My last journey to Ibiza ended up being a lost weekend. No regrets. But, this time, I was determined to have an adventure I could remember.
The excuse for the trip to Ibiza, where Charles Marlow also has a presence, was my partner’s sister’s birthday. Also, neither she nor my partner had ever been on a long boat journey. Ibiza is only two hours away from Mallorca on the fast ferry, but it was a start.
If you’ve ever taken the boat, you’ll know that it’s not an especially exciting experience. We’re not talking funky tramp steamers and shoals of flying fish. But you do get to arrive in the port of Ibiza Town, Eivissa, in the early morning light. This is when romantic Dalt Vila, the 16th century fortified upper town looks like it was built yesterday, and the white blocks of houses tumbling down from it are giant sugar lumps shining in the morning sun.
All that whiteness made me feel like Ibiza was more open and welcoming than Mallorca. I have absolutely no idea if that’s true.
Our weekend was spent exploring the ancient, narrow streets leading up to Dalt Vila, hurtling across the island in a taxi to the legendary Pike’s Hotel and recovering at our hotel in Platja d’en Bossa, the island’s thump-thump-thump wobbling weekend warriors zone.
My partner adores shopping and I love to sit and watch the world go by. So, I parked myself in a shaded corner bar at the foot of the steps leading up to Dalt Vila, opposite the semi-legendary Croissant Show café while she and her sister explored.
Ibiza Town cheerfully trades on its hippy past. One of the most popular club nights is Flower Power at Pacha and the hippy markets at Punta Arabí in Es Caná and Las Dalias, San Carlos, are hugely popular.
(Our hotel, the Aparthotel Playasol Jabeque Soul attempts to trade on hippy too. You could take a selfie in front of a slogan written on the wall that read ‘You are exactly where you are meant to be’. If that was the case, I’d messed up. Don’t get me wrong. The hotel was perfectly adequate. It was just utterly lacking in soul.)
I’m fascinated by Ibiza’s beatnik/hippy/countercultural past. So, I was happy to sit and sip my coffee and project myself back into those wild ‘nothing is true, everything’s permitted’ times when Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, members of Pink Floyd and countless other unknown saucer-eyed dreamers wandered these streets.
As my friend Arianna Lucarella, who grew up in Ibiza, told me later, ‘Nothing was normal back then. It was very raw and animal. Even someone as outrageous as Grace Jones was normal to us. We had to make our own fashion so we went to the flea market or the hippy market. You couldn’t just go out on the street and buy something. You made your own story. We wanted to be a character when we went out, night or day. Although women were truly feminine and men really masculine, it wasn’t about vanity. Everyone was beautiful. Everybody was getting laid. One of the things we had to do was learn how to be surrounded by beauty.’
Not all of that beauty was real. The book I was reading while I waited for my partner was Clifford Irving’s Fake! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time, much of which takes place in Ibiza. De Hory was a legendary forger who conned the international art world. His backer, Fernand Legros – a nasty piece of work – built De Hory a spectacular house named La Falaise somewhere in Dalt Vila.
Irving, who lived for a time in El Terreno, Palma, went on to be imprisoned for his part in selling a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes.
After Las Chicas had done some warm-up shopping, we strolled to the Restaurant Plaza del Sol for lunch, following an unfortunate lad dragging a washing machine up and up through streets that, despite the presence of chi-chi restaurants, retained a funky, raggedy-ass vibe.
Lunch was good. But the Arte en Cueros shop at 9 Plaza del Sol was even better. This sells the most incredible over the top bags and belts made from all kinds of animal and reptile hide decorated with highly polished slices of crystal and rock. Utterly tasteless, the kind of thing a 1970s German porn movie director would wear, but weirdly cool.
After a siesta at our hotel to a soundtrack of thumping beats and young Italian men shouting, we headed back into Ibiza Town for some celebratory sustenance before we went looking for Pike’s Hotel.
I had hoped to get to Chris Coco’s sunset set at 7 Pines but that wasn’t meant to be. Chris plays a fabulous mix of classic tracks, his own music and obscure, fascinating sounds. When I’m travelling and nostalgic for the Balearics, I listen to him. I’ve interviewed him by phone, but we’ve never met. There’s always next time.
We ate at Avocado Queen which, as the name suggests, does avocados every which way. There’s even avocado ice-cream – delicious. But the best things about the place are the décor and the soundtrack of early 80s soul music.
Our taxi to Pike’s took us past glittering neon palaces of hedonism into rural darkness and up a winding road to Pike’s Hotel.
Once a byword for Ibiza decadence, Pike’s is now owned by one of the couples that started Manumission back in the day. Tickets for events like the one we were going to are free, but you book online. I don’t think you can just turn up.
It’s a far cry from the wild and crazy days in Pike’s past but, given the size of the place, keeping numbers limited makes sense. The room in which we were dancing, which reeked of damp, quickly filled up to the point where it was impossible to do more than step from one foot to the other.
At one point, a gnarly old clubber asked my partner’s sister what drugs we were on. He couldn’t believe we could be dancing with such joy without being chemically altered.
Sitting outside the café in Ibiza Town whose name escapes me, I couldn’t help but mourn the way in which a clichéd idea of hippy was being used as an unimaginative marketing device. The people I know who lived through those times in Ibiza and Mallorca don’t like being called hippies. It’s too corny and catch all. They were, and are, all about thinking, being and looking different from everyone else.
I felt the same in Pike’s, which is legendary for the antics and debauches of characters like Grace Jones and Freddy Mercury. Every guy had short hair and wore either a short-sleeved Hawaiian or flowery shirt or – my garment of choice – billowing linen. Where were all the amazing creatures? But maybe it’s not about appearances. The music, place and vibe were great. Whether they’d been chemically helped along or not, everyone I spoke to was open and friendly and that’s what we went to Pike’s for.
Next morning, I woke up before Las Chicas and, feeling like someone had been banging nails into my thighs all night, hobbled out to find coffee. A satisfactorily non-turquoise and music-free Spanish joint was just opening its doors.
The lady who presumably owned the place, a woman of a certain age, was laying out her morning pills on the bar. Which reminded me I hadn’t taken my own. We sat opposite each other, laughing as we explained what each of our pills did before we swallowed them. I remembered the pills that had fuelled my lost first weekend in Ibiza.
In Japanese, the word ‘kappo’ refers to the healing arts. The killing arts are called ‘sappo’. Sometimes they’re the same technique done with a very different intention.
I was grateful that this trip to Ibiza had been all kappo and not sappo.
Conscious that I hadn’t really got to grips with the Ibiza lifestyle, I asked Charlie Hill, Partner and Head of Sales for Charles Marlow, who lives on Ibiza, for an insight.
For Charlie, ‘Ibiza is a special place to call home. I live as part of a community of people who’ve come to live in Ibiza to find a balanced life with a mix of movement/yoga, picking your fruit and veg with the local farmer, working with likeminded people and having the occasional night out. Living here takes discipline but, if you can do it, it’s paradise.’
How and where does someone find chilled Ibiza? ‘Head north. From Santa Gertrudis upwards, life moves at a slower pace. Take the back roads through the campo and walk in the wild hills.’
Our Ibiza trip was a spur of the moment decision and I knew the island would be packed. But I wanted to know when the best times to visit were for people looking for a less hectic trip.
‘June and September are lovely times of year, as is the winter. In July and August, you can still soak up peace and quiet on the island if you know where to look,’ Charlie told me. Hire a paddle board at the right spot and you can leave the busier beaches behind and find a tranquil cove.’
We travelled with Balearia. Rather than use their website, I find it easier and cheaper to buy boat tickets at my local travel agent. Flights are obviously much quicker but you’ve still got to check in and all that palaver.
Should you wish to rent a home in Ibiza, Charles Marlow Ibiza has curated an excellent selection of properties to suit all tastes and budgets like this awesome modern masterpiece. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +34 634316800.
If you’d like to get more of sense of where to find the real spirit of Ibiza, I’d absolutely recommend you read the fantastic Shadows Across the Moon. Not only is this an excellent cultural history of Ibiza, the last chapter is a great guide to exploring the island.
You can watch an excellent film about De Hory and Clifford Irving made by Orson Welles here.
All pics, except where specified, by Gabriella Kiss.