Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cruising Costa Brava's Marine Preserves and Farewells

Cycling Dali's Landscapes in Spain - Day 10

Our final morning of biking began after a beautiful sunrise and a great hotel breakfast followed by a quick shuttle to the nearby docks of L'Escala to enjoy coastal cruise to Port de L'Estartit.

An Ocean Sunrise At Breakfast

Along the way we saw the rugged coast, an arch, fed the gulls and watched lots of scuba activity in the marine sanctuary.

 Boarding Our  Morning Cruise

 Feeding The Gulls

 A Fishing Boat Traverses the Sea Arch

 Isles Medes Marine Sanctuary

 Our Bikes Await At The Docks

Upon arrival at Port de L'Estartit we found our bicycles lined up for us to begin our final 17 miles of cycling. Along the way we had numerous views of the mountaintop Montgri Castle.

 Biking Through Cornfields and Apple Orchards

 The Greek Ruins at Empuries

As we concluded out final ride we passed the ancient Empuries Greek and Roman ruins next to our hotel.

 Returning To Our Hotel

Upon returning to the hotel we all turned in our bicycles for the last time and prepared for our farewell dinner.

The dinner began with the sampling of a variety of excellent local (Emporda) wines and then went on to a three course dinner (including a glorious poached pear desert) that would make any foodie happy. After saying our goodbyes and trading of contact information, it was time to pack our bags and get a good nights sleep before a morning return trip to Barcelona.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cycling From Our Hillside Castle to the Sea

Cycling Dali's Landscapes in Spain's Costa Brava - Day 8 and 9

Day 8:
Today we rode 21 miles from Upper Emporda to Lower Emporda and our seaside spa hotel. 

 Cycling Through Small Villages in Upper Emporda

 Sunflower Fields Upper Emporda

Along the way we stopped in the village of Verges. Every year on Maundy Thursday the residents of Verges carefully perform a macabre dance that dates back to 1666; the Dance of Death. The dance symbolizes the Black Death and includes scythe bearing skeletons that dance while spinning in 360° circles to designate that no one escapes death. 


The festival celebrates the human triumph over plague.

From here we pedaled to our lunch stop at Mas Pi. In Catalan "Mas" means "home of". Here we had a spectacular family style feast served al fresco. Every dish seemed to eclipse the last, beginning with a sweet cold (frogs back) melon soup to exquisite skewers of lamb. The owner repeatedly came to make sure we were enjoying our feast.    
Our Lunch Host at Mas Pi
After Arriving at St. Marti d'Empuries where we checked into our lux oceanfront hotel Hostal Spa Empuries. The rest of the afternoon we were free to take a swim in the Mediterranean, secure a spa treatment or explore adjacent Greek and Roman ruins.

Hostal Spa Empuries

 View from My Hotel Spa Empuries

Day 9:
Today we rode 31 miles through farms and villages with a picnic lunch at the Aiguamolls Natural Reserve. Of all the rides so far today's was (for me) the only disappointment as it included a lot of time spent riding on very busy highways with small shoulders and really not much scenery.

The day however was salvaged by our visit to Salvador Dali's museum in his hometown of Figueres. While I put Dali into the same category as Andy Warhol (i.e. self promoting eccentrics), the museum offered me some additional insight into the artist. 

The museum was created from a theater that was partially destroyed by bombing in the Spanish civil war. The main seating area has become and outdoor forecourt showcasing Dali's raining limousine and lots of assemblage art.

The large stage area is now capped with a dome shaped skylight and features some of Dali's larger canvases. This is where Dali is entombed. 

We spent time in a smaller gallery that houses pieces Dali felt were some of his most important. 

We completed our main museum tour in a gallery featuring a full living room that becomes Mae West and a gallery with a huge ciueling fresco with Dali and Gala arising to heaven. 

The tour then moved to a bank vault gallery showcasing examples of the over-the-top jewelry he designed.

The Dali Museum

Ceiling Fresco - Dali and Gala
(Dali is identifiable by his moustache)

The Dali Museum 
(Covered in bread and capped with eggs)

Dali's Muse and Wife Gala

Dali Jewelry
The Eye of Time (1949)

Our day with Dali was capped with a wonderful dinner in a village near our hotel.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Gala's Castle (Pubol), Castell d'Empordaria, Paratallada and Pals

Cycling Dali's Landscapes in Spain's Costa Brava - Day 6 and 7

Day 7 began with a shuttle trip to Pubol; home of the caslte Salvador Dali gave to his wife Gala. After our tour we saddled up to ride through some lovely Catalan countryside.

"I give you a gothic castle"
       Salvador Dali

"I accept on one condition, that you only come to visit me by written invitation"
       Gala Dali

At the age of 66 (in 1970) surrealist artist Salvador Dali purchased and restored a castle in Pubol for his wife and muse Gala. 

Russian born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova was 10 years older than Dali. She was given the name Gala  to by her first husband Paul Eluard.

Dali's Muse and Wife Gala

At the time of the gift Dali and Gala had been married to for 36 years. In order to enable their marriage they sought (and received) a special Papal dispensation due to Gala's had previous marriage with Eluard (with whom she had a daughter Cecille). Gala hated motherhood ultimately abandoning Cecille (who passed away in 2016).

Throughout their marriage Dali and Gala engaged in a series of affairs (her lovers included Max Ernst, Andre Breton and her former husband Eluard). Dali encouraged her affairs. 

Gala was fond of entertaining young male "friends" in her castle.

Gala Entertained by a Friend
(Re-photo of a photograph on display in Gala's castle)

Gala appears in numerous works by Dali and he signed her name along with his  own to much of his art. Gala managed the wildly lucrative finances of Dali's artistic empire and died in 1982. She is buried in the crypt below the castle.

Gala's Main Hall
The first space a visitor experiences is a grand hall. The hall is ccomplete with a throne where Dali met the media. His crown (made of of forks) sits near the crown.

The Coffee Table Horse
Like much of Dali's life things are never quite what they seem. A closer inspection of the glass top coffee table in the living room reveals a stuffed full size horse in hte room below..

Dali Touches Are Added Everywhere

Warrior Medallion

Seated In Front of the Warrior Medallion
(Photo from the web, attributed to Alan Warren)

Original Pool

Gala's swimming pool has been converted into a reflection pool. It is fed by trickling water from the mouth of a pretty scary looking Monkfish Dali designed. Dali was fascinated by certain animals (giraffes; which he deemed a mistake of nature for example).

Gala's Crypt

The side-by-side second crypt (with a hole between them to hold hands in death) was for Dali. He was instead entombed in his museum. 

Visiting the castle provides a unique window into the souls of two of the world's most prolific and eccentric humans of any era.

From Gala's Castel we completed our 19 mile bike ride to our spectacular hilltop Hotel Castell d'Empordaria. This spectacular hotel has just 38 rooms all with amazing views over the farmlands of Costa Brava. Interestingly Dali also tried to purchase this castle from previous owner's. 

He offered his artwork as payment. 

The owners declined. 

Approaching the hotel from the River Daro.
The current owner has restored and added on to the castle creating a spectacular property. On days when Tramontane winds rush from the Pyrenees the hotels outdoor spaces are protected by elaborately placed wind screens. Our visit included warm, sunny and calm wind days.

The Hotel and its Outdoor Pavilions 

Day 7
Today we rode 26 miles through the lovely medieval villages of Paratallada and Pals (where we lunched).

 The Medieval Village of Pals

Our Bikes in Pals

A Street Scene From Parratalada

So far our days have been blessed with abundant sunshine accompanied by perfect temperatures for biking.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016