This was the day I should have joined the competitive Fitbit brigade – a million steps and a hundred thousand stairs at least! There’s a story that Salvador Dali tried to buy this castle when he was trying to give his muse-wife Gala the ultimate gift. It’s a while since I’ve been to Pubol to see the Castell Gala-Dali – 2004 to be precise. I remember it being quite impressive with some outlandish Dali touches but I didn’t recall it as much of a castle. So off I set and was amazed to be directed into a massive outskirts car park – I remember parking on the road just around the corner last time. It transpires that it’s one of the most visited sites in Girona province and that includes his wonderfully mad museum in Figueres with its eggs on the roof, random sculptures and geodesic dome topping the lot. It’s well worth the return visit – especially the jungle of a garden with its fountain dedicated to Wagner – who was well represented in the record collection inside.
I also loved the chess set in the form of fingers which was Dali’s homage to Marcel Duchamp. In the attic is a great display of Gala’s sumptuous frock collection – it’s the era of frocks, OK.
And on the way out in a temporary exhibition space was a series of photographs of him in his home in Port Lligat taken by his good friend Ricardo Sans. Some are candid, some posed and some even double-exposed making a fascinating record of a period of their lives from 1949-1956.
He was a great artist to some and a complete charlatan to others – a bit of both for me as they are not mutually exclusive – but he had poor taste in castles. Basically a cheapskate when it came to buying battlements.
It is reported that when he bid for Castell d’Emporda, where I’m staying, he would only pay in artworks so the then owner declined. There was another one not far away in Foixa but he settled for the building in Pubol. He added some battlements in the garden but for me it’s a manor house not a castle. I had my first hike of the day up a hill and across a field to get a shot of it – church not part of the so-called castle estate.
Castell Dali-Gala, Pubol and right a real castle at Foixa
I vaguely remembered the nearby castle so I set off over there and was not far from Toroella so popped in there to remedy yesterday’s lack of info.
The morning was quite pleasant although thunderstorms were threatened so on my way back from Toroella I slid off down to Pals beach for a walk along the dunes. It’s a beautiful wide sandy beach that stretches for nearly 4 kilometres – I just did about one and then turned and came back. Going north you have a great view of the Islas Medes a protected area with brilliant diving opportunities.
It brought back many happy memories – I think my daughter actually learned to swim here – and for once it hadn’t changed much because of sensible planning restrictions on green zoned land which does provide income from the rice from the renowned Moli de Pals. I suppose it was about twenty years ago when I drove back towards La Bisbal from Girona that I started to exclaim that there was never a roundabout there – with monotonous regularity. Well Catalunya has certainly fallen in love with roundabouts and has made many of them works of art – I might have to do a photo essay one of these days.
One of our running jokes (?) on those early trips was to chorus “One of these days I’m going …” whenever we saw this sign. It’s about how you pronounce it OK. And of course we did.
It is a romantic and beautiful cove (below right) but just as I was about to settle for a beer on the front the rain started. It was nearly time for lunch so I went up to another favourite spot the Faro de San Sebastian. As the drizzle grew stronger we needed the lighthouse to be pointing inland. Now that place had changed – a local bar/restaurant has become a posh hotel with lots of weddings and corporate meetings it seems. Well it’s a great location on a good day and at least comfortable for a snack out of the rain.
Nearby are two other lovely beaches Llafranc and Calella but I decided against them and drove off to the Cap Roig (Red Cape) Botanical Garden by which time the rain had kindly stopped. We’d been before but it’s been transformed into a real tourist attraction with brilliant labelling, wide paths and hundreds and hundreds of steps. The suggested circuit took me two hours and left me in a fine sweat and it’s on a cliff face so incredibly steep. A theme recurred even here – there’s a castle in the middle but it’s closed for refurbishment at the moment – another one Dali could have considered. They have a famous cactus array and you can see why it’s called the red cape.
Then back to the hotel to scribble and shower before going out to a highly recommended restaurant Bo.Tic in Corça just up the road. Then it’s on the road in the morning south to Tortosa where I’m staying in – you guessed it – the Castell de la Suda which happens to be the location of the parador in that city.
However as tomorrow is mostly driving south, I might just talk about Bo.TiC. Bo is good in Catalan, T is the chef Antonio known as Tito and C is Cristina his wife and the lovely front of house. It’s posh, it’s not cheap and first Wednesday in May it’s empty except for me. The locals I talk to blame it on two or three cloudy days and people not coming out from Barca and Girona. However the service I get is off the scale – every one of the 15 dishes on the Menu Degustacion is explained in detail and it helps. Tito who I met later likes to have fun with food from the outset where what looks like an olive is in fact a fondant filled with anchovies and the sauce poured from an olive oil bottle is in fact vermouth. A great start to an astonishing evening which concluded with a dark chocolate pudding in the form of a set of dice – some squishy jellies, some crisp exteriors that crunched to a tasty interior. I got lucky with wine too. I wanted something from the Emporda but there were lots of those on an interesting iPad wine list, so I went for a red from Mas Oller in the village of Torrent which I had driven past for years on the road from the motorway to Begur. It was a syrah and garnacha mix and very tasty, not too heavy for the fish courses and good with the concluding lamb and went well with the chocolate too. All in all a good way to end a stay in the north of Catalunya as I set off south tomorrow to my next castle.