Cadaqués

CADAQUÉS

Cadaqués...

Sparkling white houses in a deeply-cut bay, with the impressive church of Santa Maria towering above. The jewel of the Costa Brava! A fishing village which - far from mass tourism - has kept its original character.

Cadaqués, just a few kilometres south of Cap de Creus, is fairly isolated and surrounded by a barren landscape with its own wild beauty. There are only two ways to get to this idyllic small town: either on a very narrow and windy mountain road or by boat.

The ideal holiday place for individualists!

 

THE VILLAGE:

Steep, narrow and romantic pebbled alleys, decorated with flowers, picturesque little squares, typical bars, small Catalan restaurants and lots of colourful small shops and galleries are part of its unique and exciting charm.

You might wonder how we managed to keep the village looking so intact, free of any massive hotels or fast food chains. So why did the typical tourist bustle of the Costa Brava spare Cadaqués?

In great part, this might be an achievement of the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. His summer residence (which is now open to the public as a museum) was in Port Lligat, a natural harbour near Cadaqués, and he had a tremendous influence on life in the local community. Today a resourceful council, aware of the special reputation of the place, makes sure that hotels don't rise into the sky, that instead of amusement arcades, art galleries are opened and that in summer there are plenty of cultural events on offer. Every effort is made to maintain the image the village has of being a meeting point for artists which started with people like Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Federico Garcia Lorca, Man Ray or Luis Buñuel, and to keep up the idyllic character of the place which so many have fallen in love with!

 

 

ITS HISTORY

The history of Cadaqués goes back thousands of years and was influenced by many different cultures (Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and later on Jews). Which really is too much information for a small point in the menu of a dive centre website. I would therefore like to concentrate on events and times which have left marks that can still be seen today and where we can imagine what it must have been like. If you are lucky, you might be able to take part in one of the festive events which rekindle old traditions, at least for the day.

Follow me on a short tour through Cadaqués!

It starts before you get into the village itself.

 

The wine trade:

If you haven't done so yet, you will probably ask yourself at some stage when and why all the small terraces were built which start at the turn-off to Port de la Selva and go down all the way to Cadaqués - even on other small hills around the village you can find them.

From a few well-kept olive groves on these mainly abandoned terraces we might jump to a conclusion: In the past, Cadaqués must have grown more olives and produced more olive oil than today. Up to a point, this is right. The correct answer, however, can be found in the 18th and 19th century.

A tiny insect, phylloxera, brutally devastated the biggest source of income of this small village, where besides fishing, most people lived exclusively from growing wine. In fact, the wine trade in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century was so important, that wines from Cadaqués were even sold abroad.

 

Smuggling and wrecking

The phylloxera epidemic and resulting end of the wine trade meant that the population stagnated and become poor. In reaction to this situation, the locals went back to a long-forgotten activity: smuggling.

If you are interested enough to come with me on a walk along the smuggling path to Cap de Creus, known today as the Camí de Ronda, you will soon be able to imagine how Cadaqués became a flourishing little smuggler's lair. The closeness to France, the isolation, being cut off from the rest of the world, only reachable by sea or an uncomfortable mountain road, surrounded by steep, sharp cliffs and a coastline full of dangerous shallows - all these factors made it easy to lure bigger merchant ships onto the cliffs with false lights. Once they had run ashore, it was child's play to plunder them! So it's no wonder that the well-known Cap de Creus Restaurant, built in this no man's land at the beginning of the 19th century was first a military and later became a Guardia Civil post. Its only function was to stop smuggling and wrecking at the Cap de Creus.

 

Cadaqués and the pirates

But the isolation described before also had its disadvantages. For centuries, Cadaqués had to fend of pirates, again and again.

In the 16th century, on one of those raids, the predecessor of the church of Santa Maria fell victim to the Turkish-Algerian pirate Cheireddin Barbarossa and was burnt down.

 

Cadaqués and seafaring

With the passing of time, the Mediterranean became a safer place for seafarers and in consequence, the village started growing and different industries, business life and trade with overseas established themselves here.

Not much reminds us today of fishing activities of the past. In the natural harbour of Port Lligat, however, you might get a chance to meet fishermen who make a living to this day from fishing.

You might come across some shops in Cadaqués where you can buy a product called “Anchoas de Cadaqués”: these anchovies in oil, presented in a small glass jar, are a quality product and also a reminder of the heyday of the fishing trade.

Every year at the beginning of September, a traditional regatta is organised as part of the Festa Major (the annual village festivities), in remembrance of the great seafaring culture there once was. Only boats with lateen rig, the so-called Vela Latina, are allowed to take part in it. These boats are simple, traditional sailing boats with a single mast and the typical lateen rig with its triangular sail.

Cadaqués and its art history

Artists such as Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró visited Cadaqués and contributed to making the place well-known. Salvador Dalí spent part of his childhood in Cadaqués and after his return from New York he settled in the bay of Port Lligat near the harbour. The village became more and more of a magnet for other artists: André Breton, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, Jo Micovich, Maurice Boitel, Man Ray and others were attracted by the appeal of Cadaqués, which can still be felt today. Now as much as in those days, apart from the exhibitions of the artists mentioned above, you can discover a number of different small galleries and artist's studios for yourselves in the small alleyways of Cadaqués. This is where young, unknown artists, attracted by the magic of the place, try their luck.

 

 

CULTURE

If your are interested in culture, you will find various museums and art galleries here.

Salvador Dalí house: The most important tourist site of Cadaqués is just outside the village: since 1997, the house where Dalí used to live has been open to the public.

In 1930, Dalí bought the first fishing hut in Port Lligat and over the years, he bought six more, which he linked into a kind of labyrinth to make them into a single unit. After the death of his wife Gala in 1982, Dalí was so upset that he closed the doors forever - never to return. The extensive estate, easily recognisable by some enormous white concrete eggs, was closed off for a long time. Now the house in which Dalí lived for half a century (with the exception of some stays abroad) is open to the public. Many of his works, furnishings and memories will give you an interesting impression of just how eccentric and ingenious this "maestro" was.

A must for any Dalí and Cadaqués fan!

Church Santa Maria: The little baroque church in the centre of the old town is from the 17th/18th century, when its predecessor fell victim to the Turkish-Algerioan pirate Cheireddin Barbarossa. Inside the church we find a beautiful, impressive baroque altar carved by the artist Pau Costa in the 18th century.

Museums and galleries: Apart from the municipal art museum of Cadaqués, the "Museu d'art municipal" (which has temporary exhibitions and specialises in 20th century art, including Dalí and Picasso), you will also find numerous small galleries, museums and artist's workshops in the old part of town.

 

 

SALVADOR DALÍ

Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) is probably one of the most interesting artists of the 20th century. Both his life and his work are full of provocations, which will affect anybody who gets to know them. And reactions range from total contempt to unlimited admiration.

 

 

 

 

Places recommended for breakfast:

LUA: A cosy little place in the centre of town, right on the Plaça de l'Estrella. Delicious, good prices, charming atmosphere! Just perfect!

BAR BOIA: Well established bar, right next to Cadaqués bay. Ideal for your coffee on the go, with a lovely view of the sea. A good place to come to at night, as it's then open as Boia Nit cocktail bar.

BAR LOSAI: Relatively new place, right in the middle of the old town, tastefully furnished with a great little terrace and beautiful views over the bay of Cadaqués. Very nice atmosphere to have a coffee in the morning or in the afternoon.

Restaurant recommendations:

GARBI: Very good value for money, friendly service, varied menus (meat, fish and some vegetarian dishes). Can also cater for bigger groups. Central location.

LA GRITA: Right at the centrally located square, El Passeig, a total classic! Good pizzeria with a huge selection of different and typically Mediterranean dishes. Reasonably priced menus. Very family-friendly!

RESTAURANT LOSAI: The bar Losai and the restaurant with the same name form part of the same business. It is run by a young and very friendly local couple. You can look forward to extremely friendly service and a well-balanced Mediterranean menu.

My personal highlights:

ENOTECA MF: Absolutely delicious, exquisite tapas. Sushi made from the best freshly home-caught fish, self-picked mushrooms and a range of meat. Vegetarians can also take their pick here.

CAN TITO: Not far from the tourist information office and the well-known bar Casino, at the start of the Carrer Vigilant, one of the best fish restaurants in Cadaqués! A real family-run business! While Tito, the father, and his son whirl around the kitchen, the mother and daughter serve the guests! (My personal favourite!)

Important note: you will nearly always need to reserve beforehand!

ES BALCONET: A little bit off the beaten track, specialised in Mediterranean cuisine, especially rice and fish dishes. A restaurant with a very pleasant atmosphere, excellent cooking and equally excellent value for money.

CELESTE: A little bit hidden away at the start of Carrer Nou is this top specialist for pasta dishes. The beautiful premises, the special atmosphere, the combination of restaurant and art gallery and the fair prices make the Celeste a real insider tip!

Night life:

What would the ideal programme for a night out be?

It's best not to wallow in memories too much over this! In the past, there would have been only one possible answer to this question: L'Hostal, the legendary Jazz Rock Club, where Maestro Dalí used to be a regular and partied with many world-famous personalities! You can still go to this bar, but it has now become a "Tapas and Cocktail bar" and is no longer the unique, glittering nightclub where you could party until the early hours of the morning! At this point, I would like to thank Marci (owner) for the fantastic times we had! A visit, with a cocktail and glance at the walls full of pictures filled with history is still worth it!

Let's come back to the present!

For dinner, I would eat in one of the restaurants mentioned above, and after dinner, I would move on to the Casino, have a coffee or a carajillo, a strong black coffee with a shot of spirit. There, I could have a look around to see who else had decided to go out tonight. The Casino is a favourite meeting point for locals, with a lovely vintage atmosphere. After - or even before - the first beer, I would go to the Carrer Miquel Rosset, an alley full of night life, with what's probably the last remaining original pub in Cadaqués: La Frontera. After a game of pool and the first gin tonic, the rest of the evening could be planned. If Julia was there, this is how it would carry on: Let's go dancing! Dancing? So off we would go to the Tropical!

The Tropical is a cocktail bar right opposite La Frontera, tastefully decorated, with good dance music and a fabulous atmosphere! They close at 3:30 at the very latest. After that, I would move two steps down the road and go to the Shadows.

Personally, I would feel like going home at that stage!

Well, yes... the memories of L'Hostal, of the good old days - but tomorrow we were going to go diving, weren't we?