To any of my close friends and family, it should come as no surprise that I like electronic music. “Like” may be putting it a bit lightly considering the hundreds of dollars I use to spend on concerts (back when I had a job) and the fact 98% of the music on my phone is dedicated to the genre, but nevertheless, I’m a fan. My long-standing love affair with the music began when I was ten years old thanks to a CD my dad left lying around the house – the compilation album Tranceport by Paul Oakenfold.
Remember CDs? Weren’t they great?
Up until that point in my life, the majority of music I heard fell into the categories of Pop, Rock, Rap, or Oldies. The first three were popular among my peers, while the latter was usually what my parents listen to. Either way, I generally cared very little about music until I came across Tranceport. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the sounds, the infectious melodies, and the seamless buildup to euphoric choruses that characterized electronic music. It was a strange new type of music that none of my friends cared about, but I couldn't seem to get enough of it. I listened to the CD on repeat for hours at a time along with subsequent albums my dad purchased like Darude's Before the Storm and the The Annual Ministry of Sound Compilations.
Of all the tracks in Tranceport there was one called Cafe del Mar that I particularly enjoyed and I found out the song was named after a real cafe located on an island off the coast of Spain called Ibiza. The story went that every evening visitors would flock to watch the sunset, relax, and listen to tranquil, soothing electronic music on the cafe's patio overlooking the water. For years I imagined what the experience would be like, but little did I know that one day I would have the chance to enjoy a sunset on the patio of the famous Cafe del Mar.
Located on the opposite side of Ibiza in a city called St. Antoni de Portmany, Cafe del Mar is just a short bus ride from Ibiza Town. The entire reason for my trip to the city was simply to relax on the patio with a cold beer and watch the sun set. I didn't know what I would find in St. Antoni, but I figured I might as well spend the day exploring the town.
The first thing I noticed was the astonishing number of Brits inundating the small town - it was as if someone relocated a part of London to Ibiza! While the hostesses and wait staff outside of the restaurants likely spoke Spanish, I didn’t hear a single word of Spanish uttered the entire day. While I fully expected to find the usual flashy, superficial vibe, St. Antoni definitely takes the cake. The streets are full of bars and clubs as one might expect, but best of luck finding good food in town. As I wandered through the streets I kept seeing signs advertising things such as pizza, burgers, fried chicken, nachos, fish and chips, and in one instance, a full English breakfast.
I will give them credit - at least they know their key demographic.
The redeeming quality of St. Antoni for me was the music. Throughout town there was a perpetual four-on-the-floor baseline blaring from all of the bars lining the beach, and even when I wandered further into town, the majority of apartments had people playing electronic music out their windows. I absolutely loved it because I didn't need headphones, but if electronic music is not your thing, this place could become hellish real quick. Every single shop, bar, restaurant, and apartment I passed was playing a song I would normally be listening to on my phone anyways and, best of all, the songs would automatically “shuffle” every thirty seconds or so as I walked past each establishment. Just perfect.
Regardless, of your taste in music through, make no mistake; this is a drinking town first and foremost. Even at 11:00am, people were already downing buckets of beers, potent shots, and frozen drinks out of comically large glasses. All along the beach everyone was sporting their stereotypically large, plastic sunglasses with the words “I <3 Ibiza” imprinted on the lenses. Excessively buff bros with sleeveless shirts lumbered through the crowd like giant gorillas and girls strolled around in their bikinis wearing extremely high wasted, cut-off jeans. I'll never understand why this particular style of jeans is trendy. Every time a girl walked by in them, it triggered flashbacks of my mother and her friends wearing a similar (not cut-off) style of pants hiked half way up their stomachs back in the 90’s.
After a few hours of wandering, I saw just about everything there was to see in St. Antoni and, frankly, I was not particularly impressed with the city. You can find better beaches, a more diverse crowd, and the same overpriced drinks over in Ibiza Town - plus, you might even hear some actual Spanish. With that said though, my experience was skewed since I was traveling alone. There are many perks to traveling by yourself, but days like these I wish I could teleport my old El Campo roommates here with me.
Does it still count as "homesick" if you just want to bring your friends to you? I don't really want to go home.
My feelings about the city aside, I was here for Cafe del Mar and the moment I sat down everything suddenly made sense in my life. I was simply wandering around the wrong part of town - this is where I belonged. Cafe del Mar is only a 20-minute walk from the inebriated chaos of the main beach, but the short trek makes a world of difference. On this side of the city there is a far more relaxed, upscale vibe than the bars in the center of town.
While there were still a few hours before the sun officially set, people were already settling in for the evening’s performance at Cafe del Mar. I took my seat near the front of the patio in one of the wicker chairs next to a small marble tables, ordered a beer, and just sat back to take it all in. The soothing, tranquil melodies of the trance music playing on the speakers overhead immediately put me at ease. The DJ's perfectly mixed set created a remarkably serene mood that complimented the insanely beautiful view of the Balearic Sea before me. The temperature was perfect and the delightful caress of the evening breeze gently ruffled the blue and white awning above the patio as it passed through. The smell of the salty air served as a constant reminder of the paradise I was in and the lapping of the royal blue waves along the stony shoreline set the stage for what was sure to be a wonderful sunset. A number of small boats bobbed up an down just a few feet from the patio while further off in the distance a behemoth of a yacht was anchored offshore; perfectly positioned to enjoy a completely unobstructed view.
While the majority of the day was fairly overcast, there were a number of breaks in the clouds allowing the sun to peak through. For the next few hours I watched as the sun slowly descended from its perch high above and progressively turned cool blue sky to a radiant orange-red. Periodically, rays of sunlight penetrated the clouds and gave the impression as if God himself was bidding farewell to the island’s inhabitants. Slowly, the sun sank beneath the perfectly level horizon segregating Earth from the heavens and I was entranced by the brilliant, iridescent reflection of the twilight sky on the azure water. There was nowhere else I would have rather been than in that chair.
Suddenly all those days locked away in a windowless office in NY seemed worth it.
After fourteen years of wondering what it would be like to watch the sun set at the famous Cafe del Mar, I can now say the experience completely exceeded my expectations. It is yet another thing I get to happily cross off of my life’s bucket list that ten-year-old me didn't think was possible. Now I’m back off to Ibiza Town to prepare for the evening’s festivities at the nightclub Space. Since I just finished watching the sun set on one side of the island, my goal is watch it rise on the other side tomorrow morning!
Wish me luck!