Monday, March 23, 2009

On Spain's Wild Coast

The only road leading to the seaside village of Cadáques perilously spirals a majestic green mountain range, gradually revealing glimpses of dramatic rugged coastline and startlingly blue waters. Eventually, the bleach-white village comes into view from a jarringly deep drop. Near the French border on the Costa Brava, Spain’s wild coast, the small resort town emits a sense of remoteness.

Its whitewashed buildings and picturesque Santa Maria cathedral sit tucked between two long arms of rugged, mountainous coastline that jut into a shimmering blue sea dotted with boats. A walk along one of the craggy limbs leads to rocky coves adorned with patches of fluorescent green moss and tufts of lilac wildflowers that give way to translucent multicolored waters in shades of navy, teal, and turquoise rivaling an impressionist painting. Small, pebbled beaches with colorful parked fishing boats and seagulls (and a topless sunbather or two) appear tucked along the cliffs and Monet-esque waters of the active fishing port.

Since the early 1900s the peaceful town has attracted and inspired a slew of talented artists, most notably Picasso and Dali, who considered it a sort of muse. Cadáques still draws artistic bohemian souls, as all the dreadlocks, ethnic-inspired jewelry, and art galleries indicate.

In the old town, the winding, steep, and painfully cobbled streets lead to art venues and trendy gift shops. Bright blue shutters and clay pots with green plants trim the barred windows of the white houses. Ivy drapes, bicycles lean and cats nap against the stark walls, which occasionally boast medieval-style wooden doors with peeling pastel paint and metal knockers. Along with modernist buildings, an impressive line-up of seafood restaurants and cafes line the main promenade by the bay. On Sundays locals set up a small market akin to an American garage sale in a sandy plaza.

By the beach, conversations in Catalan and French blend with the gentle splash of incoming waves. Chatting friends, laughing families, and kissing couples bask in the blinding sun, claiming the promise of spring despite the chilly breeze.

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