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Two Lads from Bern and Their Dream Island – Stars, Beaches and Cool Drinks

Their own lounge-bar on Fuerteventura: Tobias Bayer and Michael Paris are living their dream. It is their second attempt. Now, they are reaching for the stars in the holiday paradise of Corralejo situated in the north of Fuerteventura.

Surf shops, beach bars, souvenir shops, pharmacies and clothes stores line the streets of the small village of Corralejo situated on the northern tip of Fuerteventura. Its charming seafront promenade provides a great vantage point to watch ferries and fishermen. Home to well-tended hotel gardens and a hip nightlife scene, this little town is an oasis in the midst of a desert landscape.

Every year, Fuerteventura is visited by two million guests. Some of them are eager to try their luck on the island, including Tobias Bayer and his partner Michael Paris from Switzerland who arrived in Corralejo nine months ago. But their enthusiasm for Corralejo’s beach, which stretches for eleven kilometres and features huge drifting sand dunes, was sparked as far back as 2011, on their first visit to the island. For Tobias and Michael, burying their toes in the white sand is bliss. "It is like being in the Caribbean. We were swimming in the sea yesterday; it felt like taking a bath," Tobias raves from behind the counter of his bar in the "El Campanario" shopping centre. He skilfully mixes a piña colada and cuts the fruit for his homemade sangria. The bar’s star logo is visible everywhere. "Stars" – that is what their dream-come-true is called. It is a mix of bar and small boutique. Michael is busy unpacking goods that have just arrived: T-Shirts featuring the "Star" logo, cups, handmade bath salts, jumpers and caps, all their own designs. They even have a star-clad display dummy in the window, to attract customers. Michael Paris is a former branch manager of the PKZ fashion store in Zurich. He is proud of his boutique which he keeps spick and span wielding a dustpan and brush. A stylish presentation is very important for him. According to Michael, their ambitious goal is "to be the most beautiful bar in Fuerteventura". And so far, things are going well for the émigrés who have been serving hot drinks, coffees and refreshing sangria since June 2016 and have had to reorder their star T-shirts three times already.

Photos: Schweizer Illustrierte/Geri Born

A dream with obstacles

"Many guests tell us our bar is what they would expect to find in a big city. There has never been anything like it here before," Tobias Bayer says. But their entrepreneurial endeavour wasn’t without challenges. In spring 2016, they were having to deal with the refurbishing. Workmen did not show up, rattan furniture had to be delivered from three different islands, and suppliers were unavailable. Tobias and Michael had to fight on multiple fronts. Ultimately, they managed to convert what they say was "a sandy hole full of rubbish" into a stylish bar that showcases a clean, chic ambience. Things took longer than expected, as a result of the Spanish "mañana, mañana" culture. But now that everything is in place, the joy of welcoming customers six days a week is all the greater.

But their success comes with a price. "We are currently working really long hours," says Tobias Bayer, who used to work at the airport in Bern Belp. But he says it with a smile. The warm climate and having achieved self-employment make up for thirteen-hour days. Their neighbours in the shopping centre still eye the newcomers critically. Initially, Michael and Tobias took their competitors very seriously. But they have since changed their attitude.

But their success comes with a price. "We are currently working really long hours," says Tobias Bayer, who used to work at the airport in Bern Belp. But he says it with a smile. The warm climate and having achieved self-employment make up for thirteen-hour days. Their neighbours in the shopping centre still eye the newcomers critically. Initially, Michael and Tobias took their competitors very seriously. But they have since changed their attitude.

Finding a flat in Corralejo was surprisingly difficult for the Swiss émigrés. After hunting for several weeks, they were lucky enough to find their current lodgings. "We saw the estate agent in the street and followed him," Tobias recalls. The realtor had just received news of a flat he could show. After a quick viewing, the two Swiss men were the choice tenants of the Indian owners. Tobias and Michael are amused by the fact that their living room features golden walls; but on the upside, they are just a five-minute walk from the sea.

Goulash rather than paella

In the strenuous months since the launch of their bar and boutique, they have come to cherish Wednesdays, which is their day off. The pair often drive to the island capital Puerto del Rosario. This is the only place Michael can get his beloved home design magazines and where they like to enjoy a leisurely coffee, a swim or a meal out. "This is our ‘treat’ day," Michael says with a grin. He is originally from Hungary, and even though he is in Spain now, he still prefers to cook goulash rather than paella. Michael moved to Switzerland ten years ago, and then on to Fuerteventura. Watching the pair cook proves an important point: they are a well-attuned team. Although Tobias is the chatty one, when push comes to shove, Michael makes the decisions. Their next aim is to improve their Spanish - and to enjoy the perks of the island. Michael is very keen on stand-up paddle boarding, while Tobias is into dune buggy tours.

The Canary Islands are a popular destination to emigrate to, because, unlike the Baleares and the Spanish mainland, work in the tourist industry is possible year-round. The eternal spring climate is what makes the difference. That is why Michael and Tobias packed their bags and left Switzerland for the first time in 2011. They looked for work in Corralejo and started a new life there. But the economic crisis forced them to return to Switzerland. "We knew on the ferry already that we would return to Corralejo one day, but not as employees," Tobias Bayer explains. They saved up the seed capital for their bar and planned the refurbishing while still in Switzerland. They have invested a five-digit sum in "Stars". Exactly how much? Tobias and Michael smile in silence. In any event, they have a five-year lease. And, so far, they have not regretted their second departure from Switzerland one bit. Of course it was hard to leave their family and friends behind. But they keep in touch with chats and regular visits. On their evenings off, they enjoy walking by the sea where the night sky is vast and there is still plenty of room for two Swiss stars.

Tobias and Michael’s insider tip for some great vistas:

The "El Campanario" shopping centre houses a viewing tower. Visits are free of charge and include fantastic 360-degree views of the nearby volcanoes, dunes and the coast. The climb is definitely worth it!

Calle Hibisco 1, 35660 Corralejo

Shopping tip:

The Canary Islands are a duty-free zone, i.e. perfume, alcohol, tobacco and petrol are very low-priced. The perfume chain store "Fund Grube" has no counterfeited goods and offers a great selection. The sales assistants are professional and on the ball. Even if the supermarkets belong to a chain, they still have different prices. The further away they are from a tourist centre, the cheaper the prices.

(Text: Schweizer Illustrierte/Michèle Graf)