Idealistic Ibiza delivers
Sometimes you go on holiday because you need a break. Sometimes you go on holiday and don't realise you need a break - until you start to feel the difference.
So it was for me on my first ever trip to Ibiza, a place I had long wanted to visit.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, hordes of wealthy, idealistic young Americans, the Flower Power 'Make Love Not War' generation, descended on Ibiza because it was a pure, unspoilt, seemingly forgotten island in the Med, very near Spain.
And it was cheap, very cheap, because it was poor and traditional. Thus the young American idealists' dollars lasted longer.
In 1977, in Dublin, I made my first ever childhood best friend - with a child whose parents were American hippies and had just quit Ibiza because they thought it had become spoilt and Ireland offered more scope for a purer, self-sufficient lifestyle.
Even though I was a young child, my mind boggled at what Ibiza being spoilt could mean if these intelligent Americans came to Ireland after it?
And so a quest to visit Ibiza to find out took root in my little-child heart.
Fast forward 30 years, and as fashion editor for this paper during the Celtic Tiger, it seemed like every buyer or designer I interviewed was going to Ibiza for inspiration, to check out clubby Ibiza chic and cheer for our duller, darker Northern hemisphere lives.
Surely by now, I inwardly lamented, the qualities that drew my childhood hippy friends to Ibiza had been obliterated? That I would now never get to understand what it was that drew those Flower Children to its sandy, salty shores.
But this year, I finally got to Ibiza. And I got it.
For all its reputation - the celebrity, the excess, the party resorts, the too-cool-for-school shabby chic homesteads and style pretensions which form part of modern Ibiza's international reputation, and even the remaining, not-so idealistic hippy-merchants, now in their 70s, selling in the commercialised yet still interesting (and often designer exclusive and expensive) Las Dalias Hippy Market - I can say unequivocally that Ibiza has something about it that is mysterious and engrossing, undeniably memorable.
Ibiza seduces. It whispers into your ear, "I can be whatever you want". In my case, it was rest, solace, peace. For others, it can be party, style, fun.
Five days on the island transformed me from burnt out and worn out to someone with perspective and peace.
What made the most impact on me were not the amazing hotels - the Ushuaia Beach Club where George Clooney stays; the Hard Rock Hotel, from €800 per night; the incredible, truly luxurious Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena's amazing cliff-set, outdoor thalassotherapy spa, (www.haciendanaxamena-ibiza.com).
Nor was it the sight of huge yachts that pay €25,000 per day to moor in Dalt Vila's (island capital Ibiza Town) harbour, or the uber-cool themed nightclubs and restaurants such as Pacha and Sublimotion.
It was the sea. The free-to-use and open-all-hours sea.
The Med Sea surrounding Ibiza is unforgettable. It is an incredible blue (due to the amazing seaweed forest of Poseidon which filters the water and adds a luminous quality to the sunlight reflected on it) and makes the green landscape even lusher.
When you get in to swim, the water is like it has been designed a perfectly temperatured-fresh cold, enough to make you feel alive but not so that you wouldn't want to get in again and again. Every swim was like a benediction; I felt rejuvenated and reborn.
After just a few days, one easily realises why the hippies, and everyone since, has fallen in love with Ibiza.
It is lush, with tons of rocky, cliff-set swimming coves ideal for nudie-sunning and bathing, which the newly-arrived and liberated young Americans loved to do.
It feels like a Garden of Eden; untouched, pure. The crystalline waters, the relaxed pace of the locals.
The kindness. On one public bus trip I took, which was full with no free seats, a rough-looking young man on crutches got on the bus. Immediately about five people, young and old and all Ibizan, jumped up to offer him their seat and argued over who would get the honour. That, I have never seen in Ireland. Or anywhere.
Speaking of niceness, I spent two nights at the Hotel Invisa La Cala, a four-star hotel in the holiday resort of Santa Eulalia, known to be a mature, calm resort favoured by nice British people and families, where I was hugely impressed by the care the resort staff took of their older guests.
Not only were people greeted by name and preferences remembered, the hotel had motorised buggies on hand for guests to get about the resort and a wheelchair crane to assist disabled people into the pool. The hotel has six properly equipped rooms for disabled guests.
The Invisa Hotel group is Ibiza family-owned and run, which says it all for me.
Of course, it wasn't all 'great' for the Ibizans in the first hippy wave in the late 1960s. Theirs was an island culture, steeped in rural tradition, hard working the land and religion.
Women wore layers of cloth, and tended to home and husband. The young hippies wore semi-transparent fabrics, eschewed formal underwear and hung out all hours, doing seemingly nothing.
It must have been a very tough time for the locals. Well, the local women.
The local men enjoyed watching the liberated young American women as the hippies gathered in their favourite hang-out, Bar Ca n'Anneta (Anita's Bar).
Today, Anita's is still a key place to hang out and to enjoy its home-made version (and my favourite) of the Ibizan delicacy, "Flao", which is a sweet tart made of Manchega cheese, a combination of sheep and goats' cheeses blended with fresh mint. Delicious.
Add local liquor, Hierbas Ibicencas, to truly get in the old Ibiza mellow mood. Ibiza truly is a gastronome's paradise.
The tourist season runs from June to September but there are some great special events out of season, such as the medieval festival in Dalt Vila in May and the Ibiza Light Festival in October.
My favourite, organised with the help of the tourist board, Ibiza Travel, are Ibiza's festivals of food which happen in spring and autumn.
Fifty restaurants, from high-end traditional to simple beach restaurants, create a quality menu del dia (menu of the day) at just €20 to encourage gastronomic excellence and value for customers.
I loved old Ibiza city. It was founded 27 centuries ago by the Phoenecians, then came the Carthaginians, the Romans and today the 'invaders' are us.
It is a grand, elegant, small city, with picturesque old quarters of streets and squares to walk, and great shops, especially for those with a penchant for the trendy: I have never seen so many Buddha statues for sale in one place.
By the way, in Ibiza, they speak Catalan.
The Ibiza tourist board website is a treasure trove of information, including for hiring local guides, which we did.
Shana Lacroix (email: email@example.com) was a mine of insider information, as well as historical and local.
The north end of the island is more bohemian, the south more upmarket, exclusive, Shana explained. It's a dichotomy that works for Ibiza.
Yes, there are the young and party-venturous resorts, such as San Antonio. You can hang out there if you want. Or you can just not see them.
Go for something different. Everything goes in Ibiza. The Seventies' "be cool, man" could still be its mantra. Everything in Ibiza is an expression of seemingly effortless beauty, from the natural landscape to the exquisitely arranged food on your dinner plate.
There is more to this isle than style. It intrigues.
There is just something about Ibiza that leaves you wanting - more.
Constance stayed at the Invisa Hotel Club Cala Verde Resort and the Hotel Invisa La Cala, Santa Eulalia.
For more information, see
For comprehensive information on all aspects of Ibiza and holidaying in Ibiza, see www.ibiza.travel/en/. Also www.spain.info
TAKE TWO: Top attractions
Ses Salines Natural Park still produces tons of Europe’s salt, has salt marshes, beautiful beaches, wetlands and dunes. It’s also a haven for birds and bird watchers.
Rustic and chic, the ethos is fresh, locally grown and excellence. Dining happens on the verdant garden terrace. Vegetarian or carnivore, the cuisine is delicate and surprising. (www.aubergineibiza.com)
Sunday Indo Living