We have been unsure what to do with our last few days in Barcelona. There are still a lot of museums, galleries, and history to se here, but we also wanted to see the local area outside the city. After much debate, we decided to stick with our original plan and take an overnight trip out of the city. We didn’t have tickets, or a hotel, or a full plan. We just got up in the morning and headed to the strain station. We were heading to Figueres and Cadaques.
Figueres and Cadaques were just north of Barcelona, and were part of Salvador Dali’s work. He has an amazing Museum in Figueres, and his personal home is in Cadaques. Also, Cadaques is the stereotypical Mediterranean small ocean town. and that alone was worth the visit.
I checked a travel website to figure the right station, and it was mostly correct. There were two stations in Figueres, one on the main (fast) line, and one on the local line. The one on the local line was next to the bus station that we needed to get to Cadaques, but the faster line needed a bus or taxi into town. We settled on the fast line as our option, bought tickets at the station and we were on our way. It was just an hour north. We realized that this was on the same line that we were going to take to return to Paris. Had we planned ahead, we could have made this a full stop on our trip. But this way we didn’t need to pack around all our things. Planning can be overrated.
We got off the train in Figueres, and tried to figure things out from there. There was a map in the train station that showed the town and rail/bus lines. There was a direct city bus that connected all the stations, and it was out front when we arrived. This ran straight across town, and dropped us directly into the Bus station. We checked the ticket office, and the bus to Cadaques left in an hour. Our timing was perfect so far. We got our tickets and boarded the bus on time. It was another hour by bus to Cadaques, and this first went on a tour of what seemed like every single city roundabout in Catalonia. The scenery was beautiful, passing through the waterfront city of Roses, past an old castle, but it made is dizzy. From there the bus climbed into the mountains, up a twisty cliffside road, honking at every corner to warn oncoming cars. Yulia and Sasha looked like they were going to turn green. Once we crested the hill, the views of the Mediterranean Sea, and the town and boats below were worth the drive.
We pulled into the bus depot at Cadaques and got out. It was very hot, but you could feel the sea air. It was also quiet, there were no city sounds, which was a big change after both Paris and Barcelona. We had no hotel reserved, and we were hungry. All we had was a backpack with some spare underwear, swimsuits, and cash. We were also literally away from everything and everyone we knew. This might have been the least planned moment we have ever had on a vacation. I’ve had car accidents with better planning.
We walked past the Status of Liberty at the entrance of town. There was a torch in each of her hands, and both were raised. I found out later, that this was Dali’s version of the statue. This is his town after all. We kept walking, and made it to the seafront. A few Vespas motored past us. There were people walking back and forth, but no crowds. The architecture of the entire town was white buildings with blue trim. It was like walking onto the set of Mamma Mia.
This was absolutely perfect.
We had to chose between Food and Shelter, and we choose food first. After a week of adventurous food in Barcelona, we wanted something simple. We sat in a cafe on the sea wall, and found that they had very nice simple dishes, chicken, beef, in addition to the spicy favorites. This hit the spot, as did some beer, wine and espresso. From there, we started looking for a hotel. There were quite a few we saw back by the bus station, but we wanted to se if something close to the water was available. We didn’t find anything on the waterfront that worked, but were pointed to a small hotel on top of the hill just a block up. It was, naturally, blue and white. The old woman at the desk spoke a little English, and we were able to get a room for the three of us at a reasonable rate. She showed us the room, and also where they had a small bar and pool below.
The pool was on a little patio our behind the hotel, it had an amazing view of the town and the harbor. The pool itself was shaded in the trees, and was a salt water pool (instead of chlorine). We immediately changed and spent the next few hours swimming and reading in the shade. Sometimes you just get lucky. It was also completely worth the trip out. We took a walk a bit later to see the side streets. They were steep and winding, with the road made of the same flat shale as the stacked stone walls you see everywhere in Spain. in this case, the stone was vertical, so it was like walking on an old washboard. Most of the streets were too narrow for anything larger than a scooter, which explained the lack of cars from anywhere other than the main road and waterfront.
Once again, the woman running the desk helped us out. The main thing to see in town is Salvador Dali’s private home. This is only by appointment, and she was able to call and find a space on the last tour of today. We needed to be there one hour before to do the garden tour. This was perfect. We went back to wandering, taking pictures of the boats in the harbor and the town, and made our way over the hill to his home in Port Ligate. Port Ligate wasn’t the bustling metropolis of Cadaques, it had Dali’s home, a dock, and a hotel. That was pretty much it.
On the way we ran into a fair number of feral cats. They seemed to be napping everywhere. We tried to pet a few, as we love cats and communicable diseases, but they were having none of this. They ran off, or climbed higher to the next perch where we couldn’t reach them. Cadaques certainly didn’t have a rat problem with all these cats about.
We walked down the hill, past the hotel to the buildings that were the Home of Dali. The house was originally a small fisherman’s house, but Dali built on it for years. The other homes next door were not part of galleries, ticket office, etc. There were a few people hanging about waiting for their tour times. I went into the ticket office to buy our tickets, and checked n my bag (as it was not allowed on the grounds) We were early for our time, but the gardens were open and we could tour those first. The gardens filled the hillside with terraced olive groves, and as the house was built into the hillside, parts of the gardens were built right over the house. Much like in his art, Dali blended together whatever caught his fancy at the time. We climbed up and over the house, with bits of art here and there, including giant eggs, heads, and a prone Christ figure talking up a big part of the garden. Olive trees grew all around, and the views of the boats anchored in the harbor were amazing. We came down through patios and pools built into the home and found more strange art, as expected. We took our time and enjoyed the spectacle, but we were still early for our tour time.
We walked next door and up the hill a bit to the hotel, and went to the restaurant. It was almost completely empty. We took a seat on the balcony, which overlooked Dali’s house and the harbor. The only staff was a young boy. He spoke no English so we attempted to order in our broken Spanish as best we could. They didn’t have much, just some drinks and sandwiches, so a lot of pointing and smiling seemed to work. It looked like he was also the only cook. It was pretty quiet out here. We had our drinks and a bite of food, and watched the boats swing into the wind. A small zodiac was zipping in and out of the anchored boats. It took a bit but we figured out that this was the local harbor shuttle. There was a traditional sea wall for load and unload, but no marina, just boats at anchor on mooring buoys.
We left the kid a tip, and it was our time for the tour. This wasn’t just a walk through the house. We came to the front, and they were looking for us specifically. The groups go through six people at the time, with a personal guide to explain things and make sure that nothing is disturbed. The home is pretty much exactly as Dali left it. I found his study amazing, he had an easel built that would raise and lower the canvases, and he painted from an easy chair with a long brush. Of course, the light there was amazing. An angled mirror in the bedroom allowed him to see the sunrise from bed each morning. An oval shaped room was made specifically for the echo effect when talking. Every corned was filled with strange bits of art and junk, and it was hard at one point to tell the difference. When we exited, there was no one left. We were the last tour through.
We walked back to the hotel, past the cats and stacked stone walls, and spent the evening by our pool. It was quiet and the air was cool. Once the sun went down, bats came out and flapped overhead, snapping up any bugs they could find. I really like bats.
In the morning, we had a nice breakfast at our hotel. Our bus back was at 1:30, so we didn’t have to rush. The food was very good, but they had some kind of boiler for making your own eggs. you would drop your eggs into the water, and flip a time to track them. The water didn’t seem hot enough to actually cook the eggs, so I assume warm runny eggs is the local standard. We checked out and walked back along the sea wall. This time we explored small streets on the other side of the harbor, below the main church. We were told to check out the altar of the church as a tip, and we weren’t disappointed. it was a grand, golden altar that filled the back wall of the church, covered in lights. But those lights went out as soon as we entered. We still took some nice pictures and lit a candle, then on the way out, I noticed a coin box by the door with a photo of the altar lit up taped to it. It said 1 Euro. so, I dropped a euro in. The altar instantly lit up and everyone in the church said OOOOH! in unison. It’s a Festivus miracle – a coin operated church. Next door was the local Cat Center. There was a black long hair cat out front eating, and a small sign explaining that this place took care of the local cats with food and medicine. There was also a donation box. We dropped in a few euros. The cat threw up.
We walked back through the galleries and street market on the way to the bus stop, and caught the bus back to Figueres. The ride seemed better on the way back. Partly because we knew what to expect, but also because we were on a newer bus. It made a big difference. In Figueres, we left the bus station and made our way to the town center. We had a few hours until our train, so we were going to eat and see the Dali Theatre-Museum. This was a museum of Dali’s art built into an old theater. This was supposed to be one of the best collections of Dali’s art around, so it was worth the time to see. It would also be the third Dali exhibit we saw on this trip. We are so cultured.
We wanted lunch first, so we made an educated guess on a place, and had a nice seat in a plaza out back. Yulia noticed that this place had translations of the menu in Russian. This was new. We were alone in the seats in the plaza, then suddenly a huge group was brought back, and filled every table. Everyone was speaking Russian. I found it odd, but Yulia listened for a bit and was appalled. Every one of the Russians was incredibly rude to the single waiter out back. They were demanding new seats, demanding to be served first, etc. We assumed that when we came to the front, we looked Russian and were send back here as part of a tour group. Yulia was so appalled at how they were acting that we left and went across the street. She didn’t want to be associated with the rest of the Russians. The place we found was very good, and when we came out, the plaza was empty again.
We were running low on time, but we still got into the Theatre-Museum. We really needed more time here. The collection was immense, with both smaller pieces of painting and sculpture, and big installations that took whole rooms. The courtyard of the theatre was it’s own piece, impossible to describe. Each section had a time or theme. We could have spent the day here. But we had a train, and outside it was now raining. Not a light rain, but a real downpour. I asked a local where to find a taxi, and they pointed down the street. We dove between awnings and under trees until we found the taxi stand, and caught a ride back to the train station. Once we were in the station, the rain stopped. We waited a short while, and caught our train back.
Later that evening, I went up to the top of the hotel, and a huge, full, blood-red moon hung over the harbor. I had never seen anything like that before. I guess Dali had one more work of art to show before the day ended.