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Catalunya: In the footsteps of Salvador Dalí

Master of surrealism and creative showman, Salvador Dalí was one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Dalí was born in Figueres in the Catalunya region of Spain, where he established the Dalí Museum in 1970, in the old municipal theatre. If you’re visiting Catalunya it’s well worth visiting the museum and the two other houses associated with Dalí at Cadaqués and Púbol that are collectively known as the ‘Dalí Triangle’.

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The Dalí Museum at Figueres

It’s difficult to miss the striking and colourful Dalí Museum in the centre of Figueres. On one side is the elegant neo-classical facade of the old theatre; on the other, the Dalí-esque red studded walls topped with huge cream eggs, one of Dalí’s favourite symbols of edible beauty.

The museum was conceived by Dalí as a single surrealist object; a place to absorb his artistic ideas, rather than to visit in any specific order. You’ll enter through the former stalls of the theatre, now an enclosed garden with creepers reaching up to the stone window spaces. Golden Art Deco figures welcome you from their niches and a shiny black Cadillac is topped with a voluptuous goddess figure.

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Above the stage of the old theatre, an enormous cupola of glass sheds light on the backdrop that Dalí created for a ballet. On one side your eyes are drawn to the nude of Dalí’s wife Gala, but when you take a second look it becomes a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln. Other highlights include the Palace of the Wind, a large reception room with a ceiling fresco of suspended figures reaching to the sky, their giant feet directly above us, as if standing on glass.

Nearby is the room housing the 3D illusion of Mae West; her eyes are framed paintings, her red lips a Pop-Art sofa. On the way out of the museum there’s a collection of jewellery designed by Dalí, including a brooch of ruby lips with pearl teeth and a golden heart with a section of rubies that literally beats – according to Dalí, “…like the queen whose heart throbs constantly for her people.”

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The Dalí museum can be visited on Headwater’s Catalan Classic Walk and Classic Catalan Cycling holidays, and if Dalí’s intention has succeeded, you’ll leave “…with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream”.

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Dalí‘s house at Port Lligat near Cadaqués

For much of his adult life, Dalí lived at Port Lligat, a small fishing hamlet close to Cadaqués where he created a house and studio by knocking together a number of fishing huts. Headwater’s Catalan Coastal Walk takes you through Cadaqués and the rocky Cap de Creus peninsula that appears like a lunar landscape in many of Dalí’s paintings. A short stroll over the hill from Cadaqués will bring you to Port Lligat, but as the house is so small, entry is by timed ticket only and you should try to reserve online a few days in advance of your visit.

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Dalí’s house is much more intimate than the museum; it’s a personal space that was reserved just for Dalí and his wife Gala, with a studio where he did most of his work. The rooms are a series of cosy spaces on different levels, where the former fishermen’s storerooms were. At the end of the tour you emerge into a hidden courtyard garden with swimming pool where Dalí loved to entertain.

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After visiting the house, take some time to enjoy the beach and watch the fishing boats on the shore. Or, pop into the Enoteca MF wine bar located on the harbour front, beside the path up to Port Lligat; here they serve wines from their own vineyard and inventive tapas dishes made with the freshest local ingredients.

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Gala’s Castle at Púbol

The final location making up the Dalí Triangle is the fortified country house or castel at Púbol that Dali gave to his wife, Gala. The house can be easily visited by bike from La Bisbal on selected Headwater holidays in Catalunya. This was Dalí’s gift to Gala, having promised her that he would one day make her ‘queen of the castle’. It was a house where she came to relax and escape the world and the story goes that even Dalí would have to request permission by letter before he could visit her there. The house is simple and spacious with just a few surreal touches, such as the cupboard painted with radiators to disguise the real radiators and the painting of Gala as an angel above the door.

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It reflects the elegance of Gala, always beautifully dressed with her hair pinned back in a feminine style with a black velvet bow. Upstairs is an exhibition of Gala’s dresses from the ‘50s and ‘60s, purchased from the top designers of the day, with luxurious and colourful fabrics.

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Outside, you’ll finish your visit on the terrace where Gala’s car is still parked. Wander through the shaded green garden to find the shallow classical pool at the end and strange elephant sculptures on long spindly legs.

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More information can be found on the Salvador Dalí Foundation website

Dali’s museums and houses can be visited on many of our holidays in Catalunya. Why not extend your trip with a couple of days in Barcelona, and take your time to visit each location? We’d be happy to arrange your car hire too. Contact us now: 01606 720199 or sales@headwater.com