Thank you Neal Caffrey: Why Cadaques should be on everyone’s “must-visit” list

So, I recently visited Cadaques, which is awesome, and I’ll tell you why it’s awesome in just a moment, but first, I feel like I should admit that the reason I wanted to see Cadaques, the way I even heard of the place, is a tad . . . uh, well, embarrassing.

See, there’s this TV show called White Collar. It was one of many “roguish-character-with-specific-expertese-teams-with-the-cops-to-help-solve-crime”-type shows; in this case, Neal Caffrey, an art forger and con-artist, joins Peter Burke, the FBI agent who finally captured him, to put white collar criminals behind bars.  It’s done now and was nothing spectacular, we aren’t talking Prestige Television here, but it was a lot of fun and, oddly enough, I leaned quite a bit from it.

For one, the Neal Caffrey character was a sharp dresser and, when work made a suit and tie de rigueur, I took many of my sartorial cues from him (or, well, from the show’s talented wardrobe department). But Neal was also a cultured guy in a rather unpretentious way and had traveled to interesting destinations, usually drawn to these locations by his love of fine art and fine food and the cultures that produce them. Now, in one episode, Neal (a fictional character, remember) cooks paella for a lovely young woman (as part of an FBI-approved con, dontchya know) and remarks that the best paella he ever had was in Cadaques, which he visited as part of his artistic self-education.

I had never heard of the place but it sounded nice and I looked it up and it looked beautiful and, the next thing I knew, it had been added to my list of “must visit” spots in the world—all on the say-so of an entirely fictional character. If I’m completely honest, I’m pretty sure the words “Well, if Neal liked it…” crossed my mind.

So, yeah, when I realized I’d be traveling to Spain and Catalonia, well, I just had to add Cadaques to my itinerary. And, oh man, am I ever glad I did.

Cadaques is an absolutely gorgeous little town, every building white washed and many of its cobble-stone streets garlanded with flowers. Though a fairly popular tourist destination due to its connections with Dali (the artists painted there and owned a house nearby, now a small museum) it never felt crowded to me, even in August. Nearly every restaurant has outdoor seating, whether with views of the water or tucked away in quaint alleys. And, yes, I had paella and it was delicious.

The town’s true highlight, however, is its opportunities for hiking. Every day, I would set out from my hotel and hike along the rocky shores. I recommend starting at Port Lligat, location of the Dali House, and heading east, toward Cap de Creus. There are paths but I tried to simply keep to the rocky shore, which quickly turns to rocky cliffs.

This is where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean, so be sure to wear good hiking shoes.  Bring water and some food as there are no restaurants, snack bars or fountains along the way, and be sure to slather on the sunblock. Just as important: pack your swim suit or simply wear it under your pants or shorts!

Along the way, if you’re brave (stupid) and nimble enough, you’ll get the chance to clamber down the cliffside to secluded coves for a swim in the Mediterranean. On my first hike I didn’t know it would be possible, so I hadn’t packed my swimsuit. Luckily, I was wearing boxer briefs, so simply stripped down and dove in.

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can rent snorkeling gear or a narrow watercraft in Port Lligat to explore the spectacular scenery along the coast. I also noticed several small ship cruises drifting by.

 

Now, Cadaques isn’t the easiest spot to get to. It isn’t serviced by any trains and is a fair distance from the nearest airport. The simplest way to reach it is likely to rent a car in Girona or Figueres and drive. It’s a winding but lovely route. The other option—and the way I got there—is to take the train into Figueres and bus from there. Note that the train station and bus station in Figueres are in two separate buildings but across the town square from each other.

Some English-speaking visitors mentioned they had some trouble being understood; next to Spanish and Catalan, locals are more likely to speak French, given the town’s proximity to the Spanish border with France.

Regardless of your preferred method of communication, I cannot recommend Cadaques enough, a town that has been moved from my “must visit” list and firmly added t my “favorite towns and cities” list.

In conclusion: thank you Neal Caffrey!