25 July 2023

Vicky Atherton Interview

After establishing herself over 10 years as a PA in London, Victoria Atherton swapped the English capital for a life on Ibiza. She’s maintained – and built on – her career from the White Isle, only now she works remotely, running her own company PA As You Go.

Originally from Urmston, near Manchester, Victoria has a lifelong love of horses. She was surprised to learn this was a pursuit she could fully continue on Ibiza. In her own words, “It was key in my decision to move here. I really couldn’t have gone somewhere that didn’t have any horses.”
Although relatively new to full-time life on the island, Victoria has wasted no time in getting to know her new home. Here, she gives us her personal tips of the best time to visit Ibiza, the best things to do on Ibiza, the best restaurants on Ibiza and the best beaches on Ibiza.

Hi Victoria! Can we start by you introducing yourself? Tell us a bit about you.

Hi!. My name is Victoria Atherton. I’m originally from Manchester, but I went to live and work in London for 10 years. I worked as a PA for Covent Garden. At the start of the pandemic, we all started working from home. That made me think I could do my job from just about anywhere.

I moved to Ibiza permanently in 2020. I set myself up as a freelance PA who works remotely. It was a slow start initially, but I’d saved up a bit in order to make the move. Now, it’s worked out really well. I do a lot of PA stuff for friends’ companies in the UK, including two PR companies and I also work with an online Personal Trainer who lives out here. Alternatively, I do some work with horses too. That’s something I’ve done almost all my life, going right back to my early years in Manchester.

Riding horses in Ibiza

Where in Manchester did you ride horses?

I’m from Urmston and one of the best things about it is there’s all this space, out by the river Mersey. So, I used to go and ride horses there. I don’t know how I became obsessed with them. It didn’t come from my parents. I just loved them and wanted to go riding all the time.

I learned to ride somewhere locally and after a few years, they suggested I could get my own pony. I managed to persuade my parents. Eventually, I started riding in shows. And, other people would ask me to ride their horses in the shows. I started to realise I had a knack for training them. I was just good with horses, basically. I managed to get my own place on a lease, on Urmston Meadows and I had it for around 10 years.

What kind of work did you do there?

I used to rescue horses, get them back to the best possible condition, retrain them and then find new homes for them. It was a very rewarding time, working in something that’s your passion, but also making a living from it. The land I was on eventually ended up being sold, and without it I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I went travelling for a while to have a think. Then, I moved to London and became a PA.

Not being a horse person, can you tell me what you mean by ‘rescuing horses’?

Ha, yeah. It doesn’t mean dragging them out of a river or anything like that. Simply, it’s if you come across any horses that look uncared for or underfed. They’re not necessarily mistreated, as such. It’s just some people get a horse and them stick them in a field and don’t really know much what to do with them.

Quite a few I rescued came from travelling communities, who have a great tradition of keeping horses. But, as things like lifestyles, work and transport have evolved, horses are no longer an integral part of how they live. So, the horses were not in as good shape as they might have been among these communities like they would have been, say, 60 or 70 years ago.

Horses can get unhappy if they’re not doing enough. It’s so nice to think of them reaching a better potential in another life. So, I would go into these communities, buy the horses from them. Over the course of several months, you’d put them on a new diet, feed them up and retrain them. Watching them become happy again was a real treat. They love being given things to do – they wanted to do everything for you, because they’ve found a new lease of life. It was very rewarding work for both the horses and me.

Horse Country Club

What did you study at university? What’s the path to becoming a PA?

Well, to be honest, all of this happened quite randomly. It wasn’t something I set out to do. At college I did sports science and psychology. I think at the time, I wanted to be something in sports – a PA teacher, maybe? I didn’t really know. I was just obsessed with horses! So, I went to university to do that too. Then, I got the opportunity with the land and to go work full-time with horses, so I did that instead.

But, my mum had always been a PA. And, I’m like her – I’m just a very organised person. Like, if there was anything going on – a trip I’d take with a group of friends – I’d be the one who’d organise it. My mum spotted this and told me, you could really do the same as me, as a sideline, or as a back-up plan.

I started being a PA on a part-time basis at an architect company while I was still in Manchester. It felt very natural for me to be well organised and I loved doing it. After I moved to London, it was similar, although much more fast-paced. But, I enjoyed the fast-pace and I learned so much while I was there.

What does a PA actually do?

Basically, we make life easier for people who have lots of demands on their time. We do anything they need doing or organising. It can be anything from obligations in their personal life, like picking up their dry cleaning, to organising events, or designing new, more efficient work systems for their companies – that’s mostly what I do if I work for a company that’s just starting up.

Usually, they need a system of work designing and implementing, everything from HR to communications. Everything. So, there isn’t a specific thing we do – it’s whatever is needed. Some people think all we do is arrange diaries and meetings, but it covers a much greater amount of roles and responsibilities than that.

How different was your early, part-time role as a PA in Manchester compared to the work you did as a full-time PA in London?

The architect company I worked for in Castlefield, Manchester – Chapman Taylor – was a lovely place to work, a very relaxed atmosphere. Quite a small company. Then in London, I was working for Capital & Counties, a property company who own Covent Garden. That was a much larger company based in Mayfair – I worked in their smaller office in Covent Garden. Again, they were lovely people to work for, but it was a lot faster paced. But, for me, that fast pace was actually more fun than it was stressful.

How was life living in a huge city like London? Where in the city did you live and work?

For work, I was actually based in Covent Garden. But I lived in a few different places. Early on, I was in Peckham, Fitzrovia, Dalston, then Haringey. Later, I moved to Leyton for a few years with two of my best friends. We had a lovely house and I could cycle to work every day down the canal side.

Like Urmston, you were again by the waterside.

Yes. I’ve always wanted to live by the water. Only it was the sea I dreamed of living by. Now in Ibiza, I’m about 100 metres from the sea. Every morning when I wake up, I almost can’t believe it.

I was thinking one of the things you wouldn’t miss about London life was the commute to work. But, it actually sounds quite idyllic, cycling by the canal twice a day.

Absolutely. That really made it for me. Right back to my earliest days of working with the horses in Manchester, the worst thing I could think of was to have to take a tube to work, sit in an office all day, then back onto the tube to get home. And, unfortunately, that’s what ended up happening towards the end of my time in London. That’s really not for me. And, it goes some way to explain why I’ve ended up living here on Ibiza.

When was the first time you visited Ibiza?

It would have been 1996. I came with my cousin and my family. Then I visited every season throughout my 20s. I didn’t continue that once I’d reached my 30s. I think I’d just done it too much. It was constant partying. But, I came back 13 years later. And that was when I got the chance to experience the real beautiful side of the island.

I had friends who lived here. They would talk about this lifestyle of going hiking in parts of the island I’d never heard of, visiting coves that I’d never seen. And I was interested in that, this ‘other side’ to an island I kinda thought I knew. So, I came for a holiday. I stayed up in the north, in Cala Llenya and it was such a different experience. And such a different lifestyle to the one I had in London. I just started thinking, how could I work it here? How could I work as a PA here? With the arrival of the pandemic, it became clear that I could do my job from anywhere. And, so, within a year of that holiday, I was living full time on the island.

Hostal La Torre

When you say you came every season during your 20s, what was that actually like? Did you work here, and stay for the full season?

Well, I usually came for a month at a time. I had my horses back in the UK, so I couldn’t do a full season like some of my friends were doing. Many of them worked the full season, so they’d get me some work – doing flyering and selling tickets for clubs. Back then, I spent all my time in San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa. It was hectic and crazy. But, at the time, it just seemed so exciting. I met so many friends that I’m still close to now, people from all over the UK.

When I was in my 20s, that was the time DC10 had just started. That sound resonated with me back then. In Manchester, I’d been a regular at Sankeys. Out here, the music at DC10 was different. The minimal sound came in, and I’d never heard anything like that before. I loved it. You already had great clubs here, like Space and the other big ones. But, DC10 just seemed so different, almost slap dash. It was a lot smaller than some of the grand, famous places. And, it started in the day. If you got there nearer the start, the place would be half empty. You could just have a laugh with your mates and build up slowly. Back then, it never used to get as packed as it does these days. It felt almost like a secret, something different. And everyone who went was just so into it.

Where on the island do you now live?

I live in Cala de Bou, which is across the water from San Antonio, just next to Port D’Es Torrent. Ideally, I’d love to live in the north of the island. But, when I moved here, it was difficult to get anything if you didn’t have a work contract. So, I moved into a friend’s place and rented from her. I needed to get my residence first and foremost.

After spending time here, I now actually really like it. I get the sunset every night on my balcony, I’m right next to the sea and go for a swim every morning. I might never get to live anywhere again on Ibiza that’s this close to the sea. Beachside properties are some of the most expensive here. It’s quite chilled too. On the bay, there are a lot of English places. But, on this side, you do have some more Spanish places, some little gems.

Are all your clients in the UK or do you work with anyone on the island?

Most of the clients are from the UK. Although, I’ve started working with Matthew and Gemma Krysko, who have a PR company called We Are Indigo PR. They have quite a few clients out here. So, I do PA work for both of them,. It’s good for them to have someone out here when they’re not on the island. I can go to any events that might be happening on the island and represent the company and, of course, be on-hand for them when they do come over. In the future, I hope to build on that and client portfolio here. But, it’s early days yet.

What’s your work/life balance like now you’re living on Ibiza?

I’m quite a routine person. So, I have the same routine every day. I start work at 8.30, catch up on anything, like emails. I have a break at lunchtime. But, I do try to work six hours solid every day. Working for UK companies, I obviously need to be around during their working hours in case they need something. But, I don’t have any real set times. If someone needs something out-of-hours, I make sure I’m available. There are days when, if I don’t have that much work, I will pop to the beach for the afternoon. But, otherwise, I’m generally quite strict with myself. When I moved here, I wanted to readjust that work/life balance. And to add quality to the off time I get.

Pikes Ibiza

What does your off time look like now? What do you like to spend your time doing?

Mostly, throughout the year, what I love most is being outside. In summer, it’s usually just the beach. I go to the beach a lot. I love the beaches here. I go to Flat Rocks, which is great for snorkelling. That’s one of my favourite spots. It’s never too busy, even in the height of summer. A lot of the nice beaches around me just get packed during peak season, there’s just no point me going to them. In that time period, you need to know your secret spots where you can get away from all that. In the winter, I do a lot of hiking. And, of course, I love going horse riding. Usually, that’s a trek up into the hills. It’s difficult to do that in summer, though. It’s just too hot, for both the horses and me!

There’s actually a big horse scene out in Ibiza. So, I’ve managed to rekindle my passion out here on the island. I’ve started training a horse for someone who I teach. And, I’m helping someone else with their horse.

All the time I was here in my 20s, I never saw a horse. But, I have a friend who lives out here, and I saw that she’d started to compete again. I contacted her to ask how she was doing it out here, She told me about this huge horse scene on the island. There’s dressage, showjumping – all the stuff we do in the UK. She goes to the mainland too to compete, and you can just take your horse with you on the ferry. So, she’s quite active with it. I was just happy to learn that I’d have here opportunity to ride and do things with horses.

There are a lot of rehabilitated ex-trotters here, because they wear them out quite young. They’re ex-race horses, basically. They retrain them and then place them in riding schools or sell them to families. I’m hoping I might be able to get involved with that, because I have a lot of experience doing almost exactly that.

It was key in my decision to move here. I really couldn’t have gone somewhere that didn’t have any horses.

Is there a period when you can go to the popular beaches, but the tourists just aren’t there? As an island resident, how long is your summer season?

Yes, we have long periods of that. And, if I’m being honest, those are the very best times to be on Ibiza. We get April to July all to ourselves, and then from late September to December. There’s only a couple of months when it’s perhaps not warm enough for relaxing in swimwear on the beach, maybe January and February.

In those off-peak months, that’s the best time to go to the bigger, more famous beaches. They’re popular for good reason! Cala Saladeta and Cala Tarida as well, that’s a beautiful big beach and the water’s just incredible around there. It’s one of the best beaches on the island. Cala Conta too. To have these places almost all to yourself feels so special.

Although it’s still a little cold, I start swimming in late May. And the water stays warm for swimming until late November. Enjoying Ibiza Town is also very nice in the off season. You just need to know your spots depending on the time of year. I also go to Pikes quite a lot. It’s just around the corner from here. I have friends who do a party there. And, it’s just a really nice place to hang out, have a few drinks. It’s not too intense.

Do you have to be in-the-know to go horse riding on Ibiza or is this an activity that can be enjoyed by any visitor who comes in the off-season?

Anyone can go! In fact, there are a few really good places that organise horse riding treks and excursions – North Ride Ibiza and Horse Country Club Ibiza.

The place I go isn’t really suitable. I thought to teach on the horse I ride, but he’s an ex-trotter and he’s just too strong.

So now I advise people to go to in the north of the island. They do sunset rides along the beach in the cooler months. Or, you can go with them into the interior of Ibiza. The countryside there is really beautiful. They do picnic rides, horsemanship days, all kinds of options for visitors. I strongly recommend this activity to anyone who comes out to the island, unless it’s during July and August when it’s just too hot.

What else is good to do on Ibiza in the off-season? Aren’t many things – like all the restaurants – closed?

Well, it can be a little like that here where I am, and in other places that are quite touristy/seasonal. But, that’s far from what it’s like on the island as a whole. You’ll find some of the best chiringuitos actually stay open. Hostal La Torre stays open year-round. It’s always nice to go down there, have some tapas, watch the sunset.

Apart from enjoying the beaches and riding horses, one of the things I most enjoy about the off-season is hiking. We actually have a Facebook group where we organise group hikes. Sometimes there can be as many as 50 of us together on a hike! That’s great fun and a good way to meet people.
Paddle-boarding is a great activity to do throughout the year. There are organised trips where you can explore different parts of the coast.

Sant Es Veris-Santa Eularia is one of the best places to be during the off-season. Almost everything there stays open year-round, all the bars and restaurants. It’s very much a residents part of the island, even more so perhaps than Ibiza Town.

Santa Eularia in April

Is living on Ibiza exactly as you imagined it would be?

Well, it’s not the life on Ibiza I would have imagined in my 20s, ha! But, yes. After speaking to friends that live here – and these days you see everything on Instagram – it’s everything I expected and more. Instagram posts of friends enjoying the beach in the middle of December, while I was looking outside at cold, rainy London, were a really inviting option. It just looked like a fantastic lifestyle year-round. And it is! So, yes. I guess it’s just like I expected.

What are your top tips for lesser-known places you’ve found on the island that you’d recommend to friends who are visiting?

There are a couple of beaches. One next to Cala Tarida which, even last week, had just one other person on it. That’s perhaps my favourite. Locals just call it the ‘Secret Beach’. And, if you go up from Cala Tarida just a little bit, along the cliff, you’ll see a tiny, little sandy cove. It doesn’t look as though you can get down there, because it’s such a steep cliff. But, there’s a path, and if you can find that, you’ll often share the sand with very few people all day.

There’s another called Escondido beach, which is next to Cala Conta. That has a really cute chiringuito. They do really good cocktails there. Also, in the north, you have Aguas Blancas. That’s really quite a long beach. But, there’s a section of beach on the right hand side where not a lot of people go. There’s a nice little cove there and also a great little chiringuito. Cala Saladetta is also a must, although it gets too busy for me in peak season.

Then, there’s Cala Mastella, which has a restaurant called El Bigotes. There are fishermen’s huts there, then this little restaurant and round the corner there’s this little beach. It’s a really nice spot to hang out for a good few hours and the restaurant does this fantastic fish stew, cooked in this big cauldron.

For hiking and walking, there’s a place called the Cave Of Light (Cueva de la Luz). It’s near San Miquel and Santa Agnes. That’s an amazing hike, because you travel up a mountain, over the top. Then, on the other side, you drop down into this pine forest, past a deserted traditional, island building, and down to what looks like a cave. But, as you arrive, you see it’s floor is this incredible, turquoise-coloured water – an underground water cave. If you’re brave enough, you can even jump in. Another good hike is San Jose, which holds the highest point on Ibiza. From there, you get an incredible 360 panorama of the whole island.

For restaurants, I really like Sa Caleta and La Escollera on Es Cavallet beach. Close to me in Cala de Bou is El Viejo Gallo, a decent steak restaurant. Can Pujol is also great, a traditional seafood restaurant on the beach with a sunset view. El Bistro de Stephan is a great French place in San Antonio, and not to forget Fish Shack, which is a must!

Any other mustn’t miss activities for visiting Ibiza?

I’d recommend an overnight stay on Formentera, or even just a day trip. There’s such a different vibe there. It’s so chilled. It’s a lovely little island to drive round, if you’ve hired a car. You can take it over on the ferry. The beaches there are just incredible, and the water is pristine. It’s a must-do.

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