Having planned her own wedding on the island in 2004, Gemma Bowman relocated to Ibiza permanently to set up Ibiza Wedding, a bespoke wedding planning service. Gemma, who lives on the white isle with her husband and 2 children, talks to MumAbroad about relocating to Ibiza and daily life on the island.
When did you first move to Ibiza and what made you decide to relocate to the White Isle? Was this a difficult decision to make?
I had been coming here since I was a young girl, I married my husband here in 2004 and after getting back from honeymoon, Ibiza was constantly in our minds…I read Spanish and French at Uni, my husband is half Italian and the idea of a Mediterranean life was something that we both very much wanted to explore..so it was a no brainer really, but difficult in the sense that we were moving to the unknown, no job securities etc…and of course leaving friends and family behind.
Ibiza is a world famous destination – what, in your opinion makes Ibiza such a unique and desirable hotspot for so many?
I think it is its beauty, its diversity (you can be at yoga in the morning, laying on the most beautiful stretch of sand in the afternoon, dining in an amazing restaurant in the evening and partying until dawn if the mood takes you), its accessibility, the way that anything goes and the Ibicencan people are so welcoming and tolerant….for us it is just perfect. It is so much more than a party destination- it is an amazing place to bring up children and of course the weather and the beautiful fresh food are huge attractions for us. I need the sun!
What were the main practical challenges you encountered when you made the move?
As I spoke Spanish, this helped enormously, but like any new country it is negotiating the bureaucracy, and getting into the rhythm of how things work here. You can’t rush certain things here, so rather than fight against this and become frustrated that certain things don’t work like they would in the UK, you learn to embrace that and appreciate that it is these very idiosyncrasies that make the island what it is. You definitely become more tolerant, patient and less aggressive which can’t be a bad thing.
Overall how important do you think it is to speak the local language when relocating to Ibiza?
Yes I think it is hugely important to learn the language despite the fact that so many speak English here…I feel you get that much more from certain people if you are conversing or trying to converse with them in the language of the country to which you have decided to live.
What is the area like where you live?
Gorgeous! In middle of the island, in the middle of the countryside but yet I have Santa Gertrudis on my doorstep and Ibiza Town just 10 minutes away. Once at our house, you feel completely immersed in the campo, and we can also see the ocean and have wonderful sunrises…but then in minutes I can be at the beach, eating Japanese, walking in the woods, buying a copy of Elle decor…whatever!
Is there an established expat community in the area where you live? How important is this in your day-to-day life?
Oooh I hate the term Expat…it always makes me think of English people all sticking together, eating British food and making no attempt to integrate into the culture of their new country of residence!! Rightly or wrongly this is always the thought I have. Yes we have English friends, but Ibiza is a real melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions and we also have Ibicencan friends, French, Dutch, German, Spanish….so I don’t really think about being an ex pat at all.
Do you feel well integrated into the local community?
Yes I would say so; much more than I ever was in the UK. I know my Bank Manager by name (not sure if this is a good thing!), the name of the couple who run our local shop and know all of my neighbours (even though we live much further apart than we would in the UK). Having 2 children now, I get involved in things with the Nursery, the local village etc. There is a lovely sense of community here than I never felt in the UK. Being a small island with very, very low levels of crime, I feel much safer and as such find that people really do talk to each other and help each other more so than in a big city where people tend to remain more on their guard.
Ibiza is known around the world as a hedonistic Mecca for those seeking second to none night life, yet is also increasingly popular among families, both for holidays and those relocating permanently. You have two children under 3, can you tell us a little more about the family friendly side of Ibiza?
I really feel that the clubbing side of the island is becoming much less relevant to many people when they choose to come here on holiday and certainly when people choose to live here. Yes, we have world famous clubs and the best clubs in the world but realistically this is only the focus for 4 months of the year. However, all year round you have beautiful beaches (50 plus at the last count!), 300 plus days of sunshine, fabulous restaurants (with more and more opening every summer), retreats, yoga and every kind of alternative therapy you could imagine, as well as walking, hiking, hot air ballooning…..and for kids, it is a Mecca in its own right.
There are tons of families here, and the great thing about Ibiza is that with the exception of the clubs (gone are the days when people would rock up to Pacha and leave the kids asleep in the car outside!!) you can pretty much take them everywhere and they are really welcome, which I don’t always feel in places like London or other big cities. In the UK, it tends to be either kids activities or something for the adults without much crossover between the two.
Here, you can take the kids to the opening parties of the beach clubs, there are Halloween parties, organic farms that offer wonderful afternoons of live music, food, games for the kids etc. Of course, give most kids the beach and they are happy for hours! It is a super healthy environment to grow up in, with lots of time outside, lots of influences from different cultures and the constant flow of people that the island sees every year. Most kids growing up here will speak at least 2 languages fluently and in many cases 3.
Did you choose to have your children in Spain? If so, how was this experience in a foreign country?
Yes we always wanted to have children once we moved here and the experience was really positive. I had my first child at home with an amazing doula and South American midwife who has delivered more than 400 babies on the island and my second son I had at the local hospital and this was also fine, although not quite as Zen as the home birth!
For you and your family, what have been the greatest benefits of living in Ibiza?
All of the above- weather, food, people, general outlook on life here, which is more focused on enjoying the weather, food and everything the island has to offer as opposed to working all hours, racking up a huge mortgage, debts, climbing endless ladders that seems to be the case in other countries.
Your business, Ibiza Wedding was established in January 2005, and has evolved into the island’s premier wedding planning specialist. What inspired you to embark on this venture?
I got married here in 2004 and noticed a real gap in the market for a wedding planning service…hence Ibiza Wedding was born and at the time was the first bespoke wedding planning company on the island.
How would you describe a typical day?
Well my rhythm has changed a little now as I work part time due to being a hands on Mum. A typical day would be get up at around 7.30, enjoy breakfast with the kids and Jack, take Bo to nursery and then Obi and I maybe go to Ibiza Town to run some errands, or if Obi is with our nanny Carolina, then I will do some emails, call suppliers, go and do a site visit maybe, research some decoration items online or go to a tasting.
Work wise my day is so varied, which is one of the many reasons I love what I do. Then, I either cook lunch at home or we go out, to the beach if it is sunny- we love Talamanca and Cala Yondal in the winter or to somewhere like La Paloma or one of the little local restaurants in Santa Gertrudis if the weather is not so great. Then, I spend the afternoon with the boys, either meeting up with friends, at the beach, or people come over to the house. We also love to travel and spend around 3 months of the year away. I am currently totally in love with South East Asia!
Tell us a little about your clients; are they mainly locals, expats living on the island, or couples travelling from afar to the island for the big day? What draws couples to get married in Ibiza?
We have very few clients from the island and 99% tend to be busy, professionals from all around the world who want to have their dream wedding on the island and have neither the time, knowledge, language, contacts or inclination to organise it themselves.
Tell us about some of your favourite places on Ibiza and why?
- Hmm so many…..La Paloma for lunch on a sunny day, sat in the orange grove whilst the kids play on the swings eating the most divine organic food (much of which is grown on site).
- Talamanca beach in the winter; the water is beautiful there and the beach so quiet and protected, so perfect for the kids.
- Walking along the front in Santa Eulalia, looking forward to the new branch of Passion opening there soon!
- Pastis in Ibiza Town for intimate dinner with Jack.
- Macao in Santa Gertrudis on a balmy summer evening for amazing pizza and pasta followed by a wander around the square.
- Atzaro spa in the summer to escape the crowds.
- Blue Marlin Cafe in Marina Botafoch for the most delicious breakfast enjoyed whilst gazing at the mutli million pound yachts.
- A day on the boat spent at Formentera, ideally with skis and giant rubber ring so we can laugh like kids.
- A Dr Haushka facial with Abi once the kids have gone to bed.
- Wandering round the Old Town during siesta and at shopping in Ibiza at night followed by sushi at Sushinaya in Ibiza Town.
- Dirty hamburger at Hard Rock (the burger, not the place)
- Lunch at El Chiringuito whilst the kids hang out in the kids club there.
- Eating squid and seabass in any of the little restaurants in the North off the Portinatx road.
- A couple of nights with Jack at The Giri Residence – our home away from home…oooh I could go on and on…
Can you describe how Ibiza differs in the quieter winter months from the busy high-season?
It is just as lovely, in fact sometimes better! Walks on the beach with the dogs, long lunches with friends at their homes, walking round the deserted streets of Ibiza, spending lots of time at home on front of the fire catching up on all the films and box sets I missed over the summer, lots of reading. It’s just a different vibe in the winter but the weather is often lovely so you just catch up and do the things you never seem to have time to in the summer…and go to South East Asia!
Finally, what advice would you give others considering moving to Ibiza?
Just do it! Or at least try it out for a year and see how it goes….better to regret the things you did than those you didn’t, cliched as it sounds!