired by meeting new and like minded people, if you can build good relationships and know how to recreate a life from scratch, if you can bring your unique self to the table and find out what it is that you can do for the island, if you know how to work well with the tools you have when the tools you need don’t exist or can’t be bought here, if you can do all this without letting your past or your ego get in the way, then a good and prosperous island life is probably closer to you than you think.
There are many, like myself, who immediately fall in love with this magical, spiritual, beautiful island. Then there are those who, after visiting once and holidaying badly, detest this place with a vengeance and without further discussion. If you arrive thinking that Ibiza is just about the superstar djs, the VIP lifestyle, the five crazy kerching kerching business months a year (not for everybody mind), million dollar dj fees and a million parties that you can’t even afford to fully attend, then that’s the superficial level of experience you will have. The island has a strange way of holding the mirror up to your expectations. And yes, you will have bags of fun but the island will probably bounce you back to where you came from like shot out of the Dalt Villa cannon. It has a strange way of doing that too. If you don’t like or respect the island for what it truly is, then it will return the compliment in kind. But life and persuasion being what it is, if and when those same people return (because eventually they do return to try again), and look beyond the glamour and the superficial, they begin to love the island from a real islander’s perspective. That’s when you know there is no turning back.
It’s worth it for the mornings. At 6am when there is no-one about you’re at one with the dogs, cats, iridescent plumed cockerels, glossy, sinewy horses and the stunning peacocks who are all waking, tuning up and tuning in. You’ll greet a few farmers starting their day in the red-earthed fields and the postman filling his van with campo bound post but mostly you get to enjoy being alone with your thoughts, your breath and the silence. It’s a profound and special silence that jumpstarts the connection between your own and the island’s soul. Suddenly, you are tuned in and listening to the crunchy, satisfying sound of your footsteps on large gravel and fine sandy roads. Suddenly you are enjoying the firework explosion of pure, white almond blossom so delicate it could almost be embroidered on a piece of fine, handmade lace. Silence. Then a cock crowing. Silence. Then a chime bristling on the breeze. Silence. A rising, symphony of birdsong. Silence. Then there’s me and my long, deep breaths, breathing it all in, breathing it all out, breathing it all in again.
You will remember the smell of Ibiza long after you leave. There’s nothing more alluring than the rich perfume of cedars, wild flowers and citrus trees in fruit and flower – lemons, grapefruits and orange blossom scent the air with a smell as heady and seductive as jasmine. You will remember the natural sounds of Ibiza – nature’s music – the lapping of the sea, the rushing of the wind, cicadas singing, chickens and birds all vying for your attention. The trees and campo lanes shiver and shift as geckos and tiny animals skitter through the dry leaves. Then there are the butterflies, owls and eagles who occupy the airspace and thrill you with their appearance. You will delight in Nature’s free blockbusters shown on its uninterrupted 360° screen : the staggering rock formations at Punta Galera, the fathomless caves at Cala Comte and the sunrises and sunsets of so many dazzling hues and colours seen from so many equally beautiful beaches. The moon and stars, eclipses, sunrises and sunsets thrill us daily with their high intensity drama. You will be tempted to roll in fields full of poppies, margeritas, wild asparagus, clover, dill, fennel, wild garlic, rocket, rosemary, thyme, lavender, almonds, tamarinds and olives, as blankets of wild vibrant purples, pinks, yellows and orange campo flowers billow and ripple on a breeze and invite you to come closer. Then there’s a graffitti’d wall that says in capital letters ‘Leer Mas’ (read more) it is punctuated graphically with an enormous sun. Walking on a bit further I see another wall with a message in script that says ‘brillo magico que alumbra mi camino’ (magic light that lights my road / way). Moments like these are so precious and they happen every day.
Ibiza is an island of contradictions. Peak summer is intense – blending that heady, holiday brochure combination of ridiculous heat, azure sea, dip-dyed blue skies, white sands, blazing sunshine and dramatic vistas with an influx of holiday makers and musical tourists so greedy for what the island has to offer that they teem and swarm over it all like a colony of rampant ants. Many residents choose to leave the island in August to avoid them (and make some decent money by renting their houses out). This is the season of forest fire warnings and an island on guard for careless smokers and barbecuing revellers. This is the beginning of weeks of painful driving, traffic jams, unnecessary accidents and constant Guardia Civil and Guardia Nacional check points. This is the season of dirty cars, speeding scooters and ice free super markets and petrol stations. August is the most challenging month on this island for the island residents and as an outside observer with a resident’s heart, I can fully understand why.
The autumn / winter is beautiful with a twist of bizarre : on the plus side you can get from anywhere to anywhere on the island in less than 20 minutes by car. The temperature can change wildly from 20 degrees in the day time, (shirt sleeves, no jacket, al fresco dining) to a brisk 5 degrees at night, (Puffa jacket essential, scarf and boots optional). Add an osmotic, nocturnal damp (which rises from the sea to permeate practically every living cell of your body) that makes your hair frizz and your bed and clothes feel cold and wringing wet and you get the picture. Even for a Mancunian used to 365 days of rain a year, the all pervading humidity, the occasional flowering, mouldy wall and the musty wardrobe experience has been an unexpected revelation. Half the shops and boutiques are closed. The clubs and bars are winding down to a fall / Winter schedule. The tourists have left – and I’m still here.
I adore Ibiza for its unique rhythm and unique characters. I appreciate it for its old skool social, internet-free network and community spirit. I love Ibiza for its proliferation of music and media professionals with whom you can connect directly and discuss career / productions / problem solving / mooting collaborations in a smaller yet more vibrant environment. I love Ibiza for its curious tree-living, cave living people; for the drummers on Benirras, for the Robert De Niro look alike in Talamanca. The runners, joggers, fast walkers, personal trainers, gym enthusiasts and worker-outers on Marina Botafoch all have their charm. Then there’s the curious man riding a ribbon, flyer and sticker festooned bicycle, the early morning fishermen, the stretching and flexing yogis on the beach, the eco agroturismo farmers in San Augustine and Santa Eularia, the healers, the masseuses, the meditators, the teachers, the bar owners, the dog walkers and trainers, the beautiful spirits in the beautiful people and the guardian angels with invisible gossamer wings. These are the people who give the island its true colour. These are the lives around which the island itself revolves, lives and breathes. And I love this place.
This is an island run by families and locals for families and locals and I love Ibiza for holding on to that island mentality. I love Ibiza for its family restaurants like Ciao Pescao, Laurelito, Sa Soca, Sa Caleta, Fish Shack and Bon Lloc. I love Ibiza for its fresh fish and farmers’ market life style. I love Ibiza for Its small delicatessens like Casa Alfonso, Can Pascual, Can Espanyol and its big supermarkets like Viper Centro, Mercadona and Eroski. I love Ibiza for its chic shops and shabby markets. Clothes do not make the man or woman here and I love Ibiza for making that city-slick obligation seem so superficial and trivial. If I want to climb a tree I can climb a tree. If I want to swim in the sea, well, I can do that too. I love Ibiza for walking in the hills and mountains of San Josep and San Vicent, for walking around the old town and enjoying the view of the port from the imposing Dalt Villa or for looking out to sea from the ruins at Sa Caleta. I love Ibiza for the Formentera ferry. I love Ibiza for summer sea swimming and winter open fire warming. I love Ibiza for moving forward and building new roads, motorways and hotels like the Ushuaia Tower, Hard Rock Hotel, Destino. I love Ibiza for its knowing no fear, for trying new things, for occasionally making mistakes and for correcting them and trying again until it gets it right.
Most of all I love Ibiza for the smell of the cedars and the forests of tree barks glistening with amber resin. I love Ibiza because it’s an island that most of the time feels like a village community, that sometimes has a crazy city buzz and all of the time feels like home sweet home.