Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spain: Cadaquès and Port Lligat, Dali's home

First view of Cadaquès and the bay along Costa Brava.
 After Figueres, our group traveled along steep winding roads to reach Cadaquès, on the Cap de Creus peninsula along the Costa Brava. During the summer, Cadaquès is off limits to tour buses, as the roads are narrow and with more traffic it becomes a treacherous drive for even small buses. Since we were there in October, we were able to enjoy the scenic route, climbing a series of hills, then plunging down toward the sea.

Tranquil and empty Cadaquès.
Cadaquès is a sleepy fishing village that Dali often visited as a child. It was an attractive spot to many other artists, including Picasso and Miro. It was an overcast day when we arrived, and there was little activity going on in the village.

The "Blue House": at one time, many Cadaquès natives immigrated to Cuba,
then returned home with riches and built elegant homes like this one.
We had an hour free for lunch in Cadaquès. I came across a wonderful outdoor creperie, and ate a delightful crepe filled with goat cheese and fresh raspberry jam. After a bit of wandering around the quiet village, we moved on to the main event: Dali's home in Port Lligat, twenty minutes away.

Dali's house in Port Lligat, marked by his iconic eggs on one portion of the roof, 
Dali was drawn to the location by the landscape and isolation it offered. From seven small huts once used by fishermen, he gradually created a home with a labyrinthine structure. Though the structure became habitable in 1949, construction was continuous from 1930 to 1972, resulting in the form that stands today.  As Dali described it, the home was " like a real biological structure...each new pulse on our life had its own new cell, its room."

The Library: Each room is decorated with various odd objects: paintings, statues, and even taxidermy.
Dali and his wife Gala lived a the house in Port Lligat until her death in 1982. The home remains the same as it was on the day he left in 1982 and moved to Pubòl Castle, where Gala was buried.

Dali's easel.
In Dali's studio, you can see the easel that he designed, which moves up and down, into the floor, so that he could always paint while sitting in his chair.  

Dali's studio.
Lounge area, leading to bedroom.
In the room shown above, Dali positioned a mirror (above the sofa on the wall to the left) so that he and Gala would be able to watch the sunrise from their bedroom, which was up a short staircase to the right of this room. Since Port Lligat is the easternmost village of mainland Spain, Dali bragged that he was the first person in his country to see the sun each day. 

Bedroom of Dali and Gala.

Gala's oval "relaxing" room, often used as a salon for guests to enjoy stimulating conversations.
Only eight people are allowed in the museum at a time, due to the narrow halls, numerous stairways and labyrinthine setup of the house, and advance reservations must be made.  In addition to the house itself, there are several outdoor spaces to view.

One of the terraces

Dali's iconic swimming pool, shaped like male genitals.

Another terrace, all in white.
This view into Dali's life was richly interesting, and well worth the trip. Due to the difficulty of getting to Cadaquès and Port Lligat, this area of Spain is often overlooked, and remains a tranquil testament to the life and art of Salvadore Dali. 

Adios to Cadaquès!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Spain: Figueres, Dalí Theater and Museum

Teatre Museu Dalì
I ended up spending another week in Barcelona on my own, and arranged to take an organized day trip/tour to visit the Dalì museum in Figueres and his home in Cadaques. First, our small group was driven by mini coach east along the Costa Brava to Figueres, where the Dalì Museum is located. Our tour guide, a lively young woman from Salou, kept us entertained with informative stories throughout the two hour ride from Barcelona.

A closeup of one of the bread loaves.
The outside of the iconic building is topped by a series of giant eggs, and the walls are covered with small ceramic loaves of bread, a tribute to Dalì's wife Gala, as bread was her favorite food.

The heart of the museum is the building that once housed the town's theater when Dali was a child. It was also the site of one of his first public exhibitions. The old theater was burned during the Spanish Civil War and was in ruin for several decades. Then, in 1960 Dali and the town's mayor decided to rebuild the theater and use it as a museum dedicated to Dali's creations. A glass dome cupola crowns the stage of the old theater, and Dali is buried in a crypt beneath the stage floor.

A reconstruction of Dali's creation The Rainy Taxi (1938), that "rains" inside the car.
Dali was inspired by an article in Scientific American about the minimum number of pixels needed to describe a unique human face. He used 121 pixels to complete Lincoln's face in the portrait below. On closer look, one sees the nude Gala in the middle of Lincoln's face.

"Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea
Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln."

Another highlight of the museum is a 3D living room installation that when viewed from a certain spot, looks like the face of Mae West. Dali used paintings for the eyes, a fireplace for the nose and a sofa for the lips. The hair is draped over an arch atop a staircase, which allows one to view the illusion from a distance.

The museum continues through many levels and rooms, and visitors are urged to tour the space is no particular order, as the rooms have not been laid out in any systematic or chronological order, according to Dalì's wishes. The museum was a wonderful romp through the clever,  magical, often bizarre mind and talent of Dalì.

Retrospective Bust of a Woman.....with bread on her head and neck!
However, my very favorite part of the museum was in a separate building, which housed Dali's jewelry creations. I was unaware of this aspect of his art, and was impressed by the designs and craftsmanship of these items.


The trip to Figueres and the Dali Museum was well worth the effort and expense of the tour I'd arranged in Barcelona. The second part of the trip took us to Dali's home in Cadaques.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spain: Tarragona

A picturesque view of Tarragona. 
The most interesting village we visited while in Salou was the town of Tarragona, rich with Roman history. Many ancient ruins remain from its time as Tarraco, while under Roman rule, and they have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cathedral in Tarragona
The cathedral stands majestically above the village. The church dates from the 12th century and combines both Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

A view of the Roman ruins in Tarragona
In the Roman Circus area, you can enter the vaults where chariots and other materials were stored. Within the vaults is a museum of sorts, explaining the activities of the chariot races and the men who drove the chariots.

Walking through one of the vaults in the Roman Circus area.
Various statues and tombstones from Roman times are also included in the vaults.

 A section of the arena for chariot races during Roman times.
The Roman circus, used mainly for chariot races, was built at the end of the 1st Century AD and was probably used until the end of the the 4th century AD. It was 450 meters long and one end has a semi-circular bend. You can see portions of the circus along the streets as you walk through the town. It is considered to be one of the most well-preserved circuses in Western Europe.

Village streets: Celebrating thirty years of something?
We visited Tarragona on a Sunday, and the streets were virtually empty. There were several museums of merit that we did not take time to visit, including the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona. Numerous churches are located throughout the village, including the remains of a church called Santa Maria del Miracle, which belonged to the Knights Templar and was demolished in 1915. It can be found near the seaside amphitheater.

Roman marketplace....still in use today for that purpose.
When we stopped for an espresso break near one of the churches, we noticed the ancient Roman marketplace, shown in the photo above. During the week, vendors sell their wares in the same space that Romans did in ancient times.

A view of the seaside Roman amphitheater. 
Tarragona is well worth a visit, and I wish we'd had more time to explore all that it has to offer. For more information, check out this link:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Spain: Salou and Reus

Beach in Salou, Spain
While in Spain, we spent part of the time at a timeshare my brother had arranged in Salou, a small village along the coast, 112 km west of Barcelona. It has an interesting and varied history, as it was used as a port by the Greeks and Romans and later became a haven for pirates before evolving into a fishing village. The railway opened Salou up to development in the late 1800s, and since 1965, it has benefited from a tourist boom.

Palm trees in Salou
A nearby theme park has contributed to Salou's reputation as a family-friendly beach resort, and is crowded with tourists during the summer months. But since we were there in October, the town was peaceful, and a welcome contrast to the crowds and chaos of Barcelona.

One of the restaurants we frequented in downtown Salou.

The main placa in Reus.

Esglesia Prioral de Sant Pere, Reus
While in Salou, we visited several nearby villages. One of them was Gaudi's birthplace, Reus.  

There's not much to see in Reus, and we spent most of our time there visiting a museum devoted to Gaudi's life and art, which provided an interesting background to the Gaudi sites that we later visited in Barcelona.        

A sculpture in tribute to the fishermen of Salou.

Sunset on the beach in Salou.
I really enjoyed the tranquil setting in Salou and would love to return there in the future for a longer stay, just to hang out and enjoy the beach.

Barcelona: Montjuic

A view of Barcelona from Montjuic
It's been a busy year, and I still have several posts to write about my trip to Barcelona last fall. So here goes:

Montjuic is a majestic hill in Barcelona. It has been inhabited, exploited and transformed over a period of some 10,000 years and its name is derived from the Jewish cemetery that was once located there. The hill was once covered in trees and the slopes were used for grazing animals and farmland. The forests were partially cleared in the 1890s, when parklands were developed. Large scale construction was first initiated in 1929, when Barcelona was the site of the 1929 World's Fair.

Outside Montjuic Castle
On a cloudy afternoon, we parked the car halfway up the hill and trekked up to the Castle, or Fortress located at the top of Montjuic. Used at various times as a lighthouse, a fort and a prison, the Castle now houses a Visitor's Center with an exhibition that presents a journey through the history of the fortress. However, there are many more sights to see on this grand hill.

One of the most impressive buildings, the Palau Nacional, houses The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, or MNAC, the national museum of Catalan visual art.

The National Palace, home of The National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC)
One of the most outstanding exhibits in the museum  is the Museu Nacional Romanesque Collection, which is unmatched by any other museum in the world. Many of the works contained in this part of the museum were originally found in rural churches in the Pyrenees and other areas of Old Catalonia. 29 frescoes were dismantled and transferred to the museum as a way of protecting them from destruction, particularly during the Spanish Civil War. Each fresco has its own space. This short video gives an idea of the collection:

Romanesque art rooms

My favorite part of the museum was the Modern Art collection, and I spent most of my time there. The museum has such a vast art collection that it deserves more than the scant hour or so that we had to explore it.

Woman from Granada, Hermen Anglada-Camarasa, 1914
Another area of Montjuic houses the Olympic Village, Museum and Stadium, from 1992, when Barcelona was selected as the site for several venues of the Summer Olympics. We didn't have time to explore this area, as we were more interested in seeing the art museums and natural resources on Montjuic.

Olympic Village and Stadium
We also had the chance to visit the Fundació Joan Miró, an art museum with a large and impressive collection of the works of Joan Miró.

Fundació Joan Miró
There is also a Botanical Garden located on Montjuic, though we didn't have time to visit it. Since we had a car, we were happy to find ample parking at the various sites on the hill. Another way to reach the top of the hill is by taking the funicular from a metro stop in downtown Barcelona. Sounds like fun! All in all, Montjuic has a lot to offer and one could easily spend several days perusing its sights.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Barcelona: Casa Batló, Part 2

Going up the stairwell.
The stairwell in Casa Batló is impressive and still pristine, 100 years after its creation, Gaudi covered the walls in glazed tiles of varying shades of blue, which are lighter in color at the bottom of the well and darker towards the top, creating an even distribution of light.

Stairwell, upper floor

Stairwell, lower floor

In addition, the windows are smaller towards the top, where more natural light can enter, and are larger as one moves down the stairwell. An elevator is situated in the middle of the stairwell: its fine original wooden cabin is still in use today.

Stairwell below the skylight.

In the attic, the catenary arch that Gaudi often employed.
The attic was originally designed as a service area, to use as storage and laundry rooms. And yet, the elegance of form is obvious, characterized by Gaudi's use of the catenary arch. Catenary refers to the idealized curve shape that a hanging chain assumes, as shown below. Gaudi often used an inverted form of this curve in his architecture.

In the attic: a model of the catenary arch.

The roof is shaped in the form of a dragon's back, covered with large iridescent scales. The spine that forms the ornamental top has large pieces of masonry that change colors as you walk from side to side on the roof.

Along the dragon's back.

A bulb-like cross atop the tower.

The spine of the dragon's back.

Watching you!
On the other side of the roof are four groups of curved chimneys, covered with the same type of trencadis glazed mosaics that are on the facade of the house.

Curved chimneys.
Another grouping of chimneys.

Detail of the bulbous tower

The cross atop the tower signals the four directions and the bulbous root-like shape of the tower evokes plant life, a constant inspiration in Gaudi's work. Though the tower was broken while en route for delivery, Gaudi liked the effect of the broken masonry and left it broken.

Casa Batló and Guell Park were my favorite Gaudi sites and both are must-sees when in Barcelona.

For more info and fabulous photos of Casa Batló, check out this site:   Casa Batló

For anyone going to Barcelona this month (April, 2016), there will be a special celebration on April 23rd, the feast of St. George (San Jordi) at Casa Batló and throughout Barcelona.

For more information: