Friday 26 December 2014

Ibiza - Sun, sea, sand and flowers in my hair

Eleanor Goggin

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

Old Town: A visit to the old walled town of Ibiza is a must with its old cobbled streets, churches, museums, art galleries, bougainvillea-clad walls and discreet boutiques. The Marina area has a buzzing atmosphere and lots of shops and restaurants
Old Town: A visit to the old walled town of Ibiza is a must with its old cobbled streets, churches, museums, art galleries, bougainvillea-clad walls and discreet boutiques. The Marina area has a buzzing atmosphere and lots of shops and restaurants
Flower Power: There is still evidence of the 15,000 hippies who flocked to Ibiza in the form of markets and parties
Ibiza is located just off the coast of Spain.

'They'll think I'm a fossil washed up on their sandy beaches.' That was the thought in my head before I embarked on a trip to Ibiza.

I had the misconception that the clientele was limited to young party goers. Considering my days of pure hedonism are drawing to a close and are now limited to guzzling wine and smoking fags, I thought I'd stick out like a sore thumb. Not so. There's something for everyone in Ibiza. Families, older folk and of course the young and carefree.

We based ourselves at the Invisa hotel on the beach at Es Figueral in the north of the island. Eating breakfast with the sound of gently breaking waves in the background is a great way to start the day. As I get older the thought of lying in the sun, day in day out is becoming more tedious and boring so hiring a car is a must. There are so many white washed villages and hidden bays to explore.

Up to 15,000 hippies flocked to Ibiza in the Sixties and Seventies as it was always seen as a place with the chill factor and although most of them are gone, there's still evidence of their presence in the form of hippie markets and flower power parties.

We started our first trip around the island with a visit to St Eularia, where a festival was taking place. We visited the whitewashed church where we were transported back in time.

Locals sported traditional costumes, where in olden times your wealth was judged by the number of underskirts a girl could afford. Some had up to twelve which denoted great wealth. I just know I would have been the one with just the one or two.

The town itself with its brand new street, opened just in time for the festival was host to many market and food stalls. A great buzz. And then it was on to the nearby Sant Carles and Bar Anita which hasn't altered since its hippie days and still has the post boxes where the hippies picked up their post. These are now used by locals who live in remote areas. Sated with delicious tapas, washed down by wine we headed off to explore the northern part of the island and its many unspoilt coves or calas as they are called here. Some with little beach bars, some just sand and clear blue sea.

We stopped off at Con Gall in the north, an Ibizan country house or finca, which as part of an Agritourism venture is now a small and beautiful hotel surrounded by almond and olive trees swaying in the breeze.

More tapas, more wine, a chill out on the terrace and a bonding session with the dog of the house and it was off to dinner at Atzaro hotel and Spa - an oasis of tranquillity and a real treat. Shakira stayed here. Joanna, originally from Berlin welcomed us. She came to Ibiza eleven years ago and couldn't leave.

This seems to be the story with many visitors. An extensive spa area with outdoor beds and plump cushions looked to be just the kind of thing to indulge my weary body. But no, we forced ourselves to partake of more delicious food and wine in the restaurant. Buffalo burratina with pistachio pesto and homemade tomato and vanilla jam. Steamed hake 'pintxo' with azuki bean viniagrette and three chocolate home-made cake finished off our first day very nicely on this beautiful island.

As my swimming abilities are limited to frantic flapping, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached our planned kayaking excursion the next day.

I explained my lack of swimming prowess to Paolo, the instructor, and he told me to relax and lie on the beach. He must have seen the raw fear on my face. The others in my gang kayaked around to a little cove with a picnic and I soaked up the rays. We all had a very enjoyable experience.

It's a hilly island, so many activity enthusiasts come here. Every morning I sat on my balcony and watched lycra-clad guys set off on their bikes. Voyeurism at its best.

After a feast of Paella in the beach restaurant of El Carmen in Cala d'Hort we set off again to see the caves of Can Marcia in Puerto de san Miguel. An underground treasure trove where pirates did their thing in the past.

For the grand finale, our guide pressed a button in the wall and we had a cacophony of cascading water, haunting music and strobe lighting. And then it was on to Sa Cova winery and Juan a local man who worked in the hotel industry and switched career in 1990 to cultivate a piece of land belonging to his parents.

He forced us to taste copious amounts of his wonderful wines and provided us with beautiful food. A charming man, he is planning to retire soon and is hoping his son-in-law, a lawyer, will step in to help. And it wasn't until the end of the night that he informed us that his wife of many years was from Manorhamilton in the Co Leitrim and had met him years ago when she came on holidays. Yet another one who couldn't leave the island.

The following day we took a trip around the old town of Ibiza and its narrow cobbled streets. It's a place brimming with culture and the old walled town is a must. Churches, museums, art galleries, bougainvillea-clad walls and discreet boutiques all abound.

Vicky, our guide who has been living on the island for a long time told us she discovers some new little treat every time she goes up there. And then it's back down to the marina and its buzzing atmosphere and numerous shops and restaurants. People watching - my favourite occupation. That and a glass of wine.

We couldn't fit in a trip to Formantera, the nearby smaller island, which according to Tripadvisor has one of the top ten beaches in the world. There are many daily boats and ninety percent of visitors to the island visit here. I didn't do it this time, but I'll be back!

Getting There

Flights:

Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Ibiza twice weekly. One-way fares start from €58 including taxes and charges. For further information log on to www.aerlingus.com

Hotels:

Invisa Figueral Resort: www.invisahoteles.com/

Rural-agrotourism hotel Can Gall: 
www.agrocangall.com/

Hotel Ibiza Gran Hotel: www.ibizagranhotel.com/es/home

Hostal El Parque: http://hostalparque.com/

Restaurants:

Bar Anita in Sant Carles: welcometoibiza.com/guia-ibiza/item/bar-anita/

Agrotourism Atzaró: www.atzaro.com/

El Carmen in cala d´Hort: welcometoibiza.com/guia-ibiza/item/el-carmen/

Winery Sa Cova: sacovaibiza.com/

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