Category Archives: ibiza

A break from the city…

Es Vedra

I can’t think of a better way to unwind from London’s grind than a weekend away on an island that’s better known for its hedonism than it’s history. But there’s a lot more to Ibiza than simply Spare Terrace or the West End. It’s rich history of worship (pagan, catholic, you name it) and social tapestry make it a place full of surprises and steeped in folklore. From the caves in Saint Miquel to the mystery of Es Vedra, and the impressive D’Alt Villa to the fantastic beaches at Sa Caleta and Calla San Vicente there’s more than enough to relax the mind as much as there’s temptation enough to expand it.

But having the ability to hole myself for 2 days in the north of the island (I wish it were a week) was the best option I had to unwind from the stresses and strains of financial meltdown and the bustle of the City. While the irony of having flu when you’re in 20 degrees isn’t lost on me, there’s no better place to recover. I just wish I was here longer. The clubs may be on the wane and the government seemingly willing to tread on and crush its hedonistic element, but it’s still a place of magic and majesty.

Berlin… putting Ibiza to shame

Brandenburg Gate

While Ibiza has the history, the climate, and the reputation, a trip to Berlin (finally) this month made me realise that Europe’s best nightlife isn’t limited to London, Paris or the White Isle. I’ve been planning to go for a while, and it’s most definitely worth the wait. As a city, its recent history and rebirth can’t be matched. Whether it’s the traditional landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie or the Reichstag, or more modern Holocaust Memorial, rebuilt Posdammer Platz, or the cafes and shops of Kreuzberg, it’s a cosmopolitan city that’s not yet (thank god) succumbed to the gentrification that’s taken away some of the more rugged charms of our capital.

But the nightlife is something else. There’s too many (Tresor, Weekend, Watergate, Berghain to name a few) to hit in one weekend, but Watergate and Berghain alone were an eye-opener, proof that clubs can be just about the music. Not the DJ egos, the branding, the inflated door prices, or extortionate drinks. For less than it cost me to get 12 beers in Space on a Sunday (and we’re not even talking about money for getting in either, which I thankfully manage to avoid) I managed to get to, get in, drink and get home to Watergate and Berghain. 3e for a beer instead of 10e in Space doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to understand that one is an environment that welcomes clubbers and another that bleeds them for every penny in super-branded, slickly marketed megaclubs.

Watergate, where only a few hundred stare at the mesmeric LED lights on the ceiling of the main room, (and the music of Thomas Melchoir, Frivolous and Daniel Bell) or the monolithic Berghain and Panorama Bar, housed in the old electricity station north of the river, with the stripped-down, warehouse-like rooms and near-24 hour marathon of underground music. And the fact you can see the likes of Duke Dumont, Ellen Alien, Marcel Dettmann, Black Dog, Jesse Rose and Matthias Tanzmann for 12e. 12e wouldn’t get you a vodka in Amnesia. It’s no-frills clubs, where the focus is the music, and that’s it. Refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my death-knell for the White Isle. It’s just an eye-opener to realise there’s more than a few alternatives, and many of them in one city. If it just had the weather….. well, if it had the weather it’d probably be ruined already. Sehr gut!

The day the consel won….

Circo Loco Opening, DC10 2008

Well, not strictly the island, but those that run it. And those that have a vested interest in turning it into the yacht club and high rollerville that somehow seems to be the improbably solution to the summer’s ‘undesirables’. It’s a depressing and ever growing trend, ever since the new government took charge two winters ago and all the allegiances that had held the fragile fabric of the island’s nightlife together began to slowly come apart.

First, the closures, last summer, that hit the two best clubs on the island, but mysteriously, for reasons not out of character with all of them. Then, tentatively, as this year’s season approached, hope was replaced once more with despair as DC10’s retrospective punishment that they dodged last year came back with interest. The most visceral, most raw, the purest, most undiluted, and uncommercialised clubbing experience on the island would have its doors shut once more for the majority of the season.

But the nadir, perhaps the day when we’ll look back in the future and say “this is when it all tipped” happened when its license was revoked. It sounds harsh, but it was a well known island ‘secret’ that it only had a café conceirto license, permitting music to be played, but not a discoteca license. Its capacity? Somewhere around 60. And before you raise eyebrows, of course they were taking the piss. But they were the eyesore on island, Italian owned, fraternised by a cross section of hedonistic, beautiful, and, blatantly to the authorities, smashed people every Monday afternoon.

Last year saw more police, cctv, and some of the joy of the Monday sessions diluted, but still it wasn’t enough. In fact, almost hilariously, part of the closure, that saw its license removed for 12 months (and, let’s face it, there’s as much chance it being granted in August 2009 as there is Boris Johnson winning the 100m gold in 2012) was noise complaints. This, for a club that sits on the end of the runway. It showed what lengths the authorities would go to mould the island into an image that was more condusive to 5 star hotels, golf courses and oligarchs.

But that’s not the point. It’s not what the island’s about. And no, I’m not one of these fools that thinks we should be able to head out, do drugs, fuck about, and leave the island a dustbin full of KFC wrappers, San Miguel tins and empty baggies. The island has been around a lot longer than the British, and it’s the unique Ibecincos that have made the island the unique place it is now. It’s been a haven for beatnicks, hippies, hedonists, and now ravers from all over the world that come to sample the heady mix of music, sex, sun, sea and the most incredible clubs every summer.

But, with their resentment of ‘undesirables’ the government couldn’t misunderstood the dynamic of Ibiza more. Get rid of them, and they wont’ come back to a apartment, fresh with a credit card, or a villa in a few years, or ten years later with the kids. Cut off the supply and you slowly kill the island. I don’t want 2008 to be the year the worm turned, the year that it finally reached the tipping point, but there’s too many people out there that feel that next summer it could be too late. And that would be a tragedy. And by then, it’ll be too late.

I won’t stop coming, far from it. There’s way too many incredible places on the island outside Cocoon, or We Love or Monza to reduce the attraction. And if I could show every clubber just one of them every year then that’d be a start. There’s the caves in St Miquel, the beautiful beaches of Calla Comte, Sa Caleta, Benirras, Calla Tarrida, Salinas, Cala D’Hort, Cala Jondal, the wonderful villages of St Gertrudis, St Josep, Portinax, the winding streets of Sa Penya in D’Alt Villa, too many places to mention that will fill your stomach with incredible food, the bars – Coastline, Noctambula, Lo Cura, Base, there’s one favourite for everyone, and so many vistas, sunsets, sunrises, things that will outlive even the most ardent of sessions.

I hope it’s not over. But it’ll be a sad day when that chapter closes, a sad day indeed. Let’s hope it’s not for a while yet.

Ibecinco Paradise

Now while I’m well aware of the sort of tired and oft-repeated views on the White Island, nestled in the Balearics, and how it’s ‘over’ (every year since about 1996) or it’s gone cheesy (probably earlier than that) or that it’s now a hangout for the rich and famous (you can blame Jade fucking Jagger for that) it’s still one of the most incredible, cosmopolitan, unique, beautiful, rich, welcoming and varied places you can ever go on this earth.

Of course, there’s still morons that believe that Ibiza Uncovered, despite being on almost a decade ago, is how things are. There’s still pissed up Brits, but there are pissed up Brits in Outer Mongolia. Hardly world news. And yes, it’s ‘over’, killed by (depending on who you listen to) the first influx of e’ed-up tourists in the late 80s (mid 40s Brit or occasional local), the superclubs (mid 90s), minimal techno (2005) or clubbers in general (the police, over the last two summers). But then if that’s what you want to believe, then so be it. Leave the place, muttering under your breath, and don’t come back. 

The truth is, it’s still just as good as it was, it’s usually the people that go that don’t change, and they want the same experience they had their first year (the drugs aren’t working anymore, are they?) and when they don’t get it, they get the hump, and they head home. Well, the beauty of the place, as I’ve discovered in the last 9 years (and yes, I’m no doubt going to be accused of being a total newbie by some of the island furniture out there, or friends that have been heading out since the early 90s) is that the attraction of the place is its enduring ability to change, subtly adjusting to the people, the music, the fashions, that hit every year in May, and depart every year in October. But you see, there’s another side to the island, and that’s the winter, when it returns to the tranquil, serene paradise that it was long before Grace Jones first got her rocks off in Amnesia in the mid 80s, or Wham hit Pikes in their pilot outfits and a mini-moke. 

For those that stagger out for 7 days every summer, holed up in a San An or Playa D’en Bossa bolthole with no air-con, stumbling from one sangria and line to nightclub and bar, you could argue they’re missing the point. But that’s then making yourselves as bad as the snobs that complain that pop music is ruining the Indie scene, when its very cash is paying for their label to stay afloat. The die-hard clubbers and 18-30ers are part of the equation, and while they are (in contradiction to a hundred lazy articles in the Uk press every year) only part of the total (the most popular location for Brits, for instance is, as it has been for long before Ku and Amnesia opened, St Eularia, from the days of the package tours in the 60s) they’re just as relevant as anyone. 

But if anything good will come of those visits, it’s the decision to get outside the twinned habitations of San Antonio and Ibiza Town. While San An is slowly transforming itself from the flea-ridden hole it was a decade ago, and Ibiza Town is much more than simply a repository for Pacha, it’s outside the towns that the island comes alive. Whether it’s the beauty of Sa Caleta, the windswept character of Portinax, St Gertrudis’ wonderful square and cafes, Cala Jondal’s shingle and the wonderful Blue Marlin, or Cala D’Hort’s sunset views, and a million other places, tucked away from the bustling bars and throng of turistas, it’s the sheer character of the island, and the inclusivity of its inhabitants, that makes you realise that the Ibecincos are part of the enigma that makes the Island harder and harder to leave every year. 

As an Englishman, and even more so, a Londoner, I should despise such quiet, such easy pace of live, even in the summer season, but the truth is, it’s the only place I feel at home apart from this wonderful capital. Even from trying to put it into words, there’s something indefinable, something that makes me simply smile from the moment I get off the plane, to the moment I depart, when a drooping frown comes across my mouth, and I struggle to force myself back onto the plane home. Don’t get me wrong, the clubs are simply incredible. The music, the atmosphere, the attitude to hedonism (and the admirable tolerance of the locals and police alike, despite how much clubbers like to complain the island is being squeezed dry) is unsurpassed in my experience, and while the music has changed (and with it my taste) and the list of places I’ll go now diminished, standing in the middle of the dancefloor when its crowd rises as one on the terrace Circo Loco at DC10 or the main room of Cocoon at Amnesia still sends tingles down my spine, it’s what brought me to the island in the first place, back in 2000. 

But year after year, the more I return, and the more I know about the place, learnt of locals, off lucky lucky friends I have living out there as home (the envy is just surpassed by being kept in touch with what happens in the never-dull daily mix of politics, music, gossip and sunshine), the more the place grows and the more I wish, in my daydreams, that I could up sticks and simply live there in a perpetual state of paradise. 

Sitting watching the rain today, it only makes the idea more appealing. Bloody credit crunch, if I’d just sol my flat last year……