Sadly, we had to leave Girona and head north. But it had been a great start to the holiday.
The town of Figueres, the Catalan for fig trees, is a provincial capital and the birth place of the artist Salvador Dalí. The primary reason for this trip to Spain was to celebrate my dad’s birthday – but I decided to expand the trip to do an immersion in Spanish culture (luckily I have a wife who seems to be happy in joining my whims of travel). I have long admired the work of Dalí and wanted to visit the museum in Figueres celebrating his work and to go to his home in Port Lligat, close by.
The journey up from Girona was mercifully short as we were still extremely exhausted from our travels. Reaching Figueres late morning meant we beat the rush for visiting the Teatre-Museu Dalí, which houses a fabulous collection of his works and is also the site of his burial. Interestingly at the time of our visit there was a controversy going in respect of the claim of a tarot card reader that Dalí was indeed her father. A Spanish court had just ordered his body be exhumed for a quick bit of DNA testing. The exhumation took place in July and when they raised the silk handkerchief covering his face they found his magnificent moustache was still in place in its iconic “10 to 10” position – much to the delight of the guy who had embalmed him!
The museum itself was originally a theatre that had fallen into ruin after it was burned during the Spanish Civil War. In the 1960 Dalí and the town mayor decided to rebuild it and dedicate it as a museum to the town’s most famous son. It houses an amazing selection of his works – mainly his private collection. From the outset the museum is a true tribute to the fertile imagination of Dalí, the building itself resembles a Moorish castle, painted red and ordained with a cluster of golden plastered croissants and a roof lined with Oscar like statues and huge eggs.
The entrance to the museum itself is bizarre with an odd mixture of roman and medieval symbology, and above the door to the museum is statue of someone in a diver suits surround with some ladies carrying large baguettes over their heads.
The museum itself is built around a courtyard at the center of which is a large installation entitled Taxi Plujós (Rainy Taxi), an early Cadillac, surmounted by statues. The place is full of surprises, tricks and illusions, and contains a substantial portion of Dalí’s life’s work, but not his most famous pieces as they are scattered around the world. It is one of those places that causes sensory over-load, with so many different visual and visceral experiences.
The Sala de Peixateries (Fishmongers’ Hall) holds a collection of Dalí oils, including the famous Autoretrat Tou amb Tall de Bacon Fregit (Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon) and Retrat de Picasso (Portrait of Picasso). Gala, Dalí’s wife and lifelong muse, is seen in many of the works. In the Mae West room you climb up a set of wrought iron stairs to a special point to see the image of the famous actresses face. As well as Dalí’s work there were other collections, the most interesting and extensive is that of Antoni Pitxot. His works is based on paintings and installations of rocks and other natural objects to form images of people.
This place was truly magical.
By the time we had finished our visit to the Teatre-Museu Dalí we were hot and tired. From our brief journey through the town of Figueres we were not too impressed (although later we revised our feelings), so we decided to head out to the Costa Brava coast. Not too far away was the seaside resort of Roses – which sounded very inviting. As is often the case the name does not reflect the true nature of the beast, and Roses did not fail to disappoint … but it had a beach, it was warm so we lay down and fell asleep to the sounds of lapping waves and bustling tourists!
When we woke it was a fairly easy decision to leave Roses – so we decided to drive out the Cap de Creus scenic national park. It was by now a glorious day and the route out of town was very pretty along a windy track out to a headland. We were hoping to find a nice hidden beach free of tourists, but this rugged coastline didn’t offer many opportunities to get down to the sea. At the end of road – literally – was a private resort, so we simply turned around and headed back towards Figures to find our hostel. A long the way we did find a Lidl, much to Karen’s delight, where we picked up some food for the evening.
On reaching Figueres, I had plotted into the GPS the address of the hostel. As usual I faithfully followed the instructions given by the authoritative sounding voice of the GPS – which can sometimes get you into trouble. After circling a couple of times we ended up driving into a pedestrian area which was a bit alarming to the people walking through. I dropped Karen off to get instructions on where to park. Eventually we found somewhere to park and settled into our relatively comfortable hostel room, which thankfully turned out to have air conditioning! The hostel itself was right in the center of the old part of town, which turned out to be, contrary to our first impressions, a surprisingly nice place. So, after eating our picnic in the courtyard of the hostel we set out to explore the shops and sights of Figueres, before returning for a well-earned nights rest.