Sprawling white-washed box houses, the salty aroma of freshly cooked seafood emanating from candlelit restaurants, and gleaming cobbles polished by centuries underfoot: this will be my enduring memory of Eivissa.
I had unwittingly chosen to explore Ibiza’s capital on the final day of a three day fiesta, celebrating the patron saint of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Snows – why their Cathedral is dedicated to a woman linked to a form of precipitation the island rarely sees I still have yet to find out). This was good news for me, as the locals were out in force, meaning my constant urge to people watch was more than fulfilled.
Al fresco restaurants provided the near-musical accompaniment of clinking of glasses and cutlery against porcelain as I meandered up the sand-coloured slopes, not really knowing where I was heading. It was past 8pm and the sun was starting to set, casting a warm glow upon the dusty walls of the medieval buildings. All was calm.
I joined the sparse trail of sightseers plodding up the hillside, wondering what reward I would find at the summit.
Maybe ‘las nieves’ is a reference to the way the clustered white-washed buildings settle in the valleys of the mountains like snow, giving the stiflingly warm streets a cool, near blue hue from above. Maybe I’m just pushing my artistic license. Either way, the view was as refreshing as the sea breeze sweeping in from the coast.
After taking in the panorama, from the hills to the harbour and out to the Mediterranean Sea, I wandered down slowly back towards the seafront. The tranquillity I had found was swiftly replaced by anticipation; the crowds thickened the further I descended, until I emerged from the network of narrow streets into a bustling throng of excitable locals. Drums filled the air with noise, scantily-clad women and bedazzled transvestites danced on tables and alcohol was flowing; the atmosphere was electric.
This was a celebration for everyone; in typical Spanish style, babies and toddlers were enjoying the late night festivities, although a few had somehow managed to fall asleep in their prams despite the incessant noise; teenagers ate gelato and congregated as far from their parents as they were allowed; parents and grandparents watched the youngsters from café tables, smoking and sharing tapas; and I, I looked on with fascination.
Again, I let myself be guided by the masses, ending up at a dead end at the sea’s edge. People were gathered, waiting. It was nearing midnight. It could only mean one thing.
Fireworks! The Spaniards I had followed clearly didn’t place much importance on their hearing faculties; we were so close to the display that ash rained down on our heads and my ears were ringing for the rest of the night. Glittering explosions reflected in the ocean and cheers erupted from the crowd. I had no idea what we were celebrating, but I had a great time on the party island, Ibiza.
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