Daily Pennsylvanian: Pop Music Lacks a Feminist Perspective

In 1999 I took issue with Britney Spears. I didn’t like …Baby One More Time and I wrote a column to say so. Some of my views have changed (I like Britney, love the record) and some haven’t (I still object to self-objectification for male titillation). Read on.

Britney... Baby...

Britney... Baby...

Once upon a time girls hummed along to the catchy strains of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Or joined Aretha, singing about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Turn on the radio, or television, these days and you’ll hear young women singing a very different tune. In fact, chances are if you listen to any pop music station for more than an hour, your ears will be tormented by the grating Britney Spears single, …Baby One More Time.

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Daily Pennsylvanian: Loud, Obnoxious and decidedly American

Thanks to Google I’ve just stumbled across a column I wrote for the Daily Pennsylvanian some eight years ago. I was their foreign correspondent for a term, while studying at London’s King’s College. An excruciating tutorial there formed the basis for this column.

All I could think was that I’ll never be able to open my mouth in this class again. He was ruining it for me, ruining everything with his grating tone, his blatant rudeness, the patronizing way he kept interrupting other students to correct their opinions. If only he was German or French or Dutch or Spanish, I would have been all right. But he was American. As much as I wanted to light into him, my tongue was tied by the sudden awareness that my voice and accent would betray me in an instant. It wouldn’t matter what I said, my accent would stamp me just as quickly as his had identified him — and equate us beyond my power of control.

Until that mortifying hour in my critical theory class, surrounded by British students who were — justifiably — looking daggers at this specimen of Americana, I hadn’t realized to what extent language shapes and projects our identity.

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Ibiza Voice: Green Velvet – Welcome to La La Land

Green Velvet @ Portland, OR

Green Velvet @ Portland, OR

If there ever was a time and place dedicated to stamping out the vestiges of party culture it is 21st century USA. In a nation where you can’t drink till you’re 21, where bottled water is considered drug paraphernalia and where electronic music promoters can be indicted under the same laws as people who run crack houses there isn’t a hell of a lot of leeway for having fun.

Sure, there is Pacha and Cielo in New York City, Chicago’s Crobar & Vision… a handful of big name clubs pulling glamorous crowds and A-list DJs. But what about everywhere else? Despite the obstacles, there are still brave promoters and music freaks who occasionally pull off a coup like luring techno legend Green Velvet to a small-time rave in an industrial corner of Portland, Oregon (pop: 500,000; biggest musical exports: the Dandy Warhols and Beth Ditto). This coffee-fuelled hippie haven happens to be my hometown, and I wasn’t about to miss a chance to see what happens when techno stars meet barebones raving.

One thing to know about partying American-style is that you’ll rarely find good music in a legitimate club. You don’t dress up to go out on a Saturday night so much as layer up, because chances are you’ll wind up wandering through freezing cold railway stockyards (or forests, or fields) trying to find the sound system.

After a false start that takes us across the path of a slow-rolling freight train loaded with desert camouflaged military jeeps we finally find a corrugated steel warehouse with a flickering sign outside reading On Air. A pair of guys in black parkas – one fat and bearded, the other rangy and pony-tailed – wave us in and another lanky kid standing behind a folding wooden table takes our 20 bucks entry fee. Even in the ostensibly free atmosphere of a semi-legal rave there are rules in abundance. Half the barn-like space is cordoned off to form a bar (more plywood tables and a cheap metal rack full of spirits) – you have to show ID to get in here, and once “inside” you can’t smoke. You also can’t carry any alcohol back onto the dancefloor, meaning those of us relying on vodka to keep warm have to make repeated trips between the two. Here, having a huge parka comes in handy: I manage to sneak a dance with my drink nestled inside my oversized cuffs.

However, it isn’t the funny little restrictions that are the most striking. It’s the spirit. Never mind the local DJ is busy mangling Heater (ironic tune choice, given the ambient temperature is about three degrees), or that the only toilets are a row of port-a-loos on a concrete slab out back; or even that half the crowd looks too young to drive and the other half looks old enough to know better… the atmosphere is crazy. On the dancefloor drug-skinny kids are breaking out elaborate “liquid” moves that went out of fashion in Europe a decade ago. Even if they knew, they wouldn’t care, because here there is still a sense that being a raver is something special, a mark of distinction. One boy in a trilby is soaking up attention, showing off moves he must have spent hours practicing. Around him, girls in tiny skirts and day-glo bangles are dancing with fierce concentration.

Half an hour earlier my friends and I looked around the warehouse and asked, “What the hell convinced Green Velvet to come out here ” Usually, he’s in a DJ booth dripping with the latest high-spec equipment, commanding the world’s best sound systems. Tonight, he’s on a make-shift stage DJing off two decks perched on one of those wire shelves they use as discount racks in supermarkets. But he’s a true professional and, more than that, a man on a mission. Soft-spoken Curtis Jones is a devout Christian who sees his DJing as an opportunity to spread love and positivity, and he’s throwing himself into this set with as much energy as if it were the main room of Space.

And the reaction? Well, it beats any crowd I’ve seen at Space…. There are only a couple of hundred kids here, but their energy is filling up the room. It doesn’t hurt that everyone seems seriously, loopily altered. Whatever they lack in legal access to alcohol they clearly make up for with fistfuls of narcotics – mushrooms, pills, speed, whatever. And it’s all treated in share-and-share alike fashion. Absolutely everyone will stop and say hello, offer you something if they have something (even if it’s just a smoke), or simply turn around and holler “you having fun?

Sometimes this goes better than others. One kid, dancing next to me, turns around with a shit-eating grin and gives me the thumbs up. “Have you ever seen Green Velvet play before?” I shout over the music. He looks at me, eyes like saucers. “Are you speaking German ” he shouts back. When I burst out laughing he grins back, anxious to please. “Whatever you just said, that was cool,” he assures me.

Green Velvet

Green Velvet

It’s enough to make the most sober head feel twisted, and there aren’t many here. Tall, thin and cool in black leather and Matrix-esque shades, Green Velvet finally drops the tune that he wrote for kids like this: La La Land. He originally meant it as an anti-drugs message, but that seems to go right over the heads of everyone who is shouting out the chorus in un-ironic appreciation. It is a world away from sophisticated, commodified European party culture but looking around the room, it kind of makes sense.

Outside this cold, ramshackle building the train loaded down with military hardware is still rolling inexorably past. Outside a stupid, venal government is too busy scheming to kill other people’s citizens to bother feeding, educating or providing health care for its own. Outside times are tough and probably not about to get better in a hurry. But inside… well, it’s la la land. A place where freedom exists, music matters and people treat each other as potential friends, not potential enemies. Right about now it feels like the best, warmest, safest place to be.

Clash: Deaf Stereo

Originally published in Clash

Deaf Stereo

Deaf Stereo

Deaf Stereo has been percolating ever since Luke, Will and Ben met at Westminster Uni on a music course, at the turn of the millennium. It was four years before they had a name and an idea to go with it. “We decided to stop playing stuff we thought we should, and play music we wanted to listen to,” they explain. The music they wanted to play, if their first single is anything to go by, is solid, grooving beat driven indie pop. Disco biscuits with a side order of Jack Daniels, say.

“We’re into bands like the Chemical Brothers, Underworld… we like the peaks and troughs of dance, but we also wanted proper songs,” says Barney, who describes his role in the band as doing “keyboards and laptop stuff.” About a year ago, they completed their set up, with fifth member, Tom, the handsome, clean-cut drummer.

Sitting in the trendy bowels of the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, it’s Will, who plays bass, who keeps up the steadiest stream of patter. A series of wry asides from behind a hand rolled cigarette. “Would I ever sail a giant effigy of myself down the Thames? Shit. If I were as big as Michael Jackson that’s the least I would do. I’d have a whole set of them.”

Ben, (guitars, backing vocals) is small, dark, thoughtful. He takes on the philosophical questions. Or rather, turns questions philosophical. If you had a band uniform, say, what would it be? Luke (singer) runs a hand through his beautifully cut hair and says, “That’s something we’re still thinking about.” But Ben launches into an earnest and articulate explanation of the dangers of embracing style over substance. Absorbing this, Luke effortlessly readjusts his stance on the issue. “We happy wearing what we wear. No one’s told us to change anything yet.”

These small, subtle realignments happen more than once. Not in a deliberate presenting-a-united-front kind of way, but in a fluid manner which suggests long practice in accommodating each other’s ideas and opinions. Disagreements are minor: Barney prefers Addlestone cider, while Ben is happiest drinking mojitos. Will predicts a Dire Straits revival to general eye-rolling. When it matters, they’re in perfect sync. They want the right songs on the album (“we have a reputation as a party band, but we have some slower songs too, we want to showcase that”); they like the same venues (Koko and Fabric, where they played a riotous 3am gig); and perhaps most importantly, they all know what they want on their rider: “You mean when we have a rider? We’ll have as much as we can get! We got sandwiches when we were at Brixton, that was great,” Luke says.

So far, they’ve humped their equipment through calf-deep mud to play at Glastonbury last year. They’ve written a raft of songs which will somehow have to be whittled into an album. They’ve learned to party on backstage freebies because “we can’t afford to go out unless we’re playing.” They’ve been given some good advice: “Get a job, sort your life out, stop wasting your time,” Will guffaws. And what advice would they give someone following in their footsteps? Ben and Will catch each other’s eye and chorus, “Get a job! Stop wasting your time!” They all laugh.

DJ: Alternative Ibiza parties

Originally published in DJ Mag

Ibiza lights up

Ibiza lights up

Like a tear-away teenager who has finally gotten a haircut, settled down and found a steady job, Ibiza seems to have succumbed to well-managed corporate clubbing. The behemouth clubs – Space, Privilege, Pacha, Amnesia – are branded, air-conditioned, enclosed, and open and close on the dot of the legal hour. But that doesn’t mean it’s all over for the island’s free spirits. Step outside the rigorously soundproofed walls of the mainstream giants and you’ll hear the distant but distinct beat of a different drummer.

Listen closely. There are basslines rippling in the bellies of disused quarries. Synth stabs snaking across the waves. A jungle beat drum stirring the beasts in an abandoned zoo. This is alternative Ibiza clubbing. Raw. Unreconstructed. Adventurous. A return to the original spirit of the island where a party started whenever a few people got together, opened a bottle and started bashing some drums.

Contrary to rumour the new, stricter licensing laws in 2008 haven’t stamped out the crazy, alternative side of Ibiza clubbing – they’ve just made it get more creative. The result? Fantastically exciting, unforgettable parties which if you just know where to look.

Private parties:
It’s all about who you know when it comes to private parties. “The best thing to do is make friends with the workers, if anything’s going on they’ll know about it,” advises Grego O’Halloran, a veteran of several seasons on the island. That doesn’t just mean hanging out with San An flyer girls though. If you’re after a more sophisticated bash head into old Ibiza Town and down a few drinks around Sa Penya (behind bustling gay strip Calle de Virgin). This is the favourite hang-out of trendy Euros, local bohemian types and a stylish gay crowd that never seems to sleep. Make friends here and you’ll have more invites than you know what to do with.

Depending on your blagging skills you might even be lucky enough to be included in a promoter’s private bash. “You don’t think we go to bed at 8AM do you?” Cocoon manager Johannes Goller says with a laugh. “Last week we had an after-party that went till midnight on Tuesday. But unfortunately it’s just for our inner circle. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to do bigger parties again.”

However, don’t expect all promoter bashes to be in luxuriant white-walled palaces in the remote hills. Last summer Matinee’s after-after parties were at sprawling old house just off the Sant Jose carretera with bottles on the floor, decks on the kitchen table and columns of ants marching up and down the walls. Crazy, messy, unhygienic, but a hell of a lot of fun.

This DIY trend is on the upswing this season – for punters, promoters and A-list stars alike, according to Brian, director of specialist sound equipment hire service BeeZwax.co.uk. “Everyone knows about the clamp-down on unlicensed villa parties, and the massive fines so people are more cautious. You won’t get any of the old ‘pay on the door’ parties, but apart from that very little has changed. Our regular customers are still hiring equipment and people are still having parties, they’re just smaller. The trend this year is for more intimate gatherings, not big parties.

“Everyone thinks everything is completely different but really it’s only harder to get yourself invited.”

Bora Bora
Sometimes the old favourites are the best, and there is no more classic an alternative party in Ibiza than Bora Bora, the quintessential daytime party where you can dance with sand between your toes, dash to the sea for a dip and never be out of earshot of the music.

This year, the beats don’t kick in till 4.30PM, but who gets out of bed before 3.30 anyway? Which leaves plenty of time to get down to the beach and have a drink in your hand when the sound system fires up. If anything, the restriction has enhanced the party atmosphere. Now, instead of being one option among many a trip to Bora Bora is an essential show of loyalty – a way of saying, we’re still here and we’re going to party! Plus, the late opening means less chance of getting a third-degree sunburn while having a boogie.

Forget Meganite – the coolest parties in Ibiza are small but perfectly formed. And they have in common the desire to see the island thrive despite the wave of bad publicity about the perceived shut-down. “Sure, things are a little different this year. A little more challenging, but if you love a place you work around it,” says Ryan O’Gorman, who has his hands full running not one but three alternative promotions.

A regular on the island thanks to his Vitalik parties and Electricsex, which shares Saturday nights at Eden with MondoLoco, this year O’Gorman has branched out to start Sounds Like Us – aimed at fill the Monday afternoon hole left by DC10’s closing. Running from 5PM to midnight at Boulevard in San An, it kicked off with a set from DC10 resident Clive Henry, a sort of “thanks, we’re still here” note to fans. “We’re only running Sounds Like Us on Mondays till DC10 reopens, then we’re moving to Wednesday,” O’Gorman says. “It’s a deep house party with different guests every week. Boulevard looks like an old man’s pub from outside, but it’s got a great terrace and holds over 500 people, which is perfect.”

Also on the small-venue tip is London electro-tech fave DDD, who’ve swapped their old home in King’s Cross for the soothing surroundings of Aura, near Sant Llorenc. Once upon a time their DDD handle stood for ‘deep down and dirty’ but in keeping with the refined setting they’ve dubbed their Ibiza nights ‘dinner, drink and dance’ – with the hope of starting in a civilised fashion with tapas and cocktails before letting loose on the dancefloor in the small hours.

Lost at sea
“Shipwrecked is completely legal, but anyway, we’re on a boat, so there’s not much they can do about it,” says organiser Tracy Jones with a laugh. She and a small team from White Island Sounds have been crewing the raucous Shipwrecked boat parties (in cooperation with The Ship – San An’s famous pub-come-jobcentre) for three years but the party has come into its own this summer dry-land after-party alternatives have disappeared.

Every Wednesday morning (and Saturdays, during peak season) at 7AM a 250 capacity boat sets sail from San An with a riotous crew of workers and friends running amok. Pirate costumes, face paint, up-all-night eyes and cheap-and-cheerful bar prices all ensure the vibe is intimate and unpretentious. As well as being hugely popular with West End crowd who are just finishing their shifts as the boat prepares to sail the party is a favourite with clubbers looking for after-party options. “This summer has been absolutely fabulous. We’re definitely filling a bit of a gap now the after-hours are gone, which means anyone who doesn’t arrive early gets left behind,” Tracy says.

Other high-seas adventures include the Noah’s Ark boat party, which kicks off at 2PM every Saturday as a pre-party for the Zoo Project in Benimussa Hills, as well as Pukka Up’s hugely popular sunset cruise pre-party every Monday from 7-10PM.

The breakfast club
Spiritual home of white Speedos and outrageous benders, the infamous Pikes hotel, near San An, has revived a much loved daytime institution: the Pikes breakfast club. Back in the 80s when Freddie Mercury, George Michael and Julio Iglesis were regular visitors they would roll in with their entourages at odd hours of the morning and plunk down by the pool for breakfast and cocktails. With the official after-hours kaput Pikes decided this was the perfect time to offer their own alternative again, every Sunday morning – complete with frozen Bloody Marys and chilled-out music from resident Jon Sa Trinxa and a variety of guests including Dave Philips of We Love and Pacha’s Andy Wilson.

“It’s been a great start. We had Danny Rampling and David Morales come straight from Pacha the other week,” says Pikes’ publicist Octavia Coates.

Outdoor raves
The ultimate challenge for promoters – and the ultimate thrill for partiers – remains the mythic open air rave. Stuart Geddes, one-half of the Mulletover team, points out: “The problem is a lot of areas [in Ibiza] have been used before and the accessible places are pretty well known to the police.”

This hasn’t stopped the intrepid Vitalik crew who, after losing their home at Cova Santa, decided to get creative – and discovered a hugely useful piece of local knowledge. “We decided to base them around local fiestas – it’s easier to get licenses and you can carry on after midnight,” explains Ryan O’Gorman. The first is slated for a secret location on Saint Bartholomew’s day (24th August in San An). Other possible locations include Cala Tarida later in the year.

“It’s about finding the right place for our music, to create an experience, something out of the ordinary. We’ll hopefully have DJs from Freak n’ Chic and Tenax down.”

Wild life

Swimming pools, dancing bunnies and headless chickens are all in a night’s work for the Zoo Project, a head-twisting techno party held weekly in an abandoned zoo in the Benimussa Hills outside San Antonio. Born as a one-off party two years ago, the Zoo Project has rapidly become a cult favourite, attracting a melange of dressed-up party freaks with its policy of strictly grade-A underground tunes (Clive Henry, Mr C, Jose de Divina and Jamie Jones are guests, alongside residents including co-founder Defex and Michael James) plus performances, massage and plenty of freewheeling lunacy.

Now, as the pretty much the last legal, open-air party available the Zoo Project’s animal spirit is contagious. “I think we fill a little bit of the gap of DC10 being gone. Word is spreading. We’re seeing an increasingly international crowd who want to experience something that can only happen in Ibiza. The Zoo Project has an incredible energy – when you’re there you know you’re really on the island,” says promoter Katie.

While the island’s biggest clubs have capitulated to corporate logos, heavily sponsored nights and incessant promotion Undergound – perched just opposite Privilege on the road to Sant Rafael – has stubbornly maintained its back-to-basics ethos. Owner Nick Fry spent the 80s in the London club scene and is keen to maintain a little corner of Ibiza for the spirit of acid house. “We don’t have big promoters or charge on the door. Underground is about music and that’s always our focus,” he says.

Parties vary accordingly, with Nick hosting Fridays, Leftfield’s Paul Daly doing fortnightly Saturday parties and stellar guests ranging from Trentemoller to Anthony Collins to Mathew Johnson turning up on a regular basis. Underground is also one of the few clubs open throughout the winter, making it an off-season haven for workers and locals.

Real Travel: The Other Ibiza…

Originally published in Real Travel

As far as England is concerned there seem to be two Ibizas – both equally unfit for ordinary, human habitation. The first is Ibiza Uncovered territory: a Gomorrah of boorish binge-drinkers, off their heads on E or X or K or Y, stumbling from one swiftly-forgotten grope or vomitous party to the next. The other is an achingly pristine, white-walled, hippie-lux haven replete with infinity pools, yoga retreats and yachts dripping with rich, honey-coloured celeb aristocracy.

A summer visitor to Ibiza for several years now, I’ve always felt there is more to the island than meets the eye – or makes the pages of British broadsheets. With work in crisis mode and my ex-boyfriend swanning around town with his new love I need an excuse to get away. This, I promise myself, will be a reconnaissance mission. No clubbing, crazy nights or other clichés, but a chance to discover an authentic Ibiza.

First, though, I have to find my hotel. Which is somewhere in the centre of the concentric swirl of cobbled streets that make up Dalt Vila, the medieval fortress at the heart of the Ibiza Town. With only faint starlight overhead and a few skulking cats for company I feel eerily removed from the 21st century as I trudge past whitewashed walls picked out with brightly painted wooden doorways and wrought-iron balconies. By the time I hone in on my destination, the El Corsario, I am grateful for sensible shoes and a regular fitness regime. The reception area was clearly once an open courtyard – the floor is alluringly patterned stone and arched stairways beckon upwards. Three flights later I am welcomed by Nadiha, who shows me to my room and kindly insists on leaving her mobile number “in case you need anything.” Perched on a four-poster bed in the simple, homey room, with the lights of the town and marina twinkling beneath me it is hard to imagine I could need anything else.

My friend Dan is staying on the opposite side of town at the swish Art Deco Ocean Drive hotel (which would be easily visible from my aerie, if I had a pair of binoculars) so we meet halfway to get dinner. Contrary to rumour there are plenty of bars and restaurants open, “off season” or not, and we end up in El Zaguan, a reassuringly busy, smoky, neighbourhood hang out in the centre of town. Forget menus: this is an authentic tapas joint – glass cases on the bar are filled with everything from seafood-stuffed pimentos, to anchovies, to thick slices of Iberian sausage, to delicious local cheeses, all neatly skewered with toothpicks. We grab plates and stock up before realising there is also a stream of hot goodies (battered prawns, croquettes, spicy chicken wings, empanadas) being circulated by the wait staff. A bottle of red wine, a delectable salad and 24 tapas later (they tot up the toothpick count on your bill, so you can judge just how greedy you’ve been) we roll out the door in search of a nightcap.

One of our waiters suggests Teatro Pereyra, a five minute walk away. Sliding through the red velvet curtains we can’t help but grin. The place drips high-camp class. “Shall we get a bottle of wine?” Dan suggests, innocently. Time turns as warm and squishy as the velvet furniture as we plow through a good rioja. Another bottle arrives at our table, unbidden, and we crack into it while a band (Pereyra has hosted live music ever night for 20 years), led by a vocalist who looks like a hardboiled Teutonic version of Sting, belts out Prince covers. By the end of the evening not even the bill and the realisation the wine we’ve been cavalierly guzzling is €50 a pop can shake us out of our cosy, boozy fuzz.

The following midday we reconvene at Croissant Show, a Francophile café at the foot of Dalt Vila, wearing our hangovers with pride. I’ve blown my budget and Dan’s wondering aloud if he can finagle his share of the vino on expenses, but we can’t help giggling about it. A recovery brunch of huevos hervidos (boiled eggs with toast soldiers) is a snip at €2.65 and Andrea, the voluble proprietor (and owner of the finest handlebar ‘tache I’ve ever seen) suggests we try Vichy Catalan. Not, as I first guessed, an obscure form of government, but mineral-laden fizzy spring water that’s been drunk as a tonic in the region for 800-odd years. It soothes our headaches and inadvertently puts us on the path to unravelling one of the intricacies of travel in Ibiza: a little matter of language.

I can’t work out how the nearby Calle de Virgen (in summer, the fabulously hectic heart of Ibiza’s gay scene) has become Carrer de Mare de Deu. Catalan, it turns out, is the key to more than hangover cures. Ibiza, like the other Balearic Islands, is historically Catalan (as are the neighbouring mainland provinces of Valencia and Catalonia). Suppressed during Franco’s rule in favour of Castilian (Spanish), Catalan has been restored to official language status (though Castilian and English are universally spoken). Schools now teach in Catalan and in the course of the last couple of years all road signs, street names and the like have been changed, which explains the baffling changeover. Apparently, if you ask to go to Sant Josep and your taxi driver offers to take you to San Jose you shouldn’t panic, it’s the same place.

Curiosity piqued I head into Dalt Vila in search of more culture. Simply walking around the fortress is an education. Plaques dotted around the walls explain key historical features in Spanish, English and Catalan, like the 24-pound cannon (named for the weight of their ammunition) which gaze blankly towards evergreen hills. Opposite, the sea sweeps towards the horizon, broken by the low, dim line of neighbouring Formentera (collectively, the two islands are called the Pitiüses – a reference to their ubiquitous pine trees). Half-hypnotised by the spring sun and the murmur of waves below it is hard to imagine anything bad ever happening here. However, the impressive fortifications at my feet and a round tower lying on a tip of land in the distance tell another tale.

Despite being tiny (barely 40km from top to bottom) Ibiza has been a magnet for empires, pirates and a vast array of exiles for centuries. Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Catalans and Spaniards have all variously claimed the island made highly desirable by Ses Salinas, the natural salt pans that lie at its southern tip. Now a World Heritage nature reserve and home to over 200 species of birds, as well as rare mammals, Salinas attracts the beautiful people to its beach in summer. This time of year, though, you can hop on a bus in town and half an hour later be wandering through rolling meadows and along the jagged shoreline in peace and perfect isolation.

Rejuvenated, I rejoin Dan in town. A DJ, he can’t bring himself to visit Ibiza without dipping into its infamous nightlife. Though most of the large clubs are shut until May a small party scene is still thriving, if the posters dotted around are any indication. There is a techno night on at DC10, a club near the airport, and as he says, “it’d be wrong not to go.” First we stop by Lo Cura, a local dive in the best sense of the word. Everyone in this tiny boozer seems to know each other and in no time we’ve been sucked into a maelstrom of conversation. We finally arrive at DC10 at the very Spanish hour of 3AM. The heavy, white walls of the club seal in the sound of thumping kick drums and rumbling basslines; it’s like walking into a washing machine on spin cycle. Sweaty dancers gyrate around us, intent on the music. Two handsome men ooze over and strike up a conversation. “Don’t worry, we’re gay,” they assure us, leaving Dan and I wondering who’s being chatted up by whom. The no-frills atmosphere couldn’t be any more different from Teatro Pereyra, but the combination of music, vodka and high-spirited company has a similar, dizzying effect.

“Why does this always happen in Ibiza?” Dan asks wanly the next day. He’s on his way to the airport. I’m trying to get to grips with the idea of a cycle trip I’ve arranged with Ruth and Kev – a British couple based in tranquil Santa Eularia (the island’s third-largest town) who run fitness holidays and have offered to expose me to a healthier side of island life with a bike tour. Happily, they agree to reschedule for tomorrow and I stagger zombie-like through town in search of refuge. My email addiction is rearing its head, along with a double-strength hangover, so I’m insanely grateful when I happen on Chill Café. As befits an island of immigrants Ibiza is riddled with cheap, functional locutorios (internet cafés) but this one eschews plastic furniture and vending machines in favour of homemade baked goods and comfy benches where you can recover and reconnect. A cup of green tea, a huge chocolate chip cookie and a quick browse on Facebook later I feel almost human again.

Convinced a walk will finish the transformation I set off around the marina and stroll past luxurious yachts and chic bars to the Botafoch lighthouse at the end. From here, there are magnificent vistas of Dalt Vila and I perch on the rocks to watch the waves break beneath me. Watching the water turn from deep turquoise to fizzing pale green to pure, creamy spume and back is deeply cleansing. Wandering back to the centre of town I spend an enjoyable hour poking around the Fira D’Artesania, an annual arts and crafts fair. Carmen, a gregarious jeweller shows me how she makes dainty glass necklaces, then sends me to her mother’s stall opposite to pick up a lovely pottery vase. Mother and daughter hail from Buenos Aires originally but, as I’m starting to realise, everyone in Ibiza comes from somewhere else.

Over dinner at the Marino hotel and bar I ask Miguel, the proprietor and one of the few native Ibicencos I’ve met, why this is. “Because you can do whatever you want here. As long as you respect Ibiza, you can do anything,” he says with a smile. He is a paragon of hospitality and keeps my glass topped up with vino payes (the local red wine) as he tells me about the changes he’s seen since his father built the hotel in the 60s. Mostly, he says (British tabloid nonsense notwithstanding) they have been for the better, the tourism boom giving the islanders a completely new way of life. Jose, perched next to me at the bar, tells me his father grew up labouring on a small farm. A generation later and their family own one of the oldest hotels in this quarter, the Gran Sol.

The next morning I pick up a mountain bike and a few words of advice from Miguel at Mr Bike, (“Spanish drivers son locos,” he tells me, encouragingly) and meet Ruth and Kev to go in search of an even more distant past. Our destination is Es Broll, a natural spring between Sant Antoni and Sant Rafael that for centuries provided nearby villagers with water. Its antiquity is attested to by a well-preserved series of stone irrigation trenches that date from Moorish times. After roaming through the emerald oasis of Es Broll (and cursing myself for having forgotten my camera) we double back and head to Sant Rafael. This tiny village has a beautiful church whose courtyard offers magnificent views towards Ibiza Town and the sea. It is also home to two of the island’s swankiest eateries – El Ayoun and L’Elephant – but we eschew glamour in favour of shandies at a roadside café, before heading back to town. Kev and Ruth, gracious to a fault, insist on my accompanying them back to Santa Eularia, where they take me for a stroll around the beautiful church before welcoming me in for a home-cooked meal.

Sipping a glass of rose with my two new friends I can’t bear to think of leaving. In just a few days I’ve been indulged with music, history, art, nature, sunshine, sea views and boundless hospitality. Small wonder travellers from every corner of the world come to Ibiza and never return home. Perhaps I’ll join them.

Flights: Cila flew from London with British Airways connecting through Barcelona. Direct flights begin in May and from June BA is offering a new direct route from Gatwick to Ibiza.

Accommodation: Hotel Corsario, Calle Poniente 5, +34 971 30 12 48

Visa: None required for US or EU visitors.

Vaccinations: None.

Fitness holidays: Kev Grant and Ruth Osborn

Bike hire: Mr Bike, Av. Isidor Macabich 63-A, +34 971 392 300, mrbikeibiza@hotmail.com

About the writer: A freelance writer, expat and keen explorer Cila moved to London from the US six years ago and has travelled extensively in Europe. Currently she’s studying Spanish in anticipation of travelling in South America.

Mr & Mrs Smith blog: Ibiza Uncovered – Beyond Clubland

Originally published on the Mr & Mrs Smith travel blog

Ibiza  by night

Ibiza by night


Ibiza is easy to love but hard to describe. Not because its charms have been picked clean but because there is simply too much to tell; too many revelations to adequately unfold. Every visit offers new delights: a perfect sunset, an amazing restaurant or an unforgettable vista. Here’s a top-10 list of my favourite things – try them, then go explore and discover your own moments of island magic…

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