The luxury oasis in Sant Joan de Labritja
The Giri – The luxury oasis in Sant Joan de Labritja
»When we opened the Giri in 2010, there was nothing like it on the island and even less in the north of Ibiza.«
What were you doing in your life before you decided to open the Giri and how did you meet your partner Lars?
We moved to Ibiza 20 years ago. Before that we both worked in advertising in Copenhagen. I met Lars in his agency where we worked together for some time.
Was the idea of living on Ibiza and opening a hotel there a long-held dream or a kind of spontaneous inspiration?
That’s a good question because sometimes when you listen to some people, they seem so determined and successful as if everything has just been planned but that’s not life. I mean, at least it’s not our life. Originally, we only came to Ibiza to take a sabbatical, practice yoga, write a few articles and drink Gin-Tonic while looking at the sunset (smiles). That was planned for a year. So, it was not at all the plan to “end up” with a hotel and restaurant!
But then things happened. We bought our first Ibiza house and renovated it. As we started renting it out to luxury clients, we saw a business potential and invested in more houses. This was our way into hospitality. And of course, why we have stayed for 20 years!
When did you realise that your initial sabbatical was turning into something else? Was there a special moment you can recall?
It was the moment we bought our first house in the south of Ibiza. It was quite an investment and we knew we had to rent it out to make a business out of it. That was where it all started, and it grew organically from then on. 16 years ago, we stumbled upon an abandoned finca in San Juan, and we completely fell in love with that picturesque ruin which had worked as a farm as well as a village school for girls and as a police station.
We realized suddenly that this would be perfect for a boutique hotel. Something that the north of Ibiza didn’t have at that time. That was the moment when our dream started. And to be really honest, we were very naive at that time as we thought that it was going to be easy, but seriously, it was a long way to go from complete ruin to boutique hotel (smiles).
What were the early days like back then?
Before opening up the hotel, we had around three years of rebuilding, working with architects and engineers and a lot of paperwork. During this time, we became parents of two children as well, so, it was quite an intense period of transition.
“Giri” is the slang term for “stranger”. Does the choice of name reflect the initial scepticism of the locals when you first started here?
Actually, “giri” or “guiri” is a Spanish term generally meaning “those, that are not us” or “the other ones”. In the 1950ies, when the tourists started coming to Spain and the Balearic Islands, the term mainly referred to all the tourists from Northern Europe. We have taken this term upon us. However, even though we are not from Ibiza, it has always been very important for us to be part of the village and its local community. Our full immersion into real Ibiza life started with our kids attending local kindergarten and later schools – the best way to integrate in a new culture!
Over the years building up the business and Giri brand we have always had great focus on growing with respect for the village, our neighbors, and the local culture. When we opened the hotel in 2010, we threw a party for the entire village, for our neighbors to see how we renovated the finca and turned their old girls’ school into a boutique hotel.
While the time passed living on the island, have you also become part of a community of like-minded and other interesting people who live here? Have friendships developed?
I feel that I belong to many different communities! For instance, I belong to the community of small hotel owners on the island where we meet a couple of times a year. And I belong to the community of female entrepreneurs living on Ibiza where we share knowledge and experience. Then there’s the more spiritual hippie-ish community where I do my yoga or another group of people with whom I go for walks exploring the secret spots on the island.
That’s the beauty of the island – that it even though it’s so tiny, gives you the possibility to belong to different groups with people with different mindsets, who can inspire you in various ways. Ibiza has that amazing energy and inclusiveness. It’s a spot where you can really connect but at the same time it’s a place where you are totally disconnected.
You have been on Ibiza for more than ten years now and have long since established yourselves as an inspirational island on the island. What are you most proud of when you look back?
When we opened the Giri in 2010, there was nothing like it on the island and even less in the north of Ibiza. In a way it was a very bold and crazy move to open something so far away from everything. I’m very proud of the fact that we saw the opportunity to tap into the more relaxed, wild, and authentic part of the island.
I’m proud that we have managed to build a business and a brand that host guests from all around the world while we still very much belong to our local San Juan community. It has off course been a tough ride and still is quite challenging at times, but after more than 10 intense seasons we know what to do and how to navigate (smiles).
Let’s go back to the micro cosmos of your really amazingly beautiful garden. Are you yourself the one who cultivated the garden initially?
Yes, I was! My hippie parents, who brought me to Ibiza when I was only two years old, always grew their own vegetables and I remember spending a lot of time picking edible flowers and playing hide and seek under the large rhubarb leaves in our garden.
The space on the backside of The Giri Café was perfect for creating a vegetable and herb garden – a space for our guests to enjoy a tasty meal surrounded by ripe tomatoes, tall sunflowers, or rows of herbs. It gives me great satisfaction to see our chefs picking the flowers and herbs that they later use for our plates.
Talking about food, may you tell us a little bit about the culinary concept of the Giri?
First of all, we are in love with quality products, we like colour, we like crunchiness, and we like contrasts. And above all, we like taste. We use fresh ingredients carefully selected, in many cases proceeding from local or organic production in Ibiza and from our own vegetable garden.
The best ingredients allow recipes to be simple and straightforward. The result is honest, tasty, food, that bursts with life, color, nutrients and of course with the love that we put into every step.
What is your idea of a perfect luxury host?
Our core vision of good service has not changed over the years, it’s all down to love. Our service is warm, never stiff or burdened by protocol. We look at everyone who walks through our doors as either already a friend, or one soon to be.
By embracing that idea, we know that every guest will know that whenever they walk into our restaurant or hotel, they are coming home. It’s very rewarding when that exchange between you and your guests works. When our guests leave happy and relaxed – that’s when we are a success! This feeling is far better than any drug could give you!
How did you deal with the Covid situation in the past years?
That has been very difficult indeed! Mostly because of the uncertainty which was hard to deal with. Economically, we lost nearly two seasons, but having said that, I think we have learnt a lot during this crisis: The whole situation took us back to scratch and by going back to the roots, we have been able to change some goals for ourselves as a business. In a way things have become clearer and more straight to the bone.
What does the future hold for the Giri? Will the Giri perhaps also exist in other places in the world at some point in the future?
With covid every wish for expansion paused completely and we focused on the inner lines and on what our brand is, who we are. With this new knowledge and brand awareness we are completely open for different opportunities. On the island, in Spain or Europe. Let’s see where this new level of maturity will take us!
Apart from your home in San Juan – are there any special places on the island that you are drawn to again and again?
One of my favorite beaches is S’Illot des Renclí, which is just around the corner from San Juan. It’s a small “cala” with a tiny beach to one side and rocks to the other, a group of local fishermen boathouses and an amazing view. Always quiet and never crowded.
Another favorite is going for a walk along the coast from Portinatx to the Punta Moscarter lighthouse. It’s rough, beautiful, and always gives me a good injection of salt, sea and the Ibiza blue sky. Taking a picnic there along the path is also a good idea by the way (smiles).