The first time I went to Ibiza, by mistake I booked with Club 18-30 and endured one of the worst fortnights of my life. My friend’s solution was to self-medicate with sleeping pills until he could no longer stand up, then demand I drive him to A&E to get his stomach pumped, to make room in it for drugs of the recreational variety. On reflection, sleep would have been the better option. After failing to locate a moment’s fun, I’m sorry to say I returned to try again several times, each with less success than the last. My advice ever since has been to give this overpriced, underwhelming island a miss.
Had I been looking for a good time, it would still have been the last place I’d have booked for our Easter break. But the sort of holiday I wanted to try looked so unlike my idea of fun, I couldn’t see how its location could make matters any worse.
Until now, my boys had only ever known bucket and spade holidays, which I used to love too. But the magic of a beach holiday’s formless days curdles into terrible loneliness when you become a single parent. To make it work, adult company has to be recruited, which makes planning a nightmare, because everything is contingent upon somebody else. I fantasised about booking a holiday for just the three of us. Finding one that would work for a 46-year-old mum and seven- and six-year-old boys is, however, harder than you’d think. My children are too young for city breaks or culture, hiking or biking, and too old to happily toddle along wherever I want to go. Which is why, with some trepidation, I booked us into a “family fitness retreat”.
Casa Tekne is a remote, traditional stone finca in the village of St Miguel in the north of the island, fringed by acres of orange and lemon trees and furnished in the classic Ibizan hipster style – handmade wooden furniture, billowing white curtains, turquoise tiled pool. But beneath the shade of a great canvas sail at the rear is a fully equipped gym, spinning bikes, gymnast mats, a full-size punchbag and Olympic standard trampoline. Casa Tekne was created by a former fashion designer called Des Aspill, a gymnast turned yogi who runs a children’s gymnastics club in Hampstead but moved to Ibiza four years ago with his boyfriend, Jose, who grows all the vegetables we will eat during our stay.
The in-house chef, Radha, works for a macrobiotic catering company in Stroud when she isn’t in Ibiza, and will cook all our meals. With airy assurance she says that as I’m vegan, while we’re here my whole family will be too. I think, but don’t say, she’s going to have a job keeping my boys happy with meals made of plants. Des is going to teach them gymnastics, and I don’t like to tell him he has his work cut out too, my sons having flatly refused all attempts to date to sign them up to classes. Last but not least is Des and Jose’s dog, Theodore Rockstar, the undisputed star of the holiday with whom the boys fall in love on sight.
I had wondered if we were arriving at some aggressively shouty, pseudo-military bootcamp – or worse still an ostentatiously spiritual pseudo-Buddhist temple. My children are not what you’d call Zen. To my great relief, Des is playful and sharp, and makes us laugh a lot, while the prevailing tone of the retreat is tranquil in a way that feels organic and restful, rather than compulsory and contrived.
Each day begins with an hour of yoga, which I don’t expect to enjoy, having always been put off by the meditative mumbo jumbo. But Des doesn’t put on a faux mystical voice, or make a song and dance about my chakra, and I’m bowled over by the difference just a few sessions make. After breakfast of pancakes and fruit, the personal trainer arrives, and while we work in the gym Des teaches my boys gymnastics and trampolining and boxing. I’m quite unprepared for the camaraderie of exercising together; the boys are fascinated to watch me train, and electrified with pride to show me each new move they learn. Des won’t stand for any larking about, but his discipline seems to magnetise the boys.
Classes are interspersed with hikes through breathtakingly beautiful fields of wild flowers and dense pine forests, past secluded rock star villas that cost more to rent for a week than the average Briton’s annual salary. We go horse riding one afternoon at a stables so impossibly picturesque, even the sleepy cats look cinematic. One morning Des takes us to a beach, nestled in a turquoise cove, framed by dramatic cliffs that fall into the glassy ocean like stage curtains. Everyone else here conforms to the classic upscale Ibizan look – lithe and tousled, carelessly boho-chic – but as they eye us exercising on the sand I’m surprised not to feel the least bit self-conscious or embarrassed. If my children weren’t here I think I probably would, and am struck again by the unexpectedly powerful joy of us exercising together.
But the single greatest surprise comes every meal time, when I watch them devour Radha’s vegan meals, demanding seconds and thirds of chia seed crackers and curried lentils and tofu kebabs, and making me rethink all my assumptions about what they will and won’t eat.
I could not have been more wrong to think we were going on a fun-free holiday. It’s more fun than anything we’ve ever done as a family – and would have been too had I come by myself, or with friends, or other families. Individual families can book their own private retreat, as we did, in low season; in high season bookings are accepted only for larger groups, but the website also advertises high season retreats when individual families can book and share the finca with other families. There are also retreats for individuals throughout the year. Before we leave I’m already plotting my return. The massage I have one afternoon is so good, I’d happily fly back for that alone.
Having rolled my eyes for 20 years whenever anyone claimed there was “another” Ibiza I just hadn’t yet discovered, now my only complaint is that I just wish this other Ibiza had made itself known sooner.
• The trip was provided by Tekne-Fitness Retreats Ibiza (+34 638 277 231). One-week family fitness retreats from £995pp all-inclusive (self-catering option from £695pp); villa sleeps maximum 12 guests. Direct flights to Ibiza are available from most UK airports