Finding Dali in the Bay of Cadaques4 min read
I am hungry. So hungry. I shuffle around the cobbled streets and peer in the windows of white stone shops and restaurants hoping something will be open. My legs and feet are sore from the nine-day hike I’m on. I arrived in the Bay of Cadaques the previous night to a gorgeous view of the sun setting on the sails of boats in the bay and twinkling on the blue roofs of white houses. By the time I checked into my hotel I was too tired to go out so I ate an energy bar and went to bed, dreaming of the big breakfast I’d get in the morning. But now, every shop and restaurant I pass has a sign on it: “This place will be closed today because we condemn what happened during the referendum on October 1.” The Catalonians, amid their struggle for independence, didn’t take my hiking hunger into consideration.
Spain may be famous for the Camino de Santiago, a long-distance hiking trail from St Jean Pied de Port in Southern France to Santiago de Compostella in the North West of Spain. But there are many lesser-known long-distance treks in Spain, including the Cami de Ronda—a nine- to ten-day hike from Barcelona to the southern border of France.
I pass by several big gatherings on the street. Unlike the more focused protests in Barcelona, the people in Cadaques seem to be enjoying their day of protest. Lawn chairs and barbecues are set up and the smell of grilled meat and onions almost makes me get over my introversion and lack of Catalan to ask if I can join them, but instead, I find a vending machine and get a bag of chips and a Snickers bar. I can only hope things will be open in time for dinner.
I’d planned for a day off in Cadaques, and, despite the town being closed, I’m still determined to enjoy myself. Not only does the Cami de Ronda provide stellar views of Costa Brava—arguably Spain’s most picturesque coastline—but it’s a pilgrimage of sorts for art lovers who can visit Salvador Dali’s home in the charming Bay of Cadaques.
Starting at the harbor, the town of white stone houses piled on the hill behind me, I follow the coastline and then swing inland over a rocky hill. In about 20 minutes I hit another bay and follow the boardwalk to Casa Salvador Dali. To my great relief, the museum is open. I hope this means art trumps politics but wonder if it may just mean tourism money trumps politics. Either way, I’m pleased.
The entrance of the house has a sculpture built into the white wall of the house of a child and a soldier. Through the door is an open area with a long pool where Dali would hold big parties for local and international celebrities.
Entering the house I wander through his old artist’s studio, the “bear” lobby, and photos of the artist’s famous mustaches as well as photos of his lover and muse, Gala, who lived in the house with him. The place is filled with surrealist art and architecture, and the views of the coast and bay from each room inspired many of Dali’s paintings. Every room has a unique theme and feel, as if the artist’s life was inseparable from his creations.
Dali lived in this house with Gala from 1930 until Gala’s death in 1982 when Dali decided to move inland to Gala Dali Castle in Pubol.
Whiling away the day at Dali’s house and taking in the bay of Portlligat that inspired him so deeply distracts me from my hunger. Luckily, by the time I get back to Cadaques for dinner, the town is starting to reopen and I scarf down some delicious grilled octopus and fresh vegetables.
The next day I continue the route north, following the rocky path away from Cadaques to the French border. I appreciate the uneven coastline and sparkling blue waters even more than when I started the trek. Watching boats drift in and out and passing through small villages and medieval ruins, I try to see the landscape from a surrealist artist’s view so I can have a little taste of what Dali may have found for inspiration.
To follow this route, hikers can download a GPS map of the GR-92 Cami de Ronda. It can be done in one nine- to ten-day hike or can also be broken into sections for shorter trips or day hikes. Art lovers may wish to take a mid-way stop after Cadaques and take a bus or taxi inland to Pubol to see Dali’s final residence and Figueres for the spellbinding museum of Dali’s work.