Cadaques and Figueres – Catalonia, Spain
Quaint and Charming Haunts of Artists and Intellectuals
The simple, whitewashed fishing village of Cadaques is often called the most painted village in the world. Picasso, Dali, Utrillo, Miro, Max Ernst, Man Ray, and the filmmaker Luis Bunuel took inspiration from its simplicity and classic Catalan beauty.
The last resort town on the Spanish coast before the French border, Cadaques, and its horseshoe-shaped bay, is hugged by the mountains of the Costa Brava. Despite its century of popularity with those who braved the narrow switchback road (only recently paved), Spain’s easternmost town hasn’t changed much since Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp played chess at Bar Meliton. The lazy, do-nothing pace continues, the bars and cafes filling after siesta and staying open till dawn.
If Cadaques has escaped exploitation it is because of its lack of sandy beaches. An authentic working-class character persists, with a smattering of outdoor portside restaurants serving the simple dinners of grilled sardines and dorado brought in daily by the town’s last working fishermen.
No-frills hangouts like Dali’s favorite haunt, Casa Anita, continue to serve fresh seafood to new generations of artists. Locals love to watch newly arrived outsiders look around, soak in the atmosphere, and then declare the place too boring. Better they head for Ibiza.
From Cadaques, take a day trip to Figueres, home of the Teatre-Museu Dali. An ode to madness, it may enchant, fascinate, or annoy, but it leaves no visitor indifferent. It is fully in keeping with the eccentric artist, who was born in Figueres in 1904. Today the Teatre-Museu Dali, built in and around the 19th-century theater where his first exhibition took place in 1919, is the principal draw for this town in the heart of Catalonia.
From the plastic store mannequins to the pile of rubber tires out front, the entire display is best described as odd. “The museum cannot be considered to be a museum,” Dali himself said. “It is a gigantic surrealist object in which everything is coherent, nothing is beyond my understanding.”
Many of his principal works are here, together with paintings by El Greco and Mariano Fortuny from Dali’s private collection. Dali lived and worked here until his death in 1989 and is buried in the inner court, beneath the museum’s dome.
The protean artist also designed sets for theater and film, dabbled in literature, and wrote his own cookbook. That he and his wife, Gala, became loyal habitues of the local Restaurant Emporda is not surprising: although ordinary on the outside, it is Catalonia’s best eatery.
Some of Dali’s sketches and lithographs grace the walls, but patrons come for the artistry in the kitchen, which produces excellent game and seafood specialties in the haute Catalan manner.