Whimsical and fun and colorful and crazy and quaint and goofy and delightful and joyous and quirky. It’s Portmeirion! In Wales!
Portmeirion was built as a tourist village between 1925 and 1975. It isn’t that old or that historic, although fragments of demolished buildings were used, so it is somewhat a hodgepodge of styles. The developer, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, wanted to build a village that felt Mediterranean, but on the northwest coast of Wales. For our older readers: did you ever watch the 1960s television show The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan? It is about a secret agent who resigns, but wakes up to find himself held prisoner in what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. He repeatedly tries to escape. Well, this is the idyllic village, Portmeirion. It still hosts Prisoner conventions for fans, and the building that served as the main character’s home is now the The Prisoner gift shop.
Many other shows and music videos were filmed here. It was visited by Frank Lloyd Wright, George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, and Noel Coward, who wrote Blithe Spirit here. George Harrison spent his 50th birthday in the village in 1993. Its main function is as a hotel, with beautiful grounds, shops, and restaurants. Every room is different, and they are mostly located above the shops, and each is unique. Ours was huge, with a canopied bed in a moon and stars motif. If you stay there, as we did for a few days, it is “free” to enter the village, of course. If you only wish to visit for the day, it is about $15 per person. We had Portmeirion on our bucket list for many years, and we saw a lot of Wales during this trip. It is all gorgeous, with some of the nicest people on earth.
We found it so charming to walk around, going different ways each day. It isn’t that big, but there are surprises around each corner. There are arches, fountains, statues, bridges, colonnades, towers, walkways, gardens, pools, steeples, balconies (some with statues), forests, and even a life-size chessboard! There are plenty of benches and chairs on which to sit and look around or people-watch. Everything is painted in different colors, yet it is all harmonious. As you can see in the first photo, the building has several colors across the facade, yet doesn’t look garish or out of place…at least, it doesn’t in this setting!
So just let your eyes feast as you scroll through the photos. We visited three years ago, in May 2017. The village is very rich and varied. There are two photos near the end that were taken at night, which was a pretty eerie feeling. Since it isn’t actually a city, and the people who pay to see it during the day leave before dark, there weren’t many people around, and it felt deserted and a little creepy. Safety in numbers, and all that. There were some other hotel guests out and about, but with no traffic or noise or hustle and bustle, it was strangely quiet. Much better by day!
In the last photo is a strange sight: an ice cream truck parked out in the middle of nowhere, with no swarming children in sight. We shared a photo last week of Mr. Softee, Jan’s childhood ice cream truck, and you will notice that this one in Wales is Super Whippy. It almost looks like it is waiting for all those sheep to run down off the hillside and purchase some soft-serve.