Es Cubells Fiesta, Virgin del Carmen, Report & Gallery
- Nick Gibbs
Perhaps it does us good to take a day away from the tourist throngs that are Ibiza in peak season. Certainly we fancied the idea of finding somewhere with a more ‘May’ feel about it, but is that even possible under the blazing July sun? With the Ibizan to guide us, we decided the Es Cubells fiesta might be a reasonable bet. Though fiesta days are busy, it would at least feel a little more ‘local’.
Es Cubells is a tiny cliff-top hamlet on Ibiza’s southern coast. The drive there includes the windiest roads in Ibiza. When you emerge it is onto a lamp-lined avenue that feels more like 17th century Paris than rural Ibiza. Rather smart.
It is a very small village. 806 residents at the last count, though you would be forgiven for thinking it 86 with the count relating to the scattered properties in the surrounding hills.
Despite that it still has restaurants, a small playground, library, archery specialist sports centre and the centre piece church.
The church is dedicated to the Virgin Del Carmen, who brought us here today. Es Cubells also celebrates Santa Teresa on October 15.
Though many of the tables in the spectacularly positioned Bar Llumbi were empty, the reservation paper on every one reassured us we were at least in the right place. They were facing a busy night ahead. Most of the bookings were after the procession and they were happy to accommodate us. In fact they were happy in every respect – very friendly service. Bar Llumbi is the simpler of the two central restaurants, and how wonderful to find a place like this still in existence. There are many local restaurants, but few that can boast a terrace with the unobstructed spectacular views offered by Bar Llumbi.
Good, honest food. I don’t know what it is this ’type’ of restaurant does, but I have never been able to replicate the flavour in their pork chops. Nor do I have the all day rotisserie for the chicken. Main courses are between 8 and 14€ with one or two more expensive steaks etc. We had a bottle of Can Rich at 14€ and our leisurely dinner with coffees and slices of wonderful homemade flao (saved for our later return) came to 80€ including a generous and warranted bote.
The food, the friendly service, the price, and oh that stunning view. We like Bar Llumbi a lot.
Even the gridlock was a relaxed affair
As we enjoyed our meal the village was gradually filling up with families and friends greeting each other to make ever increasing but quite distinct groups around the square. It put me in mind of those big Ibiza family names, the groups congregating here may well have resembled similar demarcation going back many generations.
After a while the traffic became Ibiza as normal—but remember this was their fiesta day. The police were in attendance for what you felt would be their annual trip, as other reasons to come to Es Cubells seem unlikely.
They did their job expertly. Using their car as an upright prop to enjoy the sun and thus requiring very little movement to give every approaching driver logically looking to the police for parking advice the same response, ‘no’. This must have been far too pleasurable a moment of peaceful retreat from the tourist masses for them too. They certainly didn’t want to waste it going into options and possibilities for parking, or even an idea how to turn around. They seemed content to stick with that answer, ‘no’. And perhaps they are right. Why complicate things. Everybody did get parked, probably.
Procession, Virgin del Carmen
The Virgin del Carmen is the title under which the Virgin Mary is the patron saint of seafarers..
The name Carmen is a derivation of Carmel (a mountain in northern Israel) which is one of the titles given to Our Blessed Mother, namely, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order.
As is normal in religious fiestas, a church service precedes a procession with elders of the community carrying statues on a litter, essentially a rigid stretcher.
Leading the Es Cubells procession were the assembled Ball Pagés dancers who would be providing entertainment later in the evening.
There was one obvious difficulty in holding a procession in Es Cubells; there really isn’t anywhere to go. Aside from its Parisian avenue, the only other option is down the windy road to the beach and given the average age of those carrying the litters, the chances of them making it back looked doubtful.
It seemed we were the only ones there who didn’t know what was happening, as the locals simply sat back and let the procession walk 100 metres up the avenue and do a prompt U-turn back to church. Due to its strong connections with the sea, most other Virgin Del Carmen processions would culminate with taking the statue and flowers out to sea on the local’s fishing boats before releasing the flowers to the water and a salute of the fisherman’s horns.
Es Cubells took an approach of intent being quite enough in July and so there was no attempt for the procession to climb the cliff and nobody seemed to object.
We were soon distracted by the beginnings of the Ball Pagès. Perhaps a familiar sight to many locals now, however on my return home I referred back to an article written by Nicole Torres two years ago. Now reading it in the context of the dancing, it is far easier to understand and more interesting as a result.
There is no doubt that Ball Pagès is something in which the local community take great pride and the dancing held their attention in a way you could not conceive from our Morris dancing equivalent.
Once the ‘Es que porta es ball’ (told you I know all about it now) had decided the dance should come to a close, it was off to a courtyard behind the public library for the party going on into the night.
Party in the Park
Again, this was everything we wanted. If the village does have 806 residents, and really with the rental villas in the area who would know how many were actually occupied, most of them must have managed to fit into this very small but perfect community area.
It seemed the elderly who did not want to stand out the dancing, had been left to secure their family and group chairs and they were soon joined by every generation.
Being the last stop of our day, the chiringuito bar was confirmation that Es Cubells simply refused to take more of our money than you would happily consider ‘locals prices’.
We stumbled into more community spirit behind the bar. A production line of men and women chopping tomatoes/bread for the pork sandwich that was the sole offering on the very large barbeque, that was of course attended by men.
The Frigolos provided the music and I do enjoy a bit of Rockabilly, being particularly impressed to see a double bass being played in Ibiza.
Our visit ended with a trip back to Bar Llumbi where we enjoyed the slices of Flao set aside for us earlier. A wise plan looking at a packed restaurant now. Delicious, but I have to concede out-starred by the lemon tart ordered by my son which was just sublime. I think of it with tenderness even now.
Es Cubells, Big Fans
I think we are now officially the Es Cubells fan club, a beautiful afternoon anytime but to manage to find such tranquility in peak season was remarkable.
I only hope I do not regret publicising the fact.