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Monday, May 29, 2017

The House That Love Built: The Trip of a Lifetime, Part 6

On the hotel balcony in Cadaqués. You can see it's early:
Stanley's hair isn't even dry yet! 
When this post publishes, it will be ten months since the love of my life passed away.

On May 19, 2016, we had a schedule to maintain and got up early to marvel at Cadaqués in the daylight, in spite of thick cloud cover. Even eating the hotel breakfast was a feast for the eyes because the area had huge windows on all sides.

Cloudy day over the love mansion. Photo by Jessica Knauss
It was a short drive to Portlligat to the Dalí House-Museum, although we didn’t recognize it when we saw it. I’d always seen pictures of it in the sun; under the clouds, you had to look for the eggs on the roof. Although it’s a timed tour, with eight visitors at a time, the guide didn’t give a tour per se, but recited the rules in Spanish, French, and English and opened himself to questions. The other people on the tour, including an American and a French couple, were inquisitive and their curiosity made the experience personal.

Photo by Jessica Knauss
Jessica in the Dalí library. Photo by Stanley Coombs
In Dalí's studio. Photo by Jessica Knauss
I’d seen a lot of Dalí’s extraordinary art in museums in most of the countries I’d visited and was thrilled to be in a place that exuded his special brand of creativity. But when we moved past the library, through an anteroom with views onto the port, to the bedroom, Stanley asked a question that brought everything gloriously together for him: “Who slept in the other bed?”

Gala and Dalí slept in the same room. Photo by Stanley Coombs
In spite of Dalí’s untraditional sexual practices, Gala made her mark throughout the house. Who was Gala? The love of Dalí’s life. The devotion between them was legendary and artistically fruitful. As soon as he could detect the love story, my husband sought out the special meanings of each room, which Gala and Dalí had built to their designs. All together we spent an hour and half there, wondering and wandering, but it was timeless, a romantic idyll, like all the moments we spent together.

Photo by Jessica Knauss
Photo by Stanley Coombs
That smile was reserved for moments of true love. 
I’d heard about this house and read about it and seen travel shows about it, and I never honestly thought I would get to go there. Its location on the edge of the world felt out of reach to a lonely traveler. Obviously, I needed true love to get there.

Darkening skies. Photo by Jessica Knauss 
The weather worsened—gale winds threatened to push the car off the road—and made it impossible for us to see the rock formations at the coast at Cap de Creus. As I mentioned, Cadaqués and Portlligat are on the edge of the world, so we had to drive back the way we’d come, through the twisting mountain roads. We were starving by the time we made it to Girona for lunch, but I had enough energy to appreciate it as it whizzed by our car windows while we searched for a place to eat. We finally parked in a garage and walked down Gran Avinguda Jaume I into a place called Viena, which, it turns out, has the best sandwich in the world according to the New York Times—a jamón on scratchy, crusty bread. We didn’t get that one; Stanley already had a pulverized hard palate from the hard bread we’d been eating. We ordered hamburgers with bacon and egg and pepper sauce, with some fries and the most satisfying drink in the world according to my love, Fanta taronja (Catalan for orange). The buns were as hard as any baguette! It’s not easy to eat a hamburger in solid steel casing. But I thought it was really good, anyway. I was relieved to find they’re a Catalan company and in Catalan tradition, they had a lot of lovely pastries for breakfast. And Girona became another place I thought I would like to live.

"Enjoy the good things in life"
"The best sandwich in the world—The New York Times"
Slogans are even better in Catalan (says this linguist)
The hugeness of Barcelona struck us both. Our hotel was in the middle of a commercial-industrial area in Cornellà de Llobregat, but we took a walk and saw a Manolo poster for a concert he’d already given. Had we heard anything from him yet? "Not yet," we said, with love and hope in our hearts. 
Portents of things to come...
Photo by Stanley Coombs 

It’s more tiring than you think it will be when you haven’t been somewhere before. I’d been in Barcelona long before, but it was a package tour—no thinking required. Next time: I try to navigate Barcelona on my own for the first time!

Catch up with the rest of the posts in this series here