A Glimpse of Dali’s Jewelry: Surreal Glitz and Glam in Figueres, Spain

As you may have guessed, I’m back in the U.S.A. recovering from jet lag in my sister’s NoCal home, though missing my morning cup of Spanish espresso. Fuerte. Muy fuerte. My body is still in the state of “Does anyone know what time it is?”

We love those ruby red lips to wear. Would you?

We love those ruby red lips to wear. Would you?

Memories of Spain are swirling in my brain, especially the glitz and glam of Salvador Dali’s gem encrusted jewelry creations on exhibit at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, a 15-minute train ride beyond Girona.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-14 Dali Theatre Museum_24-13

Dali’s relationship with his place of birth is powerful, deep and intense. He rescued and restored the burned out theatre across from the church where he was baptized, and where he held his first exhibition as a painter. The museum is his personal design based on his own aesthetics.  It holds the representative range of all his works created during his lifetime.

The connotation of limp clocks. You guess why.

The connotation of limp clocks. You guess why.

This is why you go to Figueres and then on to Cadaques-Port Lligat, to explore the persona of Salvador Dali as translated through his art and antics.

Dali Theatre Museum_Green

The museum brochure advises visitors to take any circuitous path through the museum if they wish — there is no chronological order to a visit. You get to create your own surreal experience, according to Dali’s non-plan.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-10

Travel Tips, What We Did and Should Have Done

Car Rental: we rented a Europcar online in advance and picked it up at the original downtown Figueres train station knowing we wanted to drive north along the Costa Brava. Fortunately, we arrived at the old station. We didn’t realize Figueres has two train stations, one for the AVE high-speed train and the older downtown station that serves mid-distance (older) trains. So, when we wanted to return to Barcelona on the AVE, we had to return the car to the original station and then take a taxi to the high-speed station. An added expense of 17 euros. Europcar does not serve the Figueres AVE station. To get to Cadaques on public transport is difficult.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-19 Dali Theatre Museum_24-4Sleeping: we booked and pre-paid for a charming bed and breakfast country inn online in advance using Booking.com. We thought, oh, great, a countryside experience. The inn is about 15 minutes beyond Figueres in a small rural village with one pub/eating place. We arrived early evening with the intention to spend two nights, but the inn was located on the curve of a main side road with constant traffic, so with little sleep we decided to leave the next morning, visit the museum and head for the coast.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-9Visiting Dali Theatre-Museum: If you arrive early, parking is plentiful in the adjacent garage. We didn’t need tickets in advance here but you might depending on season and time of day. The main entry is opposite the church on the square. Don’t miss the jewelry exhibit. It’s easy to miss since the metal door is obscure and is through a separate entrance. Your museum ticket includes admission to this part, too.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-11 Dali Theatre Museum_24-22Dali’s wife and muse, Gala, appears in many of his paintings. In this one, above left, is she fragmented or defined as floating eggs? Eggs as Dalian symbolism appear everywhere.

Recommendations: In hindsight, I would stay two nights in Girona, rent a car there, drive to Figueres in the morning and go directly to the Dali Theatre-Museum, and then go on later in the afternoon to Cadaques and spend at least three to five nights there.  It takes about an hour to drive from Figueres to Cadaques and road signs are good, although the road is narrow and curving. Pay attention to the roundabouts. It stays light until well past 8:30 p.m.

Dali Theatre Museum_24-7Salvador Dali is an enigma to me. I see and understand his creative genius. I question his non-political position in the face of two wars that destroyed his country and most of Europe. Surrealism was both an art and political movement. By eschewing politics, did he further his artistic career more than any other contemporary? More than Picasso or Joan Miro?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-5 Dali Theatre Museum_24-21

Many in the arts world called Dali a fortune seeker, greedy.  In response, he created the Avida Dollars necklace, shown above left, as a snub to the critics.  His jewelry is one more testimony to his creativity and skill to reimagine the ordinary in a spectacular way. And, what can we say about those ubiquitous eggs?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-8 Dali Theatre Museum_24-15

Let’s just create a Cadillac that rains on the driver and passengers each time the umbrella that floats above opens, to say nothing of the ship that floats alongside in the air. A buxom figurehead adorns the car hood, protecting all who ride.

Dali Theatre Museum_Cadillac Dali Theatre Museum_24-2 Dali Theatre Museum_24-23

Where is your imagination?

Dali Theatre Museum_24-24  Dali Theatre Museum_24-3

 

 

 

Artist Salvador Dali at Port Lligat, Girona, Spain

Port Lligat on Spain’s Costa Brava, is a niche in the rock wall coast line of the Mediterranean Sea, just around the bend from Cadaques. This tiny fishing village is where surrealist artist Salvador Dali lived and painted for most of his adult life.

Dali_27-3

We ended up here more or less by accident, since we had booked no hotels in advance between our visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres and our last three nights in Barcelona before returning to San Francisco. Our only plan was to rent a car and go.

Dali_27-2

This was both wonderful and a mistake. Wonderful because our path took us to Cadaques and Port Lligat, two glorious, sun bathed Mediterranean villages hugging two coastline coves.  The mistake was, without planning, we hadn’t bought advanced tickets for the Dali house admission, so we didn’t get in.

Dali_27-10 Dali_27-9 Dali_27-4

No matter! The gardens and views are amazing and there are plenty of surreal sculpture installations to capture the imagination, including a baby grand piano spilling its guts.

Dali_27-6

The house is perched on a rock hill overlooking the sea. It is studded with olive trees, outbuildings, patios and flowers planted in teacup pots. Videos give visitors a complete art history into Dali and his wife Gala’s life here, along with all the idiosyncracies of his controversial life, politics and religious views.

Dali_27-11 Dali_27-14

In front of the swimming pool, designed a la a surrealist’s view of the Alhambra palace complete with lion fountains, a Pirelli tire sculpture frames the famous Mae West lips sofa. All visitors take their turn posing on the sofa for a photo.

Dali_27-27 Dali_27-24

Dali and his wife Gala bought the small fisherman’s cottage in Port Lligat from his childhood nursemaid. He developed and expanded it over the years, and it became the place he retreated to. The rock outcroppings of place take on surrealistic forms in his paintings.

Dali_27-17 Dali_27-20

Lips are a Dali icon. In the 60’s he made ruby studded gold lips worn as a pin. If you want, you can buy a glass knock-off in any of the affiliated museum shops along with moustache adorned t-shirts and Dali-designed perfume bottles. The man was definitely an entrepreneur who capitalized on his reputation and his talent.

Dali_27-15 Dali_27-19

The surrealists discredited him. Leftists disowned him. Priests embraced him. Socialites basked in his aura. Hollywood gave him entrée. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine at age 32. Sigmund Freud was his hero.

Dali_27-18

Art critics weigh in about his apolitical position of the Spanish Civil War. Some say everything he did was sexually and psychologically motivated. Others say he was an exploiter and showman. He was said to have applauded Franco’s assassination of his good friend, poet Federico Garcia Lorca as a surreal moment of life.

Dali_27-16 Dali_27-13

Whatever you think of Salvador Dali, his work is astounding and a visit to his birth place of Figueres and the Dali Theatre Museum is a must if you go to Barcelona. It’s only an hour north by AVE fast train going 200 km/hour.

Dali_27

We hadn’t planned on going to the beach because we are no longer sun worshippers. But, we needed a respite from visiting so many cities (Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada, Girona, Figueres) and historical/architectural points of interest.

Dali_27-26 Dali_27-8

Cadeques turned out to be the perfect place to settle for three nights. I would recommend longer. Five days wouldn’t be too long! More on Cadaques to come. Everything about being in a white-washed Mediterranean village is true. In Spain, it’s even more true because of the food and the people, to say nothing of the leisurely strolling and shopping.

Dali_27-23 It’s a dog’s life, too. Not just for Salvador Dali.

Dali_27-7 Dali_27-22And to know and feel the Mediterranean, I took off my shoes and put my feet in the beautiful, clean, clear water and walked the curve of the shoreline.

Dali_27-25

 

 

Why Visit Girona, Spain?

Girona_38-23Girona, Spain, is a half-hour north of Barcelona Sants station by AVE bullet train going at 200 km per hour. It catapulted us into the Middle Ages.

Girona_38-34

It has the best preserved medieval Jewish neighborhood in Europe dating from the 8th century with an outstanding museum atop an archeological dig that contains a mikvah. There is an investment by the Spanish government now in historical Jewish tourism. Spain is offering dual citizenship to Sefardim who want to reclaim their past.

Girona_38-24 Girona_38-30

Until the pogroms of 1391, Girona was a center of Jewish intellectual life in Spain where Kabbalah Jewish spirituality fully developed from its roots in southern France.

Girona_38-26 Girona_38-25 Girona_38-29

By 1492, with the Expulsion Decree and the start of the official Inquisition, Jews had either converted to Catholicism or left for France, Amsterdam, Turkey, North Africa, towns along the Adriatic Sea and the New World. No Jews remained in Spain.

Girona_38-28

According to our expert Barcelona guide Dominique of Urban Cultours, the Spanish Jewish community there was mostly decimated in 1391. Surviving in Girona are tombstone fragments from Montjuic cemetery and artifacts of Jewish ritual and daily life. In Barcelona, cemetery stones were used for foundation construction of 15th century church and government buildings.

Girona_38-18

Girona boasts an amazing gothic cathedral dating from 1038 A.D. with an impressive, wide nave, second only to Saint Peter’s in Rome.

Girona_38-37 IMG_5606

The stained glass windows spill colored light into an otherwise dark, stony and austere interior. It speaks of early European Catholicism where the so-called chair of Charlemagne commands attention.

Girona_38-13

From the top of the cathedral steps, you look down onto a lovely square, perfect for resting, sipping a glass of Estrella beer with tapas appetizers.

Girona_38-9 Girona_38-10

During the Spanish civil war, 1936-1939, the figures of the twelve apostles that flanked the side entrance to the cathedral were destroyed. Their intricate crowns are still intact, and one can imagine …

Girona_38-14 FullSizeRender

Girona’s old town flanks both sides of the beautiful Onyar River, connected by bridges. It is walkable, accessible, filled with narrow alleyways, hillside steps, ancient porticos, smart shops filled with designer clothes and accessories, excellent patio cafes and Catalunya flags flying everywhere.

Girona_38-33 Girona_38-20

The sentiment for an independent Catalan state is strong. It feels and smells old world.

Girona_38-36

Two days here are not long enough!

Compared with Barcelona there is not the crush of tourists although there are plenty of European visitors. We heard French, Italian, Czech, German and Russian, plenty of Catalan and Spanish. Not much English!

Girona_38-35 Girona_38-21 Girona_38-22

We had an amazing dinner at Massana, a one-star Michelin restaurant, our best in Spain. We saw the restaurant sign and rang the doorbell to what we discovered was a private dining room. Chef-owner Pere Massana emerged in his kitchen whites to personally guide us to the actual entrance.

Girona_38-6 Girona_38-5 Girona_38-7

Our welcome was warm, service outstanding and engaging. Food spectacular. We opted out of the tasting menu — too much food late at night (most restaurants don’t open until 8:30 p.m.) and instead ordered an entree and dessert. Otherwise, we would have lingered until well beyond midnight!

The meal was preceded by three taste treats to whet our appetite: fresh goat cheese topped with rosemary, mussels marinated in orange vinaigrette and a fois gras yogurt topped with crunchy flashed dried ground corn. This sure beat the chocolate coated fois gras popsicle we had in Granada at overrated La Fabula that was part of an over-the-top tasting menu.

FullSizeRender This chocolate hazelnut extravaganza tasting plate was my dessert at Massana. So chocolate-y I couldn’t eat it all!

We were astounded that Chef Massana followed us out to the street to personally thank us for coming, asking how we enjoyed the meal! Memorable. Sincere.

After a good night’s rest at Hotel Nord 1901 we took the afternoon train to Figueres, rented a car and drove to a 15th century village where we stayed overnight in a converted farmhouse. Then, on to the Dali Museum where I will post about his surrealist jewelry designs next.

Girona_38-2 Girona_38-11

Today, we are resting in the Mediterranean seacoast town of Cadaques, Spain. But, I can’t get magical Girona off my mind.

FullSizeRender

 

 

 

Inside the Nasrid Palace: The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

GranadaDay3_29-7  Carved wood, intricate plaster arches and decorative columns,  outstanding 13th century mosaics, and water, water everywhere define the palaces of the Nasrid kings at the Alhambra, Granada, Spain. The best description I have found is this one from Islamic Arts that offers you a virtual walking tour.

GranadaDay3_29-29

How to Buy Tickets

It is not easy to gain entry. One must buy tickets online a month in advance of your visit. They are not available any earlier. My sister did this by staying up all night the day the tickets went on sale for the dates we wanted. There is a nine hour time difference between Spain and San Francisco.

GranadaDay3_29-20

Tour groups seem to get priority, so within the hour of opening sales, the only tickets remaining were those in the afternoon time slot. That turned out to be a good thing for us since we still hadn’t adjusted to the time difference, we were moving slowly and we were inside the shade of the gardens and palace during the hottest part of the day!

GranadaDay3_29-17

Tips for Visiting the Alhambra

  • Buy tickets for two days. One day is not enough. It takes one day to cover the Alhambra. There are two palaces — The Nasrid Palace and The Generalife, known as the summer palace. The territory is vast. There is a lot of walking and stair climbing.

GranadaDay3_29-22

  • Rent the audio guide. It’s a must and definitely worth the extra euros. There are two stations: one at the entry by the ticket office and another inside by the Charles (Carlos) V Palace. You must return the guide to whichever place you picked it up because you have to leave an ID card as security.

GranadaDay3_29-21

  • Eat lunch or dinner on the patio of the beautiful Parador Granada hotel. The cost is comparable to other venues, the views glorious, the gardens enchanting and the history is deep. It was the Franciscan monastery here where Isabella of Castile was first buried. Her remains were later removed to the Granada Cathedral by grandson Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

GranadaDay3_29-27 GranadaDay3_29-12

  • Take your time in the Nasrid Palace. Once you enter at your appointed time there is no limit to how long you can be there. We had the afternoon time slot that allowed us to enter the grounds at 2 p.m. with an 8 p.m. exit. Our ticket gave us access to the palace at 3 p.m. We lingered and let all the rushing tour groups pass us by. We were inside for over two hours just savoring the experience.

GranadaDay3_29-15

  • Sit wherever you can and listen to the water. Fountains and running water were part of Moslem art and an integral function for living a prayerful life. It is meditative and tranquil.

GranadaDay3_29-9

  • Look up. The ceilings are filled with surprises. Honeycomb domes have been able to withstand centuries of earthquakes with little or no damage.

GranadaDay3_29-2 GranadaDay3_29-14 GranadaDay3_29-11

  • Step into archways and niches. Even the backs of the openings are filled with messages and prayers, inscriptions in Arabic, remains of polychrome frescoes.

GranadaDay3_29-25 GranadaDay3_29-13 GranadaDay3_29-6

It’s hot in Granada in April. Walking shoes, lightweight clothing, sun protection (cream and hat) are musts. The locals say in summer it can get close to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. So, please plan your packing accordingly. Early mornings and night were chilly for us so we had shawls and jackets along, too.

GranadaDay3_29-3

And, we were constantly thirsty. Water, water everywhere also means slurping down Gatorade to stay hydrated! Of course, the locals prefer to drink beer the beverage of choice beginning as early as 10 a.m.

GranadaDay3_29-26 GranadaDay3_29-28 GranadaDay3_29-24

One afternoon we decided to walk down to the Darro River from the Alhambra to return to our hotel Casa Morisca. It’s a steep slope and in the descent you can understand how the Moors were able to rule the Iberian Peninsula from here for seven hundred years from this strategic mountain top.

GranadaDay3_29

In 1492, at the beginning of the Inquisition, when Spain unified under the Catholic kings, Moors and Jews were required to convert to Catholicism or leave. Those who converted were always suspect of practicing their religion in hiding and were often brought before the Inquisition to test their faith.

GranadaDay3_29-23

 

There were no surviving Jewish communities in Spain after 1492 and mosques are forbidden here. Many conversos moved to New Spain where they practiced Catholicism embedded with ancient Jewish rituals. We are in Girona now, north of Barcelona, where we are visiting the best surviving medieval Jewish neighborhood in Spain under the shadow of the most amazing Cathedral that was started in 1038 A.D. atop a Roman forum.

GranadaDay3_29-16

Quick Look: The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Rather than playing catch-up, I’m skipping over the Guggenheim museum and our visit with Brigitte Huet and Ivan in Bilbao for now and jumping into the present: Granada, Spain, where we arrived last night. Just in time for some stunning views of the Alhambra.

GranadaDay1-6

We are staying at the Casa Morisca which is in the old Arab quarter, the Albaicin, just beneath the Alhambra. This is what we saw as we emerged from the taxi from the airport.

GranadaDay1-2 GranadaDay1

It’s warm here and will reach over 80 degrees F. today. That’s about 20 degrees hotter than in Bilbao. This is hill country with cobblestone pavements, steep stairways and small curving roads cut into the mountains.

The snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains are within a half hour drive, as is the beach going in the other direction.

For now, we are concentrating on getting better sleep, good food — a la food and views from Mirador Morayma and seeing how my knee holds up!

GranadaDay1-4 GranadaDay1-5 This is what we came for! As night descended and our meal ended, this is our view!

GranadaDay1-7Of course, the Moors in Spain and their expulsion along with the Jews in 1492 begins in Granada. This is the symbol for the unification of Spain and the beginnings of the official Inquisition, which extended to all of Spain’s territories — including Mexico — and lasted until 1834.