It’s Surreal Deal!

There was a lengthy queue to get over the border but, eventually, we’ve made it over the Pyrenees into Spain and the Costa Brava is basking in the heat of a late summer’s afternoon. The next stop is Empuriabrava selected for its proximity to Cadaqués and Figueres. This is Salvador Dalí country; he lived most of his life in the region and located his museum here too.

We check in then check out the local restaurants plumping for a deserted Chinese. The staff are friendly and the food is good. The town is very quiet but there’s still enough life to satisfy us, next day we visit the beach and have a stroll around the harbour area – must be nice to park the yacht at the bottom of your garden.

Dalí Museum, Figueres.

Dalí Museum, Figueres.

Annoyingly, the road I want doesn’t come up on the satnav so I head for the centre of Figueres. We follow several signs for parking that lead down narrow streets then claim a free space. A five-minute walk brings us to the tourist information office where we pick up a map. The Teatre-Museu Dalí is just up the road so all has worked out well.

It’s a fascinating space that is decorated from floor to ceiling with surreal sculptures, drawings and paintings – it must be great to work on such a large scale. I’m impressed, not only by his technical ability but by the sheer volume of his work. I don’t think I saw any of his most famous pieces on display but the different collections give you an insight into how he developed as an artist, the various influences and ideas he worked with over time.

From Dalí to Gaudí. Yes, we’ve arrived in Barcelona. We quickly get acquainted with the Metro and head into the town centre. We take the L3 to Catalunya and exit into La Rambla, a wide street brisling with shops and restaurants. In the now night sky small flurescent lights shoot up then drift back down – cheap toys being demonstrated by the street hawkers.

Tapas for tea tonight served up with a large bowl of beer. I can’t quite make my mind up on tapas; it’s tasty enough but I can’t help feeling that I’ve had a starter, now what’s for the main course? It’s made worse when we have to pay the tourist rates bill.

33 is the magic number.

Magic square set into a door.

We’re up and out early for a visit to the Sagrada Família and well worth it it is too. Antonio Gaudí devoted much of his life’s work to this building and tragically, died when construction had barely began. Thankfully, he’d made plenty of models and drawings of his designs and the building work continues to this day.

It’s fair to say that this will be the best church you will ever visit. To describe it would take an age, there’s detail and meaning in every brick – each time you look up you see something new. For those with an interest in the technical as well as the symbolic religious stuff there’s a great museum underneath that tells the tale of its construction.

It’s a fascinating piece of architecture, the ongoing story of its construction and the architect who made it possible are equally interesting. The element that I find most compelling is that it is even being built at all. For Gaudí to conceive such an original and bold design overflowing with meaning and story-telling detail; for the patrons of the project to have the courage to approve the drawings; for those labour intensive drawings to not only be financed but turned into stone and brought to life and for the project to continue over the course of a turbulent century is quite remarkable.

It’s amazing, the commitment not only to see it though to completion but to persevere with the original vision over such a long period is inspiring. In comparison, most of today’s grand scale projects show a lack of imagination and courage, penciled by equally as creative architects but, no doubt, stifled by the bean counters.

Of course, I can’t talk of Barcelona without mentioning football. This weekend is El Clasico, one of the biggest games in the Spanish calendar against arch rivals Real Madrid. Unfortunately, it’s being played in Madrid and even if it was at the Nou Camp, getting tickets would have been a miracle. So the next best thing is find a bar full of locals and watch it on the telly. My choice of venue is not the best as we end up surrounded by English, Americans and Dutch. We still have a good night – Barça win 4-0 and we celebrate with mojitos.

We’ve had a few evenings wandering about town trying different bars and cafés. We spent a lazy day just enjoying the gardens of our accommodation – it was Barcelona’s first zoo so is quite ornamental – but for our last day it’s a trip to Park Güell.

Park Güell.

Park Güell.

This is another of Señor Gaudí’s project’s that is unfinished. Contrary to the Sagrada Família it probably never will be as it was considered a failure early in the construction stage and sold off to the local authority who turned it into a park.

It was intended to be a posh housing estate but due to poor transport links, nobody was interested in purchasing the plots. Gaudí lived there though and you can visit his home along with a couple of other buildings, the town-square, covered marketplace and walkways.