Somewhat inaccessibly located on the Costa Brava, this small fishing town is the perfect escape from the heat of Spain’s major cities, a place to dally for days on end. Some hippies have been dawdling here for decades, and their presence keeps the town from developing into a full-blown designer village, à la Martha’s Vineyard or the Hamptons. I can imagine this place becoming a more obscure “south of France” for celebrities, and get the sneaking suspicion that some of the hippies fishing off the rocks might in fact be celebrities incognito.
Cadaqués is famous for being Dalí’s home, but my husband and I came for the beaches and stayed for the food and the slightly off-kilter atmosphere.
First and foremost, we made sure to enjoy every kind of beach available- from sandy official ones, with gentle slopes into the (freezing cold) water, to unofficial ones where we had to climb down rocks faces to tiny seaweed-y coves. Although there’s also an official nude beach (in which we did not partake), it seems that clothing is always optional, for all but the long distance swimmers who wear wetsuits with hoods. Brr.
With all these beaches, and the fact that seemingly every direction you turn you see water, Cadaqués gives the overwhelming feeling of being on an island. The relaxed pace of life gives no clue that you are geographically attached to the likes of train stations and busy city streets. Another thing I love about the town is that it is a destination for all ages; Families with little children come here, but so do hippie youth and old pipe-smoking men.
Lying on the beach all day is a great way to work up an appetite, and we were not disappointed by the seafood. Beach cafes served us piles of squid (hey, I think I just saw this one swimming next to me!) , basins of mussels, and pitchers of sangria under a vine covered patio. And over dinner at one of the restaurant terraces facing the town square, we learned that paella should take at least 45 minutes to prepare, or else it means it’s been made ahead of time (and you shouldn’t inflict it on your poor stomach). The paella we shared took a good hour and a half to arrive at our table, and we enjoyed it down to the last grain of rice.
As for Dalí, he’s everywhere. His jaunty statue overlooks the piazza, and creepy cardboard cutouts mark the way to the Dalí Museum (a good place to linger on a rainy day, it houses mainly doodles and photographs). Not far away is Port Lligat, home of Dalí’s remarkable un-zany egg-topped house. We started out on foot with good intentions to arrive there at half past noon, but were distracted by a small island a few meters from the coast (watch for upcoming posting about Ile Lleget). Long story short, we never arrived.
The easiest way to reach Cadaqués is by car (if you can handle the winding mountain roads), although buses run at odd hours to/from Barcelona and Figueres. Don’t bother staying in nearby Roses, although it is closer and easier to get to - Cadaqués is the “real deal” when it comes to Spanish beach towns.
P.S. A very strange phenomenon observed along the Costa Brava: a plethora of flies. From dawn til dusk. They don’t bite or sting, they just invade your personal space and grate on your nerves until you learn the Zen art of ignoring them.