We began this morning by picking up our rental car at Sixt. Then drove to Cadaques on the Costa Brava to visit the nearby Casa y Museo Dali in Portlligat. We lucked out because as it turns out the house is very small and in order to control numbers, a reserved, timed ticket is required. The earliest available ticket would have been 2 hours later, but there were some no-shows and we were able to go in immediately.
Catalonia seems to have more than its fair share of mad artistic geniuses. In addition to Gaudi, Picasso and Miro, they count Salvador Dali amongst their number. Known for his kitsch pop art, his house at Portlligat is a perfect reflection of his style. Dali took seven simple fishermen’s cottages and combined them into one custom built house. One particularly interesting design detail was a hole in the floor of his second story studio that enabled him to raise and lower large canvases on a rope and pulley frame system so he could paint them without having to get on a ladder.
The house is full of nooks and crannies and multiple levels. Each room is unique, but most are quite small as these were Salvador and Gala’s private spaces. When they entertained they used the pool and other outdoor spaces. They didn’t have overnight guests.
The views were spectacular. Dali included some art instillations on the grounds. This includes Christ of the Rubbish and the Michelin Man serving as lifeguard overlooking the pool. If you’re a Dali fan, it’s well worth a visit.
We drove back over the mountains to get to Girona, a very quaint medieval town about 100 km from Barcelona. By getting a Spanish SIM card with data service we were able to use my smart phone here in Spain. Amongst other things, my phone has a GPS, which is proving very useful except that when we got to Girona, it prompted us to take a left turn which would have been down a steep flight of steps!
Girona was an important Jewish center in medieval times. In fact, it had the 3rd largest Jewish population in Catalonia after Barcelona and Perpignan (now in France, then part of Catalonia). Perhaps the most famous Jewish resident of Girona was Rabbi Nachman ben Maimon, better known as Nachmanides – a doctor, Talmudic scholar, and kabbalist. The Jewish quarter, or call, is fairly well preserved, although most traces of its Jewish residents disappeared with the expulsion in 1492.
The Jewish museum does a good job of explaining the Jewish heritage of Girona and what led to its demise. One thing that I learned was that after an early 15th century disputation, about half of the Jewish population of Aragon converted to Christianity. By the time of the final expulsion in 1492, relatively few Jews left Girona (and presumably other Jewish communities) as most had already converted to Christianity.
We stopped at a supermarket to pick up a picnic dinner. Kelly made our own tapas at 120 kph. We are now on our way towards Bilbao, but we’ll break the journey overnight at Zaragoza, about half way. This is wine country, that at times reminds me of Tuscany and Northern California. Unfortunately we aren’t able to stop to take pictures on the AutoPiste, but here’s a quick grab shot from the car.