Tuesday, June 18, 2013

town and country

Did you notice that the only thing that separates him from us is a thin wire? -- Ed comments as I make little noises to get the bull to look my way.


If he charges, I can climb a tree!
He laughs at that. You can? I suppose with enough adrenaline...

We are taking an evening walk. We pick one road, then another, always choosing the one that's closest to the mountain. Eventually it'll turn into a dirt road and I suppose if you kept on walking in this way, you'd get to the next village and the next -- all the way to the sea. Or to the ocean, if you head west.

We're surrounded by cork oak. It's always disconcerting to see the bottom of the tree stripped of bark -- as if someone ripped the pants off of a grown man and now he can't find a replacement pair, at the same time that the rest of his torso remains clothed in a shirt and jacket.


Still, I love the forest walk. These hill towns are beautifully rural -- you forget about that as you zip by car from village to sea, to next village, or store, or town. Tonight, we leave the car behind.

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It is especially gratifying to take to the rural road after spending the better part of the day in Figueres.

Earlier, I had asked our hosts -- why don't we ever see you at the market here? I know they are both great cooks and yet I've never bumped into them at the Sorede food stalls.
We go to Figueres -- they have a large market there on Tuesdays.

Figueres -- that's in Spain. Forget that.

Or maybe we shouldn't forget it? I check on Google. Only a forty-five minute drive. And, beside the market, Figueres is home to THE Dali Museum -- one he designed himself. Meaning, it's going to be funky crazy interesting.

Some years back, we went through Dali's home on the coast. That was memorable. But we've driven past Figueres and never stopped. To go to a town for a museum, even THE most famous Dali museum, or perhaps especially because it has a VERY FAMOUS museum -- that's just not how we proceed.

Still, a market and a Spanish (well actually Catalan, but let's not quibble) town and such a short drive... We'll do it!

It's terrifically good coincidence that the day is rather gray. Clouds are moving between the mountains and the  plain. You get so used to sunshine here that when it disappears for a day or two, you feel really unsettled and out of kilter.

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And so we set out. It's strange to be heading to Spain -- as if we were leaving Sorede -- good bye! See you next time!  -- those are my associations with driving south. Still, it's a short sprint and Figueres is not a big town (population c. 45,000) and our hosts have given us plenty of tips on how to enter, where to park, even where to have our morning coffee. Here:

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People watching in Figueres is an entirely different game than, say, in Sorede. Figueres feels Spanish. Figueres feels urban, or at least connected to the urban world. [Notably, you can now actually take the high speed train all the way to Paris, with only one change. Five and a half hours and you're before the Eiffel Tower. It makes Figueres feel like it's one of the important places in Europe. Which, for art lovers, it is.]

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Okay, a nice long linger at the cafe. I can tell that Ed is tickled about being in Spain again. It's always more fun having a common language with the people in the place you're visiting and in France, he's often out of luck, relying on my translations rather than on his own skills. Here, he is understood.


Now the market. It's big. It's repetitive. There are many stalls with similar produce. So that if you're looking for oranges (on our list), you go from one, to the next, to the next, until you settle on your preferred fruits (cheapest, if you're with Ed).

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It is supremely interesting to walk through it, though I see it more as a functional market (rather than, say, Ceret's, which is also visually stunning).


After a thorough inspection, we're ready for the museum.

What's this? A line?

Ed -- let's skip it.
We've come all this way and we're going to skip it?
We came for the town and the market.

But it may be funky cool inside.
A bunch of paintings...

Typically, we can talk ourselves out of most any museum with a long line, but somehow this one intrigues me enough that I push for staying.

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the craziness starts before you even go in. If you find yourself torn as to what in this is consequential, just focus on the statue (upper left) with a baguette on her head. What, need a close up? Okay, there are many...


In the end, was the long wait worth it? Ed says later -- I was thinking while standing in line that Dali himself would have never done this. He would have gone on to do something more interesting. Yes, but was it worth it? You decide:

why do only women want to have their photo taken by the Cadillac?

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school group, pondering.

the paintings, the visitors.

Dali said the viewers are integral to the art. Indeed.

ceiling fresco

this one you have to look at through a green screen. Recognize any of the characters?

this is a tapestry of the image that, to my knowledge, sits in MoMA in NY. Ed used the occasion to explain to me Einstein's theories on time and light (shamefully, my high school science knowledge of either had... faded). I liked reading later that Dali, when asked if he was reflecting on Einstein when creating this piece of art, answered -- no, I was merely thinking of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun.

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to understand the beauty of this, you really have to stand there and use both eyes to see the entirety; but I thought I'd tease you a bit with the possibilities.

I'll say this -- when you hit a crowded room, you just wanted to get out already. And I can give you a heads up which nationalities were especially pushy today (those way to the north and to the east). And I can also tell you that not every room was crowded (I don't understand that, as you sort of follow a room progression) and not everyone was pushy.

As we were leaving, I speculated if it would be better to spread one artist's work around the globe. I mean, it's not as if there is a choice: Dali wanted a concentration and a stylized presentation. This is NOT a boring just plain old canvas on a wall type of place. Still, as we glossed over some twenty paintings with a stone theme to them, I wondered how much more attention they would get if each one were delivered to a town that otherwise could boast no Dali at all.

Another way of putting it is that you surely have your fill of Dali by the time you leave Figueres.

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As we drive into the hill towns of the French side of the Pyrenees, I have that same feeling of delight -- of coming home to a quiet world of sleepy villages with debates raging about such inconsequentials as which bakery should produce today's lunch bread. The cool BEST bread bakery won today and as we pull in, I notice that the lunch menu has entrecote frites and moulles gratinee on it. Well now -- it's been many many months since I've eaten beef. I suddenly feel that once in a blue moon craving for steak with home made fries. If they would still serve lunch (it's already 3), we are ready to eat it (give Ed some mussels and good bread with them and the guy's content).

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So again we flip our meals and again we are left with bread and cheese for supper.

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And again we have no complaints. None whatsoever.