We took two days to explore Cadaques as I had heard so many wonderful things about it and didn’t want to be rushed, though it is small enough to cover in one day. We planned to spend only the morning touring Dali’s house in a nearby cove called Portlligat, but wound up spending the entire day there. Cadaques is on a rocky, hilly, peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean. Getting there by bus is easy and preferable, as most of the streets in Cadaques are undrivable and everyone has to park outside the center, like in Venice. We took the bus from Figueres, it cost 5€ each one way and took 45 minutes. The bus traverses the mountains on roads that drop away sheer to the valleys below, which are dotted or lined with olive trees.
You can walk to Portlligat, on a clearly marked trail, it takes about 20 minutes and goes up one very steep hill. Portlligat must have been a micro fishing village, with about 10 houses, a harbour full of dingheys and sailboats and thousands of olive trees. As history has it, Dali’s father exiled him from Cadaques after his antics started getting really polemic. So Dali just bought a little fisherman’s cabin in a cove around the bend. Over the years, he built up the house into the spacious villa you see today. If you are into interior design or architecture, I recommend planning to spend several hours there. The tour guides tend to rush the groups along, prodding you through the rooms with just enough time to snap a pic. But if you drop back from the group a bit they’ll leave you alone in the rooms for a short while.
Portlligat doesn’t have any life of its own now, aside from being the place where Dali’s house is. All the ancient little fishermans’ huts have been turned into canteens to service the daily influx of tourists. But there’s only a couple and the only food is uninspired bocadillos, so I suggest having lunch in Cadaques before you go.
I fell completely head over heels in love with Dali and Gala’s sense of space and decoration. And though the house is practically an ode to occultish whimsy, I was surprised that the house wasn’t tackier, more bizarre, more “surreal.” There are a couple of atrocious Daliesque relics, the stuffed bear in the foyer, the michelin man plastica around the pool, the gigantic Jesus sculpture made out of rubbish in the olive grove, but overall it’s floorplan, furniture, art-work, and textiles made me burn with a desire to move in. I thought nothing would ever top Luis Barragan’s house in Mexico City (here and here) but this might. The setting must have a lot to do with that, nestled on the rocky cove, with a practically private beach, the colors and stripes of the boats, the long bright sky, the endless tide of olive trees with their silver leaves. It’s so simple, and so Mediterranean. I just didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.