Monday 14 October 2019

Brendan O'Connor visits Ibiza - 'Nobody was being too cool for school'

Brendan O'Connor dances to a different beat in Ibiza, which he says 'still has a magical draw'

One of the iconic destinations on the island of Ibiza is the sun-kissed Cala D'Hort beach
One of the iconic destinations on the island of Ibiza is the sun-kissed Cala D'Hort beach
The swim-up rooms at Cala Tarida Sensatori Ibiza
Brendan by the water's edge
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

There was always a tacit acceptance between me and the people who know me that going to Ibiza was probably not a great idea.

So when I eventually got to go there, it was with a wife and two kids to keep me out of trouble. But still, it was exciting. It is a mythical place to my generation. And whatever about how the idea of the place might be demeaned now by commercialism, it still holds a magical draw.

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I should be clear, I wasn't exactly going to stay in Jade Jagger's villa to spend my nights in Pasha or whatever the in-place is among the young clubbers these days. But I was happy to be doing Ibiza in a civilised way, from a safe distance if you will, by going to Sensatori Ibiza, an all-in resort within striking distance of Ibiza town, and with its own flavour of the island.

So Sensatori obviously has certain commonalities across all the properties, which is comforting and familiar, but they do tailor the place to wherever you are. So for example, of an evening, at Sensatori Ibiza, you could sit out at the lovely terrace bar watching the famous Ibiza sunset, while a DJ played Ibiza chill-out style music. Except you could bring your kids too, and the mojitos were included in your package, instead of you being ripped off by some hippies who got rich from having a bar in the right location for a sunset.

The swim-up rooms at Cala Tarida Sensatori Ibiza
The swim-up rooms at Cala Tarida Sensatori Ibiza

And, also, nobody was being too cool for school. So you felt comfortable, with your buffet dinner in your belly, and knowing that you would wander up home to your room after the sun went down. If it sounds a bit like an anaesthetised version of being in Ibiza, it wasn't really. I prefer to think of it as an age-appropriate version of being in Ibiza.

The beach that the property swooped down to felt like Ibiza too.

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Brendan by the water's edge

Various hard-nosed hippie chicks, some of whom look as if they've been there for a few summers too many, change constantly into different sarongs and skimpy beach dresses and then march up and down parading their wares as if the beach is their catwalk. And by their wares, I mean the gear they are selling, and when I say they are selling gear, I mean selling sarongs and beach dresses.

It adds to the pleasantly boho buzz of the beach, where music drifts from various quarters, locals or adopted locals mix with tourists, and everybody feels quite laid-back, perhaps due to the legendary vibrations and mystical energy of the White Island.

We were unlucky a few days with swarms of jellyfish. You'd head down in the morning and the sea would be perfectly clear. Then you'd be swimming and you might see one or two, and then within 20 minutes, the place would be full of them, hanging there like some kind of swarm of the living dead. And then the tide would take them again and you could get back in the crystal clear and just warm enough water.

One of the things that was nice about Sensatori Ibiza was that you didn't feel institutionalised, as you can do in some kid-friendly resorts. With the beach and all the various outdoor spaces, it felt like you were out in nature rather than being in some kind of artificial environment. There was yoga in a kind of bamboo pavilion - designed by Jade Jagger, no less - and there was generally a nice air of laid-back boho.

To find the posh laid-back boho of the other Ibiza (the Ibiza of the aforementioned Jade Jagger and co), we headed inland to the village of Santa Gertrudis. Around lunchtime one day, we hired a baby Fiat convertible, for about 50 quid, so we got an afternoon out of it and then the next morning as well. It was great crack piling in and bouncing around the place in it with music blaring and the roof down. Santa Gertrudis, in the middle of the island, is a charming little place full of chichi Scandi shops and cool little bars, galleries and restaurants.

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The swim-up rooms at Cala Tarida Sensatori Ibiza

According to the internet, "It's a home from home for many new residents from Europe and beyond who have brought a different, more Bohemian style of living to the village. Many artists, sculptors and musicians have settled here over the years and their works are everywhere", and more importantly, I can add that it also has a nice playground and some good ice cream options.

We skimmed around the coast a bit too and there are loads of lovely beaches and charming little towns and villages, and you can buy ersatz hippie clothes and upmarket tat everywhere. The various shops and markets are worth a browse the first half-dozen times.

The interior of the island is surprisingly lush and green, and there are beaches at regular intervals along the way, with clear water, sand or pebbles and sometimes with carnival rides for the kids.

The following morning, we drove the Fiat into nearby Sant Josep, a charming whitewashed little town, but a proper working town too. And sometimes it's these little authentic experiences that stay with you. There was an agricultural show and market on in the town, with John Deeres and various livestock on display and people selling local olive oil, nuts and honey. We had deliciously deep and strong cortado coffees in an old cafe full of textures and old tiles and wood, full of groups of old farmers, clearly in for the market, socialising over small beers with their morning coffee.

It could have been a small town in Ireland on a fair day 40 years ago. Equally it's the kind of atmosphere every hipster joint you've ever been to is trying to emulate.

We taxied into Ibiza Old Town another night, because I wasn't coming all the way to Ibiza without seeing it. Down by the port is an intermittently charming mixture of boutiques and dodgy-looking disco bars, but once you head through the Portal de Ses Taules and start walking up to the fortified citadel of Dalt Vila, it's a different scene entirely. You walk through narrow streets and laneways where the old buildings built into the walls have been repurposed as cool little restaurants and bars and shops. There's a sophisticated laid-back vibe here, but then the summer was just cranking up, so I presume it gets more crowded and hectic.

Our few little sorties into the interior and around the coast satisfied my desire to rough it and see the real Ibiza. But the nice thing about the complex was that it did feel enough like the real Ibiza, but with a kids club and all home comforts and mod cons laid on. In fact, it was the perfect way to do Ibiza with kids.

Pasha will have to wait for the next time.

Getting there

Located on the west coast of the island in sleepy Cala Tarida, Sensatori Ibiza overlooks a sandy beach and the Mediterranean, and because it's set on a hillside, it enjoys some of the best sunsets in the Balearics. The resort has a look and feel that's in keeping with the natural beauty of the local area.

* Depart on May 13, 2020, for seven nights, on an all-inclusive basis from €1,079pp.

* Family offer: Depart June 17, 2020, for seven nights, all-inclusive basis from €4,789 (2+2),

* Includes: Direct flights from Dublin; Transfers to hotel and 20kg luggage; six restaurants and six pools. l

* See tuiholidays.ie/f/spain/balearic-islands/ibiza/cala-tarida/hotels/tui-sensatori-ibiza

NB: This feature originally appeared in The Sunday Independent.

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