Sunday, April 24, 2011

Back from Asturias, a trip to the Pitiusa islands and home again for a quiet Easter

Me in the old town of Ibiza last week overlooking the port at dusk
Hi again

Today is Easter Sunday and time to write my blog post about our trip to Ibiza and Formentera, known in Spanish as the Pitiusa Islands (from the latin word for pine trees). We are alone at home, just the oldies as Suzy has gone away for Easter to the Murcia region camping with her boyfriend Gaby. Oli has gone off for lunch outside with her beau, as it is a beautiful day. But more on Easter at home after I have told you about our trip to Ibiza and Formentera.

Suzy camping in La Manga in Murcia this Easter

No sooner had we arrived back from wonderful Asturias last Monday then we were off again. We had just 3 hours at home to change the contents of our suitcases and have lunch with the family. We had no time unfortunately to wind down and get Asturias out of our systems before going to the other side of Spain to a completely different terrain. A terrain I never really fell in love with unfortunately although tourists and travellers from most of Europe seem to adore Ibiza. It has its nice points of course but I just couldn’t get out of my head the look and feel of a party island seemingly owned by the ghastly discotheque Pacha, one I wouldn’t set foot in for all the tea in China.

The omnipresent Pacha logo you see in Ibiza. It is the name of a discotheque which seems to "own" the island and give it its clubbing image.

I knew very little about Ibiza and now some more, but not a lot as I wasn’t there for long enough. I know it is some 85km from the mainland (Valencia) and has about 85.000 inhabitants. It belongs to the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza being the closest to the mainland. They speak their own language, similar to Catalan, which differs very slightly from island to island.

The map of the Balearic Islands.  Ibiza and Formentera are known as the Pitiusa Islands.  Ibiza is closest to the Spanish mainland.

I wasn’t going there for a holiday but was on a site inspection trip as the Yoigo Summer Party this year will be in Ibiza with a possible excursion to Formentera. I took Eladio with me as I hate going on my own. We were to be joined by Bea and her sister Gloria from my events agency Quintaesencia. We arrived in the early evening to quite good weather despite the bad forecast for the peninsula. Throughout our stay we were lucky with the weather. It was mostly sunny and didn’t rain and the temperatures rangeed between 18 and 23 degrees. That meant we had to wear a light coat most of the time, whilst the British and German tourists seemed to go around in their shirt sleeves!

We stayed in a hotel near the town of Ibiza so as to be central. The choice was Ibiza Gran Hotel, yet another luxurious but soulless establishment with very masculine rooms even though they were superb. How I missed La Casona de la Paca when I saw it. I always imagine that these big hotels are designed by men and just do not have the loving touches of places like La Casona de la Paca. It was pretty empty as the season hasn’t really started and we found out later that most hotels only open from May to October.

The rather soulless Ibiza Gran Hotel where we stayed in the centre near the port

We didn’t go out for dinner on the first night as we had a date in our room with the final episode of our current favourite series, La República, the continuation of our beloved La Señora. Unfortunately I fell asleep exhausted after so much travelling just at the most important moment and had to suffice with a laconic explanation from Eladio.

The characters from our favourite TV series La República which we stayed in to watch at the hotel on the first night

I was up early the next day as it was the TeliaSonera Q1 report day and I had a conference call with Stockholm at 8 am. It was good news for Yoigo as we had reached 2.5 million customers and continued to report positive figures. I was happy with the media coverage later. I had to liaise with my PR agency in order to prepare the internal and external release and listen to the ensuing media conference. Thus at about 10 am Bea, Gloria and I set off to inspect some of the possible locations on their list for hotels and our events. We were to be driven by Juanjo, a young local taxi driver who had been an indoor soccer player before and was now married to a Brazilian girl. Juanjo proved to be a mine of information re locations.

First we had to visit the hotels and this was going to be difficult. There was nowhere on the island we could get 200 or so rooms in the same hotel and finding 2 similar hotels near to each other was not easy too. I think we have sorted it in the end but it’s still touch and go. The added difficulty is that most hotels prefer bookings for a full week and if you only want one night, which is our case, this would make it difficult for them to sell the other rooms that week. Also you can only buy a certain quota direct from the hotels as the rest are sold by the tour operators. For one of the hotels we visited we had to wear building site helmets because it was still being built! This was real site inspection I can tell you!

Gloria, Bea and I had to wear helmets to inspect a hotel which was still under construction!

That morning we also went to see some possible locations for lunch and dinner on the first day. These included Ibiza’s most popular partying places such as Nassau Beach Club and Blue Marlin. Juanjo took us to a much quieter place in Cap de’s Falcó. Lots of the places we saw were located on delightful little coves which Ibiza’s coastline is full of.

At the Cove called Cap de's Falcó.  Ibiza is full of them and they are very pretty

Eladio joined us for lunch that day at Sa Caleta, the beach or rather cove being called Playa des Bol Nou. It was tiny. The lunch was big though and the rice we had out of this world.

At Playa des Bol Nou where we had lunch at Sa Caleta

In the afternoon we explored the old town and walked up to what is known as Dalt Vila, or “upper town”. This part of the town is walled as it was once a fortress and the views walking up are superb. It was dusk when we went and the light was perfect for photography. The picture illustrating this blog was taken on that walk.

View of the port of Ibiza at night from Dalt Vila

I especially love the very Ibizan type church as you walk up and I think you see it on lots of the local post cards. Here is one photo I especially like of this little gem. I’m afraid I don’t know the name.

Bea by a beautiful Ibizan church in Dalt Vila

Eladio joined us later for an impromptu dinner just off the very pretty Plaza de la Villa. We would have preferred to go to El Olivo which was full and opted in the end for La Oliva, a nice enough little place where we were able to eat outside.

Dinner at La Oliva in Dalt Vila just off the Plaza de la Vila

It was run by French staff as so many boutiques and restaurants seemed to be. Ibiza is full of Germans, British, Italians and many other European nationalities and everyone seems to get on. In a way that fascinated me about Ibiza but also annoyed me as it seemed not to be a Spanish island anymore. I shouldn’t be surprised as I have seen that so often on the Spanish coast. But you know what? I didn’t see that in Asturias which is an unspoilt part of Spain.

There seemed to be more foreign newspapers on offer than Spanish ones in Ibiza and that annoyed me.

The next day we went visiting more hotels this time in Santa Eulalia a part of Ibiza I found quieter and prettier. Apparently it is where families prefer to go. Here we had a bit more luck as two superb hotels very near each other seem to be willing to reserve the rooms we need. Changing the hotel location meant looking for different venues for the lunch and activities so we had to start all over again to find new places and here Juanjo came in handy. He introduced us to a place called Pura Vida with its own little beach or cove called Playa Niu Blau. Gery the owner, the son of Germans but brought up in Ibiza, was most facilitating and it seems we will do business with him. I certainly liked the place.

The Niu Blau beach at "Pura Vida". I liked it.

As we were in or near Santa Eulalia we decided to visit the famous Hippy Market in Es Canar with a view to include it in the Summer Party activities. Here we had a field day buying cheap cotton garments from people of nearly all nationalities, again, except Spanish.

At the Hippy Market in Es Canar

Later that morning Eladio joined us for lunch at the Port of Santa Eulalia and here we just chose what seemed to be on offer, a modest little place called El Corsario Negro which doesn’t seem to have any reference on internet.

Lunch at El Corsario Negro in the port of Santa Eulalia

Most meals in Ibiza are served with bread, olives and garlic mayonnaise known in Spain as “ali oli”. This is typical of other areas in the Mediterranean in Spain too. Here is an example of what this looks like. Add a glass of red wine and you are in heaven.

The typical garlic mayonnaise, olives and bread that are served at all meals in Ibiza.

Bea and Gloria were leaving for the mainland after lunch but Eladio and I were staying another night as I had to go and see Formentera the next day. However that afternoon was free of work and we used the time for resting in the hotel. Later on I took Eladio to the old town and this time walked right up to the top where the Cathedral is. The walk is very steep but the views are magnificent and this time I was seeing them in daylight although it was somewhat cloudy and the visibility was affected

A view from the highest point of Dalt Vila in the town of Ibiza

On our way up still in the lower part of the town I spotted 2 beautiful Ibizan type blue chairs in the street outside an art gallery so I snapped at them with my camera. The gallery assistant came out crossly to tell me that it wasn’t allowed to take photos of the chairs. I was a bit stunned and retorted that they were only chairs and didn’t have image rights and that if she didn’t want people to photograph them she should either put them inside or put a sign up. And here are the chairs in question.

A forbidden photo of some very ordinary but attractive blue chairs outside an art gallery.

That night there was to be no fancy dinner out. It was the night of the final of the Spanish King’s Cup and Barcelona were playing Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia and the whole of Spain was watching. So I had no choice but to order room service and semi watch it with Eladio in our room. The match was tense and boring with no goals scored. Suddenly by mistake Eladio switched the television off and when he switched it back on again he (or we) had just missed Cristiano Ronaldo’s winning goal which gave the Whites as the Real Madrid players are known, the coveted winners’ cup. The cup however was to be struck with misfortune the next day as the Captain Sergio Ramos dropped it from the celebration bus in front of cheering crowds in the Spanish capital. The cup was run over by the bus and the photo of the happening has hit the front pages of many newspapers the world round.

The Real Madrid King's Cup that fell off the celebration bus and got run over by the wheels.

The day after Real Madrid won the cup, Maundy Thursday was our last day in Ibiza. Maunday Thursday too by the way was HM The Queen of England’s 85th birthday. So here’s a toast to Her Majesty from these pages.

HM Queen Elizabeth II was 85 on Maunday Thursday, our last day in the Pitiusa Islands.

Our flight was at 19.30 in the evening so we had all day to travel to Formentera, look for places and travel back on time to catch the plane. After packing and checking out of our hotel we walked to the port which takes some 15 minutes. We bought tickets for the 10.30 ferry which would disembark in the port of La Savina in Formentera some 25 minutes later. Unfortunately we could not go on deck as the sea was too choppy. I was worried about Eladio as he can get sea sick very easily but he seemed to bear up ok thank goodness.

Eladio getting off the ferry from Ibiza which brought us to Formentera

I was eager to see Formentera as I had been told it was beautiful with its white beaches and crystal clear blue sea. However last Thursday was not the best day for viewing the island as it was cloudy with blustery winds. I had read up a bit about the island, enough to know that it is 6km from Ibiza and that you can actually only access it on public transport by ferry from the bigger of the Pitiusa Islands and that it has just under 10.000 inhabitants. I also read that it is famous for nude sunbathing something that doesn’t bother me a bit. It is quite small with maximum distances between points never being more than about 12km.

A map of Formentera. Now you can see where the places I mention are.

We had to hire a car as there was really no other transport unless you wanted to hire a bicycle or moped as most the people coming off our boat did. There were only tiny cars on offer and we got a funny bright yellow little Chevrolet which served its purpose beautifully. The car hire firm told us to fill the tank with 10 euros saying that would be more than enough. We were a bit sceptical and filled it with 20 euros and when we returned it there was still plenty of petrol left. So yes Formentera is very small and for me a little claustrophobic to tell you the truth. And is it beautiful? Well yes in parts like nearly everywhere in the world I suppose.

Eladio with the little yellow Chevrolet we rented in Formentera

So what did we see and what did we do from 11 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon when we took the return ferry to Ibiza? My main mission was to find a suitable place for a possible lunch the day after the Summer Party and of course the place had to be nice, by the beach and big enough to cater for some 200 people. The first place I visited I had found on internet and it turned out to be the best by far. It’s called Gecko Beach Club and is on the Platja de Migjorn. It is a wonderful little hotel too owned and run by an Anglo Australian couple.

The rest of the places I was to visit were all on the other side of the island on the beaches on the northern tip, Platja de Llevant and Platja de Illetes and in between two very lonely looking lagoons which I think were part of the National Park area of Las Salinas. None of them were up to scratch so I decided that our place was definitely Gecko Beach Club. Now that my “work” was over, we had time to explore the island before lunch and catching the ferry back.

On the Playa de Levante, deserted last Thursday.

We drove to the “capital” called Sant Francesc Xavier as we thought we ought to see it. It is inland and was pretty empty, rather small and dusty so we drove on.  Our destination was Cape Barbaria, the most southern point of the island but we got lost in the process and somehow ended up at a very nice looking cove called Cala Saona. We stopped here to take a look and asked another couple to take a photo of the moment.

At Cala Saona

Finally we found Cape Barbaria but it was so windy and blustery we hardly dared get near the cliff overlooking the sea. In any case it was impressive and of course you know I love cliffs and capes.

Eladio at Cabo Barbaria, the southernmost point of Formentera

From the cape we drove east towards Es Calo where we had been recommended the restaurant El Pascual for lunch. The recommendation was perfect and came from the car hire company. We just couldn’t resist the baby squid on the menu and they came along with the proverbial “ali oli”, bread and olives too; Delicious.

Delicious fried baby squid at El Pascual in Formentera

Soon it was time to leave and hurry back to the port to leave our little car and catch the ferry back to Ibiza. Again the sea was choppy and we couldn’t go on deck to take what would be wonderful photos on a calm day with good visibility. Maybe I will be able to do so when I go back in the summer. Soon we were in the port of Ibiza and it was time to pick up our luggage from the hotel and take a taxi to the airport. Our lovely working trip was coming to an end.

Getting off the boat from Formentera in Ibiza.  Goodbye Islas Pitiusas

At the airport of course we bought some “ensaimada” a local pastry typical of the Balearic Islands. This time I asked permission to take the photo! We were to eat it the next day for breakfast on Good Friday together with the very English hot cross buns I had stocked up on at the English shop in Pozuelo and at Quicksave in Santa Pola.

We bought one of the blue boxes at the airport containing an "ensaimada", typical pastry from the Islands

We arrived in Madrid to torrential rain and we had to share that day’s Daily Mail to cover our heads getting off the plane. I had meant to give it to my Father but it was useless now. It was great to be home and to see Oli and have a nice dinner prepared by Olga. That night, still bruised from my fall in Cudillero, I slept perfectly but then it was my own bed and that for me is the most comfortable one in the world.

We were home and Easter was in full swing although it didn’t feel like it. Suzy was away and Olivia was not with us for most of the time. She did though go for a walk with me and Norah in the morning and we went on a different route, through the paths along the houses in the urbanisation where we live and believe it or not we got lost!

Oli and Norah on a walk with me on Good Friday

Easter when I was a child used to be exciting or at least my Mother made it exciting. We celebrated the Russian Orthodox Easter which is slightly later than the other Christian religions. She would prepare a feast of paskha (a sort of soft cheesecake) and kulich (bun cum tall bread with icing on the top) and painted boiled eggs all of which were to be eaten after the Easter service. The service would take place at around midnight and we would be woken up at around 11 to go to the church and found it all very exciting. The service itself was the most important in the Russian Orthodox calendar. I remember holding a lit candle like everyone else and as I write this I can even remember the smell of incense which I loved. The participants would leave the church and walk all around it chanting Xristos Vaskresi (Christ has risen) over and over again. Afterwards we would return home to the feast my Mother had prepared.

I have not brought up my children to celebrate Easter in the same way of course and now we only celebrate it with the token hot cross buns and chocolate Easter Eggs. As an ex colleague wrote in his blog about Easter in Finland which inspired me to write the above, I don’t know what either have to do with the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The chocolate Easter eggs we had today.  Easter wouldn't be the same without them.

The Easter break has been very quiet without the girls and without Olga. I have cooked for my men and spent the time writing my blog and going for walks. Eladio spent part of the time chopping down a dying elm tree in the garden. Soon the rush will start again and life will be as normal. No more trips or holidays for a while I’m afraid but then I can’t complain as I’ve had my fill for now.

Eladio was busy with chopping down a dying elm tree in the garden this Easter weekend
I hope you all are having or have had a good Easter break. Until next week

PS you can see the full set of photos of our trip to Ibiza and Formentera here.


Marucha said...

cómo me haz hecho reir con el asunto de las sillas azules fotografiadas y publicadas aquí ...

es díficil poner límites,sabes,yo tomo video y fotos para un blog que tengo de eventos culturales de la zona donde yo vivo,y me ha pasado cada cosa !!! el colmo,hay un señor,que en ocasiones lleva a su esposa a los eventos,y en otras,a una querida,y luego se acerca muy amable,para decirnos a mi esposo y a mi,ahora traje a mi esposa !!!! o los que me dicen,no me grabe,porque me he salido sin permiso de mi trabajo,para ver estos bailables en la vía pública,o escuchar estas canciones en algún recinto publico cultural.

en fín,hay de todo en este mundo,y si enfocamos la cámara a México,salen chispas !!!!!

Joffery Stark said...

Hi, This is a good post, indeed a great job. You must have done good research for the work, i appreciate your efforts.. Looking for more updates from your side. Thanks
ibiza to formentera