Before trying out "real Spain" I headed for the Balearic island of Ibiza (aka Eivissa), Europe's equivalent of Cancun.
Ibiza is known as a hedonist's paradise. It is flocked to for its summertime club scene, which I will admit to an American feels very foreign. This place is best avoided by the prudish -- just look at the club advertisements at the airport. One was called Amnesia, presumably because, maybe under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance, you want to forget what you did there the night before. Another club advertised a Thursday night party whose name I cannot repeat here, but was something along the lines of getting intimate with another person because of his or her fame and notoriety.
Not being a hedonist myself, my first thought upon landing was, "What on earth am I doing here?" (this was followed shortly by, "Where the heck is my bag?"). Well, most things are worth trying once, and I wanted to see if I could peel the onion to get underneath the Spanish party capital.
In late evening I checked into a hotel with favorable online reviews on Playa d'en Bossa. I was disappointed to discover I was paying $100/night for a small, sparsely appointed room in a hotel with the aesthetic appeal of a Best Western.
Though online reviews were accurate that one couldn't hear the famous dance club across the street, they failed to mention that the hotel was directly underneath the flight path to Ibiza's airport. Bah! How did they know I was hoping to be woken up by the 2AM Ryanair flight from London? At least I had a balcony with a view of the beach, and thankfully I had packed my earplugs.
One thing my hotel did offer was free breakfast and dinner, which was useful as Playa d'en Bossa has only the lowest quality of fast food and pub fare. The buffet food was mediocre and I felt like I was dining in a school cafeteria, but it did fill me up.
A definite positive of my hotel was its location next to the beach. So I slapped on some sunscreen, packed my towel, and looked for a nice spot to stare at the Mediterranean.
Unlike Croatia's rocky offerings, Ibiza's beaches are full of smooth sand. Playa d'en Bossa is long (a 45 minute walk end-to-end) and lined with accommodations. The seawater is a bathtub temperature. Woo!
I found a strip of sand to lay my towel on and joined the Europeans in their worship of the sun god. The weather was nearly identical to Croatia -- endless sun and warm but not too hot. Humidity a little higher but not excessive. The beach would be a pretty good place to catch an afternoon siesta except for the constant air traffic -- a parade of planes from pretty much all of Europe's numerous discount carriers pass over throughout the day.
Fearing I might be contracting a sunburn (which really isn't possible when you're wearing SPF 50), I took a walk to find a place to plop down under an umbrella. I found the perfect spot -- an English-speaking beachside cafe with a tasty bacon avocado sandwich, a refreshing Spanish white wine, and WiFi! (so important when you want to blog!) With nothing else to do except return to the sun to lay down, I lingered in the connectivity-friendly cafe for awhile.
Though the sun didn't set until 9:30PM there was still a fair bit of time to pass before Ibiza's renowned club scene gets going. As I was travelling alone I was in no mood to pre-party. Thankfully I had a TV in my hotel room, allowing me to catch up on my world news courtesy of BBC and entertain myself with an episode of "Two And A Half Men" dubbed in Spanish. Buenas noches, Charlie Sheen!
There was no definite plan for my Tuesday evening, but I thought at the appropriate time (certainly no earlier than 11PM) I would take a walk around and see if anything fancied me. In the meantime I dozed off, and when I woke up I decided I enjoyed sleep far more than going out. Yes, sometimes I am lame, but it's my vacation...I do what I want!
After the Wednesday morning breakfast buffet I decided I needed to get away from the beach and walked an hour to Ibiza Town. There's nothing really cultural about the island, and it's not as if anyone cares, really. Most of the young Germans, Brits, and Spaniards follow a repetitive cycle of sitting in the sun, eating, clubbing until sunrise, and sleeping in between.
Nonetheless, I had seen what looked like a fortress past the beach, and sure enough I found it, the Dalt Vila. Before the island of Ibiza was a place for young Europeans to become party zombies, it held strategic importance in control of the sea, so therefore this fortress was built. It was a good climb and offered a good view of the beach and town. I patted myself on the back for a token effort at doing something cultural.
After another bacon avocado sandwich at my favorite cafe it was back to the beach for me. In the afternoon the beach was full of people, so I got some good people-watching in. Some people were out wind-surfing, others kicking a soccer ball or playing a game like ping-pong at waters' edge. And yes, since it's Europe you see a fair bit of female topless sunbathing. All this paired with the incessant beat of club music on the beach, and even a few paid professional dancers.
Also patrolling the beach are disco representatives offering discounts to nightly shows at the various clubs. I received a wristband to the club Space, the big club across from my hotel. The ticket offered free admission if I arrived before 11PM, so I figured if I woke up from my early evening siesta I would give it a visit.
My nap ended around 10:30PM but I wasn't ready to head to the Space club yet -- felt too early by Spanish standards. My wristband offered 15€ admission between 11PM and midnight, and having read that to also be the approximate price of one vodka lemon I decided it would be better to walk the streets for a bit.
This paid off. More wristband dealers roamed the streets near my hotel, and hiding my Space wristband in one pocket I was able to receive another with free entry until 2AM. Sometimes, if the right DJ is in town, these club passes are like concert tickets, costing up to 50€ just to get in! I figured it wasn't going to be a good party at Space, but at least I would get to experience it on the cheap, and it was in an extremely convenient location.
So I caught another nap and woke up a little groggy at 1AM, just in time for clubbing. I walked over as is, in a polo shirt, Adidas shorts, and flip-flops. Had absolutely no problem getting in -- Ibiza really doesn't have a dress code.
Space is divided into two rooms -- a smaller lounge with Europeans yawning at their drinks, and a much larger room with the DJ and dance floor. I headed there and landed in a pit of hyponotically twisting bodies moving to a robotic thumping bass underneath flickering lights. It was pretty dude-heavy, about a 2:1 ratio. Though many of the girls dressed up the average guy was wearing shorts, a T-shirt with something written on it, and Adidas shoes. Not much great dancing, but enough fist pumping to fill an episode of "Jersey Shore".
I took in the scene and came away bewildered as to how this could be a good time. The music was dull and uninspiring -- again maybe I was at the club on a bad night -- and though the venue was large I didn't see anything exciting like maybe a fog machine or balloons or something. Maybe they save such pyrotechnic displays for the 50€ nights.
After 90 minutes I was content that I had seen enough, and I wasn't looking to sustain further hearing loss by staying at the club until dawn. I walked the short distance back to my hotel, confused but at least not a eurocent poorer.