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sign for the Museu de la Tècnica de l'Empordà“Come on, Louise. It’s 4:15. The place is closed.” I get impatient when I’m tired, and we were visiting Figueres (home of the Teatro-Museo Dalí, which I’ve described earlier in this blog) for the second time since we began our travels – not to see the Dali museum again, but just to visit Figueres on a sunny day in Spain.

But it was 4:15. The sign on the door said the museum would open at 4:00. I’d been on my feet since 10:00 that morning and I wanted – needed – a cerveza grande. Figueres is charming, but charm has its limits, like watching six hours of Audrey Hepburn movies.

“Just ten more minutes. The sign says 4:00, but that’s Spanish time.”

Louise is such an optimist. But she’s right: Spanish time can be somewhat vague. Four o’clock could mean anything between 4:00 and 5:00. You just have to adapt.

typewriters at the museum

A few of the typewriters on the second floor of the museum. (Click to enlarge)

Just then, a peculiar little electric car slithered up to the curb. A man with an arm in a cast emerged from the passenger’s side and began instructing the woman driver on the finer points of parallel parking. There was plaster-encased gesticulating and many cacophonous Catalan words. The car silently crawled up the curb, covered half the sidewalk, and stopped. The woman got out, apparently proud of her parking job (or, perhaps, proud of the consternation her parking job provoked in the man) and fetched a key from her purse to unlock the museum.

Floor fan

A steam-powered floor fan.

Thus was our introduction to Pere Padrosa, his wife Margarida Pierre, and their eccentric Museu de la Técnica: a collection of máquinas from around the world, spanning two centuries. Margarida apologized for making us wait (they finished lunch “a bit later than usual”), took our €2 admission fee, then proceeded to conduct a personal, two-hour tour of the museum – just Louise, Sra. Margarida, and me.

A thousand sewing machines, a million typewriters, Vespas, clocks, adding machines – I said “collection” earlier and that’s the right word: Sr. Padrosa began collecting typewriters almost forty years ago and he’s still at it, although his interest now is electric fans. The Museu de la Técnica really isn’t a museum at all: it’s more like Grandpa’s attic, if Grandpa collected really good stuff, displayed it with elegance and charm, and the stuff in the attic required three stories.

sewing machines and clocks

Sewing machines and clocks. The clocks keep Spanish time.

And so, here on the blog, I publicly apologize to Louise for my impatience and intolerance of Spanish time. Had we returned to the train station when I wanted to we would have missed one of the most curious, beguiling, and personal events of our entire Spanish adventure. Sra. Margarida was a delight (the entire tour was conducted in French, as that was the language Louise and Margarida best had in common) and that mechanical universe had me captivated from the first step through the door.


Vespas belonging to Sr. Padrosa, his father, and his sons.

We left at 6:00 (dodging the electric car still occupying the sidewalk) having hijacked two-thirds of the museum’s 4:00 to 7:00 evening hours. My eyes are still glazed over with fascination.

The Museu de la Tècnica de l’Empordà is located at C/Fossos, número 12, in Figueres. If you’re going to Figueres to see the Dalí museum, leave ample time to visit with Sra. Margarida and Sr. Padrosa and their delightful museum of objectes de la técnica. It’s certainly worth two euros.

Get there around 4:30 – that’s Spanish time for 4:00.