Before I arrived, I knew that the five-star Hotel Mirador de Dalt Vila had just recently opened its doors for business, but I didn’t realize how recently.
“You’re our first guest!” I was enthusiastically informed after the complimentary hotel van delivered me from the ferry. It came to pass that the timing of my arrival and the hotel’s original opening date (the following day), combined with their desire for some primo exposure to a well-strapped American reading audience had prompted the hotel to open a day early just for ol’ me.
Housed in a 1905 mansion high above the commotion in Ibiza Town, in the fortified, World Heritage Dalt Vila quarter, the hotel was formerly home to (and still owned by) one of Ibiza’s richest families. With the property abutting 16th century fortifications, space was very limited and inadaptable. While the exterior couldn’t be touched, the interior was overhauled down to the light switches. New walls, floors, marble and onyx-festooned bathrooms and art pulled from the family’s private collection. Public spaces featured medieval artifacts from nearby shipwrecks.
The glow of this travel writer rock star arrival faded when I learned that my suite, one of only 13 rooms in the whole hotel, was specially prepped for the grand opening party tour that night (I had to extract a decorative rose floating in my toilet), as such I wouldn’t be able to check in until after the tour. In the meantime, I was invited to join friends, politicians and VIPs at said party to socialize, listen to live classical music, flirt with the servers and fill up on complimentary food and drink.
With no opportunity to unpack, shower or change, I had little choice but to present myself at the party that evening as is – looking and smelling exactly as you’d imagine after five hours of Ibiza exploration on foot in July. Security was understandably loathe to let me in the door, but the hotel’s marketing director rescued me and I proceeded to make a meal of the artistically executed and savory hors d’oeuvres while imprudently mixing champagne and wine until 10pm when I was given the all-clear to move into my room.
Being that I spend most of the year enduring accommodations in the sub-two star category, on the rare occasion when I’m thrust into a five star room I feel compelled to wallow in the experience Home Simpson-style, making lavish use of every towel, both robes and slippers, complimentary food and entertainment options. Despite these powerful feelings of entitlement, I felt a small pang of guilt as the marketing director and front desk manager accompanied me up to my unspeakably gorgeous suite. As they set down my bags and bid me good night, I sensed a melancholy wretched envy oozing off them. It must have been cruel from their point of view. Here they had been killing themselves for three months preparing the hotel for its grand opening and now some unwashed, drunken journalist was going to snack on the fruits of their labor while they returned to their crappy efficiency apartments, with fold-out beds and no A/C, located next to the city’s garbage incinerator. Or so I imagined it.
Once they’d despondently closed the door behind them, I knocked back the glass of white wine I was holding and devoured the entire bowl of fancy, complimentary chocolates before getting down to the grave business of sampling every toiletry, putting the hydro-massage bathtub through its paces (twice) and testing the bounce-back factor of the couch and chairs, before retiring to my never-slept-in bed.
Being the only guest in a brand new boutique hotel (that first night, there was a staff-to-guest ratio of something like 17 to one), with the added weight of composing a half-page, high-profile review, temporarily awarded me with sheik caliber service. The bizarre circumstances notwithstanding, it must be said that the spirit of service at the Mirador was noticeably strong. Ibizans are known for their strict belief that everyone should enjoy themselves as much as possible, stopping just short of when it becomes life-threatening. Anything less is ostensibly an affront to the Baby Jesus. So when I made an off-handed comment about not having set foot on a beach in almost two years and then presented my hideous Travel Writer Tan Line as proof, it sparked a blur of action that still awes me. You could almost hear the Moby re-mix of the “Mission Impossible” theme song playing as people started racing around while I was pushed to my room to change into my swimsuit. Five minutes later, I was sitting in a black, tinted window hotel van careening toward Ibiza’s most popular beach. I was dropped off under the cover of high bushes at the far end of the beach, handed a pair of Dirty Old Man brand name ogling binoculars and left alone for two hours of “research”.
Though I had to share the hotel with three other guests the second night, I hardly noticed the difference. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I don’t remember the difference. The hotel held a larger, more public opening party that night, with local socialites, tourism officials and a better dressed, more fragrant me. The hotel’s surprisingly young food and drink director escorted me to the bar and spent the evening showing off his cocktail making prowess, an art he claimed to have been practicing “since childhood”.
Details of the evening are still hazy. A multiplicity of cocktails in primary colors rotated in front of me. At some stage, I lost sight of my goal to eat at least one appetizer with each drink. The hotel’s marketing director deftly removed an amorous and very unsubtle tour agent from my personal space bubble. I closed down the bar with a fellow guest, a decidedly well-off Brit who turned out to be an excellent conversationalist. I finally excused myself before I could seriously contemplate invading the marketing director’s personal space bubble and retreated to my room under my own power, the veneer of my professionalism barely intact.
The next morning I was back in the black van, hurtling to the port where a ferry waited to return me to Mallorca. With the single step out of the van, I plunged from five star doting back down to one star anonymity. Joining a line of partiers that had obviously not slept and, judging by the lack of luggage, probably never even had a room on Ibiza, I steeled myself for the dark, cramped hostel room awaiting me in the dodgy part of Palma. Despite the frequency that I make this jarring transition, in both directions, it never fails to sting. Though this time, I was bolstered by the singular experience of having broken in a five star hotel – and the knowledge of being absolutely, positively the first person to poop in that toilet.