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Cadaqués, one of the larger towns in the Costa Brava, was Salvador Dalí’s long term residence, with white-washed buildings wrapped in bougainvilleas lining the hills. The climate is near perfect – in August, the days were mid-80s and humid, but with cooler nights, and the ocean is just cold enough to feel refreshing. It’s relatively small and very busy – packed with French and Spanish tourists, with a smattering of Dutch and British visitors – but has a nice holiday feel to it. We spent two days and three nights, which was just about right – plenty of time to see everything, experience all of the beaches, and figure out the rhythm of the town. Unlike many holiday destinations, the relatively remote location (hard to get to without a car, not particularly close to anything else) means that people stay, so it doesn’t clear out at night – if anything, it gets busier. It wasn’t our favorite beach destination of all time (doubt we’ll be back), but it certainly wasn’t bad, and if you’re near Barcelona, it’s a good option.

We stayed at *Casa Nereta, about a five minute walk from the beach, a hotel converted from the former home and studio of Spanish painter Joan Ponç. It’s very “designery,” probably Dutch-owned, nearly good but failing on a lot of fronts. Rooms are small, loud (it’s right in the middle of a social neighborhood), no parking and very hard to get your bags to, fairly expensive, and – while the food was tasty – they kept presenting us with menus and then advising us that half of the options were not available. Seriously – who has no juice at breakfast? 

The best options we saw for a future visit were Hotel Playa Sol (playasol.com), which is nicely maintained and well-situated next to the water, Hotel Villa Gala ( https://hotelvillagala.com/) on the hill, and as a distant third Hotel Llane Petit (www.llanepetit.com), which looks a little basic, but has a great waterside location.

In general, the food was quite good. We ate at:

  • *Bar Boia, right on the main beach, was a dud. We tried to have breakfast and they forgot our order, a very long and tedious experience.
  • **Chirashi Cadaqués is easy to miss, tucked in an alley just off the water. It’s good sushi, friendly staff.
  • ***Compartir was great, a 10 course tasting menu elegantly executed, in a pretty garden patio. Wine was excellent (including natural wine options), very good service. The restaurant is run by three chefs who previously worked at El Bulli.
  • **JOIA was the popular ice cream spot – long lines all day long. It was pretty good – Galen didn’t think it was amazing, but better than average.
  • [didn’t try] Restaurant Gula was the hot spot of the moment. All tables are indoors, high end, reserve well in advance.
  • **Restaurant La Sirena, a small restaurant with a few tables installed at the end of a typical Cadaqués dead end. Their paella was delicious, very good service, a nice find. Reserve well in advance and ask for an outdoor table; the interior is small and stuffy.
  • **Talla – “inventive and elaborate tapas prepared from fresh ingredients,” “often considered the best restaurant in Cadaqués.” While this is big talk, the food was really good, served right on the water.

Aside from the food, the highlight of the visit was the ***Salvador Dali house – we just loved it. Charming, intimate, beautifully preserved. Reserve well in advance.

Beach report: the “main” beaches are crowded and have a lot of boats – it’s better to walk a little further to the edges of the Bay. Our favorite swimming areas were Platja des Llané Gran (south end of Cadaques), Platja d’en Pere Fet (far west side), and Platja de s’Alqueria (past Port Lligat). All are relatively small, rocky.  

Figueres

We were impressed enough by the Dali house to make a stop at the **Dalí Theatre-Museum, which houses the largest collection of the artist’s work in a space conceived and created by the artist himself. Empty of crowds, it would be an impressive, if deeply odd, experience, where you get a real sense for the breadth of his talent (themes, mediums, techniques). It was PACKED though, to an extremely unpleasant degree, despite careful ticketing in advance measures.

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