Ibiza holidays

Ibiza lockdown diaries #7

Rosa Hildebrandt, co-owner of boutique hotel The Giri Residence and restaurant The Giri Café

Rosa Hildebrandt, co-owner of boutique hotel The Giri Residence and restaurant The Giri Café in San Juan had to unexpectedly put all summer planning on hold as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Now, she runs her business virtually while waiting to open within the structure of the ‘new normal’.

Spring in Ibiza is always a very busy time for Rosa Hildebrandt – co-owner of The Giri Café and The Giri Residence, the buzzing restaurant and chic boutique hotel in the northern village of San Juan. The precursor to the summer season is when the Danish-born native – who has lived in Ibiza for 20 years – is deep in preparation and planning mode, from defining menus with her chefs, discussing changes in the variety of drinks on offer with the bartenders – from cocktails and juices to coffees – to rethinking the hotel spa menu with the therapists. At the same time, she’s coordinating repainting, planting gardens, trimming palm trees and so much more to get both venues ready for guests.

“You name it, every year, there are a lot of things to do at this time,” says Rosa. “Just as the Coronavirus reality kicked in, we were deep into those preparations. From one day to the other, we completely paused everything.” Right now, Rosa is running the business virtually from her home while also adding home school teacher to her CV, in addition to in-house chef and rooftop yoga teacher while waiting to press the un-pause button, as soon as it’s possible for her businesses to re-open within the structure of the ‘new normal’.

Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation?
I live with my husband and two kids (Alba, 13 and Nova, 10) in a 150-year-old village townhouse in San Juan. It’s a bit quirky and bohème with different levels, several balconies, terraces and luckily a top terrace where we have great views over the village, mountains – as well as to The Giri Residence.

Did you expect the Ibiza lockdown to be as serious, and as lengthy and restrictive, as it has been?
Well, I – and nobody else – had any idea! From the beginning we had quite a realistic approach and immediately started planning for a long crisis, looking at different scenarios and possible consequences for our business.

How are you feeling on a personal level right now?
It has definitely been a big challenge to be confined. Some days have been difficult with too many speculations and others have had a more easy-going flow, being able to just be in the moment with my family. This entire situation has been humbling.

Who or what do you miss most right now?
I miss my freedom. I miss my active life. I miss having moments to myself. I miss going out. I miss the sea. And I miss seeing my business run with happy guests, busy staff, sunshine, people around the pool, the smell of dinner preparations from The Giri Café kitchen or the scent of calming incense coming from The Giri Residence spa.

What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience?
It is indeed a big challenge to be together 24/7 with no escaping each other’s moods, needs or funny habits. But the most challenging thing is the uncertainty. Not knowing what comes next – when will life as we know it start again or when can we open our businesses, for example. Instead of letting the uncertainty keep me awake at night, I try to keep the positivity levels up and reflect on the possible growth and change that lies here for me and for our business.

Has there been anything about the lockdown experience you’ve enjoyed?
I am so grateful for my little family. I have enjoyed making a lot of art projects with the girls. Nova is studying Picasso which has inspired us to make several takes on his art.

How do you keep in touch with the outside world?
I take care of all work on video calls – with daily meetings to stay updated in order to do my best to manage the situation with such a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability. Even though we are closed, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

What’s been entertaining you during this period?
I thought I would read a lot of books, but strangely enough I haven’t been able to concentrate much on reading. Maybe it’s the restlessness and navigating the constant news stream… Podcasts have been much easier to consume. For instance, Dolly Parton’s America is an amazing podcast series that I ‘ate’ raw! We have also been watching a lot of great (old) movies with the kids: Top Gun, E.T., Forrest Gump, and Mrs Doubtfire to name a few. Every movie has kickstarted a talk about our childhoods and teenage years – so funny to try to make the girls understand what was hot (Tom Cruise) when I was 16!

What’s been educating you?
Since lockdown started, I have been the girls’ home-schooling teaching assistant, so I’ve had to catch up with Greek mythology, Shakespeare, WW2 poetry, how to calculate perimeter and percentage, Spanish grammar, Catalan synonyms and whatnot in order to help them with their tasks. Not to mention newly developed tech skills, after having to make WiFi work smoothly all over the house on all 10 to 12 devices to ensure all Facetime, Zoom and WhatsApp calls could work. As for news, I follow the main newspapers from Spain as well as from a handful of European countries (where our guests come from). I try to balance the daily intake and ‘need’ for news as it can easily consume too much time, but for me (and the business) it’s important stay informed.

What’s made you laugh during this time?
I laugh a lot with my family. We dress up, dance or tell jokes. We make fun of each other. I think that is our way of coping with this highly strange situation.

How is your general health and wellbeing right now?
I feel strong. I am ready for the new post-Corona normal. Bring it on.

What are your eating habits like these days?
I have never cooked as much as I have done during confinement. And it is great. Actually, the meals have become our main ‘routine points’. Loads of greens and slow cooked recipes. Cakes, desserts, sauces, marmalade. I have experimented with sourdough and few things make you happier than producing a chewy, tasty and beautiful bread.

Have you set yourself any goals during this period?
From the beginning I knew that I would go absolutely crazy if I didn’t keep working out. I got into a great daily routine quite fast: daily wake-up yoga practice with James De Maria (who also lives here in San Juan) on Instagram Live and in the afternoon I either do a session with The Loft Pilates studio in San Miguel or I ‘meet’ a group of friends for a fun and sweaty work-out with The Class by Taryn Toomey (live from New York). Working out ‘together’ is so much fun.

How has the lockdown impacted your business and industry?
It has had a huge impact on our area of business. Being a seasonal business depending on a big influx of tourists, getting through this crisis is an enormous challenge.

How do you manage your stress levels during such uncertain times?
My morning yoga practice and afternoon workouts help me stay grounded. Luckily, my husband is the best in taking me back to reality when I sometimes get lost in speculative thoughts.

Have you seen your direct local community coming together at this time?
I definitely feel a strong San Juan community. We ‘meet’ on the rooftops, terraces and balconies, where we talk and keep an eye out for each other. A couple of days a week we do yoga with our kids there too. We take turns in giving the class or we let the kids shout out the instructions for the yoga postures. It’s a great way to be together while keeping apart, especially for the kids who are longing for a social life.

What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future?
I hope – and believe –  we will get over this crisis and become stronger. I hope it will bring a higher understanding of the importance of sustainability.

What about your own future – how is that looking right now?
No matter how or when it will be possible for us to reopen The Giri Café and The Giri Residence, we are aiming to come out of this crisis as a better version – adapted to the ‘new normal’.

What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
On the first Sunday we were allowed to take a daily walk with our kids (April 26), we went to the forest to pick flowers and lie in the green grass, and since then, the past days with daily walks have been wonderful. However, I truly miss the beach, the sea and the sound of the waves, so the moment they open the beaches I will be there – taking it all in. And after a swim, I will open the business…