Tag Archives: Salvador Dali

Entrance Tickets – The Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres

Salvador dali Museum Entrance Ticket

Trying to understand the work of the Catalan artist is rather like pushing a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel.  It is all over the place!

I am not a great lover of the works of Dali I have to say, I wouldn’t hang one in my front room, but even I could appreciate the genius of most of this eclectic work that seemed to me to be the product of a mixed up mind as though its contents had spent some time in a food blender.

The museum is only small but is full to the brim with his art and sculpture, his illustrations and collections in a sort of wild and random style that he put together himself and probably comes closest to providing an insight into what it must have been like to be him with his head overflowing with ideas and creativity.

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Dali Figueres

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

Salvador Dali Museum Figueres Catalonia

Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Catalonia

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.”                                                                                                        Salvador Dali (of course)

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Catalonia, Figueres and Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali Figueres

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.” –  Salvador Dali (of course)

After a second leisurely night in Besalú the following morning we woke early and despite the high temperatures (the hotel receptionist called it a ‘heat wave’) there was no longer putting off our planned visits to the cities and today we were going to start with the town of Figueres which is most famous for being the birthplace of Salvador Dali and the home of the Dali museum.

It was only a short drive and very soon we left the countryside and were entering the narrow one way roads of the town that were like deep ravines between the high buildings on either side, long and straight as though cut with the precision of a cheese wire and all converging on the busy centre.  Finding a parking spot wasn’t easy but eventually we arrived at the central station with a large car park and even though it was a little way out of the town we left the Cabby there and walked in through various busy squares, the town market that was in full swing today, past a statue of St George slaying the dragon (St. George is the patron saint of Catalonia) and the cool and leafy Las Ramblas whilst all the time following signs to the Dali Theatre Museum.

It was only half past ten but when we found it there was already an untidy fifty metre long queue meandering around the front of the building and after we had established that this meant a wait of thirty to forty minutes we took it in turns to line up while one or the other of us went off to see the adjacent sites and various bits of Dali’s surrealist art work.

Surrealism originated in the late 1910s as a literary movement that experimented with a new mode of expression called automatic writing, or automatism, which sought to release the imagination of the subconscious. It officially began in 1924 with the publication of the ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’ by the poet André Breton and became an international intellectual and political movement aligned mostly to the left wing communists and anarchist movements.  Breton and his followers were influenced by the psychological theories and dream studies of Sigmund Freud and the political ideas of Karl Marx and using Freudian methods of free association their poetry and prose drew upon the private world of the mind, traditionally restricted by reason and societal rules, to produce surprising and unexpected imagery.

The queue shuffled slowly forward towards the ticket office with a solitary member of staff on duty and it seemed as though there were several different purchase options available and everyone in the line went through all the various permutations at least twice.  Everyone had a query to be resolved or a discount voucher that had to be carefully scrutinised as soon as they got there but eventually we were inside and in the first of many rooms displaying the mad work of Dali.

Or maybe not mad because he himself allegedly once proclaimed that “there is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”

Salvador Dali Surrealist Artist with Sea Shell

I am not a great lover of the works of Dali I have to say, I wouldn’t hang one in my front room, but even I could appreciate the genius of most of this ecclectic work that seemed to me to be the product of a mixed up mind as though its contents had spent some time in a food blender.

It is difficult to pin Dali down for during his life he at various times claimed to be both a communist and a monarchist, a republican and a nationalist, a catholic and an agnostic and with so many conflicting changes of direction that his mind surely have been in a permanent spin.  He delighted in confusing people and would sometimes conduct interviews in a mixture of Catalan, Spanish, French and English but my favourite story is that he was also known to avoid paying tabs at restaurants by drawing on the checks he wrote and his theory was that the restaurant would never want to cash such a valuable piece of art.

The museum is only small but is full to the brim with his art and sculpture, his illustrations and collections in a sort of wild and random style that he put together himself and probably comes closest to providing an insight into what it must have been like to be him with his head overflowing with ideas and creativity.

Outside the museum and back on the streets of Figueres we walked around the busy vibrant streets, found a pavement café for lunch and then walked along Las Ramblas to the Sant Ferran Castle which, with a perimeter wall of over five kilometres, is the largest monument in Catalonia built in the eighteenth century because the Spanish were growing weary of the various and frequent French invasions.  It is the largest fortress of its type in Europe and commands an almost impregnable position on the top of a hill overlooking the town.

So impregnable was it in fact that in 1938 as the Spanish Civil War drew to a close what was left of the Republican Government retreated to Figueres and took up occupation of the castle and on February 1st 1939 the very last session of the legitimate Government took place here shortly before going into exile and the fall of Figueres to the Nationalist army.  Paradoxically a town and a fortress that historically had tried to keep people out from France now became the focus for the organisation of republican refugees escaping from Spain and crossing the border in the opposite direction.

It was the middle of the afternoon, siesta time now and the town was all but closed as we walked back to the railway station, picked up the car and drove the short distance back to Besalú and we were pleased to get back and find a shady spot in the main square and let the rest of the day slip rather carelessly through our fingers before our thoughts turned to evening meal and dining arrangements.

George and the Dragon Figueres Catalonia Spain

Catalonia, The Costa Brava and the Bay of Roses

Costa Brava Cadaques

“I have spent a delightful summer, as always, in the perfect and dreamy town of Cadaqués. There, alongside the Latin sea, I have been quenched by light and colour” –  Salvador Dali.

The search for the Costa Brava of Norman Lewis was going to start exactly where I thought might be the place that he visited, stayed and wrote about in his book ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ so this required a journey of fifty kilometres or so from Caldes de Malavella in a northerly direction towards the very top of the Bay of Roses.

The plan was to take a steady drive towards Figueres and then drive east first of all to the Cap de Creus Peninsula which was once so inaccessible that the only way in and out was by sea and the seaside town of Cadaqués which was the summer home and studio of the artist Savador Dalí.

To get to our destination we had to bypass the city of Girona and in plotting the route I became confused by a lot of new road construction and unfortunately blundered onto a toll motorway that swept us quickly all the way to Figueres.  This is quite easy to do because in the last few years and especially after joining the Eurozone and getting access to cheap loans, Spain has indulged in an frenzy of infrastructure improvements to its high speed rail network and to its roads and the Spanish motorway network is now the fifth largest in the world by length, after the United States, China, Russia and Canada.

Catalonia Ceramic Tile Map

Being a natural skinflint I don’t like toll roads but as we arrived at the pay booth there was no alternative but the really annoying thing was that next to this motorway we could see the toll free national road running alongside.  This is because many main Spanish roads have been upgraded not just once, but twice or three times and unlike in more populated countries, where upgrading means improving the existing road, the Spanish solution, where there is plenty of room, has often just been to build a new road next to the old one. Consequently, on some routes, there are actually three parallel roads, the historic route, the post-Franco new road, and the more recent motorway.

On the plus side the motorway made the journey very swift and soon we were bypassing Figueres and heading east towards Roses and shortly after that the long straight highway buckled into a series of sweeping hairpin bends as the mountain road made progress towards Cadaqués.  Nearer to the old fishing village we passed through hillsides of abandoned dry stone wall terracing which is all that remains of a wine growing rural industry that was destroyed over a hundred years ago by phylloxera and this was so distressing to the people that farmed here that the vines were never to be reintroduced.

Cadaqués might be difficult to get to but this doesn’t deter hundreds of people driving there and the place was busy today as apparently it always is as we parked in a large expensive car park on the edge of the town and then walked over a steep hill to reach the seafront.

Tossa de Mar Costa Brava

Cadaqués was once a simple fishing village and there are steep narrow streets with whitewashed houses and sharp stone steps carved directly out of the mountain and then on the seafront side there is barely anything left of the old ways but it was nice enough – trendy, arty, sophisticated and expensive.  This was confirmed by a glance at the menu boards of the seafood restaurants and tapas bars all along the harbour walls and the narrow road next to the sea.  The water was lead coloured and black with weed and fringed by a sharp sand beach where people stretched out in the sunshine striving for a suntan.

We didn’t propose to stay for lunch so after we had walked in both directions along the charming sea front we tackled the undulating cobbled streets making their way across the hill to the huge church at the top of the village and then returned to the car, paid the exorbitant parking fee and returned back along the twisting mountain road towards Roses.

I was excited about going to Roses, I was sure that this is where Norman Lewis stayed and the place generally comes highly recommended in the guide books.  I was immediately disappointed.

There was nothing charming about this place at all. Despite the tourist developments Cadaqués had preserved a lot of its original charm but Roses had clearly swept it all away in a ribbon of soulless 1960s development of concrete boxes and car parks.  A colleague had told me that if I went to Roses then I shouldn’t shout about it because he didn’t want too many people to discover what he called a best kept Spanish secret but to be honest I didn’t like the place at all and as far as I am concerned he can keep the secret as long as he likes.

We stayed long enough to walk along the sea front with its good views of the Bay sweeping  south like a Saracen’s sword and then through a couple of untidy streets with the worst kind of tourist shops and then without a single glance back just drove away from the town with no intention of ever going back.  If Roses is the village that Norman Lewis wrote about then I was certain that I suddenly completely understood everything that he said.

Fearing that all resorts along the Bay of Roses might be like this we now abandoned the proposed coast road route back to Caldes to Malavella and took the direct route back although skilfully avoiding the motorway this time and driving through attractive green forest, fields of harvested hay and the occasional burst of yellow as we drove through fields of swaying sunflowers holding their proud heads up high  into the sun and moving slowly like the shadow of a sundial as they followed its progress through the sky.

Cadaques Costa Brava Salvador Dali