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An epicurean emporium

It takes quite a lot to impress the local Ibiza foodie set. Not only do they have a plethora of fantastic restaurants on their doorsteps and exceptional local produce to use in their own kitchens; they’re also regular travellers with plenty of gourmet air miles clocked up and a taste for the finer things in life. When restaurateurs Donna Lennard and Alberto Avalle of famed New York restaurant Il Buco opened the brand’s first international outpost in Ibiza this year, there was no shortage of gourmands ready and waiting to take a seat on the buzzing terrace of the rustic chic Santa Gertrudis eatery. Its big sister’s reputation certainly preceded the all-new Bottega Il Buco and true to form, it delivered culinary satisfaction on a variety of levels.

From the outside, the rustic chic restaurant appears like a casual café; a laidback focacceria where one might catch up with friends; a place to pop in after the morning school run or to grab an after work aperitivo. Indeed, it is all these things. But Bottega Il Buco is so much more – scratch the surface and you’ll discover a multi-faceted gourmet hub that truly offers something for everyone. “When people hear Il Buco, they’re expecting something original and delicious, something local or very carefully sourced” explains Donna of the concept. “The idea was that we could have the background of this beautiful focacceria, but make it a multi-purpose space with all these other wonderful things going on like delectable bites, a beautiful wine list and the Alimentari.” It’s like a gourmet gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of gifts, ‘tis the season to be giving and Bottega Il Buco is open throughout the holidays (see the seasonal menus here), making it the perfect place to get together with family and friends to celebrate or to do some Christmas shopping for the foodie in your life. The Alimentari is a cornucopia of gastronomy; lovingly refurbished antique post office drawers are home to row upon row of high-end olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, beautifully packaged tinned fish, artisanal pickled vegetables, mouth watering pates and of course, wine. Over 90 organic and bio dynamic drops have been expertly chosen by acclaimed Il Buco wine director Roberto Paris. “For Roberto, being in Ibiza was like being in a candy store,” says Donna. “There are so many amazing wine producers we know here [in Europe] and we don’t have to worry about importing to New York!”

Those looking for guidance in the Alimentari may find themselves falling under the spell of the well educated team – the service here is exceptional – as they guide you through the selection of products available. They’re well versed in how to serve or use everything on offer; while you may come for a special olive oil or pate, you’ll leave with a cherished recipe or unique serving suggestion. It’s all part of the experience. “There’s something for everybody here,” says Donna. “Regulars pop in to have coffee one day, then a few days later they’ll sit down with eight friends and go through the whole menu and some bottles of wine. It’s really become the hub that we wanted.” The local community has embraced Bottega Il Buco into its fold; Donna says the connection people have formed with the brand has been the most satisfying element of the expansion to Ibiza.

While the signature focaccia (made with ancient low-gluten grains) could almost be considered the ‘entry level’ dish at Bottega Il Buco, it’s just the beginning of the creative menu devised by executive chef Guido Trombettoni. The menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons and most dishes have been designed to share, Italian family style. Chunky tubes of paccheri are oozing with mozzarella, spinach and tomato stuffing, vying for attention alongside the savoury sausage, mushroom and artichoke lasagne; meanwhile the herbaceous classic chicken cacciatora with olives and chilli is a feast unto itself and seasonal roast veggies, salads and the soup of the day put paid to the old adage ‘Italians do it better’.

Diners are also welcomed to choose their favourite tinned goods from the Alimentari and eat-in the stylish restaurant surrounds; alternatively opt for a selection of the impressive salumi and cheese – hand-picked by Avalle himself. Paleta Ibérica, Mortadella, Salame Milano, Prosciutto and more tempt and tease alongside premium grade Pecorino Reserva, Salva Cremasco, Castelmagno, Fiore di Latte and other slabs of formaggi goodness – it’s the pick and mix of your epicurean dreams. It’s very easy to get carried away with all the heady home-cooking scents coming from the Bottega Il Buco kitchen and the dazzling display of the Alimentari, but a word to the wise: save room for dessert – you won’t regret it.

Special pre-fixe feasts have been designed for the festive period at Bottega Il Buco, starting with The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Bringing a touch of Italy to the village, the fabulous four-course meal includes oysters and Cava, an array of focaccia (naturally) plus specially selected tinned fish from the Alimentari and chef’s salad to start; an incredibly decadent risotto carnaroli with fresh mussels and bottarga comes next, followed by spit-roasted yellow tail and finishing with Yuletide treats such as Panettone, Pandoro with Chantilly cream, chocolate, grapes and clementines.

Due to the limited seating – and popularity amongst island residents – reservations are essential and the cost is 80€ per person, excluding drinks. For those looking to avoid all the hassle of cooking and washing up on Christmas Day, a special lunch menu is on offer at Bottega Il Buco for 70€ per person (again, pre-booking is a must) excluding drinks. A spread of antipasti kicks off the affair, with sautéed lamb offal, poached egg and artichoke, Sicilian anchovies and more, followed by Primi Piatti of Cappelletti in brood. Secondi Piatti comes in the form of Gran Bollito de Carne with pickles and the dessert spread (as above) gives you all the more reason to take the typical Italian passeggiata through the pretty village square after your meal.

To end its debut year with a bang, Bottega Il Buco is hosting a very special New Year’s Eve event that can serve as either the perfect start to your Ibiza party night or a cool and cosy way to end 2018 in style. The five-course set menu (95€ per person, excluding drinks) is a testament to chef Guido’s skills and a salute to the flavours of Il Buco; first, an aperitivo of focaccia and canapés with a glass of Frannciacorta. Next up, marinated wild Alaskan salmon and seaweed salad plus poached egg with black Umbrian truffle. To follow, a melt-in-your-mouth risotto carnaroli with langoustine and then yellowtail ‘al cartoccio’ and mixed roasted vegetables with fresh herbs.

The icing on the cake is the aforementioned desserts – then you can happily roll home into 2019 or into a nightclub to dance it all off. Whichever feast takes your fancy, Donna recommends taking home a personalised hamper to enjoy the following morning when you wake up. “It’s so nice to wake up after a special dinner and to already have that beautiful bread, salumi, cheese and those delectable tins at home,” she says – you can thank her later when your head’s a little fuzzy and you don’t have to walk any further than your own refrigerator. On the topic of thanks, Christmas and New Year always inspire bouts of gratitude and this year, Ibiza gives thanks to Bottega Il Buco, for bringing an authentic slice of New York – along with plenty of slices of that unforgettable focaccia – to our beloved island.

Creative collaboration

When first embarking on his career in photography, Jeremy Christopher recalls his aspirations as wanting his work to be featured on the cover of Vogue. As a London College of Fashion graduate, it was no surprise his interests led towards editorial imagery, however over time and with experience, Jeremy found himself moving away from fashion and beauty based work and into the field of travel and lifestyle photography, before ultimately becoming immersed in the world of weddings. Fast forward to today and Jeremy’s Ibiza wedding photography is indeed Vogue-worthy, with one of his most recent weddings looking as if it had leapt off the pages of the world’s most famous style bible.

Real life British couple Stephanie and Keenan had first encountered Jeremy Christopher Photography through a mutual friend – he’d shot the couple’s wedding and as they were newly engaged, their interest was piqued. “We were blown away after seeing some of Jeremy’s shots,” says Stephanie. “We knew he was the one for our Ibiza wedding.” Self-confessed fashion lovers, the couple had some very specific ideas for their own wedding images, and approached Jeremy with a brief that included highly stylised images featuring hip hop, pop and R&B artists such as Rihanna and Beyonce. “We joked about channelling our inner Vogue,” laughs Stephanie. “What we really wanted was a juxtaposition of editorial and relaxed shots.”

For Jeremy Christopher Photography, the job was an Ibiza wedding dream come true. “Stephanie came to me with a lot of research and references; a lot of staged group shots which she wanted to capture in a really interesting way. She had a strong vision, and it wasn’t what I do normally, but it had an edge to it. I think we totally pulled it off.” Bringing his fashion background to the fore and fusing it with his skill for capturing the pure emotion of a wedding, Jeremy rose to the challenge and set about planning a shot list and agenda that would ensure all the bride and groom’s required imagery was acquired at the right time, in addition to capturing the spontaneous magic moments that happened throughout the day.

“The key was getting to know the venue,” Jeremy says of his picture perfect backdrop, private villa Can Caterina. “I visited a few days before to investigate and understand where the light would be falling at different times. There were a lot of clean lines, white walls with great shadows, a lot of glass for reflections and some beautiful terraces that were great places to shoot. It was modern, and slightly Scandinavian in inspiration but combined with that Ibiza chic style.” For Stephanie, knowing Jeremy Christopher Photography had her photo wish list planned out to the minute and location was a relief. “Jeremy’s site recce filled us with every bit of confidence, knowing he had the same vision as us and that the day would run smoothly,” she says.

SKIP TO JEREMY CHRISTOPHER PHOTOGRAPHY CONTACT DETAILS

The resulting images do indeed look like stills from a pop video or a celebrity magazine cover shoot; one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Mario Testino and the rest, pure Ibiza wedding magic courtesy of Jeremy Christopher Photography. The bride’s form-fitting appliqued dress and Flamenco-inspired slicked back chignon are the perfect stark contrast to her bridesmaids’ striking all-black gowns – each dress is different, adding further to the aesthetic appeal. It’s as if Stephanie is the star; her bridesmaids, the perfectly choreographed back-up dancers – and when Keenan enters the shot, the juxtaposition of male energy in such a dominant female frame takes the photos to the next level.

To those who are not in the immediate circle of the couple, one instantly identifies Stephanie and Keenan as protagonists in a story – the viewer feels a sense of familiarity: ‘Do I know these people from somewhere?’ In this day and age of Instagram and influencers, not to mention society’s eternal fascination with celebrity, Jeremy Christopher Photography puts real life couples in the spotlight. “We feel Jeremy went above and beyond our brief,” says Stephanie. “We love how much he captured the magic. We wanted our wedding to be fun and full of love, surrounded by friends and family, which we feel he has really shown in his images. It is incredible how each photo takes us right back to the journey of our wedding day.”

For Jeremy – who is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth, friendly wedding photographers in Ibiza – the satisfaction of exceeding his clients’ expectations in addition to achieving the desired results on each image has him reflecting on many other possibilities for the future. “When a couple has a clear idea of what they want – whether it’s a fairytale setting, something that looks like the set of a circus, whatever it is in their wildest dreams – we can have a really open discussion about using my experience to turn it into a reality. It’s a group effort; you might need wedding planners or stylists to make it happen, or a venue that lends itself to shooting in your style. Every ingredient is important.”

While Vogue style weddings such as Stephanie and Keenan’s bring out Jeremy’s artistic flair, he’s also quick to point out that he understands editorial style photographs are not for everyone. His portfolio ranges from rustic, laidback affairs to sleek contemporary events – as natural or as stylised as each couple pleases. “What I’ve learnt is that every wedding is incredibly different and unique,” he says. “It’s an emotional journey and it’s my job to adapt to the client’s needs and desires. I can work to a very specific brief and collaborate with the couple on the exact finished images, or we can be more relaxed and candidly capture the moments as the day goes on. I’m always aware it’s your day, and I’m just a little part of it.” A little humble perhaps; Jeremy Christopher Photography ensures your Ibiza wedding memories last forever.

Peace, love and nostalgia

High on a hilltop in the north of the island, Aimee Hodgson finds the space and tranquillity that balances her busy day-to-day life as Creative Director for the Mambo Group in Ibiza. Immersed in nature and sound-tracked only by cicadas and birds (and the occasional bark of her dogs), her eco-friendly home is at once playful and nostalgic; a sense of childlike whimsy fills the rustic space – which is the very first open-plan style home to have been built in Ibiza more than four decades ago. For Aimee, it is home; a cocoon within a heavily wooded forest that indulges her deep desire to connect with nature. Aimee first visited the island at the tender age of just eight years old with her best friend’s family. Over the years that followed she would visit often and by the time she was in her mid-20s, her sister Danielle – who had married into the aforementioned family – had moved to the island permanently. The sisters had been inseparable since they were tiny and Aimee, who was working in fashion as a hair and make-up agent in London, felt the distance between them was too much. “I’d come out to Ibiza and see my sister living a great life on this beautiful, amazing island,” she recalls. “It just didn’t make sense to me that I was living in London when I could have more of a connection to nature.”

Although she’d always had visions of living in the countryside in France, it seemed Ibiza had cast its spell on Aimee and in 2012, she made the move herself after successfully interviewing in London for a role at Pikes. Creative director Dawn Hindle of Ibiza Rocks saw Aimee’s creative potential and brought her into the eclectic company fold. Here, as Aimee went from Dawn’s PA to Executive Assistant and finally Creative Producer, she found her niche in Ibiza. It wasn’t an easy transition on the home front – she had a string of disastrous experiences including two burglaries and a house fire – but Aimee was not deterred. Finding her current home was another serendipitous blessing; it brought her closer to her sister (who lives at the bottom of the same camino) in addition to her workplace. “I completely felt a connection with this house,” says Aimee. “The view, the peacefulness and the location. Even when we’re really busy with work, it’s so convenient because we can see each other on the way home for dinner without having to make the effort to meet somewhere!” After the robberies in her previous homes had left Aimee with next to nothing in terms of possessions, she began creating her new home from scratch. Nothing was bought or sourced with the idea to style a space specifically – it’s more about the unique piece itself.

“I think that’s why things are so higgledy piggledy” laughs Aimee, although in reality, each room looks like something that’s leapt off a Pinterest board. “I think more about the actual thing than the end result. I don’t particularly like hoarding things, but I buy a lot of things for nostalgic reasons – I’m quite a sentimental, repurposing kind of person. I buy things that have a story or remind me of something.” This is felt strongly in each room of the house, with each objet begging the questions: Where is it from? What does it mean? “It’s not too intentionally styled. Everything has been added over time or thrown on.” In the living room, soda streams are balanced on a top shelf because they had them growing up. The painting of the man and his chicken is a reminder of the chooks her mother would have in her kitchen. The lava lamp is a flashback to teenage years and ceramic cacti remind her of the ‘Taco Tuesdays’ she and her friends would regularly host – ironically on Fridays. The ‘30’ speed limit sign was a cheeky gift from a former boyfriend on her 30th birthday and the handpainted gourds a gift from the artist Mr Wim, who stays with Aimee when he visits the island, leaving his mark on various objects (including her bedside table) as a way of saying thanks. Smurfs piles into a glass dome from a Pikes buying trip at Kempton Market remind her of childhood. And the list goes on…

The house itself is one-of-a-kind, built by the bare hands of the owner – who is also an artist – in an interesting, organic circular shape. The mosaic above the bathtub is actually the blueprint of the house, which also happens to run on solar power. In the winter months, the house stays warm thanks to clever heated elements throughout the rooms that take the warmth from the fireplace and pump it through to radiators. “Even though it’s amazing when all the doors and windows are open and you get a breeze through in summer, it’s also a great during a storm,” says Aimee. “You get all cosy inside and you can see the lightning and feel like it’s right on top of you.” In winter, Aimee likes to invite friends to come and stay, create a roaring fire, cook and basically bunk in for the weekends, while in summer she’s more of a beach girl in her spare time. “In summer, I’ll swim every day after work and then when I’m at home it’s like a total disconnection,” she says. In the past year, Aimee moved from one family-business to another, taking the position as Creative Director of the Mambo Group – a job that has her constantly moving between the many businesses that fall under the group umbrella, including Casa Maca, Hostal La Torre, Las Mimosas, Cala Gracioneta Chiringuito and of course, the iconic Café Mambo.

In this new role, Aimee’s knack for creativity comes to the fore. Working on conceptual and branding standards across many projects, she works closely with the Mambo family behind the scenes to bring their visions for the company’s new and future projects to life. From consulting on décor to overseeing graphic design, Aimee knows the importance of paying attention to even the smallest of details in order to relate to the customer and brings this into all aspects of her work. Buying trips to Marrakech are on the cards for the winter months, which will no doubt see more additions make their way into her own home too – a happy occupational hazard. Despite opportunities to shop around the globe, Aimee is not materialistic by nature at all. Far from it – she believes the most valuable asset of her home is its location and her favourite thing about it is walking in the woods each day.

“I’ve realised that for my own happiness, I need to be close to nature,” she says. “I walk around barefoot here and quite often naked. I have outdoor showers and I love that connection with nature.” With her two dogs as constant companions by her side (one small, fluffy and snuggly and the other enormous, fierce and protective), Aimee has all the more reason to spend time outside in the forest behind the house. She’s quick to point out that she’s not a total hippy however: “I just think the most consistent thing in this world is nature,” she concludes. “Respecting that and understanding how you can use it – I think that’s really important.” From weekend DIY furniture projects with loud music blasting to catching snakes in her water tank, repainting the inside of her pool or watching the sunrise over Formentera, Aimee Hodgson is a woman with a strong sense of self, creativity and nostalgia, with a gorgeous, lovingly created home that truly reflects her unique personality and style. Photography by Gypsy Westwood Photography

18 things I learned in 2018

I’ve been making new year’s resolutions for as long as I can remember and I’ve been forgetting them by January 10 for the same amount of time. So when I started to think about the arrival of 2019, I decided it would be a waste of my own time to sit around pondering ways to make my life better when actually, my life is pretty good as it is. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well of course, I know there are always things we can be working on to become better people, ways we can do more to help others or things we can be doing to improve the state of the earth in general… but rather than write them all down right now, I’m just going to wait and see what happens organically. In the meantime, I’m reflecting on some of the things I learned in the year that’s just flown by instead.

  1. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is especially true of Ibiza and as 2018 segues into 2019, there will (as usual) be more people saying the island is ‘not what it used to be’ and at the same time, there will be a slew of newbies who will be in love with the newness of their discovery and shouting it from the rooftops. To each their own, I say – there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy Ibiza, it’s all a matter of personal taste.
  2. Wearing high heels is like riding a bike. I spent the better part of the last ten years wearing flat boots or shoes, citing the fact I lived in Dalt Vila as the reason but mostly it was because I was fighting a Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman style height dilemma around my past boyfriends. Fast forward to 2018 when I started buying mega-heels again and started skipping down the cobbles as if I’d been schooled by SJP – now I’ve got a whole new reason to buy more shoes in the sales.
  3. It’s totally OK to turn your phone off, log out of social media and not reply to emails in the moment you receive them – but these days, you can rest assured people will freak out and think you’re dead (or take it as a personal insult). I’ve been experimenting this year with going off-grid for 24 hours (no more, no less!) when I needed space, privacy, concentration or silence and each and every time I’ve done it, people have gone overboard in their obsession to try and track me down. The culture of instant gratification has gone too far.
  4. Ibiza’s not all about dance music. Discovering Rock FM on the Ibiza radio dial changed my driving life this year. When Ibiza Sonica and Open Lab went off the airwaves, I flicked to this station and have never ever changed the dial since. I used to hate being stuck in traffic – now I’ll stay in the car while it’s parked to keep singing along to the non-stop classic rock, grunge, hard rock and psychedelia. I even have a theory – if you get in the car and hear Bon Jovi, you’re guaranteed to have a good day. Most days, this station plays Bon Jovi – and I’ve had more good days than bad this year! Coincidence? I think not.
  5. Vegan food is not all bad. You see, I’ve always taken a firm anti-vegan staunch when it comes to my diet – a Chinese medicine doctor once told me I need red meat every day due to my blood type so I naturally took offence to preachy vegans who insisted we save the planet via our diets and thus avoided vegan cafes, restaurants and culture in general. But then… I was introduced to the world of vegan desserts and my world was rocked. And then… I tried cashew cream. And after that, I bought a vegan cookbook with the aim of introducing more veggies to my life. Six months later, I haven’t cooked from it yet and I still get edgy if I don’t eat meat daily… but I no longer think vegans are the devil.
  6. Alpacas were once indigenous to Ibiza. Or so I was recently told! For this reason, the Ibiza Preservation Foundation have brought three alpacas to the island this year in the interest of re-introducing the species and to help protect fields of sheep at Can Pere Mussona from wild dogs. At the moment all the alpacas are male, but two pregnant females are due to arrive any day now and will give birth to the first of the new breed Ibiza alpacas next year. Tougher than any guard dog, apparently.
  7. Not going along with the status quo is totally acceptable. Case in question: I was an early adopter/avid fan of Lady Gaga (who else remembers when she played at Eden?) and I’m not afraid to say I think she is a musical genius – to the shock of my friends in Ibiza who dismiss her. But when I saw A Star Is Born I was absolutely horrified – I thought it was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen in my life (and I went in there wanting to love it!). Just because something’s got Bradley Cooper and Gaga in it, and happens to have been nominated for zillions of awards doesn’t mean you have to like it. But so many people keep telling me I’m wrong. I’m not wrong; nor are you – we just have different opinions. I feel the same about Carl Cox by the way; lovely man, I’ve interviewed him before, but his music just grates on my nerves. I’m not afraid to publicly disagree with the 10k people who went to see him at Privilege this year – and I wish more people would speak their minds like this too.
  8. I believe the children are our future. I spent a weeklong period working on an extended photo shoot at Ibiza Rocks Hotel back in September and I felt like I learned so much from the youth culture there. For example, young English girls have the body confidence to walk around in virtually nothing, even when their body size/shape is not ‘perfect’ per se. While it may not always be aesthetically pleasing, to me it’s better than all the fake boobs/lips/brows/lashes/tans you see elsewhere. Everyone was always smiling, everyone was super polite (the Brits do have good manners!), even when falling off inflatable unicorns with absolutely zero grace. If this is our future, I think we’re in good hands.
  9. Asking for help when you need it is important. If you suffer in silence – whether it’s work-related, an emotional issue or even just basic overwhelm when faced with cleaning your house – you’ll never evolve. Things just loom bigger and darker when actually, a quick call to a friend can help put things in perspective, even if it doesn’t solve the issue at hand directly. I’m a big believer in this – and if you think you’ve got no one you can talk to, then reach out to the organisations and hotlines that are there to help you in an anonymous manner. None of us are ever truly alone.
  10. There are some people in this world who will say the sky is bright red when it’s clearly sky blue. The fact is, people will lie to you; people will lie about you; people will lie to protect you and people will lie to protect themselves. Sometimes, what matters more than the truth is the way you react to a lie. Arguing quite often gets you nowhere and there are times when its better to take a step back, put some space between yourself and the lie/liar and simply let it be. I’ve learned the truth always comes out in the wash in the end anyway.
  11. When everyone around you is having babies, it’s ok to remain a cat person (or to become one). In fact, you’ll find over time, most of the people with babies turn to you for ‘normal’ conversations, for time out without the children and to talk about the good old days in Ibiza before they had to worry about babysitters. It seems to me (and if the internet is to be believed!) like cat people really are the happiest people of all, so I firmly stand by my choice. And my cats.
  12. Speaking of cats and cat people, Insta-stories really are the best platform to let your crazy cat lady flag fly. I was never a fan of the medium – I always found it a bit strange that you’d spend time creating content that would disappear after 24 hours, it seemed to devalue one’s own time – but then highlights were introduced and I realised I could create a never-ending reel of photos of my furry friends in all types of situations AND WITH GIFS. It really is true that the simple things in life are often the best.
  13. When you learn to listen (and trust) your intuition, it’s crazy how in tune you become to things. I don’t want to sound like someone who just got all woke… but I’ve experienced some seriously spooky situations this year – so spooky I allllmooost believed I was psychic. But then I decided I wasn’t – that’s just crazy. It’s hard enough reading my own mind, let alone other people’s! So let’s just stick with living intuitively
  14. Real life is so much better than the movies – and if your own life isn’t offering up enough drama on a daily basis, you can just look to Netflix and tap into all the crazy real life documentaries and biopics and whatnots. Sometimes I watch things and can’t believe they really, truly took place in our lifetimes (Pablo Escobar and Osho being two that particularly blow my mind). In saying that…
  15. When real life gets too much at times, having the imaginary worlds of books, movies and the internet to turn to is a saviour. This year I discovered it is indeed possible to watch all nine seasons of Modern Family in one week (yes, I know there are 10 in total but only nine are on Netflix and I’m too lazy to stream it elsewhere) and I also rediscovered the joy of reading books (made from real paper) after a few years of using an iPad. It might not be sustainable but it just feels so good!
  16. Influencer marketing is real and it’s not going away any time soon. I’m still gobsmacked by the pull of the popular people online (and the fact other people pay them to promote their products) and after watching The American Meme, I couldn’t help but wonder – is anyone who uses the internet so frequently truly happy? It also made me wonder about point number 14 above. Does that movie fall into the category of real life or movies? Or both? I’m not sure it qualifies as entertainment, and yet I couldn’t look away. I’m happy I live in a bubble!
  17. Sustainability starts at home. With that in mind, I am vigilant about recycling, I use a basket to carry my groceries home, I do my best to avoid single-use plastic, I avoid those delicious chocolates that are made with palm oil and I buy organic cleaning products and biodegradable garbage bags, however I’m not sure I’m ready to become a total Pachamama and use baking soda as deodorant just to avoid the packaging, or use a bamboo toothbrush that just doesn’t seem to do the job as well as the technologically advanced ones. Does that make me a bad person? Possibly, probably, and most definitely in the eyes of some eco-warrior people’s eyes, but isn’t it better to be doing something rather than nothing? Of course I’m interested in doing more – but not at the expense of my teeth, my skin and my body odour.
  18. It’s completely possible to exist in Ibiza without going to any clubs at all. In fact, one can live a completely normal life here on the white isle all year round – but that’s a story for another blog…
An unconventional Christmas party

Office Christmas parties have become quite the competitive sport in recent years. What was once a few plastic cups of lukewarm bubbly gathered around the water cooler (and quite possibly an inappropriate snog with the accounts geek in the hallway) before the team dispersed for the holidays has become an event planner’s dream, with many companies investing lots of time and money into creating next level Christmas parties as a way to say thank you for all the work you’ve put in throughout the year. It’s a great team bonding exercise; a celebration of company culture and a way to start the holidays early.

While there’s definitely a party culture in Ibiza – not to mention some of the most impressive, off-the-scale event planners who can make anything happen – there’s not so much of a corporate culture here and the seasonal nature of so many of the island’s businesses means company Christmas parties are not quite the crazy no-holds barred affairs that might automatically spring to mind when you think of the party capital of the world. First of all – there are only a very limited amount of venues open in which to host your event. Second, most if your team are scattered all over the world by this stage. And third – when you have parties on tap all summer long, by December (for some of us, anyway), all you really want to do is curl up by the fireplace and get an early night.

Take the White Ibiza annual Christmas get together for example. Now I’m sure many of you would be expecting to hear stories of a sunny lunch that started on Thursday afternoon and carried all the way through until Friday morning, dancing on a bar, crazy road trips through the countryside to find the next destination or a sunrise skinny dip at Las Salinas. Nope. For us, it was quite the unconventional Christmas party; a stylish and civilised team dinner in a lovely restaurant where we sipped sake and nibbled sushi until just before midnight (because like Cinderella, most of us wanted to be home before midnight to avoid turning into a pumpkin).

Instead of shrieking and squealing into a karaoke microphone or guzzling champagne from the bottle and taking group selfies in the bathroom, we bantered about the fact pumpkins have flowers; we agreed everyone absolutely must purchase 400-thread count Egyptian cotton bedding in the new year; we ruminated on how to make vegan bone broth; we googled the Spanish word for radish and we giggled over the fact adult British people still say things like ‘dippy eggs’ and ‘eggy bread’ (as you may guess, most of our team are from other parts of the world). And then we all went home, with not even the slightest temptation to pass by the Marina and see if there were any other parties we could crash.

As I snuggled into my amazing new winter duvet with a lovely warm cup of organic lavender tea before the clock struck 12, I asked myself whether our version of an office party was boring? Or worse still – were we boring? I started to look at pictures online of friends in other countries at their Christmas parties, or clients’ Christmas parties and tried to envision putting myself in their place. Did I secretly want to be playing beer pong? Was I wishing our office had been transformed into a tropical fantasyland with topless waiters handing out cocktails all night long before splashing about a blow up pool in the conference room? (Sidenote: we don’t actually HAVE an office – our entire team works remotely)

Did I imagine myself making out with a co-worker in the toilet? (Another sidenote: all my co-workers are women) Did I want to be serenaded by a reality TV star who was being paid to be at the party? (Final sidenote: yes, this really happened to a friend of mine). I must have drifted off during these thought processes, because next thing I knew, I woke up just after the sunrise with my make-up removed, last night’s clothes in the laundry basket and my shoes neatly tucked away where they belong, without even a hint of a hangover (a Christmas miracle!). I was happily at my computer at the sprightly hour of 9am, ready to write a blog about Christmas parties and NOT having to do it in between trips to the bathroom to puke (as has been the case in previous party times) or indeed, not being able to recall the event I was trying to write about. And so the answer to my original question about being boring was immediately clear. No. Definitely not. Well, not this year anyway!

Of course not all Ibiza Christmas parties are as chilled and laidback as ours. There’s a huge community of self-employed people and freelancers in Ibiza, many of whom were recently lamenting the fact they had no office Christmas party to attend. Within 15 minutes, a WhatsApp group had been assembled, a Facebook event created and voila! Dozens of people came together and created their very own kind of non-company Christmas party complete with Santa hats, reindeer ears, new friends and all the kind of antics you might associate with Ibiza. In this case, I can’t be the one to kiss and tell, as I was sworn to secrecy, but for anyone wondering if Christmas parties in Ibiza were all as well-behaved as ours, well, rest assured – the party spirit lives on!

Integrity, beauty and brands

Iconic interior designer David Hicks said: “The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them.” It’s an ethos that Mauricio Moggia, founder of Ibiza design specialists Moonk & Figus, lives by. Alongside his experienced team, Moggia creates interior and exterior spaces that enhance the individuality of each client while providing comfort and innovation. The most unique thing about this design duo is their humility, an uncommon character trait in other designers. “We don’t want to be rock stars,” says Moggia. “But we do come to projects from an artistic angle.” Ordinary folk look at a table and simply see a table however Moggia and Rauscher see daily life lived in beauty.

As design addicts, the team have honed their skills in spotting excellence, leading to a list of exclusive brands they represent in Ibiza. “We never think of things in terms of money or stature,” says Moggia. “It’s always about the work.” Strolling through the Moonk & Figus indoor and outdoor showroom is akin to wandering through a grand art gallery. At every turn, there is something that makes you go ahhh. Italy has long been a source of high-quality furniture with several brands on heavy rotation on the Moonk & Figus design playlist here in Ibiza. Bonaldo was established in 1936, producing work that culminated in several award-winning designs and concepts. It was Bonaldo that introduced the world to the sofa-bed, followed by the Piu folding chair, the Pierrot sofa, the Poly chair and five seminal table designs; Big Table, Still, Octa and Tracks with Alain Gilles’ Mass Table becoming an instant classic. “Bonaldo is an essential component to almost all of our designs,” says Moggia. “The quality and variety are outstanding and the aesthetic is perfect for Ibiza.”

Pirelli engineer Carlo Barassi founded Arflex in 1947, working closely with famed architect Marco Zanuso to experiment with foam, rubber and elastic. The list of classic designs from this company is too numerous to mention; suffice to say that many of their pieces are on show in some of the world’s top galleries including MoMA in New York. A Moonk & Figus favourite is the Marenco sofa designed by Mario Marenco. Its revolutionary tubular frame creates a deliciously curvaceous surface that sits beautifully in Ibiza’s whitewashed villas. One of the all-time darlings of Moonk & Figus is Zanotta. With their designs featured in art museums across the world, Zanotta has always taken an experimental approach to manufacturing and culture often reinvigorating traditional Italian crafts and promoting handmade processes, working with the worlds best architects, artists and designers.

“Zanotta is one of our favourite brands,” says Moggia. “We love to use their pieces in our work. It’s a real honour to represent them in Ibiza.” Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata has long collaborated with Italian house Cappellini. He’s best known for his towers of curving drawers among other iconic pieces. Paola Navone, another Cappellini designer, approaches everything from tableware to sofas with an artist’s sensibility. Her Ghost series of beds, armchairs and sofas are probably her most recognisable work but her eclectic taste and humour are what appeals most to the Moonk & Figus aesthetic, fitting perfectly with Ibiza style. “Everything from this brand is unique,” says Moggia. “Cappellini is highly significant in the design world.”

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It’s an unfortunate fact that exterior spaces are often designed as an afterthought and not as an essential extension of lifestyle. Focus is placed on the interiors, with the outdoors left to a few scatterings of sun beds and forlorn hammocks. In Ibiza however, most of the year is lived outside and a Moonk & Figus exterior is akin to creating a whole other living space. Taking full advantage of the natural beauty and climate, Moggia and his team have established themselves at the pinnacle of outdoor design, creating a homogenous flow from the interior to exterior. Belgian brand Tribù is another of the company’s most loved design houses. “Tribù creates outdoor furniture of incredible quality,” says Moggia. “Their style fits seamlessly with the Ibiza lifestyle and the natural beauty of the island.”

In addition, Spanish brand Vondom is considered one of the most innovative design firms in Europe, providing a highly varied catalogue featuring the world’s most exciting designers such as Karim Rashid, Fabio Novembre, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Ramon Esteve available through Moonk & Figus here in Ibiza. Gandía Blasco is a brand with deep roots in Ibiza. Founder José Gandía Blasco has a home on the island and finds inspiration in the culture, people and design traditions. Positioned as one of Europe’s best outdoor furniture designers, Moonk & Figus consider their work in aluminium to be perfect for Ibiza’s minimalist looks. British brand Gloster brings the warmth of teak to their exterior furniture offering a thoroughfare between island traditions and modern aesthetics while Unopiu out of Italy is another high-end exterior design brand with 40 years of experience in creating outdoor lifestyles.

One of the most exciting trends to surface in the interior design world is the return of wallpaper. Moonk & Figus are masters of using wall coverings in their Ibiza projects to convey spaciousness and perspective positioning a room within a larger context, like a vignette within a more complex story. Wall & Decò founder Christian Benini started his career as a photographer enlarging graphics for use in the studio never imagining that it would morph into a global trend. Trailblazers in the field, Wall & Decò produce papers for use on internal and external walls including a WET System specifically for bathrooms.

Cole & Son is a wallpaper manufacturer with roots going back to 1875. A British sensibility runs throughout the design process at this heritage company sporting a Royal Warrant. Their bespoke service is especially valuable for Ibiza, offering personalised designs. French company Élitis has a very modern take on wall coverings and is another Moonk & Figus favourite. “Élitis really works with texture and colour to create a story,” says Moggia. Head designer Patrice Marraud des Grottes’ obsession with Mediterranean islands makes this brand perfect for Ibiza. Brands need to jump through a lot of hoops to become part of the Moonk & Figus stable, proving they value integrity, excellence and service while fitting the artistic spectrum of the company’s ethos. Decades of experience and an uncompromising outlook have allowed Moonk & Figus to compile a reliable list of Ibiza collaborators who share the same quest – quality, beauty, form and function.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

It’s that time of year again where people are talking about naughty and nice lists and while I’m never quite sure which one I want to find myself on, I feel like I must have done something right this year as my Christmas wish from 2017 is coming true! The Christmas markets and the big tree have returned to their rightful home in pride of place on the square in Vara de Rey, which means the nightly winter buzz has been restored to my home town and I have all the more reason to go nuts on tinsel, baubles and those cute mini-cups of red wine with sobrasada!

Let me explain. Last year, after the extensive renovations to Ibiza town’s main street, Vara de Rey, the powers that be decided they didn’t want to scuff the brand new pavement on the lovely new pedestrianised square with portable market cabins (or a giant Christmas tree) and so they were banished to a weird corner of Ibiza town that bordered on the main road leading up to Can Misses. The space was ample enough, sure. It just didn’t feel all that Christmassy, in the shadow of Can Misses hospital and the location wasn’t appealing to most Ibiza dwellers – walking up through the empty, desolate streets of the new town to be greeted by a crazy LED tree and a few sad little stalls and a churros truck. It just wasn’t a ‘destination’ if you know what I mean.

But order has been restored to the universe this year and for all those naysayers who thought the regeneration of Vara de Rey was destined to be a flop, I dare you NOT to have a good time on any given weeknight over Christmas! Right now, the squares are pulsating with life (and flashy Christmas lights), the restaurants are buzzing (and busy!) and the vibe is even better than it used to be. OK, so there were no celebrities flicking a big switch and the lights are more quaint than Carnaby Street, but this was always what I loved most about Christmas in Ibiza. It’s just the right amount of sparkle and not at all overly commercialised. It’s like a lovely little village Christmas, where friends and family can get together after dark and have a little stroll around as they catch up, followed by some nice food and wine before heading home at a very family-friendly time indeed.

Let’s start with Plaza del Parque – an area that was oft-neglected when it came to decorations at Christmas time, which really made no sense given that it’s a hub of activity on winter nights. Now, the whole square is glowing under the light of globes strung like a Maypole, and while parents are sipping mulled wine or cava in one of the many cafes and restaurants, their children are extra visible as they around the middle of the square. It’s here where you’ll also find most people heading for their last minute ‘stocking filler’ type shopping needs, as Natura is situated on the square and is open til 9 every night. Its windows are also strung with beautiful fairy lights in the spirit of the season and there are more fluffy Christmas socks and candles in stock than you could ever dream of.

Meanwhile, over in the bigger square, Vara de Rey, a double row of cute little market huts run down the centre of the plaza. Now – if you’re looking for a one-stop shopping location to tick off everyone on your ‘nice’ list, let me pre-warn you. The Ibiza Christmas markets are more about decorating your home for the holidays than filling stockings, though there are a few token stalls with typical hippy market-esque jewellery and leather goods if you need a last minute gift. You know the stuff: fringed and embossed leather handbags and purses, some rabbit fur vests (look away vegans!) and Indian-style jewellery sparkling with coloured gems or crystals. There’s also a very nice Italian man with an entire stall dedicated to Parmigiano Reggiano (aged 17 years and 25 years), which I must admit – I do not personally associate with Christmas! Italian friends – can you shed any light on this? He does look very out of place there with his little platters of cheese (but DAMN it tastes amazing) while everyone else around him is peddling Christmas decs. Ahhh yes, the Christmas decs. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I LOVE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!

Growing up, we always had amazing trees and then when I was old enough to have a part time job in a department store, I managed to score myself work in the Christmas section over the holidays. Ever since then, I have developed a keen eye for perfectly executed decoration layout and precision light placement and it’s something that has travelled with me to the other side of the globe. Here in Ibiza, my Christmas tree is my creative pride and joy. One year I kept it up until the end of March (defying the myth that you have a year of bad luck if you keep it up past January 6) because I loved looking at it so much. In case you were wondering, I’ve gone for a gold and red theme, interspersed with all the meaningful decorations I have from years gone by, with a quirky little pigtailed angel on top who one of my friends recently called deranged, but I thought looked like a whimsical Christmas fairy.

So where was I? Right, the Christmas markets. So within the 12 or so stalls you can shop from, you can get decorations – and also fake Christmas trees –  within all budgets. There are the cheap-ish plastic ones complete with strings of brightly coloured tinsel, santa hats, reindeer ears headbands and felted stockings (and one of these stalls also donates a portion of their profits to charity); then you go up a level and can get glossy glass baubles, beautiful angels and metres and metres of fairy lights. And lastly, you can get creative, with one entire stall dedicated to custom wreaths, garlands, table centrepieces and decorations made by a professional florist with natural and rustic materials. The stalls that sell trees also offer a styling service, decorating the tree under your guidance, then packing it all up for you to take home as a bundle (the thought of this makes me shudder, but I also understand not everyone is a Christmas pro like me). The biggest novelty for me are the stalls selling all the individual parts to create your own nativity scene.

This is a big thing here in Spain and you can pick and choose your palm trees, sheep, mangers, wise men, donkeys, baby Jesuses and so on, and so forth. It’s such an interesting tradition – made even more interesting by the fact all Catalan nativities feature a caganer (which roughly translates to a pooping peasant). Apparently the little pooper has been making an appearance since the 18th century, found squatting behind the manger, although he’s been updated in more recent years to some very irreverent (and blasphemous) characters, including the pooping Queen, the pooping Pope, pooping Yoda, pooping David Beckham – you name the celeb, they make it. You simply pick your favourite pooper and add him to your set!

My favourite market stall this year is the man who hand-makes typically Ibicencan ceramic dioramas. He does have a few nativity-inspired sets (yes, with the caganer), but my favourites are the ones that are most representative of daily island life, like the Ibicenca making sobrasada, or the typical local bar serving hierbas or families at home in their fincas complete with all the details you’d expect to see in real life. They’re not cheap (upwards of 100 and 200€ for many) but for a true Ibiza lover, they’re an amazing gift and something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Once you’ve had your fill of market browsing, it’s time to find a place to unwind and all the bars in the area are decked in Christmas lights and with toasty outdoor heaters to lure you in.

The Montesol is indeed the grandest, decked in thousands of fairy lights and presiding over the whole square; while Le Vrai entices with the offer of Raclette cheese and cold cuts with a glass of vin chaud. Back in Plaza del Paruqe, the oyster bar is also set to open on the corner of Hostal Parque later this month – serving up fresh oysters, prawns and champagne every night until January 6, 2019, which is when the Spanish typically celebrate Christmas and the arrival of the three kings. But that’s a story for another blog…

An evolutionary tale

As the old saying goes, life is a journey, and one never knows exactly where it is going to take you – even if you think you’ve got it all planned out. Karen Sailer – author, shaman and founder of famed Ibiza landscaping company Noah’s Garden – has always known her path in life would be different to others. She describes herself as being born with ‘open eyes’ – never quite agreeing with what the world around her expected of her; be it teachers, parents or society. She remembers very clearly the moment at 12 years of age when she looked deep into her eyes in the mirror and made a promise to herself: she would never, ever forget the feeling of being a child and to become the type of adult who would encourage young people to believe in their dreams.

Over the years Karen’s life path took many twists and turns; two marriages and two children in Germany; training as a veterinarian; a creative career as a textiles designer; a third marriage which she found Ibiza, two further children (one from her husband’s former marriage and one son together) and her hugely successful business: Noah’s Garden; a horsemanship academy for children, Alegria; surviving breast cancer, horse rescue, global travels and so much more. In between all of this, she also quietly and passionately sought out shaman and healers from tribes around the world, encompassing a lifetime of education that would ultimately become her true calling. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s talk about the much-loved Noah’s Garden in Ibiza first.

After more than 20 years of running Noah’s Garden, building it into a landscaping company known for its eco-conscious philosophy and passion for sustainability, Karen and her husband began to feel it was time to step away from the business. For Karen, it wasn’t about money, success or responsibility – she simply knew over time she had changed. Her life’s true purpose had been revealed to her and she was ready to close the business in order to pursue it. And just as it seemed one of Ibiza’s longest running garden centres was about to call it a day; life delivered a surprising gift in the form of the couple’s son Sami.

He’d been living in Germany for the past nine years, working in bars, restaurants, real estate and start-up companies and suddenly felt a strong desire to return to his Ibiza roots. “I left the island when I was young and I had no interest in what my parents were doing,” he explains in all honesty. “But what I imagined the world outside Ibiza to be when I was 16 turned out to be very different. The work wasn’t fulfilling and I wasn’t happy. I wanted to do something new.” On returning to the island for a sabbatical, he discovered his parents were about to retire the family business and asked for a chance to learn the ropes. For Karen, it was the ideal solution. “It’s interesting to see how life unfolds its magic,” she reflects. “Sami was in Berlin, on a different path, and it was a nice surprise that he wanted to return to his roots. The evolution of Noah’s Garden is a nice story.”

Today, the family-run company continues to offer clients its much-needed garden maintenance services – which includes water conservation methods and the use of only non-toxic products – under Sami’s watchful eye (and after a tough induction under his parents’ guidance). The experienced Noah’s Garden gardening and landscaping professionals – many of whom have been with the company for its 20-year history – remain on the team, and continue to put their love and passion into their work, including a very select number of new projects per year.

The ethos for preserving Ibiza’s nature remains – an element that originally hailed from Karen’s underlying shamanic practices. “I always integrated shamanism into my work – it influenced the way we did gardens,” she explains. “I didn’t talk a lot about it – I just did it – but my clients knew. I’d see the reaction with big international businessmen when I told them where I was coming from; they wanted to know more and found it super interesting.” Her respect and understanding of the way nature worked on a deeper level; the energy of water, wind, air, fire, plants, animals, the stars and the moon initially came when she discovered her own spiritual roots in Native American culture as a child. “It was a natural connection,” she says. And so, she slowly began to step away from Noah’s Garden as she tapped further in to her true destiny.

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“My fire was burning for something else,” Karen explains when asked of her lifestyle change. “It was a bumpy road for me at times – but now it’s done. You cannot teach others what you are not living yourself. I do it. I walk it. I live in line with what I am teaching.” So what exactly is she teaching? With more than 30 years’ worth of shamanic work under her belt, Karen began to feel a very, very strong calling to help women restore the balance of feminine and masculine energy. “There’s often a misunderstanding when I talk about female power,” she says. “We all have male and female energy within us, but the world is so dominated by male energy. But now it is time for female energy to rise – from politics to every day life. We need to give our strength to the world.”

The Dalai Lama famously said: “The world will be saved by the western woman.” This is a concept that Karen too, truly believes. “We have access to so much knowledge. We have the possibility to step up and raise our voices,” she says. “When you look at the revolution, when women rose against male power, their methods were all wrong. They were women in men’s clothes, taking over male behaviour, using male energy to fight for equality. And now, male and female energies are out of balance.” She refers to ancient times when female power was honoured; when women’s circles were sacred spaces and wisdom was passed down to the next generation from elder women (as it still is in native tribes around the world). “Now we need to bring this back to reality; balance the passive and active, the male and female. We must empower the female aspect again.”

In order to help women rise up and discover (and importantly, live) their soul’s mission, Karen has developed an exciting new online program – which means she can reach women in all corners of the globe – called Wild Heart. “This teaching is where I feel my calling now. I believe we live many more lives than this one – but that our soul comes to this place, to this body, to do something special. This is what my program is about.” The 28-day program is currently available in German (but will soon be translated into English) and is designed for women with horses (a version of the retreat for women without horses is in progress).

The resulting Wild Heart Sisterhood is a developing global community who share stories, wisdom, support and empower each other. Karen is one of 16 shamans from around the world selected to contribute to a new book called Shamanism for the New Millenium (available via Amazon). Here, she shares the incredible story of her soul’s connection to one very special horse and another unlikely connection that would ultimately lead to her uncovering memories from her past lives, putting her on the next stage of her life’s path as she searches to reconnect with her love of centuries gone by. With all the magic of a fairytale, it’s no surprise Karen’s story was recently made into a short film – one that has current interest from some big Hollywood players.

In the meantime, life goes on, ebbing and flowing, ever-evolving and ever-surprising. Here in Ibiza, Noah’s Garden continues to thrive, as does Karen’s natural horse and life academy, Alegria. The promise she made herself at 12 years of age – to encourage young people to believe in their dreams – she now shares with her youngest son Noah, who has returned to the family fold in Ibiza after a year-long initiation spent travelling through Australia and Bali. “Noah felt called by my mission,” Karen says. “He is showing young people the unspoken tools we are required to learn before the world expects you to be an adult. He shares his knowledge through online programmes, motivational speeches and films.

At the same time, Karen embraces her new role as spiritual teacher and mentor; hosting workshops, full moon and new moon circles and provide one-to-one shamanic sessions. “I’m not sitting here with a feather in my hair and meditating on the sofa,” she laughs. “For me, spirituality is not just light and love. That’s not real life. This is what I like about shamanism – it’s very honest. We also deal with the shadows to help heal your wounds. And there is so much healing needed in the world right now…”

Eat, cake, love

Sitting down to chat with Eileen and Hedley-Paul is like cuddling a huge teddy bear or snuggling into the sofa on a winter’s night or finding that there is still chocolate left in the cupboard when you thought it was bare. Basically, it’s like being enveloped in pure love. Eileen is an extraordinary cake artist, specialising in weddings with her company IbizaCakes while Hedley-Paul (who answers to ‘HP’) is one of Ibiza’s most respected wedding celebrants and founder of Blessings On Ibiza. But when they are together, it’s like they are teenagers falling in love for the first time.

True love always comes at the right time and even though they originally met in England, it was Ibiza that tied the duo together. Both had owned houses here while married to other people and Hedley-Paul remembers walking past Eileen’s restaurant in Santa Eulalia years before they even met. Firm believers in kismet, the pair were introduced by Eileen’s brother and the rest, as they say, was history. “The minute I laid eyes on Eileen I knew,” he says. “It was a magic moment.” Blessings on Ibiza indeed…

Eileen had been making wedding cakes as a hobby for most of her life but always brushed aside friends who told her to go professional. “It had always been a hobby,” says Eileen. “After I made the cake for my daughter’s wedding, Paul told me to go for it. We found our apartment in Ibiza just as the wedding industry was taking off.” That as the beginning of IbizaCakes and Eileen quickly became dubbed by the press as ‘Ibiza’s queen of cakes at the top of the Ibiza wedding scene.

Hedley-Paul was essential to the burgeoning operation. “I washed up and carried cakes,” he says with a cheeky grin. But with all the love bouncing off these two, it was clear Hedley-Paul would also end up becoming a member of the Ibiza wedding elite. After witnessing many weddings, he found himself offering critiques on the performance of the celebrants. “A wedding ceremony is monumentally important”, he says. “I saw some celebrants reading from a tablet! It’s shabby. A wedding is a formal declaration of love for each other, you should give your absolute best for the couple.” Friends urged him to give it a go and Blessings On Ibiza was born.

READ MORE ABOUT BLESSINGS ON IBIZA

Hedley-Paul’s first job as a wedding celebrant is a typical Ibiza story. A friend called to say he was going to propose to his partner of 25 years while on the plane to the island and would need a ceremony at Es Vedra immediately on landing. “They spent the whole time looking into each other’s eyes with tears streaming down their faces,” he remembers. “Afterwards, they said I’d changed their lives but actually they had changed mine.” Steeped in this kind of love and romance, Blessings on Ibiza is now one of the most popular celebrant services on the island.

An Ibiza wedding without a sincere and beautiful ceremony is just another party. Hedley-Paul always connects personally with each couple, either face-to-face or over Skype in order to really understand their own unique story. “I never read from a script,” he says. “I’m a storyteller; I tell the story of their love, weaving it into the ceremony.” Some couples want traditional or religious readings; others opt for Buddhist traditions or a Humanist ceremony. Some arrive with their own vows and others ask Hedley-Paul for guidance. Whichever path they choose, they are guaranteed to receive the sincerest Blessings On Ibiza.

In 2018, Hedley-Paul officiated at his son’s wedding and Eileen, of course, made the cake. “It’s a bit clichéd I guess, but every time I do a wedding I think, if these people were my children what would I want for them?” says Hedley-Paul. “It was a very moving moment, doing my own son’s wedding and it was such a great privilege.” For his Blessings On Ibiza, he regards every ceremony as a piece of theatre, which requires both dedicated preparation and delivery. Ceremonies are each one-off occasions, and like life, not a rehearsal.

Just like every Blessings on Ibiza wedding ceremony, each of Eileen’s cakes are one-of-a-kind. “Usually a couple will show me examples of what they like and then we’ll work on the design together,” she says. “Once we meet, either online or face-to-face, I have a good idea of what they want. I just have an eye for it.” Traditionally wedding cakes were made with fruitcake but these days an IbizaCakes creation can be any flavour at all. “I love my workshop,” Eileen continues. “When I go in there it’s like meditation.” Surrounded by pots of paintbrushes and piles of icing, Eileen creates delicate laces and flowers out of sugar – many of which have seen her win countless competitions.

Eileen has mastered the challenges of a meltingly hot Ibiza sun and bumpy roads to provide many happy couples with beautiful cakes, but the crowning glory for IbizaCakes was a half and half cake that was featured in a UK wedding magazine. “It looks like it’s been cut in half and there are hundreds of sugar flowers pouring out of it,” says Eileen, who considers it to be the most challenging cake she has ever made due to its intricate structure.

Naturally, she also made the cake for her own wedding. “I wore a red dress with a cream top and Hedley Paul wore a cream suit with a red tie,” she says. “I created our wedding cake as cupcakes, with a little cake to cut. It was in cream, red and gold and it came together beautifully.” Both Eileen and Hedley-Paul are still in contact with many of the couples they have helped start married life. “It’s lovely,” says Hedley-Paul. “They become friends. I’m still in contact with people I married over ten years ago.” Whether a couple enlists both IbizaCakes and Blessings on Ibiza, or just one half of this gorgeous couple, both bride and groom can rest assured their wedding will be ensconced in the warm, sweet glow of true, everlasting love.

Think global, eat local

Here on the white isle, the dedicated team of eco-warriors behind the Ibiza Preservation Foundation support cutting-edge projects and vital research across some of the most pressing issues of our times – think environmental preservation and protection, water and energy use and the promotion of sustainable practices. The latest project they’ve thrown their weight behind is Ibiza Produce, a platform created to encourage the continued cultivation of the land and provide access to, and support for, local farmers and producers. The driving force behind Ibiza Produce is Gabrielle Gambina, whose background in tourism and finance coupled with experience as a chef and passion for good food has prepared her well for the role.

The impetus for Ibiza Produce resulted from a yearlong study of the local market, consumer habits and interviews with farmers. “It became obvious that people in Ibiza want to buy local produce and products and give back to the island but that the issue was in distribution, labelling and awareness,” says Gabrielle. “There are various challenges associated with this, so we started out by going back to basics, which is information and knowledge,” explains Gabrielle. “In the first instance, we want to put the farmers and producers out there.” It makes sense – local farmers are the unsung heroes of the community and have long been the heart and soul of the island. Ibiza Produce aims to bring their essential work into the limelight.

Year one for Ibiza Produce will focus on information, communication and community. The first major project for the organisation was the website – a portal providing much-needed education on local produce, farmers and products. Published in English and Spanish, the website is a constantly updated resource which puts all the best local produce and products at your fingertips, quite literally. Using the easy-to-navigate sections, islanders can easily access information about direct sales farms, fresh veggie box delivery and a list of markets across the island where locally grown fresh food and island-made products can be purchased. You can even find information on booking a farm visit – a great activity for young and old, locals and visitors or just the curious at heart!

Ibiza’s fertile soil provides a cornucopia of goodness and the Ibiza Produce website also lists information on where to stock up on traditional crops such as almonds, xeixa (an ancient low-gluten grain native to the island), fruits, vegetables and much more. Focus is also given to non-traditional products that are made here in Ibiza, with everything from beer and gin to jams, honey and natural cosmetics being showcased online. Over 50 farmers and producers are featured on the site, with more added every day and there are now plans to provide recipes too, completing the circle from farm to shopping bag to home.

“Collaboration is key,” says Gabrielle. “We want to bring people together over our shared agenda which is think global, eat local.” As Ibiza Produce grows across sectors, more focus will be given to events that support and celebrate Ibiza’s food culture. “The island’s farmers are very keen to engage directly with consumers,” Gabrielle says. “We have personal meetings, workshops, pop-up dinners and special events for adults and children.” One local chef, an early supporter of Ibiza Produce, has already incorporated the ethos into his work by hosting regular farmer’s dinners, where the farmers introduces themselves before guests indulge in a meal made with their produce. It’s personal touches like these that allow locals to feel a connection with not only the island they love, but also those people who work towards sustaining its future.

Farming is not an easy profession but it’s essential to the livelihood of the island and the health of the land. “If the land is left uncultivated in Ibiza, the pine trees take over, causing many environmental issues,” says Gabrielle. “Our objective is to revive and protect Ibiza’s farmland.” To do this, education is critical and Ibiza Produce works with local schools to create vegetable gardens and curriculum while also helping to boost student numbers at the agricultural college and commencing discussions with local authorities on how to provide school canteens with local produce. Infiltrating the school system in this way means today’s island kids grow up with much more awareness than previous generations – something that is essential to the preservation of Ibiza, and planet Earth in general.

There are plans for Ibiza Produce to expand into bricks and mortar support for local producers. “We are researching the possibility of creating a shared kitchen facility where caterers, producers and distribution companies can rent space by the hour, week, month or year,” explains Gabrielle. “They’ll get access to the facilities they need to expand without the financial burden.” The goal is to make it easier for producers to do what they do best, while providing the infrastructure for production, distribution and marketing to reach customers who are eager to enjoy home-grown products. Online shopping is a future goal with support already provided to the creation of a hive where online purchases of local products can be paid for in advance and collected from a pick-up point. Stay tuned for developments.

Collaboration reaches across the Balearics too with connections made in Menorca, Mallorca and Formentera to promote hampers filled with local products. Keep an eye out for dedicated stands filled with locally produced goodies in some of your favourite stores in the coming weeks and months. While purposefully created hampers are on the cards for the future, Gabrielle suggests this Christmas is the perfect opportunity for Ibiza residents to support the island’s producers by creating unique Ibiza-themed Christmas gifts and hampers for your friends, families and loved ones, using the handy website guide to locate all the products and produce you want to include. And while you’re at it – why not source all the festive foods you need to create your Christmas feast here on island soil? ‘Tis the season to be giving after all – why not give back to the island at the same time?