Wednesday, June 30, 2010

on the coast

If the Spanish Sierras had skies that changed from deep blue to stormy gray in the course of an hour and then, by evening time, to blue again, the coastal plane of Catalonia remains stable and unchanged. Like Languedoc in France – it invariably offers sunshine. So much so that even I start looking for shade.

The farm where we’re staying has (among other things) chickens strutting around the olive trees and so you know you’re going to have a good breakfast of eggs and cheeses and breads.


And we do.

We have only this one day in the area but a day has many hours and we fill those hours with splendid swimming in the sea, with strolling through Cadaques, and with a tour of Salvador Dali’s uniquely beautiful home in Portlligat.

My comments will be brief as we are anxious to get on with our final day in Spain.

First – on the subject of beaches: it happens that both Ed and I love a brief moment by the water on any day that has good weather and we have had our share of exquisite beach moments on this trip. The Spanish Costa Brava beaches are perhaps slightly more developed than the beaches of Languedoc, but they are equally fantastic in terms of sparkling clear waters and, in the case of the Sant Marti d’Empuries beach where we dallied for a while, they provide a nice shallow stretch, where you can play to your heart’s content. Or, simply stroll and watch the fish swim around your feet.


We swim, we walk, we build sand castles and we people watch. We’re so close to France, but the houses and vegetation too are completely different here. The land seems drier even now, in June. As the morning moves forward, the beach space fills with umbrellas. It's colorful and pretty and very family friendly. We hear Spanish, but also French. Jump the border and swim in the same sea, only with Spanish flavors.


And while I'm comparing the two, I note now that I was wrong to think that toplessness was a French thing. Not only do women shed their tops on the beach, but they push the limits by shedding them in boats and kayaks and while strolling along the water’s edge even in busy bustling towns such as Cadaques. Not to be outdone, I suppose, one older man decides that he, too, needs freedom from clothing. He is developing a deep tan on all parts of his completely naked body. Nobody seems to care much. There are other, better distractions – such as the absolutely delicious swimming in the sea.


In the afternoon we find ourselves driving north along the coast, up through the barren hills of the Parc Natural del Cap de Creus...


We pull off the road and each our packed sandwiches there, on the crest of the hill. The last hill on the horizon marks the border with France.


And now we wind along the scrubby hills with an occasional olive grove on it, down to the tip of the small peninsula -- to the pretty little town of Cadaques.


Here, you can certainly take in the lovely colors of the Mediterranean (and I mean more than just the sea). Like its French neighbor, Collioure, Cadaques also attracted artists throughout the previous century, making me wonder if this is a thing of the past and if we no longer have communities of great artists in the small villages along the Mediterranean. In having developed holiday homes and vacation opportunities for a greater number of people, have we scared away great art, or have we merely pushed those who do great art away from the coastal areas?



Dali, who is from this region, is a national hero of sorts, though perhaps not for everyone, as he had indifferent and therefore questionable politics during the Franco reign.

But forgetting all that, I have to say that his house in Portlligat (a precious small cove just up the road from Cadaques)...

DSC07927 now one of the most delightful museum experiences I have had. The house is really a series of fishermen’s homes, joined together to form one carefully orchestrated entirety, where he and his wife lived for most of their years together.


We had to wait a while to enter as they only admit a handful of people at a time, but you hardly call it wasted time. We walked along a coastal path and looked out at the sea and listened to the chatter of gulls.


Back in Portlligat, a small group of friends who, I'm thinking, must live here, or at least hang out for some portion of time, were just finishing a protracted midday meal. Surely this is how it has always been here, in Portlligat?


And now the museum. A quick peek will give you at least a sense of the place, I hope. (The first photo is from his studio. The "canvas" was a work in progress. When his wife died, he stopped work on it and shortly after, moved out of the house.





By evening time, we make our way back to the wee village of Siurana. With stops along the way. Here, they often look like this: Ed waits, I snap a photo, we drive on until the next such moment.


Some scenes are not really worth stopping for, but others are.



There is only one café bar and one church in Siurana and I suggest that we sit down for a while and sip a glass of Cava and contemplate life from this quiet table (not much activity here to speak of). Ed doesn't really contemplate life as such, but he does enjoy looking over newspapers that people leave behind in cafe bars.


Dinner is at the farm: salads, rice and egg, a fresh fish and a flan.




And so it ends. (Except for the last day which will be in Barcelona.) Without fanfare, without drama.

Day is done.


(Thanks to all commenters whose notes and words I have loved, even as time again has been too tight to allow for a more personal acknowledgment of your generous and thoughtful reactions.)