After an absence of 14 years it was time for the Meiklejohns to return to Ibiza. The last time around it was an ultra-budget holiday with a self catering apartment and meals at the local Chinese on the beach, where a three course meal with a drink cost £3. Well, times have changed, so has our number (3 of us now) and our means, so it was quite a different holiday, with little reminders of the last time.
We decided on the El Greco hotel in Portinatx for a couple of reasons. While it is quite far from everything else on the island, it's in a beautiful location, right next to the beach and has its own water park. It was an all inclusive holiday, so food, drink and ice cream were all provided. The food was pretty good, with a fair variety, lots of fish, well prepared and some of it cooked in front of you. However I missed the little extras like the biscuits, cheeses and dried fruits we had at the Marylanza last year.
The room we had was fairly small but functional. We had a single room with double and single bed, bathroom and balcony. The air cooler was welcome and the only addition we would really have liked would have been a little fridge to keep our water cool.
The hotel has its own pool, fairly small but not bad for a bit of a swim and play about. However the main draw was the water park, in a separate enclosure from the hotel but just a minute away. It has five main slides plus a small slide for the wee ones and a baby pool for them to play in. Two of the big slides are alongside each other so are ideal for races, though it's hard to tell who won when you're blinded by the spray. There are loungers in the water park and a bar with free drinks and ice cream, so we spent quite a few happy hours here.
I had read reviews of the hotel talking about all the steps down to the beach and expected a real trek to get down there. In fact the hotel is right on the beach and there are maybe 20 steps to get down to it. Only a problem if you're in a wheelchair or have problems getting about.
There must be a mini disco training centre and song supplier as they seem to have the same songs and dances wherever you go. We had some old favourites (Chou Chou Ua) and some new ones and the three leaders did well encouraging the kids. The mini disco was on at 8.30 each night, followed by a different act each time, such as dancers, karaoke and the great magician Alexis.
Portinatx is a small town and nice and quiet, with a number of hotels, some restaurants, bars, touristy shops and a couple of small supermarkets. It was a lovely place to walk around and we lucked out by going when the annual fiesta was running, so we had a few events down on the beach and some fireworks on the Sunday night.
Sunday was also market day and there was a small market near our hotel with jewellery and the like. There is also a lovely lighthouse just outside the town. One of the restaurants has a mini golf course and we eventually managed to get a game on the second last night we were there.
We spent an age on the beach, almost every day. The water was lovely to swim in and the fish roamed around in the shallows, devouring any crumbs they were given. Because there's practically no tide on the Med, we could park ourselves right next to the water and stay there for hours. We bought a parasol on the first day and used that with our beach towels instead of hiring sun loungers and parasols every day. Cate made a few friends and spent ages snorkelling and watching the fish.
We took a pedalo out from the beach a couple of times and enjoyed sliding into the sea and pedalling out to the edge of the bay. Our only bad experience was the day I managed to sweep my hand through the tentacles of a jellyfish. I'd spotted a few earlier on but missed this one and it stung like mad, taking a couple of days to die down with medication from the local chemist.
We kind of settled into a routine after a few days. In the morning we'd spend time on the beach. Then we'd head back for lunch. After that we'd go down to the water park for the afternoon. It was always really hot by then so the water slides were a welcome cool-down, and we tended to try to get loungers in the shade.
On a few of the days one of the entertainment crew would come over and arrange a competition between all the kids on the racing slides, then one for the adults. I made a respectable stab at it, but couldn't compete with the mighty Thomas.
The water park is closed on Saturdays. That was one of the few times we went to the pool instead.
Ibiza is famed for its night life, but we weren't at that end of the island. Portinatx was nice and quiet at night generally, and ideal for a stroll once the sun went down and it was a bit cooler.
There's a path round the shore that takes you to the smaller of the two in-town beaches. Then there's the main road which takes you to the end of the town and a third beach. This is where you can get a good view of the lighthouse too.
With the fiesta on there were a few evening events down at the beach. One night they had a band playing, one night there was a magician (the same bloke who came to our hotel for one of the evenings). There was a foam party for the kids and on the Sunday night they had fireworks over the water. This was at midnight so we'd not bothered and gone off to sleep. We were woken by a huge explosion, followed by a 15 minute display which we could watch from our room. Cate slept through it all.
We made an attempt to visit the lighthouse one day but I led the family on a treacherous mountain path that didn't get us anywhere near it, so gave up and went back to the hotel for a cool drink and to tend our scratches.
Our first trip was on the Saturday. We'd had a few days on the beach and were looking forward to a bit of a change. There's a road train that runs from Portinatx and on Saturdays it visits the caves at port San Miguel, so we hopped on and off we went. The train visited San Miguel, then on to the caves.
We got to see a few lizards on the climb down the steps to the entrance, then were shown round the caves, which were well lit and had lots of stalactites and stalagmites. There was then a presentation where a waterfall was lit up with a variety of different colours, including a cool strobe light.
After the caves we had another stop, at San Joan, where we had a look around this small village and especially at the local church. Then it was off back to Portinatx in time for dinner.
Monday was time for another trip, so we planned to get the bus to Ibiza town for a walk around the city walls. Muggins here got the bus times wrong and we missed it by 15 minutes, so took a taxi instead - an expensive mistake.
The town walls are pretty impressive, rising high above the coast, with cannon at the top to defend against invaders and a cathedral at the top too. In the heat of summer it was also a good workout climbing up. We appreciated the little cafe where we had an ice lolly each.
There aren't many buses back to Portinatx and I didn't fancy forking out for another taxi back, so we got back to the bus station in time for the 12:40 bus back to base. The windy road through the hills made both Claire and Cate a bit green around the gills but a rest and a big lunch helped.
The famous hippy market (not a place to buy famous hippies) runs every Wednesday at Es Canar. There are no direct buses from Portinatx so we took the taxi again. The driver was friendly and had a great album of Spanish-style cover versions of Gangnam Style, etc. The market is pretty big and there's plenty of variety so Cate managed to get a few knick-knacks and we got some presents for taking home. But it was roasting so we didn't spend too long and managed to get back in time for a late lunch.
We had a great time in Portinatx. It's a beautiful resort and the El Greco was a decent hotel, especially with the water park in the equation. Tips for anyone else going there? Buy your own parasol for the beach instead of paying to hire every day; take travel sickness tablets for any trips you go on; take the stairs up to your room instead of the lift to avoid the scales shock when you get back home; oh, and make sure you know where the chemist is: they have a good supply of cream to deal with jellyfish stings.
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