Overseas Walks: Following the footsteps of Dali
In Spain’s Catalonia, Salvador Dali is celebrated not just as the world renowned surrealist artist but as the famous son of his home town, Figueres. He lived most of his life in Catalonia in the small fishing village of Port Lligat near the more prominent whitewashed, seaside village of Cadaques.
Curved round a crystal clear bay, Cadaques was a favourite of both Picasso and Dali who were drawn to the area’s incredible views and clear air. Dali once famously said in 1920: “I have spent a delightful summer, as always, in the perfect dreamy town of Cadaques. There, alongside the Latin sea, I have been quenched by light and colour”.
His image and namesake are exalted in every café, shop and public area as evidence that he had sipped coffee there, browsed and visited at some time during his 50 odd year residence at Port Lligat. Although much changed from the small fishing village since Dali first came here before World War I, Cadaques still retains its old world charm with a more Bohemian rather than touristy atmosphere.
A weeklong walk begins in Cadaques and the first outing is to Dali’s house in Port Lligat. It is just over the hill from Cadaques but the track that hugs the coast is more rewarding. Dali must have walked it numerous times to gain inspiration.
The small cove is delightful and it is clear to see that this isolated spot offered calm and tranquillity. The house, that Dali shared with his lifelong love and wife Gala, grew from a fisherman’s hut to acquire seven more houses which evolved into the charming and wacky yet thought provoking home it became.
It overlooks the bay and consists of levels and rooms for different purposes connected by hallways. The most extraordinary is the Whisper Room, a windowless circular room where a whisper resonates and can be heard on the other side. The house exudes Dali’s personality and love of kitsch from the trademark red lips sofa to masks, dried flowers and a cage that held crickets – a sound Dali loved.
A longer walk continues from here to the lighthouse at Cap de Creus through the national park of the same name. The path is rocky and rugged. The lighthouse seems hardly worth it but the gorgeous little coves just before you reach it are perfect picnic spots on a hot day. Few trekkers walk this trail so you may have a cove all to yourself.
Next day a transfer takes you to the modern popular beach resort of Roses to walk back to Cadaques. The track around the coastline dips in and out of coves and bays that look down
into a sparkling turquoise sea. It becomes less populated the further from Roses you get.
Walking along the shore of the quiet unpopulated Cala Montjoy, a small rusty sign begs a second look. On it is the word elBulli. That popped a light bulb. Elbulli Restaurant was famous for winning Best Restaurant in the World five times between 2002 and 2009 plus second in 2010 then it closed.
They had literally millions of requests for reservations and it was considered “the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet”. It wasn’t cheap at €250 per meal so it was food (pardon the pun) for thought the rest of the way on the walk as to how such a business could fail.
The accolade of Best Restaurant in the World went to a restaurant in nearby Girona straight after.
Leaving the splendid coastal views behind, the walk turns inland through the national park
across a peninsular to reach the coast again. Landmark Cadaques glistens white drawing you closer and closer as you descend, your eye on the centrepiece of the 16th century Gothic church.
Time to leave Cadaques ascending a trail out of the town and into the heart of the Cap de Creus National Park. Wildflowers of bright yellow broom, purple lavender, foxgloves and daisies spill over the pathway and colour the landscape. Stacked stone walls and crumbling farm buildings are what’s left of this once prosperous wine region till the outbreak of the phylloxera epidemic of the 19th century.
It’s easy wandering with stunning vistas of the high Pyrenees and beautiful Mediterranean Sea all the way till you descend to El Port de la Selva when the path becomes rocky.
The fishing port of El Port de la Selva sits on a white sand stretch of beach popular with windsurfers as the ‘Tramuntana’, an occasional strong wind from the north, blows through here.
A refreshing jug of sangria, full of fruit, tangy and with an underlying taste of red wine enjoyed at a seafront café was a memorable way to finish a great day’s walk.
From Port de la Selva the route heads north to the French/Spanish border and the town of Banyuls. A coastal path leads around the wild Cap de Ras and continues to hug the coastline all the way to the beach at Garvet past small bays with opportunities for a cooling dip.
From Garvet drive across the border to Banyuls. It is surrounded by vineyards with plenty of walks into the hills or a nice beach to relax at.
The last walking day is from Banyuls to Collioure along cliff-top paths and around the
rugged Cap Béar headland. The views are spectacular - you can see as far as Cap de Creus in clear weather. From the maquis-covered hills behind Port-Vendres you come to the delightful fishing village of Collioure dominated by its fort and castle at the very edge of the sheltered harbour.
Collioure has attracted artists for centuries, including Matisse, Derain and Picasso. Cobbled streets wind through pastel-coloured houses and the ancient church. The village is an art gallery of their work which is displayed on walls throughout it.
Nature and pure air has drawn famous artists to this unspoilt region and both provide a wonderful theme for a week’s walk.
Above right: The water is clear and turquoise from the coastal path near Roses. Below right: Coastline walk Collioure to Portvendres. Below left: The artist’s personality is reflected in his art in Dali’s house.
Below right: Dali’s house is the highlight of a walk from Cadaques. Below left: Famous and not-so-famous artists are drawn to Collioure. Left: Approach to Port de la Selva from the pathway.
Above: Wildflowers are a feature of the walk Cadaques to Port de la Selva.
Left: Stony trails lead to the lighthouse at Cap de Creus.
Following the footsteps of Dali