Of all my favourite artists when I was a girl, Dalí was the rock star. I identified with his eccentricity and his public persona, his slant way of looking at the world and the surrealist universe he created. I watched Hitchcock’s Spellbound over and over for the dream sequences he designed. Even as a young student with no money, I bought and framed a poster of Femme a tete de rose for a not inconsiderable portion of my monthly budget.
That’s one of the reasons my visit to Cap de Creus was so affecting: Here was not only the region where Dalí spent so much time. The craggy beautiful landscapes of his paintings stood all around us.
The Cap de Creus is in the far northeast of Catalonia; its craggy dry landscape sits next to a brilliant Mediterranean sea. The area is said to have Spain’s best beaches and the natural beauty takes your breath away.
We started our day in Cadaqués, a picturesque — or should I say Instagram-esque — village where Dalí spent some of his youth. A statue of the artist stands on the city centre beach and you catch glimpses of his pictures in shop windows on a stroll around town. Read my post on the BritMums blog about the amazing Cadaqués Instagram walk I went on.
After our walk, our group of bloggers, escorted by my old colleague Steve Keenan and the fabulous Jaume Marin of Costa Brava Tourist Board, ate fresh seafood at the Restaurant Can Rafa. I’ll be honest, I’m not normally wildly enthusiastic about seafood (is it legal to say this in Spain, which has all that lovely seafood?), but the fish and mussels and cockles were delicious, especially with the wine (which I normally am enthusiastic about). The kids obviously liked the former, as they dug into plate after plate of fresh fish goujons.
Next we drove 5 minutes to Port Lligat, where Dalí’s house sits overlooking the fishing bay. This was Dalí’s only fixed abode from 1930 and he lived and worked her until the death of his muse Gala in 1982.
The first question most people must ask when they walk in is, Can I rent this place? The house is a collection of seven fisherman’s cottages knocked together, and practically every room — accessed via a series of up-steps and down-steps — overlooks the bay or the countryside and is populated with items to stimulate and inspire.
Every room you enter features items familiar from the Dalí’s work or provides insight into how the couple lived. Gala’s dressing room is papered with press clippings of the couple and pictures of them with all types of celebrities. Dalí mounted a mirror just so, so that from his bed he could see the sea. There are busts, dried flowers, a stuffed owl with its prey.
The paintings in the studio stand just as he left them. One is mounted on a pulley system so it could be raised a lowered via a slot in the floor, always perfectly positioned in front of the easy chair on which Dalí sat.
The house is an inspiration, not just to the artist and his muse but to anyone who visits it. All visits must be reserved by time, with entry every 10 minutes. Guides take you around the various rooms, giving descriptions in various various languages.
The house is an inspiring place to take children, demonstrating the relationship between artist’s life and work. They’ll need to be old enough to restrain themselves from touching all the things in the house. As evidenced by this post, picture-taking is allowed as long as you don’t use flash.
Beyond the house, the gardens are fantastic — stunning views, striking plants and a pool shaped like a phallus (heh heh).
And finally there is the big egg in which every guest should pose and no self-respecting kid would miss on a trip. Even one as old as I am.
The House-Museum of Salvador Dalí is in Port Lligat. Portlligat, E-17488 Cadaqués. Open daily except for certain dates in January and February. Reservations required. €11 entry, reduced admission €8. No admission charge for children under age 9.