Salvador Dalí has his fingerprints all over this area of Spain. Born in Figueres, he made it home to his fantastical museum, 10 years work, designing an incredible theatre of work, in an old run down theatre. It was a work of art as a building let alone the vast array of works inside. His incredible diversity of styles, mediums and materials, many reflecting his mood of the time. Ignorance shining through, we didn’t realise that it was 1989 when he passed, but having spent many a wandering hour we are in awe. We weren’t sure he had any hand in the Plaza Hotel design though. There are other small towns with Dali installations, he bought and styled a castle in Púbol for the love of his life, Gala, as her retreat and there’s a second museum in Portlligat. The three buildings are known as The Gali Triangle.
We had our bikes out for the first time this trip and even though only a 30km ride on the flat we were both glad of our nappy pants (padded cycling shorts!). From where we were parked up in Rosas, we headed out through the Delft-esque town of Empuriabrava, built around canals, to a nature reserve ‘La Reserva Natural Integral’ within Parc Natural dels Aiguamolis de l’Emporda. We spent the day twitting in the marshes with a backdrop of snowy mountains. Within the area were some charming properties, in the middle of nowhere, favourites being the tiny ‘Ermita de Sant Antoni dels Cortals’ and an agricultural estate house with origins from 1744, added to in Art Nouveau style in the early 1900’s, Cortal d’Avinyo. At dusk we were treated to some incredible starling murmurations.
The following day we took the correct decision not to ride to Cadaqués, it was over a pretty windy and twirly, (as Nick puts it) mountain pass. A gorgeous small town holding the faded quirky allure of days gone by. It felt like a mini 50’s Riviera kind of place. In it’s early days, Picasso and Einstein (and many others) were regular stayers leading to it garnering a bohemian community feel, massively enhanced when Dali and Gala hung out there post WW2. Wandering the narrow streets, some still literally hewn from rock, whitewashed walls and Bougainvillea abound. We had a treat of a waterside tapas lunch before taking in the stunning Santa Maria de Cadaqués. Noting the symbolic ship within that we’d encountered everywhere last time we were, unusually, able to get close to the ornate carvings, marvelling at the mastery and workmanship. On leaving the town, we noted, as we’d seen all over, Catalan Separatists’ graffiti and murals, which will no doubt never disappear, even after the ‘uprising’ after the 2017 ‘vote’ and the jailing of the organisers (not sure the book on sensible response was read there)
En route to Olot we took a detour via a town called Besalú, a picturesque medieval town, known for its C12th bridge with its delicate arches. Being a weekend it had a buzz in its small squares’ cafes although ‘Cafe Splendide’ was badly named! It’s central and very austere, medieval ‘Monastery de St Peter’ was neighboured by ‘Circusland’, an unusual Art Deco building, maybe they make good bedfellows? Anyhow, a small town with enough to while away a few hours in the dappled sunshine, while heading to Volcanoland.
Everywhere has long names but basically Parc de Los Volcanoes in La Garrotxa is a national park, home to 40 volcanoes, the last one erupted 11k years ago, which has some challenging but incredible hiking. Full of valcanic cones, lava flows and valley views we hiked 13.5km, through enchanting beech woods, the wide open spaces of the inner volcano, inside the crater to see Volca de Santa Margarida with its tiny hermitage and the outer edges, some scarred by mining, but revealing the multicoloured layers of debris from eruptions. The leaves crunching underfoot, the clean cool air and lack of people, it had the feel of Autumn rather than an early Spring day where our only company for hours was birdsong, which carried us home (yes we were done for!)
So, getting back to Surrealism, we stumbled across Surreal in a sculpture park ‘Bosc de can Ginebreda’ although there was no Gingerbread to this place! Surreal is an apt descriptive of the work by Xicu Cabanyes, who’s 50 years life work, is of life forms, but only for the open minded. This probably isn’t a place to go to with kids or anyone offended easily, it’s unorthodox to say the least. Arriving, and perhaps the only visitors of the day, the excited gardener unlocked Xicu’s workshop and showed us around! We had private insight to the future works in progress! 7 hectares of forest is adorned with over 100 sculptures, many are his own sexualised exhibits but there are several he’s collected (mainly industrial cast offs, re formed) and others that are simply works of organic outdoor sculpture. One that we spent a load of time at was ‘El Gran Baldaqui’ as we were trying to identify the heads. We got Elvis, Mandela, Stalin, Chaplin, Teresa…. and maybe David Beckham (kidding!) Anyhow an eclectic mix, we didn’t work out what it was supposed to saying as a piece of art though! Surreal surrealism at it’s best! [carefully selected photo’s ;-)]
Side note: Jigsaw has been a dream of a travelling cat, we’ve done a lot of miles. As some of you will have seen on Facebook, she’s been having fun disguising herself as a vagrant cat, rolling around in orange sand and has, as usual, spent many an hour admiring Spanish hedgerows.