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Figueres is the capital of the comarca (county) of the Alt Empordà, the bustling county seat of this predominantly agricultural region. Local people come from the surrounding area to shop at its many stores and stock up on farm equipment and supplies. Thursday is market day, and farmers gather at the top of the Rambla to do business and gossip, taking refreshments at cafés and discreetly pulling out and pocketing large rolls of bills, the result of their morning transactions. But among the tractors and mule carts is the main reason tourists come to Figueres: the jaw-dropping Dalí Museum, one of the most visited museums in Spain.
Painter Salvador Dalí is Figueres's most famous son. With a painter's technique that rivaled that of Jan van Eyck, a flair for publicity so aggressive it would have put P.T. Barnum in the shade, and a penchant for shocking (he loved telling people Barcelona's historic Gothic Quarter should be knocked down), Dalí scaled the ramparts of art history as one of the foremost proponents of surrealism, the art movement launched in the 1920s by André Breton. His most lasting image may be the melting watches in his iconic 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory. The artist, who was born in and who died in Figueres (1904–89), decided to create a museum-monument to himself during the last two decades of his life. Dalí often frequented the Cafeteria Astòria at the top of the Rambla (still the center of social life in Figueres), signing autographs for tourists or just being Dalí: he once walked down the street with a French omelet in his breast pocket instead of a handkerchief.
Figueres at a Glance
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