There have been enough blogs written about the colours of Ibiza, certainly plenty has been said about the sights and we’ve most definitely heard all about the sounds of the Ibiza summer over the years, so I thought it was about time to focus on one of Ibiza’s lesser known sensory experiences.
And where better to start smelling than my own backyard? I’m talking about the beautiful cobbled streets of Dalt Vila, her ancient winding back streets and colourful, secret corners that hold thousands of years’ worth of secrets. Every time I walk out my front door I am greeted with a new smell – some pleasant, some admittedly not-so-pleasant – and it’s all part of the charm of living in the heart of the old town.
This time of year is a particularly fragrant one. Wafts of fresh, paint float across the airwaves as local cafes, restaurants and shops are repainting their beautiful white washed exteriors, in preparation of the rapidly approaching summer season. The woody smell of sawdust also permeates the air, as benches, chairs, tables, doors and shelves are sanded back in preparation for their own coat of fresh paint.
Just a little way around the corner from the fresh-painted enthusiasm of the ‘restaurant square’, or Placa de Vila as it’s officially known as, is a different kind of smell that I also associate with the coming of the new season. Cement being mixed every which way you look, as many of the ancient building facades are currently in restoration (I pray that their owners stay true to the original architecture), there’s a singed, kind of burning smell in the air as angle grinders reshape security doors, bars and building structures. Call me weird, but I kind of like it, however I can’t say the same for the stench of sweaty workmen lingering around at the end of the day!
In March the nights are still just cold enough for those big old Dalt Vila houses to need the warmth of a wood burning fire to heat them up, and between 5pm and 7pm is when the smoke begins to furl out of the hundreds of chimney tops peppering the Dalt Vila skyline – a most comforting, winter warming smell if ever my nose smelled it!
On the weekends, in my particular corner of the hood, the local gypsies flock together for communal street barbeques, and let me tell you – when this happens, you want to score yourself an invite (My tip: just BYO meat and join the party). With wheelbarrows and bathtubs acting as makeshift barbeques, and fiery flames licking the haphazard grills placed across the top, the array of meat being sizzled and savoured are enough to even make a vegetarian salivate. And let’s not even start to talk about the ‘block party’ style Christmas dinners (oh OK, let’s – we’re talking pig on a spit, chargrilled chickens, lambchops and big hunks of beef literally cooked in my street – yum.).
Walk in the right direction in Dalt Vila and you’ll be blessed with the scent of some wonderful, fragrant wild herbs – for example, rosemary grows wild on the side of the cliffs and at the top near the cathedral. Lavender spreads like wildfire in the summer, with its beautiful little purple tipped whiff of freshness flying through the breeze, and my own personal favourite is a flower that I actually can’t identify – it’s the sweetest smelling, night blooming teensy tiny purple flowers that grow on huge bushes and remind me of honeysuckle. Just like heaven – if I could have it bottled and made into a perfume, I would.
Of course, meander in the wrong direction and you’re going to come nose-to-nose with some unpleasant smells – that stinging smell of ammonia associated with kitties and their toilet habits, the infuriating smell of man-wee in back street doorways in the summer (sometimes mine unfortunately – drunk guys please take note! Our little hidden doorways are not portaloos!). The stale mouldy, damp smells in those dank, dark moss covered stone corners. The overly fishy stench of garbage bins at 3am, after the restaurants have closed (could explain the abundance of cats) for the night. Today, the entire fortress smells like rain… hopefully washing away much of the aforementioned, but realistically, probably just creating more mould and damp. C’est la vie.
But to me, Dalt Vila has just one particular smell, something I notice each and every time I step outside – and it’s a fusion of everything above. To me, Dalt Vila smells like home. And you know what Dorothy said…