In life, it’s often said that when making decisions we rely on subconscious hints from one of two things – our heads or our hearts. One provides the logical reasons for an action, while the other takes into consideration the surrounding emotions, and somewhere in between we negotiate a decision. But this theory overlooks perhaps the most powerful instinct of all – that of our gut feelings. For Dutch/French couple Sophie and Jerry, this internal intuition kicked into gear when they first stumbled upon the 18th century farmhouse (that was also an iconic gay hotel in the 70s), that would ultimately become their luxury Ibiza hotel, Ibizazen, and it’s this that draws their guests back time and time again, for seven successful years now.
Set among the lush Santa Eulalia countryside and yet just a short 200-metre walk from the nearest stretch of sand, Ibizazen is an Ibiza boutique hotel with difference. Completely lacking pretension and dedicated to seamless, first class service, here guests are encouraged to make themselves completely at home. With only a handful of rooms, it’s an intimate space – somewhere to switch off from the outside world and revel in the surrounding beauty; a place to collect moments, thoughts and ideas without ever having to leave the comfort of a sun lounger. It offers sanctuary away from the pace of modern life, and that was always very much part of Sophie and Jerry’s plan.
“We wanted to create an oasis of peace,” explains Sophie. “The most important thing is that people feel comfortable. The idea is that guests can come and escape their hectic lives.” While this sense of freedom is now palpable at Ibizazen, their first impressions of the space were different. “As soon as I saw the place I fell for it immediately – all I could think was wow, it’s going to be great,” smiles Sophie. “But Jerry was very practical about it – it’s only after we walked down to the boulevard and the beach, and he realised this was the perfect location, when he actually said yes.”
Jerry’s reticence is understandable when you consider that owning a boutique hotel was initially his dream, and therefore he had avery clear vision. He met Sophie, who originates from France, in Amsterdam, where they both lived, but made it clear early in their relationship that he didn’t want to stay there forever. “At first I thought: whatever, we’ll see!” she laughs. “But then as events in our lives transpired, his dream became mine. Life can be so unpredictable so you really do have to go after your dreams. In the end we both thought what’s the worst that could happen?” It’s a thought process that put a chain of events in motion and after a period spent travelling the world, from Nicaragua to Curacao and back to Portugal and finally Spain, Ibizazen popped up on the horizon.
“We had a very strong vision of what we wanted in terms of a boutique hotel concept,” explains Sophie. “We are diehard travellers, so we were travelling, we’d write down all of the things we encountered that we liked, and there was always something new in every country we went to.” This little book was always consulted when drawing up plans for their own hotel, and it went on to form the foundations for what Ibizazen stands for. “We wanted to create a place that we would have chosen as holiday accommodation ourselves,” Sophie says. “It had to be somewhere serene with a holistic touch, where you could feel at home.”
This is partly achieved through the setting of Ibizazen alone. Surrounded by impressive landscaped gardens, various lounge areas, yoga and workout decks, and with a stunning pool at its centre, the space oozes relaxation. But there’s something else about it – thanks to brightly-coloured statues and one-of-a-kind furniture, it sings of foreign lands, transporting guests to a new space both physically and mentally. “The decoration is inspired by Asian and African countries,” Sophie explains. “We also use a lot of recycled materials. The boats that you see were sourced in Indonesia – we bought them from local fishermen.”
It’s no accident that Asian style was a big influence on the Ibizazen concept –both Sophie and Jerry are huge admirers of that part of the world, its culture and religion. “In Asia, meditation and yoga are naturally part of daily life,” says Sophie. “Besides that, people naturally understand hospitality. They truly know how to make people feel at home.” This approach is mirrored at Ibizazen, where Sophie and Jerry extend warm welcomes to everyone. “We try to listen to our guests and ask them what they expect from their stay,” she says. “We even know many of them by name.”
In fact, such is the importance of this aspect to Ibizazen that Sophie and Jerry try to impart their ethos to every staff member, hoping that their innate sense of hospitality trickles down to each member of the team. Inspired by this feeling, Ibizazen is relaunching its weekly table d’hote soirees for guests to enjoy this summer. “We know there are so many restaurants nearby,” says Sophie. “But we’re doing it to enance guests’ experience with us – everyone shares amazing food and stories while sitting around the same table. It’s another special moment to remember from their time with us.”
This dedication to the guest experience makes Ibizazen a truly exceptional holiday destination. More like staying at a private villa than a hotel – though with all the luxuries accompanied by the latter – its authenticity really resonates. “The biggest compliment we ever have is when people arrive exhausted and stressed, then after they spend a short time relaxing here, they say they never want to leave,” concludes Sophie. “Our ultimate goal is to create a home away from home for our guests, or even better, a hotel for people that don’t like hotels.” And the best way to achieve that? “Do everything from your heart,” she smiles.