CATALONIA - THE INLAND AND COASTAL RICHES
Travel & Holidays in later life
Reg Butler discovers that within easy reach of the lager-happy resorts of the Costa Brava, other sides
of the Catalonia region can appeal to culture-vultures, gourmets and eco-warriors.
It's a great place for families, and for 'teens and
'twenties who want to live it up in discos till dawn.
The zone was formerly over-exploited by fishermen and coral gatherers until strict
conservation laws were passed in 1985 and 1990. Thanks to the protection, the area around
the Medes Islands has been totally restored as a very rich fish-breeding ground.
Special for the fair, alleyways were
lined with stalls that sold local food products like bread, cheese and sausages; or honey
and wax candles. Stallholders were dressed in what passed for medieval costume.
Another inland town - Figueres - rates high for the astonishing theatre-art museum created by the surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí.
As a great self-publicist, the artist wanted to show that he worked in all media - painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, theatre, literature, music. The museum is a joyous work of art in itself - the most-visited museum in Spain, after the Prado in Madrid.
Dalí is embalmed in the basement, surrounded by displays of his fantastic golden jewellery work.
Enjoyment of this museum sets many visitors off on the so-called Salvador Dalí Triangle. Two other widely-spaced sites are closely linked to the artist, and are open to the public.
A twisting mountain road leads past terraced olive trees to the off-trail resort and fishing village of Cadaqués. At the waterfront there's a cluster of small-scale tourist facilities - bars, restaurants and even a trolley train to keep children happy.
Otherwise there's no local eagerness to open up to mass tourism. Cadaqués has been settled by people who like their tranquillity. Up-grading the mountain road was opposed, for fear of disturbance to this residential haven.
Dalí's father was born in Cadaqués, and Salvador Dalí himself spent much of his childhood and youth at this remote location. The artist returned in 1930 with Gala, his wife-to-be, and bought a simple fisherman's cottage just north of Cadaqués, at a tiny fishing settlement called Port Lligat.
An adjoining cottage was bought in 1932, and a process of remodelling and expansion started. Between 1936 and 1948 Dalí was away in America. But on his return he made Port Lligat his permanent home. More and more of the neighbouring stone cottages were acquired, and joined up in a labyrinth of domestic and working rooms.
Entirely designed, furnished and decorated by Dalí, this incredible building has been open to the public since 1997.
Equally worth visiting is the Gala Dalí Castle museum in Pubol, 25 miles south of Figueres. Dalí bought the derelict fortress in 1970, to fulfil a promise made to Gala in the 1930s that he would present her with a palace.
The restoration and furnishing was another triumph of his creative genius. Don't miss all three points of the Triangle. But choose the theatre-museum if you don't have the time or transport facility for the full circuit.
Consider these alternative Spanish destinations:
COSTA BRAVA - finding peace along the coast
MADRID - why you should go off-season
MALLORCA - Breakaway to the Spanish grandee rural life
"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below
Dali: The Paintings - Gives a dedicated overview of the artist's widely-scattered works from his entire career.
The Essential Salvador Dalí by Robert Goff - A more down-to-basics approach to Dalí, and the reasons for his popular appeal.
Costa Brava Insight Pocket Guide - Features 18 recommended itineraries, along the coast and inland, with a pull-out map.
Lonely Planet: Catalunya and the Costa Brava by Damien Simonis - An in-depth guide that looks deeper into the culture and background of the entire province of Catalonia, including good coverage of the capital, Barcelona.
Detail Map: Costa Brava - an essential road map for the self-drive visitor, helping you reach the more peaceful off-trail locations.
The Rough Guide to Costa Brava (Miniguides Series) - An excellent guide which shows that there's much more to the famous coastline than the lager-lout image of mass tourism.