Saturday, November 26, 2011

Figueres (Spain)

We dragged ourselves out of bed early one Saturday morning to catch the train to Figueres. About 140 km/ 90 miles outside Barcelona, it is most famous for being the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. The Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí, which the artist designed himself, is the main reason coach tours descend en masse upon this small town.

Now, I should say that going into the museum, my uninformed impression of Dalí from his other works, and also, Adrien Brody's portrayal in Midnight in Paris is that he was a lunatic. My conclusion after this visit is, "My, wasn't he an extremely creative and ambitious one, though?" Although there weren't many sightings of his iconic dripping clocks, there were plenty of crutches, elephants, and his wife/muse Gala... from all angles... like the bottom of her foot... and literally, in holograms.

However, for me, the most amusing recurrent symbol was bread. Maybe it's not surprising in the context of the general obsession with bread in Spain, e.g. even piddly Menu del Día's include a generous basket of bread, Iberia Airlines may serve crappy food but offers second and third rounds of rolls, people leave the Forn de Pa with 3-4 baguettes at a time, etc. But Dalí elevates it to a new level, even refers to it as "fetishism." The outside of the museum is adorned with hundreds of little decorative sculptures, which on closer inspection are rolls. His Basket of Bread holds a place of honor in the gallery, and there's a gold plated loaf to boot.

Our ticket also included the exhibit on jewelry designed by Dalí. He seemed to approach gold and precious gems merely as other mediums for his art. The pieces were elaborate... and huge. Some had stones as big as your palm, and others had countless tiny emeralds winking in the spotlight. The exhibit also happened to contain the most mind-blowing and disturbing - which, after seeing several hours of surrealist work, means a lot - piece... a beating heart! It is a crowned heart-shape in gold with a tiny chamber housing a real heart formed out of rubies (recalling a traditional representation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which admittedly for me, adds to the willies)... that pulsates. That's right, folks, a fully-functioning ruby heart! If you click on pictures, you can see a video of it.

We also got to stroll through the Figueres weekly outdoor market with its gorgeous array of produce and stalls selling kitchen utensils and tools. As appears to be typical of Catalan villages, the selection of embutidos (cured meats) and variety of wild mushrooms would make a restaurateur weep. Alas, by the time we returned, the garbage men were already making short work of the forlorn pieces of lettuce left on the ground. So once again, we were too late to bring home any of the goodies. We were consoled by a little cafe that does nice cakes and excellent coffee and a hearty lunch menu (squid ink spaghetti!) for what would be a weekday price in Barcelona.