Over­seas Walks: Fol­low­ing the foot­steps of Dali

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - Jill is an Auck­land based jour­nal­ist and pho­tog­ra­pher By Jill Grant

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.

Left: Stony trails lead to the light­house at Cap de Creus.

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.

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.

Fol­low­ing the foot­steps of Dali

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