THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE
of the Balearic Islands, I had only ever been to Majorca Locals will be conversant with the fact that Ibiza is much more than a place for partying
Regular readers will know that I’ve lived here in Catalonia for some time. Not as long as some others who contribute to this magazine, but pretty long, nevertheless. Twenty-seven years, in fact, or half of my life to date. It is therefore fairly astonishing that until this summer I had never been to Ibiza (for newcomers to Catalonia, that’s Eivissa in Catalan, by the way).
Now, more international readers may be excused for immediately thinking “Ibiza? What on earth possessed this middle-aged man to go to a party island over the summer… is he suffering some kind of mid-life crisis, a fervent desire for one last binge of clubbing and partying, much akin to buying a red sportscar?” Locals, however, will be conversant with the fact that Ibiza is much more than a place for partying, and indeed perhaps represents the paradise I’ve been dreaming about retiring to after the long hard slog of fifty years of work.
Despite only being a short plane or boat ride away, of the Balearic Islands, I had only ever been to Majorca (English spelling, that would be Mallorca in Catalan) on a couple of occasions, in fact. After managing to escape the hordes of Eurobopper teenage tourists heading for cheap thrills and alcohol in El Arenal, I absolutely loved the place. Majorca is much bigger than Ibiza, of course, and I can’t say I explored much of it, but what I did find there was beauty, tranquillity and nature.
I didn’t get the chance to explore Ibiza on this trip, either, but what I did experience was a slightly different, more bohemian feel, perhaps because I stayed in Ibiza town. The multitude of arts and crafts stalls and tiny shops selling artisan products, as well as the quality of the items on display, combined with that indescribable carefree island feel that any of us who live in a bustling major city instantly recognise and crave more of, were quite simply a breath of fresh air for this perennial city dweller.
However, the greatest attraction was the feeling that beyond the towns of Ibiza and San Antonio, the green hills stretched out to little villages and coves dotted all around the island, seemingly still untouched by the rampant tourism we see on a daily basis here in Catalonia, which too often overshadows the fact of living in such a mesmerisingly beautiful part of the world.
And there is also the added appeal of Formentera being just a short boat ride away, another island of calm of which I have only heard positive reports. When you live in a big city full of noise, crowds, smells and pollution, what could be more tempting than an island combining a vivacious nightlife for the young at heart, a bohemian lifestyle, high-quality local artisanry, great food – including freshly caught fish and seafood – and the gentle sea breeze, while still being in Catalonia to boot?
So, time for the big question… has anyone got a villa they want to rent in the Ibizan hills? I promise it won’t be used for partying, only quiet reflection and artistic pursuits.