Arriving in Cadaqués at the end of a punishing 14-hour drive from Calais in driving rain, it was hard to believe it was only September. The rain was up to our ankles and our visions of finding a comfortable hotel to check into for a weekend of sun-drenched exploration of Salvador Dalí’s favourite summer holiday town were fading by the minute.
Thankfully after a few false starts we managed to secure a three-night stay at the Hotel Playa Sol, right on the sea front. It didn’t quite meet our idea of a quirky boutique hotel with a touch of Daliesque surrealism but on balance we were happy to forgo that in favour of a warm shower and the chance to put our feet up. In fact the hotel offered turned out to be suitably luxurious, the room was spacious and the large balcony offered lovely views out over the picturesque bay.
Compare hotel prices in Cadaqués.
Despite its popularity with the surrealist painter throughout his lifetime, Cadaqués remains something of a hidden gem. It is a former fishing village that, thanks to the sharp rise of the hills that flank it from one side to the other, has been largely unable to expand. As a result its charm and character remain largely intact, albeit in a larger-than-life kind of way – much like the work of the great man himself.
Having grown up close by, both Dalí and Pablo Picasso spent as much time as they could in Cadaques throughout their youth and have more than left their mark on the village. Everywhere you look there are bars, cafés and quirky boutiques paying homage to the surrealist painters. We were lucky enough to secure a table in a lovely little restaurant, right on the balcony with views out past the fishing boats bobbing in the bay. A few plates of tapas and a bottle of local red later, and our nightmare journey was a distant memory.
Saturday morning was a revelation. The sun was shining and Cadaqués was alive with locals going about their business and an intriguing mix of tourists that seemed slightly offbeat compared to the usual suspects.
After a short stroll through the narrow whitewashed streets to find our bearings, we decided to head round the rocky Cap de Creus cove to the Port Lligat house museum. This was Dalí’s home with his muse Gala from 1930 until her death in 1982 and offers a fascinating insight into the life and work of the artist. There was plenty to keep us entertained for several hours before heading back to the hotel for a spot of relaxation around the pool.
The beach in Cadaqués is pretty, if not jaw-droppingly beautiful and lacks the fine golden sands that can be found in other areas of the Costa Brava. But it suited us fine for a relaxing Sunday and there were several watersports on offer and plenty of food to snack on. We opted for the freshly grilled prawns with garlic and a generous jug of Sangria.
Cadaqués is not a package tourist destination – and therein lies its charm. This is a place that is sought out by visitors in search of something a little different and more than rewards those who make the effort. We will certainly be back.