By Ron van Dijk /

It is surprising how few North Americans know where Catalonia or the Costa Brava is located. But if I mention Barcelona (the capital of Catalonia, situated south-east of the Costa Brava), it will ring more than just a bell. Barcelona is one of the main cultural centers in Europe, competing with Paris, London, and Rome. Catalonia is a region of Spain with a high degree of autonomy. In fact, its people generally think of themselves as Catalans first, and as Spaniards, if at all, a distant second. Furthermore, the people don’t speak Spanish, they proudly speak Catalan: related to French and Spanish, but a language in its own right, and spoken by about 7 million people.

Catalunya (as the region is called in Catalan) is so varied when it comes to culture, the arts, architecture, cuisine, wines, that it is impossible to even scratch the surface in a small blog for which others need entire books. Instead, let me concentrate on Salvador DalÃi, the major artist of the surrealist movement which took painting, literature, cinema and other arts by storm during the first half of the 20th century.

Dali was born in Figueres, Catalunya, and studied in the Madrid School of Fine Arts, where he came into contact with avant-garde intellectuals. That is where he discovered cubism, futurism, the world of cinema and photography. After exhibiting his work in Barcelona and Madrid, Dali left for Paris to meet Picasso, where he then encountered the surrealist movement.

Dali later persuaded some friends and his wife to spend the summers with him in secluded Cadaqués, the birthplace of his father, along the Costa Brava. At the height of his fame, Dali bought a row of fishermen’s houses at Portlligat near Cadaqués, and transformed them into a residence and workshop. Despite his travels to the world art centers of Paris and New York, he always remained faithful to his land of birth.

Towards the end of his life, Dali decided to return for good to Empord, a Catalan coastal region, and presented his wife Gala with a castle. This was Púbol castle, not far from La Bisbal.

In 1974, one of Dali’s dreams came true with the opening of the Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres where a wide range of works from all his artistic periods is on display. The entire museum was designed by him and is in itself another work of art. Today, it is one of the most popular museums in Spain.

After their deaths, first of Gala and then of Dali, a foundation was set up to manage three important spaces of the artist’s life: the Dali Theater- Museum in Figueres, the Gala Castle in Púbol and the House in Portlligat, thereby creating the “Dali Triangle”, enabling you to discover the personality and work of the artist in his native land. All less than an hour away from each other, and close to Barcelona. Visiting these sites is the best way to understand why the Costa Brava landscapes were a permanent source of inspiration for Dali. During our Catalonian bike trip as well as our Catalonian multisport trip, we include the first two of these sites:

Dali was one of the most versatile and creative persons of his time. And a little crazy too. In my opinion, there is no better way to appreciate Dali’s art, than to combine it with an active, outdoor trip through his surrealistic landscapes.

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