Here’s part two of my trip to Catalonia’s medieval coast, following on from my post the other day showing the wacky world of Salvador Dalí’s house and gardens. Walking down the hilly streets from Portlligat, we spent an afternoon in the coastal town of Cadaqués, a popular holiday resort for locals. Many winding backstreets had beautiful stonework, cobbles and climbing plants, as well as shady palm-filled courtyards and a good number of resident sunbathing cats. In fact, there is a town house owned by a lady who has turned it into a cat sanctuary, providing a home looking after many feline friends. She has a collection pot on the windowsill if you wish to support the Cats of Cadaqués <3
Just off the bay area, our little group had booked a table at the Compartir restaurant – our friend from Barcelona wanted us to experience the best of Catalan cuisine, and this place with its emphasis on providing sharing dishes was a delicious delight! It is Michelin-standard food in a really relaxed garden courtyard setting, for an unbelievably reasonable price. None of us could help taking pictures of our food before digging in!
We left the town in the evening – passing back by Dalí’s house in a strangely surreal twilight that seemed fitting – and headed back to our base. We stayed in the medieval town of Besalú, on the edge of La Garrotxa volcanic park region by the Spanish Pyrenees. It was a fortress town where two rivers meet, with the famous and much-photographed bridge at its entrance, and is very much at the heart of the Catalan identity. You will find the yellow independence ribbons, ‘Libertat’ and ‘Sí’ signs, and poster protests at every turn. It’s so interesting to base yourself in the heart of a town so that you can wander the streets at different hours, and really get the feel of what it’s like living as a local. In the morning, we picked and ate sweet fresh figs from the tree in the garden of our property; we were able to walk into the main market square where there was a book festival with exclusively Catalan translations of a wide variety of books.
Later on we paid a visit to the twin villages of Rupit and Pruit – accessed via a hanging foot bridge (for someone with a bridge phobia, it was something of a personal triumph to successfully make it across!). The pretty, hilly streets are built into the rock of the mountainside. The journey there takes a little effort as the road twists along the hills, spectacular wide views opening up with the increase in altitude. It was hard to imagine living here in the winter with its steep slippery cobbles and remote location.
Our trip ended as we headed back towards the airport at Barcelona. I had one last night to see a little of the city and the Gaudi architecture which I’ve loved for a long time. Casa Batlló, the dragon house, has always been my favourite of Gaudí’s creations but I’d never been inside – well worth seeing, either by booking in advance to avoid the long snaking queues, or buy a Gold ticket from the window for a few more Euro but instant access indoors. Antoni Gaudí’s imaginative design really inspires me. I could have spent many hours observing the meticulous detail of this town house. The absolute highlight is access to the roof, and seeing – in close proximity – the curving spine of the dragon and its scaly roof tiles.
It was more than 20 years since my last visit to Catalonia, but I am very fond of its unique vibe and distinct identity. There is so much to explore and such a variety of landscape – I’d heartily recommend a trip.