The road to Dalí
According to biographer Ian Gibson, on 10 June 1982, Salvador Dalí, with the aid of a private nurse and chauffeur, bundled his wife's corpse - she had died at home aged 87 after a short illness - on to the back seat of their '69 Cadillac De-Ville. A fittingly surreal journey then took place with Gala Dalí propped up beside her nurse on the back seat. As per her dying wishes, Gala was to return to the castle the artist had created for her in 1969 near the tiny hamlet of Púbol.
The Cadillac departed the iconic Dalí residence at Port Lligat, skirted around Cadaqués where the painter had spent his childhood summers, traversed the treacherous mountain road which links this eastern-most promontory to mainland Spain and headed north.
Gala's loyal chauffeur apparently kept up a litany of complaints, knowing his mistress preferred the front seat. Dalí's muse appears to have been as intimidating in death as she was in life. It was a fittingly bizarre end to a scandalous 53-year love affair.
'Avida (eager for) Dollars' the derogatory anagram coined by fellow surrealist André Breton in 1939 to describe Salvador Dalí, may never have been more appropriate than now. With two Hollywood films scheduled for release in the coming year, one starring Antonio Banderas and the other Al Pacino, interest in Dalí and his unconventional life seems set to go into overdrive. There may never be a better time to visit Barcelona and expand your surrealist horizon beyond the city limits with a trip around Northern Catalonia's Dalí Triangle before the hordes of film buffs descend.
The triumvirate consists of Gala Dalí's Castle, the Castell Gala Dalí, in the tiny hamlet of Púbol, the Teatro-Museo Dalí, or Dalí Theatre Museum including the stunning exhibition of Dalí Jewels, in the artist's home town of Figueres, and what is arguably the crowning glory of the three, Dalí and Gala's labyrinthine home at Port Lligat near Cadaqués. The journey between the three locations is a little over 80kms, an easy and spectacular drive one and a half hours from Barcelona although it is best spread out over a couple of days.
Gala Dalí's castle at Púbol is a tranquil rural retreat and it's all too easy to miss the turn off the main road. The castle, in parts dating back to the 11th century, was a wreck when Dalí and his prima donna took it on. It has been transformed into a magical serene space. This was where Gala entertained her numerous young lovers and Dalí could visit only by written invitation.
Here, as you'll also find at Port Lligat, Dalí as designer and architect shines through.
Gala's open-plan bedroom and bathroom is a particular delight. In the dream-like garden the couple's love of Richard Wagner is in evidence where busts of the German composer adorn the pool. Surreal water-spurting elephantine creatures peep out of the lush shrubbery.
The infamous Cadillac De-Ville sits immaculately preserved in the dungeon while Gala lies interred in a crypt watched over by mythical carved animals. Vases of silk flowers stand in attendance at her grave. An empty tomb, which was prepared for Dalí himself, sits alongside her.
Prior to Gala's burial Dalí insisted his wife's remains were embalmed in order to preserve her beauty for as long as possible. He also demanded that she be buried in her favourite red Dior evening gown.
Dalí did not attend the funeral, incapable it seems of coming to terms with Gala's demise. Staff found him the following day by her grave in an inconsolable state. Refusing to return to Port Lligat, he took up residence in the castle until 30 August 1984 when a mysterious fire - rumoured to have been a suicide attempt - led to serious injury and hospitalisation.
The castle, though perhaps low-key by Dalí's standards, is nonetheless dotted with typically elaborate statements - a gilded throne fit for a queen, a stuffed white horse, a CS Lewis Narnia-inspired wardrobe to name but a few.
Yet it is the personal effects that make the visit so memorable - records by the gramophone, framed photographs and matching sun-loungers on the shaded terrace. The collection of sumptuous haute couture dresses is breathtaking. Most poignant of all is a cross-legged mannequin wearing Gala's velvet tiger-print jacket, her back turned for eternity to the curious on-looker.
Salvador Dalí was, above all else, a showman; his art a performance. The old Municipal Theatre at Figueres, the artist's home town, was where his first works were exhibited. He made the transformation of the space his legacy and would spend the final years in the Torre Galatea, or Gala Tower, at the Teatro-Museo.
The museum is spectacular, bizarre, disturbing, bewildering and entertaining. Kids and adults alike revel in the surroundings. Gigantic eggs and golden mannequins adorn the roof and golden bread loaves stud the outside walls. The exterior however, is a lesson in understatement compared to what lies within.
For just one euro you can start the rain falling in the mannequin-filled Rainy Cadillac - the car used by Dalí and Gala on their first visit to the US. Be sure to look up to see the umbrella opening on top of a fishing boat balancing on a tower of tyres.
Rise into heaven with the artist and his wife in the magnificent Wind Palace Room. Lose your bearings in the unnerving Mae West Room. Above all, leave your preconceptions at the door and absorb not only a feast of Dalí's work, but also pieces by many of the great surrealists. Do take the time to see the Dalí-Joies or Dalí Jewels, a treasure trove of beautiful thought-provoking pieces designed not for an individual's pleasure but specifically for an audience. The intricate Beating Heart and Golden Skull Grapes simultaneously grab the attention and confound expectation.
Dalí died at Figueres Hospital on 23 January 1989 while listening to his favourite music. His final words were reported to be, "I want to go home". Controversially, it was announced that he had requested that both his funeral and burial take place at the Figueres museum. It caused much upset to many of those closest to him as previously his wish had been to be buried beside his muse at Púbol.
The service, nevertheless, went ahead in the Torre Galatea. The following day a simple bouquet of camomiles, which grow in abundance at Port Lligat, was placed anonymously on the sealed grave. Dalí's tomb was inscribed with both his full name, Salvador Dalí i Domenech, and the noble title bestowed on him by King Juan Carlos in 1982, Marqués de Dalí de Púbol. Dalí remains at the heart of his remarkable artistic project, now both museum and mausoleum.
Head further north for the final leg of the odyssey, to Cadaqués and around the headland to Port Lligat and their home. Here, Dalí and Gala would play hosts to the glitterati of the day. Celebrities such as George Harrison and Kirk Douglas were favoured visitors.
It is remarkable to think the creation started out as a fisherman's hut bought by Dalí in 1930 for 250 pesetas. Visits must be arranged in advance, tickets pre-booked and numbers are strictly limited, but it's a privilege to be allowed in.
Whitewashed eggs balance on the roof and the famous fisherman's boat, with a cypress pine growing through its centre, rests near the doorway. A polar bear wearing glass beads and clutching a lamp greets you as you enter. An owl, forever frozen in the moment before it takes flight, perches on a ledge. At the top of the stairs a cleverly designed library encircles the intimate fireplace.
The setting is a work of art in itself, with window frames precisely positioned to capture the ever-changing vista.
The house is a labyrinth, each space a revelation. Around every corner and stairwell surprises lurk. Mannequins and stuffed animals peer from tiny inaccessible passageways. Gala's sitting room is a joy, where the flawlessly rounded walls and domed ceiling produce perfect acoustics with the effect that a spoken word becomes a hypnotic mantra.
In Dalí's workshop an easel on pulleys allows gigantic canvasses to be lowered and raised through the floor. It is a remarkably practical contraption in a place where corridors often lead nowhere and many objects appear to serve no purpose.
The twin-level bedroom is simple yet awe-inspiring. Majestic velvet-clad twin beds sit on the higher section while below stands an ornate canary cage. On the wall the cage is replicated in miniature and was apparently used to house a cricket. A mirror reflects the view from outside which, due to Port Lligat's easterly location, allowed Dalí the honour of being the first person in Spain to see the sun rise each morning.
Prepare for a lesson in decadent kitsch when you get out to the swimming pool. At the far end two regal beanbags sit under a ruffled white canopy. Pirelli and Firestone logos adorn the wall. A pink plastic Mae West lips sofa beckons. Jets of water sprinkle the pool and whitewashed walls dazzle the eyes. Like many of Dalí's creations the apparent mishmash shouldn't work, but does. Above all it makes you smile. Wander up the gravel path to the gigantic cracked eggshell. In the adjacent olive grove lies a flotsam giant with a rib cage made from a fishing boat.
It is the setting and particular quality of the light that stays with you, familiar because this is the landscape of Dalí's paintings. He often took a boat along the coast and sketched the lunar-like rocks and outcrops at Cap de Creus. These other-worldly shapes and
contours would then reappear on canvas. This hauntingly beautiful coastline was the backdrop to not only Dalí's life, but many of his most famous works. Take time to remember The Madonna of Port Lligatand The Persistence of Memory, with its famous melting clocks; gaze out to sea and marvel at the land and seascapes that inspired one of the world's most famous artists.
For more information about Salvador and Gala Dalí, museums mentioned and tickets, visit www.salvador-dali.org
Where to eat and sleep
Relax and expand your surrealist horizons
Dalí was a regular visitor in his heyday as were the likes of Sofia Loren. The resort is laid-back and unspoiled, with terrific restaurants and hotels, and has retained a cool 1960s feel. Púbol is roughly a 30-minute drive away, and Figueres 50 minutes.
■ The Casamar Hotel
Set in an idyllic coastal location, it is family run with excellent service, wonderful food and terrific vews. www.hotelcasamar.net
■ Hotel El Far, Sant Sebastia Lighthouse
An atmospheric stay in gothic splendour with stunning rooms and vertiginous views. www.elfar.net
The town of Begur is a medieval treat with a fantastic tower from which there are spectacular views of the Emporda coastline. Marvellous medieval villages such as Pals and Peratallada are close by. A 35-minute drive takes you to Púbol, and Figueres is an hour away.
■ The Parador de Aiguablava
Kick back at this stunning location on an outcrop right beside the beach that serves traditional Catalan fare for dinner and hearty breakfasts. parador.es
Scene of the young Dalí's summer holidays with his family and the inspiration for many early works. The artist's house at Port Lligat is five minutes drive away. Because of the remote location the town is largely unspoiled and retains a Bohemian arty atmosphere.
■ The Hotel Blaumar
Reasonably priced, and perfect for unwinding for a night after visiting Port Lligat. www.hotelblaumar.com
■ Hotel Playa Sol
Wonderful views over the village and bay, relaxed and homely. Recommended in the 2011 Michelin guide. www.playasol.com
De Barcelone, Andrew Birbeck voyage le long de la côte nord-ouest de l'Espagne pour découvrir les lieux de prédilection et de résidence de Salvador Dalí
Prochainement portée à l'écran par Hollywood - deux films sont prévus avec dans les rôles principaux Antonio Banderas et Al Pacino - la vie non conventionnelle de l'artiste surréaliste Salvador Dalí prend tout à coup une dimension inégalée. Si vous passez par Barcelone, c'est sans doute le meilleur moment pour aller dans le Triangle dalinien, au nord de la Catalogne, avant qu'il ne soit envahi par des hordes de mordus de cinéma.
Ce trio se compose de la maison-musée Salvador Dalí, de la maison-musée château Gala Dalí, dans le hameau de Púbol et du théâtre-musée Dalí, qui héberge également la fabuleuse exposition de bijoux de l'artiste, dans sa ville natale de Figueres. La maison labyrinthe de Dalí et Gala, à Port Lligat près de Cadaqués, constitue sans doute le clou de la visite. Le trajet entre ces sites représente un peu plus de 80 km, mais il vaut mieux toutefois prévoir quelques jours et profiter de l'agréable route panoramique, à une heure et demie de Barcelone.
Le château Gala Dalí à Púbol est une retraite campagnarde, dont certaines parties remontent au 11è siècle. Acquis par Dalí à l'état de ruine, il fut transformé par ce dernier en un lieu magique. Gala y recevait ses nombreux jeunes amants alors que Dalí était autorisé à lui rendre visite sur invitation écrite.
Salvador Dalí était avant tout un homme de spectacle, et son art, du théâtre. Ses premières oeuvres furent d'ailleurs exposées dans l'ancien théâtre municipal de Figueres. Grand héritage de l'artiste, ce théâtre transformé en musée fut sa dernière résidence, et plus particulièrement la Torre Galatea. Le musée est spectaculaire, inquiétant, déroutant et divertissant à la fois, et l'extérieur une leçon de modestie en comparaison de ce qu'il renferme.
Dirigez-vous toujours plus au nord pour la dernière manche de votre périple, à Cadaqués, direction le cap de Port Lligat et leur maison - autrefois une demeure de pêcheur -, achetée par Dalí pour 250 pesetas en 1930. N'oubliez pas de réserver à l'avance, car l'accès au musée se fait en groupe réduit : une excellente façon de le visiter en privilégié. www.salvador-dali.org
Andrew Birbeck reist van Barcelona via de Spaanse noordwestkust naar oorden waar Salvador Dalí woonde en beminde
Met twee nieuwe Hollywoodfilms in het verschiet - met Antonio Banderas en Al Pacino in de hoofdrollen - bereikt de belangstelling voor surrealistisch kunstenaar Salvador Dalí en zijn onconventionele levenswijze een nieuw hoogtepunt. Daarmee krijgt ook de Dalí-driehoek ten noorden van Barcelona extra aandacht. Stel een bezoek dus niet te lang uit.
De driehoek bestaat uit het Castell Gala Dalí (Púbol), het Teatro-Museo Dalí (sieraden van de kunstenaar) (Figueres) en - hét pronkstuk - het labyrintische huis van Dalí en Gala (Port Lligat). De afstand tussen de drie locaties bedraagt iets meer dan 80 km, maar u doet er best enkele dagen over.
Het gedeeltelijk 11e-eeuwse kasteel van Gala Dalí in Púbol straalt landelijke rust uit. Toen Dalí het aankocht, was het een ruïne, maar hij toverde het om tot een magische, serene plek. Hier ontving Gala haar vele jonge minnaars en Dalí was er alleen welkom als hij een uitnodiging had gehad.
Salvador Dalí was een showman, zijn kunst een spektakel. In het oude stadstheater in Figueres, zijn geboorteplaats, zijn zijn eerste werken tentoongesteld. Van de gedaanteverandering van deze ruimte maakte hij zijn erfgoed. De laatste jaren van zijn leven bracht hij door in de "Gala-toren". Het Teatro-Museo is schitterend, bizar, storend, verbijsterend en amusant en in vergelijking met het interieur is de buitenkant een understatement.
Nog meer naar het noorden ligt Port Lligat, waar Dalí in 1930 voor 250 peseta een vissershuis kocht. U moet vooraf reserveren en er mogen slechts enkele bezoekers tegelijkertijd naar binnen, maar wat een ervaring! www.salvador-dali.org