Sunday, May 8, 2011

From Spain to Thézan via Figueres and Collioure

It's been busy since Duane and Judy arrived, but today Dave, Judy, and Duane are off to visit Cathar castles and I'm staying home to catch up on the blog and house chores. The temperatures are fine, but the day is grey. According to the "météo" (weather report) it should be clearing this afternoon, but for the moment it looks like a good day to read a book - or write a blog.

Our trip home from Barcelona was a full one with stops in Figueres, Spain and Collioure, France.

The attraction of Figueres is a Salvador Dali museum that he built out of a burned out theatre in his home town (right next to the church where he was baptized).

If you know Dali, you know how eccentric his art was, but this museum helps you understand his genius as well. He was truly a talented painter who could paint classically if he wanted to. But he had a view of life and an imagination that explored all kinds of media (including one person created out of computer circuit boards). He loved trompe-l'oeil images such as the painting of the nude which seen from a distance is a portrait of Lincoln.

He also liked to spoof the styles of other painters like Matisse, Picasso, Seurat, Gaugin, etc. Many of his famous works are in this museum as well as his personal collection and the rooms were set up by Dali himself along with his wife Gala. This museum is well worth seeing even if you think Dali is a bit crazy.

That said, there were plenty of people there to see the museum when we arrived around noon. Many were tour groups of students which made seeing the 22 rooms a bit challenging and there were times when patience was the only solution.

We finished around 2 and decided to eat at a sidewalk cafe on the square by the museum. Nothing stellar, just sandwiches and pizzas. Then we hit the road for France with a plan to stop at the beach town of Collioure which had been described to us as "must-see".

And the recommendation is correct. This Mediterranean town has everything you could want in a beach resort.

A wide but protected cove with pebble beaches. The water must be quite warm here as people are still swimming at 5 PM.

An old castle on the promontory above the town which nestles in the foothills of the Pyrenees as well as a castle right in the center of town clinging to a large rock right on the water's edge.

An old part of town whose soft pastel-colored buildings climb narrow streets and alleys into the hillside.

An old church on the harbor front with a couple small red boats floating in front. A broad walk out to the spit of the breakwater. The only problem is the changing weather. There is a chill breeze blowing off the land that calls for windbreakers especially as the sun becomes more diffuse in the gathering clouds. The flat light makes the photos less stunning than they should be.

Dave and I are forced to retrace our path around the water's edge of the fortress path as somehow I've no longer got my glasses. I had taken them off to clean them when sprayed by a bather showering off the sand (pebbles) next to where I was standing. Somehow, they didn't get put back onto my face and it is probably 15 minutes later that I realize they are missing. Unfortunately, they must have fallen onto the path and been stepped on. We find the bent frames with a single lens set up on a rock. As we're looking for the other lens, a woman carries it to me, noting that it had been scratched up. Miraculously it is not broken. With all the pieces, we are hoping they can be repaired so I put them all in my purse. A bit later, I do a bit of twisting, fit the lens in and discover that the glasses are wearable, the scratch low enough to not be in my normal field of vision.

The other out of context surprise is seen when we round the corner at the base of the castle on the water's edge. Collioure, impressionist painting that it is, is also the French Commando training center whose motorized rafts are moored up against the side of the castle. Who knew?

Collioure has cleverly set up a "Chemin du Fauvisme" with 19 stations mostly along the waterfront where copies of famous paintings by Matisse and Derain are displayed at the point where they were painted. We follow the chemin as we wander to find all the paintings.

Another artistic feature are brass picture frames (empty) that frame particularly picturesque views. We check out a few of those as well.

Dinner is a difficult decision. Avoiding seafood and dairy is difficult in this town on the sea, so we end up eating in an Italian restaurant where the food was OK. Duane and I had the daily special which was duck with honey sauce which was quite good. Pizza and pesto pasta were the other choices.

When finished, we stop for ice cream from the vendor across from the restaurant. The ice cream is displayed like artwork and the option of sorbet as well as ice cream means we can all have dessert. French ice cream is so-o-o good.

By now the sun is setting and we still have about 2 hours to get back to Thézan. We get home about 10:30 planning a sleep-in day for Friday. We tumble into bed soon after arriving.

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