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Prior to a recent trip to Spain, I found the work of artist Salvador Dali to be interesting but a bit difficult to relate to emotionally. His surrealist landscapes are filled with strange symbolism and personal iconography — while a burning giraffe or an elephant with long, thin insect legs is visually intriguing, it can be hard to relate those images to the real world. After visiting three locations in Spain that were important to the artist, however, I now have a much greater appreciation for his art as well as for the man himself.
Dali was born and raised along Spain’s Mediterranean coast in a region now known as the Costa Brava, about an hour from Barcelona by high-speed train (90 minutes by car). This landscape and culture had a major impact on the artist’s life and work, and he continued coming back to the area until he died there in 1989. Today, the three main locations where Dali worked are part of a tourist route called the Dali Triangle, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about this artistic pioneer.
My favorite of the three locations was the artist’s home in Port Lligat, near the town of Cadaques, in the far eastern part of Spain. Here, visitors can see the house Dali designed and constructed himself on what was then a remote bay used by fishermen. A tour of the house includes the artist’s studio, bedroom and his living room where Dali entertained celebrities and other artists. One of my favorite details was the system of mirrors Dali created so that he could lie in bed and watch the sun rise. He used to claim that he was the first Spaniard to see the sun each day.
After a tour of the house, guests can wander around the beautiful grounds and take in the views of the Mediterranean — elements of which are reflected in numerous paintings by Dali.
Visitors to the house need to make reservations in advance online, and the house is closed on Mondays.
Before or after visiting Port Lligat, visitors should check out the town of Cadaques. A short walk from Dali’s house, the town is one of the most picturesque in the Costa Brava, with quaint sidewalk cafes on a beautiful blue bay.
Another must-see part of the triangle is the Dali Theater-Museum, the main museum dedicated to Dali’s work, located in the town of Figueres, not far from Port Lligat. The museum was built in what had been a dilapidated old theater. Dali himself created this museum at the end of his life, and he is entombed in a crypt under the stage. The exhibit here is comprehensive, fascinating and, fitting to Dali, full of whimsy. Visitors to the museum should also be sure to check out the Dali-Jewels permanent exhibit next door, which features an amazing collection of jewelry designed by the artist.
If visitors want more insight into Dali, they should have lunch at the restaurant in the nearby Hotel Duran, which was one of Dali’s personal favorites.
The final leg of the Dali Triangle is the Castle at Pubol. This castle, located in the same region, was purchased and renovated by Dali and then given to his wife, Gala, as a gift. (Gala accepted the gift with the condition that Dali himself was not allowed to visit her except by a formal prior request.)After her death, Gala was buried there, and Dali moved into the castle to be close to his beloved muse. The collection at Pubol is mostly focused on Gala, Dali’s lifelong inspiration, and it includes an exhibit of some of the clothes Dali designed for her.
After visiting the three locations of the Dali Triangle, it’s clear to me how much the artist relied on this part of Spain as inspiration for his genius, which was far ahead of his time.