Last night at sunset I met friends at Beach & Friends Cafe, the last set of buildings on the Essaouira strand before leaving town and heading south toward Agadir. It is where you can get a great seafood dinner with a good glass of vin ordinaire — red table wine — for a reasonable price.
The ocean view and camel entertainment can’t be beat.
It takes a brisk half hour walk from the Medina along the crescent shoreline to get there. In the distance I could see the sand dunes rising and the outline of camels and horses.
I passed families strolling and tourists catching the last rays for the perfect tan.
Camels! I have ridden elephants in Thailand but never camels. A camel ride at sunset in Essaouira? Why not! The view is nothing short of spectacular.
It is not easy to get on top of a camel, even when they are sitting. That hump is very big. When I got situated on top of the Boucherouit rug that covered her back, I was pretty high up and the camel hadn’t even risen yet. I was thinking, how will this animal get up without me falling off.
Hang on, the two young camel herders said in French as they motioned for me to grab both wood poles attached to the saddle. With my camera and money bag dangling, the camel slowly rose and I swayed like I was on a small boat in rough seas.
As the camel made its way across the dunes, I looked out and imagined what Lawrence of Arabia must have felt like. Then, someone told me he rode a motorcycle across the desert.
Most of the photos were blurry. Have you ever taken a picture from the back of a camel? Hah! I surrendered my camera to the herder who assured me he would get great photos for an extra 100 dirham as he pointed the lens into the sunset and stepped back into the surf.
Do you recognize me? These three women in a camel train ahead of me were on their way back to the cafe, too. I managed to get one in focus, sort of.
And, I loved the experience! Scary. Thrilling. Definitely fun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a dog’s life, too. Not just for Salvador Dali.
And 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.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged art, art history, beach, Cadaques, Costa Brava, critics, Figueres, Girona, painting, politics, Port Lligat, Salvador Dali, Spain, Spanish Civil War, surrealism, tourism, travel