Ibiza – an alternative view from a now regular visitor

July 12th, 2009 - 8:04 pm Posted in ibiza | Comments (1)

Me, myself and Ibiza…

by Kat Lister

It started on a grey, windswept afternoon in West London. It ended in stalemate. The verbal dissection which rumbled in between didn’t take much goading but, then again, neither did my continued dissatisfaction. And so the e-mail exchange took flight…

“The Vengaboys song is the first thing that comes to mind, closely followed by images of gurning revelers.”
Oh yeah, what next?
“After that, I think of Cream, Manumission and BCMs, superstar DJs and all that bollocks.”

And after that?

“I think of George Michael lying in a pool singing Club Tropicana. The drinks are free there, you know…”

The jibes flowed thick and fast until caricature made way for pensive silence. Then came the pre-emptive strike.

“I know it’s not really like that…Especially having been there…but I can’t help it!”

ibizaAnd there’s the rub. The following cyber-exchange is merely one debate that has come to define a nation’s coaxed opinions on the whys and wherefores of Balaeric’s White Isle; and the compulsive vitriol that follows in its wake.

This conversation in particular was between myself and my good friend Andy – a balanced and measured music journalist who never passes judgement on anything until experience directs him otherwise…And yet, despite experience to the contrary, his El Dorado preconceptions were still firmly in place .

Which led me to ask myself the inevitable question – and it’s something that’s bugged me for some years now: Just what is it about Ibiza that perpetuates its own Stella-swigging myth and sends it staggering back to the Guardian-reading masses across the English Channel? More importantly: why is everyone so vehemently opposed to something they’ve never experienced?

ibizaThere was a time when I was no better. Growing up with Ibiza Uncovered dominating my TV screen every Friday night I solemnly vowed never to set foot on the island, convinced that to do so would be to surrender to a Club 18-30 sea of rhinestone cowboy hats and white stiletto ladettes tanked up on Lambrini; Tracy holding Chardonnay’s hair back as she vomits outside a nearby kebab-shop whilst a fight between Kev and Dave is being quelled by an encore of “it’s not worth it”. Because that’s the assumption, isn’t it? And who was I to argue with the wisdom of ITV?

Then my best friend – who turned from a regular holiday visitor to island resident – threw down the gauntlet. To paraphrase slightly, her point went something along the lines of this:
“But, have you ever been?”
“So your view is purely based on a TV show you saw when you were fifteen?”

Even I was beginning to acknowledge my own hypocrisy, but not even her insistence that judging Ibiza by San Antonio’s West End was as idiotic as writing off London for housing Leicester Square was enough to convince me to book a Sleazyjet ticket and check the goods out for myself.

ibizaSo, imagine my horror when she announced she was moving to Ibiza.

“For good?!” I moaned.

That, ladies and gents, was the clincher; the crossroads in my holidaying life. I had two options:
A) Watch my best friend sail into the Spanish sunset and never see her again due to my own (and I realise this is a particular trait in me) snobbery, or…
B) Get off my indie high-horse and experience something that required me to formulate an opinion that (shock-horror!) couldn’t be found nestling in a Guardian online blog.

Thus the unthinkable took place: I reluctantly booked my holiday to Ibiza and recited my Hail Marys. On Easyjet? In July? Ye gods!

Setting foot on the island for the very first time, all my naive preconceptions were immediately challenged and I became one of Ibiza’s most unlikely supporters. “Unlikely” in the sense that I like guitars, I write about bands and spent my first visit to DC10 sitting in the car park trying to locate a melody.

ibizaI still remember my first beach visit to Talamanca nestling close to Ibiza town where the soft white sand shelves itself slowly into the crystal water; I treasure my maiden voyage to Formentera and my discovery of the Italian-run Big Sur restaurant, with its azure sparkle. I salivate thinking of late lunches in Sa Caleta cove. And I always yearn to return to Dalt Vila and climb its cobbled passageways, spiralling upwards and upwards towards the Mediterranean sky.

To visit Ibiza is to realise that the West End is one street, on one shoreline, at one tiny point on the island. The fact this has come to represent such a gloriously vibrant and breathtaking costal landscape, whose history spans Phoenician settlers in 654 BC, the Assyrian invasion and the Moorish takeover in 1060, says more about our own narrow-mindedness than it does about the British club invasion which has defined the island for a laughably brief period of 40 years.

ibiza atlantisThe fact is, this is not just a clubbing island…and if it was in the past, it is now a dated view that belongs in the boot of a Ford Escort with Noel Gallagher, a DD Wonder bra and a bottle of hooch for company.

The reality in 2009 is entirely different: The government is encouraging a more cultural and quieter tourism scene, enforcing legislation on Ibiza nightlife and even requiring all new-build hotels to be 5-star to encourage a more greater mix of tourists.

I have returned four times since my first tentative journey in 2007. Each time I have discovered something new about the island, and each visit inspires me to keep coming back. On my latest jaunt I experienced Es Vedra for the first time and marvelled at the mythic rock jetting out of the imperial blue water like a wondrous coastal myth.

Yet I have lost count of the number of flabbergasted “you don’t seem the type” comments from friends and colleagues. Which begs the question: what exactly is the type to visit Ibiza? How many more years are people going to flog that San An horse under the illusion of “refined taste”?

Isn’t it about time we chucked out that Vengaboys single, ditched our Sleazyjet snobbery and checked out Ibiza’s not-so-hidden identity for ourselves?

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One Response to “Ibiza – an alternative view from a now regular visitor”

  1. CGS Says:

    Spot on ! Was there in 1995, 2008 & 2009. The island still rocks in so many ways. Just don’t broadcast this fact too much or we might end up with the high rise scenarios you observe in Benidorm. Good article !