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Dabbling in Dali

The lovely Figueres.

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Wed 18 September: We were looking forward to Figueres, home of Salvador Dali, and one of the only two Servas stays we managed to organise while on the road this trip, the other being Ana in Gijon.

Briefly about Servas: It’s an international mutual-hospitality organisation, kind-of couch-surfing for grown-ups. Founded in Europe in the wake of WW2, there’s an emphasis on peace-building through increased inter-cultural knowledge and fellowship. For most people, it involves registering as a host, and then using the directory of host families in a country you’re visiting to seek accommodation while travelling. Only two rules: (a) no money changes hands and (b) you can’t stay one night (that would undermine the ‘getting-to-know-you bit). You can stay longer if invited and it suits and the norm is to leave a small souvenir gift from NZ with the hosts. Worked wonderfully for us in France four years ago and we’ve also stayed with host families in the States and Canada. Our trip this time was bookended with pre-arranged Servas stays in Prague and Barcelona with people who had stayed with us. That’s just the best! We have about 4 or 5 international guests each year. We’d thoroughly recommend it – Phil is now the Lower North Island Coordinator for Servas NZ! Think about signing up; talk to Phil or go to the net (: NZ page here.

Figueres is not far from the border with France, a couple of hours north of Barcelona. We learned, though, that whether we were back in Spain or not depended very much on who you spoke to. For most people, we were not! We were in Catalonia, the land of the Catalans. The Spanish were unwelcome invaders and the parallels with the English occupation of Ireland pre 1921 felt very real to us. That all really came into focus when we got to Barcelona though, so we’ll save it for the next post.

We arrived at Miquel’s place in Figueres by 1pm, as requested, to a great welcome and lunch and to allow Miquel to settle us in before he headed to his work as a teacher. He did the 2pm to 8pm shift with adult students at the local high school, using the facilities after the day-students had left. Apparently not uncommon.

From the outside, Miquel’s looked like it would be an apartment; it was in fact a large terraced house with huge basement, and very large garden, brimming with fruit trees, and some vegetables struggling in the dry, dusty heat. We knew from the Servas directory that Miquel was Vegan but discovered it was for him a religious commitment; a part of his following of an Indian Guru, Sathya Sai Baba! He was a lovely man, even if we shared neither his food or faith commitments.

After finding a park a few blocks away; nothing doing on the street, we wandered the few blocks up into town, and the Dali ‘Theatre’ – a gallery actually establish by the artist in his lifetime. Just as extraordinary and bizarrely wonderful as we’d expected. Unfortunate though, that some of his best known (to us anyway) pieces (Last Supper, Christ of St John of the Cross) were of course in overseas galleries. But there was plenty to get the juices flowing:

The outside and the entrance:

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The what-we-thought-of as-Dali Dali:
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The WTF Dali:
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Some interesting different stuff, probably a period with a name :)
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This an interesting double-take large painting. Is this an old bloke's portrait or a young woman's bod??? :)

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Best of the rest!

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..and Dali's extraordinary take on the Sistine Chapel ceiling :)

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Anyway, reeling a little from all that, we wandered home via a supermarket and, though Miquel wasn't home, we decided to respect the kaupapa and cook ourselves a tomato pasta dinner, sans dead animal :)

Thursday 19 September:

Miquel generously offered to show us something of his Figueres. We headed east to the coast, through 'Roses' to the lighthouse at 'Far de cap de Creus'. Some terrific views.

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Then back through Cadaques, whose main claim to fame is the house that Dali lived in. He developed and expanded it up the hill, for we Wellingtonians, it brought to mind Sir Ian Athfield's Ngaio sprawl! Athfield wins, though:)

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...and back to the very pretty Roses for a hastily herded walking tour (we had booked lunch - Vegan of course - back in Figueres).

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Then a haircut for Phil - given the lack of language connection, I'm not sure whether it was me or the barber who was the more nervous, while MC took off for a wander (of course!) and found another church she thought was simply beautiful, and restful enough for Phil to go see and enjoy as well. She was right! Just lovely. The usual skewered Saint Sebastian offset by a rather gorgeous painting of the Emmaus scene from Luke's gospel.

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Miquel was to be back early for his equivalent of a house group meeting so we planned to head out for dinner to give him some space. A short break at home though, to bake probably the 4th or 5th loaf of sourdough of the trip then we headed out. Randomly found a great little tapas restaurant with, oh joy, a great little range of bottled craft beers! Then a brief wander around Figueres by night, and home to discover Miquel's amazement at Phil's bread baking. He explained he'd forgotten to tell us his oven didn't work and was staggered to discover it had worked for us. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Not knowing we couldn't do something, we just did it. Miquel became one of at least three people we left committed to baking sourdough in our wake :)

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Next morning, continuing south to Barcelona via a delayed birthday celebration on the Costa Brava! Watch this space.

Posted by philandmc 18:00 Archived in Spain

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