Workaway three: Mas Sant Nicolau, Figueres and Friends

Our third workaway has been magical. It began as well as its gone on. We felt comfortable immediately with the owners Helen and Francis and our Netherlands neighbours Tom and Lisa. The sun came in bursts (as to not overwhelm us, of course) and we engaged in new activities such as playing catch and badminton, feeding horses and pigs. I faced my fears feeding boisterous billy goats and cleaned cottages like never before. 

I thought I’d swim every day at the pool here and we took a dip on day one and nearly froze to death so we were less inclined after that. As the weeks progressed, we took more dips and I finally, after 23 years, learnt how to float like a starfish. I couldn’t yoga as the Internet was terrible and instead was forced to socialise and engage in offline activities such as reading, writing and walking. I loved it. 

We’re working at Mas Sant Nicolau, a place for holiday makers near Figueres, a small town home to the Dali museum and Europe’s largest fortress. We visited both and in the fortress were led by a brilliant audio guide who sounded like she would’ve been more at home in a 1970s BBC crime drama. So RP. The views over the hills and Pyrenees were sublime and the fortress itself (Castell de Sant Ferran) was very interesting, a vast and grand building used as a fortress, a prison and now, as a concert hall. 

Mas Sant Nicolau is around 13km from Figueres, home to the fortress, and it’s a nice lil town filled with art (including the Dali museum – and second most visited museum in Spain!) and pharmacies – as seems most of Spain to be. 

After saying ‘this will be my last gallery trip’ at de boijmans in Rotterdam, I caved in during our time in Figueres and indulged in the Salvador Dali museum. 

My thoughts differed here but some remained aligned. At de Boijmans I wrote a note:

After fighting with frames, I realise I don’t believe in museums anymore. Art should be out in the world, like Rotterdam itself. Not inside with a price tag. It makes this inspiring and thought provoking world elitist and inaccessible. 

In the Dali museum, these feelings were lesser, as instead, I felt overwhelmed by what was presented. There was so much and so much variety and I struggled to engage with it. 

Some were nice though;

Standing in line to look through a pane of glass to best view one piece made me engage more with the work I passed. Being in the line meant I really took time looking at some works where otherwise I would have dismissed them without a second thought. My conclusions were that Dali obviously had artistic talent and thrived on genre-bending, stereotype-warping work but I am not inspired by a lot of his work, and inspiration is what I seek from art. 

Adding to my struggle to engage, I spent the time at the Dali museum following a group of around 80 farting French kids who seemingly couldn’t care less about art and made evident that Dali didn’t mean anything more to them than his gallery being a stop of their Spanish school trip. It exhausted my patience and ability to focus, but I couldn’t blame them. I’d been in their boat so many (too many) times. 

We took the trip to Figueres and the Dali a museum with Tom, Lisa and Marlie, the other three volunteers who are making our time at Mas Sant Nicolau as wonderful as it is. I’ve had more laughs (to the point of pain) in this last fortnight than I have for such a long time. Both that, and engaging conversation about life, nature and what “it” all really means. Who we all really are. 

Lisa and Tom, from the Netherlands (who also met in Birmingham!) shared with us their excellent stories and experience from their year and a half travelling and workawaying. They now head to Barcelona before home for a few months before they go to South America later in the year. Hopefully, we’ll be meeting in Barcelona next week for a catch up and send off. 

Marlie, from Canada, has been a fantastic friend, confidante and has provided a solid argument for going west instead of east when I head to Canada. Marlie’s travelling on her own for a few months before returning to her home on Vancouver Island and her job they have kept open for her. I’ll be making the most of her offer for somewhere to stay when I go that way and hope we keep in touch. 

The people have definitely been one of the best parts of this stay, being with other volunteers has been wonderful. I feel in a way we are all kindred spirits, but I also know we have chanced upon three wonderful people here. 

Also, how can I forget about Lucy?? My favourite dog ever. Who has provided us with fun during work and cuddles almost on demand. 

Yep, that’s Lucy on the roof

I love it here and don’t want to leave, but other adventures await. Til next time. 


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