Ping! The message hits our BeHomm home exchange profile just before Christmas. Would we like a week in a 7-bedroom villa in Ibiza in exchange for our house in Palm Springs? A flurry of emails later we all decide it’s a great fit. Renu and Bas are a Dutch fashion stylist and DJ couple with a daughter exactly Charlotte’s age. Normally they run Villa Amore as a boho-chic boutique hotel during the party season, but they’d be with family in Amsterdam, and we’d have it all to ourselves. Cheap flights booked on lastminute.com, we were there within a week.
We awoke on our first morning to see just how rural the villa was. From our top floor suite we could see all through the verdant countryside, with bucolic fields of sheep and our very own avocado grove. The girls were excited about the swing set, and even braved the unheated pool for about 30 seconds. There was a huge birdhouse on the property, with more than a dozen tropical varieties. Next door there was also a rooster. A rooster in need of a dose of melatonin. At 3 am precisely, it would begin to crow, ending around 7 am. Then, at 3 pm, it would start up again, just as Murray was settling down for his siesta.
A series of electrical storms over the past two weeks had left everything fresh and green (and had knocked out the TV which was fine by us) but Renu declared us “weather angels” as we had a week of sun. We spent the brisk mornings exploring the island by car, randomly picking a tiny village off the map, climbing up to the church where, inevitably, there was a patch of sun and several cafés serving up café cortado (espresso with milk) and the ubiquitous breakfast of toast rubbed with fresh tomato. (Our very favourite village was San Gertrudus.) Renu and Bas had left us a list of beach restaurants that were open in the winter, so we’d head to a different spot each day to watch the Mediterranean lap away at the white sand and feast on tiny fried squid and braised octopus. Back at the villa we’d flip through the many fashion books Renu had artfully displayed in all the rooms and Murray would set to work on dinner – paella, slow roasted pork, clams, all washed down with the amazing white wine we’ve discovered at the grocery store for 3 Euros.
We loved Sa Caleta beach for its dramatic red cliffs and people-watching at the restaurant (and its Pheonician ruins), and Playa Blanca for its dramatic rock formations. Experiencing it all without the thump, thump, thump of bass in the background was revelatory. Another favourite spot was La Paloma, a few minutes’ drive from Villa Amore in San Lorenzo. It’s essentially a smattering of tables and chairs spread out in an orange grove serving super-healthy food with an Italian/Middle Eastern influence, like falafel and bread stuffed with lamb. In the high season it’s a celebrity fly trap, but this week, though packed with at least a hundred people at lunch, it’s full of large tables multi-generational families speaking French, Italian, Spanish, British English or a combination of all four. Murray points out a group of well dressed guys who look like they walked out of an All Saints catalogue. I wonder if I could pull off Doc Marten boots and skinny jeans like all the women here. Everyone is so well dressed – even wearing floor length fur coats to breakfast. And that’s just the men.
While we weren’t hanging around Bambuddha with Justin Bieber, or partying at Pacha with Paris Hilton, we did make the pilgrimage to San Antonio, to see the famous Café Del Mar, of the eponymous ’90s chill soundtrack. It’s closed for the season, but we do find a brand new café, Besame Canalla, that serves a chocolate-y café cortado which is more our speed these days.
Despite the rooster, we’re so fully relaxed after a week that we don’t even mind that Charlotte is singing the “Took a pill in Ibiza” song on repeat from the back seat. Murray is stuffing his suitcase with as many lemons, avocados and bottles of wine as he can fit, and I’m busy buying up straw market bags and 8 Euro espadrilles at the roadside shops. A two-and-a-half hour flight into Paris, Orly later, we’re home. And all that’s left to do is plan for our next two-week school holiday, which happens in four weeks’ time.