Travel Stories

Portmeirion, Wales (I Am The New Number Two!)

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We arrived at our hotel, Tyddyn Llan, a beautiful Georgian farmhouse in rural North Wales, to find that there had been a mistake with the booking. I didn’t mind that they’d shown the wrong rooms on the website, I could cope with that, but when they told us there wasn’t a room booked for us at all I was a little bit taken aback. Luckily they weren’t fully booked, and after realising it was their mistake and not ours, and some to-ing and fro-ing of the reception staff, we were given a very pleasant looking room.

We ate a dinner of six courses (yes, six courses, and canapes, and petits fours!) in the Michelin starred restaurant, and,  stuffed to the gunnels with traditional courses, retired to bed.

Our room (Room 4) was above the kitchen. Luckily for Adam he is a good sleeper, but he did miss out on the soundtrack of clanking pots and eighties music. I lay there, trying not to let my ear rest on the pillow, trying not to allow the mattress to become a massive amplifier of kitchen sound, until I heard it – Van Halen, Jump! I sang along, the kitchen staff sang along, Adam slept on. Lucky, lucky thing.

The building was beautifully old, creaky and characterful. I realised that the floor was significantly sloped when I got up in the night to use the bathroom and ended up accidentally running down the room towards the window, gaining speed until I hit an arm chair. It wasn’t the best of nights.

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We got up early and headed out into the sunshine. It smelled nice, of air and water. We drove through Snowdonia National Park, down towards Portmeirion. Adam put Iron Maiden’s The Prisoner on the stereo, to get us in the mood. ‘I am the new number two. You are number six!’  ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ ‘Haaahahaha!’ and all that.

I’ve never actually watched The Prisoner (it was filmed at Portmeirion, in case you were wondering). I know it was shown when I was a child (a re-run!) but back then I was more interested in sitting behind the sofa making notes on peoples conversations, rather than watching tele. It was hard to persuade me to watch the television, and I’ve had to be conditioned to do so over the years!

At the end of the most magnificent lane, hedge-lined with hydrangeas in all pastel colours, was the magnificent village of Portmeirion. Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis had bought the land in 1925 and set out to show how a beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. It took 50 years to build.

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As we walked down towards the sea the Campanile bells rang out with a rather eerie, and slightly fairytale-like chime. I do think that on a lonely, empty day it could be quite terrifying.

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I ate a pistachio ice cream on a wonky chair. It was made in the village using local milk – the ice cream, not the chair, that was blown vinyl and probably made in China, or Italy.

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We decided to wait for the land train ride, up the hill and through the trees of the sub-tropical forest Y Gwyllt. A lot of people were queueing and we tried to put them off – ‘I’ve heard one of the wheels is falling off!’ exclaimed Adam, ever practical. ‘The seats are covered in treacle!’ I joined in.

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We sat next to a lovely lady and chatted to her. She was on her way to a barbecue and had decided to stop off and enjoy her afternoon at Portmeirion. After some intense questioning we discovered she was the well-known botanical artist, Angie Girling, which was nice.

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The best thing about Portmeirion, for me, was the marvellous way architect Clough Williams-Ellis aligned the vistas. Every scene was beautifully framed, every building had a wonderfully styled view, every view had a selection of colour and form to enhance the setting. Quite incredible.

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According to Wikipedia Clough Williams-Ellis died aged 94 in April 1978, and was cremated, in accordance with his wishes. His ashes went to make up a marine rocket, which was part of a New Year’s Eve firework display at Portmeirion some twenty years after his death. My kind of chap. I was going to ask to be filled with un-popped corn and then cremated, but Bertram has given me food for thought!

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We drove back to our hotel, via the picturesque town of Betws-y-Coed, stopping for dinner and sights to be seen.

Top kitchen song of the night? Pulp, Common People. It was warm so we left the window open, and in the morning everything smelt like chips.