I told someone recently that I didn’t really feel as if I lived in Spain because Majorca has such a strong identity for me. But you would think, having lived in Majorca for a decade, that perhaps we would have got round to at least visiting the other of the Balearic Islands, wouldn’t you? It smacks of a lack of curiosity, but in reality it was a lack of time, money and opportunity that had prevented me from visiting Ibiza and Formentera until very recently when I was invited to take my husband and daughter to stay in a (rather lovely) house in Ibiza for a couple of days. This was our first ever trip together where we have not been going to visit another member of our family somewhere in the UK or France, but it was also the trip that almost didn’t happen due to a huge workload and schedules. However, we did eventually make it on to a ferry with our car laden with food, clothes and (unfortunately) laptops so we could keep working during the time away.
We’d been told that Ibiza would be “totally dead” by the time we got there, the clubs would have had their end of season parties, and that would be that. “Sounds perfect” was our response as peace and quiet is what we were after, and it is exactly what we got. The house, Can Rei, (from http://www.ibizasummervillas.com) was about five minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town (so not too far from civilisation and supplies) and down a winding country track. It’s set in its own private garden with a big pool which my daughter was in immediately, despite the autumnal temperatures. Really, we could have stayed at the house for the whole time we were there and been perfectly happy, but with a nine year old climbing up the walls to do something we had to get out and about and have some adventures.
First up was a trip around and about to see some of the places that we’d heard about. Think Ibiza, and you probably either think of the big clubs or hippies. So we went for the latter and wandered around the “Hippy Market” in Punta Arabi at Es Cana. It reminded Oliver and I of a warmer version of Camden Market. It’s certainly got a lot of interesting stalls with handmade and imported goods, mixed in of course with a bit of tat, but that’s always to be expected in markets. I liked the atmosphere there, but I can imagine it would be quite packed and difficult to get round in the season. It sounds obvious but as we were driving around the island in our trusty little Wagon R we realised that Ibiza had quite a different attitude to retail and visitors in general. Now and again along the road you could come across a rather interesting looking shop selling interior decoration, or eccentric garden items, and on the beaches it seemed that the regulations about how much you could build on a beach or run a business on a beach were much more relaxed than they are here in Majorca.
We went to Benirrás Beach, which you get to by driving down through beautiful hills and valleys. This is not only a beautiful spot to while away a day, but also a great place to be for sundown when drummers gather to ‘drum down the sunset’. We found ourselves in a beach bar called Elements, which was very relaxed and informal, and proudly displaying on their signage that they were going to be open until December. Looking inside in their boutique we had a quick glimpse of the luxury end of the Ibizan dream, with astronomical prices for artwork and designer clothes, as you can imagine we didn’t hang around too long in there with a nine year who’d just had a Berry Smoothie and was covered in sticky juice.
We also went to Formentera for the day. If you’re thinking of doing that and you’re a Balearic resident then take some ID with you to get the discount: 26.80€ adult return. After a thirty minute crossing you’re on the island and the first thing to do is to get your hands on either a bike, a car, a mini moke or a scooter. I had originally suggested scooters when we were talking about going, but stood there in the rental office signing up I started to regret the idea, and desperately said maybe we might get a mini moke instead? But my daughter was having none of it and we hired two scooters for the day. I haven’t been on a scooter since my teens when I was the proud owner of one those that you actually can pedal as well as have a scoot around on, so in theory I knew what I was supposed to be doing. In reality it took quite a lot of wobbling around roundabouts at a snail’s pace before I started to feel okay. Meanwhile my husband and child were off like a shot. My feeble efforts, and my “own personal traffic jam” were made fun of for the rest of the day. Ho hum.
Formentera was absolutely gorgeous as well, and the beaches which have the legendary reputation of being Caribbean-like in their quality were exactly that. I can report that the sand is as close to demerara sugar as it can get, and the water is crystal clear and turquoise: absolutely exquisite. We went to Platja Mitjorn and stumbled across a hippy beach bar called Piratabus which has been going for thirty years in the same position on the top of some sand dunes overlooking a wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. I was quite saddle sore and stressed out from my own personal battle with staying atop of a scooter and very much needed a sit down and a little something: sitting with an ice cold “clara” watching some old boys playing draughts whilst the sun warmed my back, listening to some very good acoustic guitar being played somewhere in the background will remain with me as a highlight of my Formentera day out. Asking my daughter what her highlights were of our trip she lists the Can Rei pool, and the amazing beaches.
I’d often read and heard about the different personalities of the islands of Ibiza and Formentera. And conversations since our trip with friends who are more au fait with the history and style of the islands support our own experiences. So, after a decade of living next door, we’ve finally shook hands with the neighbours, and we loved meeting them. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another decade to go back round to borrow a cup of sugar, Demerara of course.