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Sunshine break to rave about.

WHAT do Hannibal and House music have in common? The answer is they were both born on the Balearic island of Ibiza.

And that fact illustrates the contrast of cultures you find on the island - famed for its nightlife and clubs but with plenty to offer in history, scenery and peace.

Fly to Eivissa, or Ibiza Town as its better known, and you have a relatively simple choice - do you want raves or a rest?

If it's the former you're after, head for the likes of Manumission and Pacha in San Antonio and Ibiza Town.

But if clubbing's not your cup of tea and you want a relaxing family holiday, you could do worse than the east coast and towns like Santa Eulalia (otherwise known as Santa Eularia) or Es Cana.

I found myself at Cala Llonga, a picturesque town the guide book suggested had been spoilt by the advent of mass tourism.

Not so. Not in early May, anyway. With a main street leading down to the wide sandy beach and a smattering of good restaurants peppered around the edge, it proved to be an excellent base for exploring the island.

Setting off from my apartment at the Jovi complex, I first decided to check out the town of Santa Eulalia, several miles down the coast and the only town on Ibiza situated on a river.

Go by taxi, ferry or bus and you'll be guaranteed a good day out. Santa Eulalia is big enough to have all the shops, restaurants and bars you could want, but somehow maintains its charm and character.

Stroll around the marina packed with expensive boats, walk up to the beautiful hilltop church at Puig de Missa or play the Brit abroad and enjoy "Cod and Chips - the Great British Invention" as one restaurant advertised.

Back in Cala Llonga for the evenings gave me the chance try out most of the good eateries.

Food is on the whole good value (main courses around 900-1,000 pesetas, or pounds 4), as too is the drink - a bottle of San Miguel averaged at around 200 pesetas (80p).

Tuesday arrived and I decided to try out the local bus service to visit the much-vaunted church at Jesus. Unfortunately the bus driver had other ideas, and the only stop on his itinerary was Ibiza Town.

This proved to be a silver lining to my cloud. Amble down the wide streets with their designer clothes shops or, like me, tackle the walk through Dalt Vila (the old town) up to the cathedral.

Once you get to the summit all your hard work is rewarded with a fantastic view.

When I and several dozen other tourists eventually found the right bus stop to get back home, it was off to the Hoe Down.

Located in the centre of Ibiza, this faux-chapparal is great fun, especially for families, with horseshoe-tossing, country music and dancing. The evening's highlight is the endless food and drink included in the ticket price of 6000 pesetas (around pound s 24) - fantastic value and a surprise delight for this cynical visitor.

Wednesday and our ever-helpful rep, Emma, had organised a coach trip to Es Cana's famed Hippy Market, packed with stalls selling all your souvenir desires - belts, jewellery, clothes, more jewellery... and a good time to visit a bank to change some more money.

The next day I hired a car - the most convenient way to visit the north of the island.

Portinatx, Port de San Miquel and Benirras have some of the quietest and most beautiful beaches, so it's well worth the drive - make it a Thursday and visit the town of San Miquel around 5.30pm to see some traditional Ibizan dancing.

My final day consisted of the island delights tour, again organised by Sunset Holidays.

Taking in the salt flats (for which Ibiza is famed), tasting at the bodega, a couple of hours in Ibiza Town and a stop-off to see the stunning Es Vedra (Bali Hi in the film South Pacific) was the perfect end to a memorable and enjoyable stay on an island that proved to be a lot more than just raves and waves.

Ibiza: fact file

JON Perks travelled to Ibiza with Sunset Holidays and stayed at the Jovi apartments, Cala Llonga. Flights from Birmingham, Manchester and London.

Must-sees: Dalt Vila, Ibiza Town; Santa Eulalia; Benirras; Es Cadra and Es Cana's Hippy Market.

Transport: Buses are not frequent but pretty punctual (200 pesetas to Ibiza Town); taxis carry a fixed fare for set journeys (prices posted at taxi ranks); ferries run from Cala Llonga to Santa Eulalia (800 pesetas), Es Cana (1200), Ibiza Town (1400) and Formentera (2500). Car hire was with Betacar, branches throughout the island.

Read: AA Essential Ibiza and Formentera, pounds 4.99.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 5, 1998
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