In an effort to get out of Barcelona for a day and explore the area, we rented a car and headed north towards Cadaques, a tiny little fishing village near the French border.
No trip for a Chef that far north would be complete without a trip out to El Bulli (which closed in 2011). After 30 mins of a one lane road, zigzagging through ancient olive groves we arrive to the secluded location and single driveway of what was once El Bulli. Much to our surprise, the building is now a total construction site, as it in being transformed into a foundation space for ElBulli1846. A meaningful stop for the Chef, not to mention breathtaking scenery.
Another good chunk of time twisting through old olive groves, we descend on the little town of Cadaques. This quaint white and blue town, a calm harbor at its center with soft lapping Mediterranean waves reaching its tiny shores, is a place one only imagines to exist. Again, many shops and restaurants were closed, but it was still such a wonderful place to wander the streets. You could tell why the Spanish locals have chosen this town to call home – it just felt different than any other coastal town.
A quick hike from the harbor over a STEEP hill brings you to Portlligat and the home of famous painter Salvador Dali. His house is extraordinary and so unique. Expanded on in multiple stages, it still only includes one bedroom. In the yellow room, a mirror was installed at such an angle so that the sunrise light would come through and be dispersed throughout. His décor included many taxidermy animals including a polar bear that greats you at the front door and the head of a rhino. From his studio, the view overlooking the small inlet was absolutely gorgeous, it’s no wonder he spent most of his time there. Upon wandering around the grounds, the exterior is just as impressive. Paths lead you through an olive grove and down to the water’s edge. The pool area was fit for entertaining and so interesting! A hodgepodge of stuff but the work of a genius.
Given the long drive back to Barcelona a head of us, we made a quick stop at the Boia Bar right on the harbor. This small bar/restaurant with a deck directly at the water’s edge, was easily the busiest location in town. (We would later find out this is the summer home to that famous cocktail master from El Bulli we met in Barcelona the next evening). After a couple of El Bulli and Adria brother influenced tapas, it was time to leave this sweet little fishing village knowing we would return again someday.
A couple of tapas is not enough for dinner so we stopped in Girona for something more substantial (after hearing high praises of the city from family friends who had just visited). Having no idea where to go, we headed towards the historic district and stumbled upon Plaça del Vi 7 – a little wine bar. It turned out to be the perfect stop with great food, great atmosphere, and even better wine. (When in doubt – always choose the small wine bar!) The city vibe in Girona was wonderful and you could tell there was so much more to be discovered – another spot added to the must return list!
Our Stark Perspective (Tips)
- If you have a little bit of extra time, save money on tolls by staying off A7. Take N-11 or C-32 instead (when it doesn’t huge the coastline).
- When visiting the smaller towns – try to go after the first week of March and avoid Sundays or Mondays.
- Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations! We found out about Manel from the guy at Dali’s house.
- When in Cadaques, dine at Compartir if you can. The mastermind of El Bulli’s 3 sous chefs and highly recommended (we did not know about it, until after our visit north).