Salvador Dalí, one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, spent most of his life on the Costa Brava. I visited the area recently with my eldest on a parent blogger trip, and soon after we arrived we found ourselves sitting at Dalí’s favourite table at Restaurant Duran in Figueres. The table is in an alcove at the back of the restaurant, just beyond an old well and the wine cellar.
Apparently Dalí first went there as a child with his father, a local lawyer, and used to go there for lunch most days when he was in town. When we arrived and I saw the three course menu I didn’t feel hungry at all, as we’d left home at 5am that day and I was feeling a little spaced out. I chose vegetable pannacotta followed by monkfish and vegetables then lemon sorbet. It was all so delicious that my appetite soon returned and I was revived and ready for the Dalí Theatre Museum a few streets away.
Dalí created this museum on the site of the town’s nineteenth century theatre building, ruined during the Spanish Civil War. The surrealist artist spent 10 years working on the museum to share the largest collection of his works with the public. We were shown around by museum guide Petra, who had a box of mirrors, magnifying glasses and fish-eye lenses to help us look at Dalí’s art more closely. The works have different dimensions and Petra showed how everyone interprets art differently, and whatever you see in a picture is fine.
It was an amazing experience but my favourite part was the Mae West room. The furniture here is shaped and arranged in such a way that, when you climb to the top of a staircase at one side of the room and look through a viewing glass, it takes on the actress’s features:
Two days later we saw a more private side of Dalí when we visited the home he made with his wife and muse, Gala, at Port Lligat. The Dalí House Museum overlooks the sea and is made of seven fishing cottages which the couple gradually bought and remodelled into their home. Inside, it’s surprisingly simply furnished. In the artist’s studio the two paintings he was working on before he died are still as he left them, as if waiting for him to finish:
The tour felt too intrusive and personal at times, even though the couple died in the 1980’s: I stopped short of going in to their private bathrooms.
The grounds are less conventional than the house, with a phallic swimming pool, a giant egg you can climb inside and a Michelin man keeping watch. My favourite part of all was this beautiful, sheltered terrace, which looks like a wedding:
Family travel lowdown: We were guests of the Costa Brava Tourist Board. Tickets for the Dalí Theatre Museum cost from 12 euros, under-9s are free, and it’s best to book in advance. Visits to the Dalí House Museum must be pre-booked and cost from 11 euros, under-9s from 8 euros.