It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged about our experiences on lockdown here in Ibiza. You can blame the writer’s block on the fact that every day is exactly the same, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of inspiring things going on around me to get my fingers tapping on the keyboard. Don’t get me wrong – I do have a lot to say if you want to talk about politics, healthcare, the economy or equal rights, but during these tricky times, I’ve pledged to keep this platform a happy place. After all, we’ve each got our own issues to moan about and deal with, and they’re all relative to who and where we are. But just a little over a week ago, the Spanish government uttered that one word that sends dogs all over the world crazy, finally giving adults in Ibiza the privileges that pooches have had all along (and kids had received just one week earlier). You’ve probably guessed it already – grown-ups are now allowed to go WALKIES!
Anyone who knows me well – and probably anyone who’s been reading this blog for a number of years – knows that I’m not the biggest fan of walking. Ergh, or hiking. Or running for that matter. Basically anything that involves your feet touching the ground. I’ve always wondered why on earth anyone would walk anywhere when you can drive there? (Or just stay home, where everything is as you like it?) Being stuck indoors for eight weeks hasn’t really bothered me – aside from the aforementioned politics, healthcare, economy and equal rights – so I wasn’t even the least bit excited about the news that we could walk, run or jog for an hour a day. I am so fortunate, and privileged, that I have a spacious apartment with a roof terrace. I totally understand why anyone confined to a small, dark or damp space feels the desperate need to get out. But I, myself, did not immediately look for my trainers (which had purely been purchased as a fashion item) in order leave the house at 6am on the first morning we were given permission to leave home.
So, here’s the deal. Adults in Ibiza are now allowed to exercise (in addition to foot-related activities, this includes cycling, skateboarding, rollerskating/blading, athletic swimming, SUP and probably even pogo-sticking) between the ungodly hours of 6am to 10am, and only within a one kilometre radius of their homes. So no SUP if you don’t live near a beach. Exercise must be done alone, if you live solo, or can be done with other members of your household if you share. There’s a second slot for the late risers, from 8pm to 11pm. And the hours in between are reserved for elderly residents, those who need to walk with a caregiver, or kids up to the age of 14, accompanied by one parent only. Yes, it’s confusing and ambiguous (sometimes lost in translation), and indeed, for some residents frustrating (we all know there’s a Facebook group for that!). But prior to this, we were not allowed out at all, so the way I see it, it’s progress.
Of course, there were a whole bunch of grumpy grown-ups complaining that they wanted to walk/run on the beach and it wasn’t fair that they couldn’t drive there. There were single women complaining that to run alone so late at night was dangerous. Parents saying it wasn’t right that only one of them can walk with the children rather than the whole family go together. To those people I say (with all due respect), please shut up and take the win. Poc a poc (little by little), as the Spanish say. With each new fortnight, or ‘phase’ as they’re now being called, our rights will be extended. As I type, Ibiza has just entered Phase One which means some of our favourite bars and cafes have re-opened (under some serious limitations and with strict social distancing, and health and safety guidelines), but that’s a topic for another blog!
So, where were we? Right, being allowed to spring forth from one’s home at 6am for one hour of fresh air and exercise, max. Pretty much every single person I know took the opportunity to step outside during the allotted hours on that day. But not me. I sat up on my roof terrace, pretended to watch an online yoga class, and just kicked back, biding my time. It’s not that I’m scared of catching ‘the virus’ and getting sick, it’s just that I really love my alone time and didn’t want to have to share the streets of my beloved Dalt Vila with every single person who lives in Ibiza town. For hours, I scrolled through seemingly endless Instastories of people in nature, by the sea or walking through the old town. And I was happy for them. For seven whole days, I slept through the morning slot. For six nights, I actively chose to bypass the evening schedule. But on the seventh day – the night before Ibiza would enter Phase One, which would change the ambience of our town – I realised I had to go out at least once, so that I could in the very least have an informed opinion about it!
And so, I looked high and low for those trainers (last worn in India in February on a safari – an experience that feels a million years ago now), put on an appropriate matching yoga set and a hoodie – because it’s important to LOOK the part even if you’re not that into it – and stepped out of my home at 8.10pm. After clappy hour (which has now sadly subsided with Phase One – I miss it already), naturally. I popped Taylor Swift’s album Lover on my phone and began to ascend the fortress that I normally scale at least once a day to get to my car. The irony is not lost on me – I dislike walking, yet have chosen to live somewhere I have no choice but to walk long distances daily to go about my life. This time, I didn’t walk fast (there’s no law against strolling!), and I didn’t have a route in mind. ‘Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. I forgot that you existed,’ sang TayTay in my ears as I meandered aimlessly, thinking how appropriate those lyrics were. Over the past eight weeks, it’s true, I had forgotten just how magical my own neighbourhood was. Cue feelings of guilt. All of a sudden, I felt like I was discovering Ibiza again for the very first time.
[Sidenote: Some may question my taste in music. I say it’s possible to love Taylor Swift and Ricardo Villalobos in equal measures.]
I vividly remember the first time I explored Dalt Vila, back in 2006 – it was such a life-changing experience. I felt like a Disney princess who’d come home to her castle as I (literally) skipped up the drawbridge intuitively knowing I was going to discover something awesome. I befriended a little tiny kitten up on the wall of the Baluard de Santa Lucia (where the IMS is held), who ate half of my chocolate croissant (yes I know, as a cat owner, that was not responsible but she was hungry and alone!) and I looked out over the Mediterranean Sea towards Formentera and I felt a sense of peace I had NEVER felt in my life before, despite the fact I had only about 60€ to my name and no idea how I would get myself to London for my return flight to Sydney, let alone get back here again. All I knew was that I would do anything and everything possible to find a way to live here forever. Which brings me back to Sunday May 10, 2020, on my first walk after being locked into my ‘castle’ for eight weeks. The memory of that little kitten (and the fact this weekend should have been the Eivissa Medieval Festival, my favourite weekend all year) inspired me to walk up to the Baluard.
There were very few other humans around – guess it takes a bit longer for the small crowds to meander up from town – and I was mind-blown, just like that first time, by the 360-degree views. ‘It’s cool, that’s what I tell them, no rules. In breakable heaven, but oooooh whoa-oh, it’s a cruel summer,’ echoed Taylor’s voice in my earphones. Yep, that seems to sum up the Ibiza 2020 season right about now. Regardless of the sadness, the despair and the desperation of the situation we’re facing, once again I felt that sense of peace. As I took in the sun starting to set over the hills towards the west, I continued walking up through cobbled streets that I really do know like the back of my hand. All of a sudden, the combination of all that cracked and crumbling calcium paint, the blooming pink bougainvillea, the rustic wrought iron balconies filled with succulents and plants, lush greenery (weeds) springing out of stone walls and the view of the port – all of it under that famously golden Ibiza light – was overwhelming.
Add to that Taylor crooning: ‘Take me out, and take me home. You’re my, my, my, my lover,’ and tears started to flow down my face – which aside from making me look ugly, also presented a conundrum I’ve certainly never faced. Am I allowed to wipe tears from my eyes or snot from my nose during a pandemic? I hadn’t brought a bag with me, so had no hand sanitiser or tissues to use. I kind of awkwardly stretched my hoodie sleeves inside out to do the job but it was a thankless task, because as I walked through the narrow corridor and up to the lookout points that face Playa d’en Bossa, I just started crying even more, especially with every repetition of the Lover chorus. You see, I’ve always been a big believer that you can be as in love with a place, as you can with a person. Think Carrie and New York in Sex and the City. Dorothy and Kansas. Or Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers singing Under the Bridge about Los Angeles. Taylor and Texas. Jim Morrison and Paris. For me, it’s always been Dalt Vila.
Thank god for big black sunglasses, right? I kept crying all the way down to Plaza del Sol, all the way through Plaza de Vila (sobbing to ‘Soon you’ll get better‘), finally drying up a little as I exited Dalt Vila and headed down to the port to look for dolphins (I didn’t see any). I wasn’t sad – not one bit. I wasn’t crying because I finally had ‘freedom’ back. I was crying simply because Ibiza – Dalt Vila specifically – is just so beautiful, I was moved to tears. You tend to take the beauty for granted when you see it daily, especially in winter when it’s grey and rainy – which it had been, the last time I’d left the house two months ago. But having missed out on watching the slow transition from winter to spring, to walk out of my apartment and stumble onto this new season in all its gorgeous, glowy, golden glory, well… let’s just say I’m never going to complain about going for a walk again. For about the millionth time in my Ibiza life, I felt just like Dorothy, this time when she realises her heart’s desire is in her own backyard. So is mine – seems I just have to walk a little to find it.