It was crowded and seemingly disorganized, such a contrast to my previous visit to the famous Dali museum at Figueres, that almost; no, definitely, indescribable edifice that reminds you of no other; like the man himself, it is unique.
The short road to the carpark was being dug up and we had to wait about 15 minutes just to get into the carpark, relying entirely on those leaving the museum to vacate their spot. Bizarrely, as if in keeping with Dali’s theme of thinking outside the square, you are charged 0.043229 euro cents per minute for your stay in the carpark; and this is just the first thing designed to fleece the tourists.
The museum itself (when you finally get in after waiting with the busloads) is a masterpiece of involvement with art, i.e., every piece makes you think. His extraordinary gifts spanned so many of the arts it is hard to believe that only one man conceived all this. From his exquisite jewellery pieces to his art that was on another planet, the museum never fails to grab your attention.
The famous centrepiece of the Cadillac with vines on the dash and a spray system that will keep the snails inside alive is activated if you insert 20 cents into a slot , the bronze fat lady with snakes on her arms on the bonnet, the stack of tyres topped by a statue of a man wrapped in a tyre himself that has a bust secreted in another tyre at his feet and all of this beneath a boat with huge droplets of water clinging to its side and a mast topped by an umbrella and who knows what else we missed is mind boggling to say the least.
It’s set in what used to be an opera theatre that was accidentally burnt down during the Spanish Civil War and Dali’s idea was that you go in here not to see art but to have a theatrical experience. I believe he got that right.
He was a fan of many artists including one of my favourites, Gerit Dou, who has two works featured either side of an El Greco portrait titled Saint Paul and all are on show in his Masterpieces Gallery along with one of Dali’s most admired painters Meissonier.
Much of the rest is mayhem and, as Dali intended, you can never see it all in one visit, or two or three for that matter, because so much will elude you, leaving it fresh for discovery on your next incursion.
Our day then took us south to the Mediterranean, thrust on by yet another storm, buffeted by the Tramontana that falls off the Pyrenees which accompanied us nearly all the way to the sea where it almost mysteriously disappeared for the remainder of the day so we could enjoy the beauty of the Vermilion Coast, taking time for a repast at the bustling Banyuls-sur-Mer followed by dinner at the delightful Collioure.
Banyuls-sur-Mer is brash, with modern sculpture, modern boats, jet skis, lots of three storey accommodation houses, busy shopping in tree lined streets and a Catalan flag or two. There’s a bustling holiday atmosphere about the place, unlike Collioure, that’s steeped in history.
Overlooked from on high by the 16th C Fort St. Elme of Charles V, then a windmill on the next level down and finally overseen by the waterside castle, originally a Roman castrum, Collioure’s splash of pastel shops are at odds with the drab buildings blocks of the fortifications.
The castle was occupied by Visigoth king Wamba in 673, but has had many noticeable additions since then and was used as the summer palace of the Kings of Majorca in the 12th century.
Along the sea front is the lovely church bell tower (that once doubled as a lighthouse) of the Notre Dame des Anges, the symbol of Collioure, which is reflected in the waters of the harbour on whom the sun shines for 300 days of the year. The pastel dome was only added in 1810.
It overlooks the small harbour with its traditional colourful fishing boats, their mast sticking up from the centre of the open craft.
It’s been an inspiration for artists; Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Chagall and Marquet to name but a few, and is touted as the birthplace of Fauvism though we’re too late to visit the galleries.
I’d planned to stop and eat here and that’s exactly what happened. What better way to finish a day than relaxing by the bay of Ansa de Baleta with its gentle waters lapping on the coarse sand as the sun retreated and the evening lights came on to dance across the water. Bon appétit!