Saturday, 20 August 2016

Girls Day Out, Thelma & Louise style – sort of

Blue skies, roof down, the wind in our hair, we were on a girls day out, Thelma & Louise style, sort of - wild bars and driving over a cliff were definitely not included!

Our drive took us through some gorgeous scenery to the beautiful Italianate village of Portmeirion on the Welsh coast.  

In 1925 Clough Williams Ellis, (1883 – 1978) an architect, acquired the Portmeirion site for around £20,000.

At the time he wrote that it was "a neglected wilderness - long abandoned by those romantics who had realised the unique appeal and possibilities of this favoured promontory but who had been carried away by their grandiose landscaping...into sorrowful bankruptcy." 

Originally called Aber Iâ (Welsh for Glacial Estuary) Clough Williams Ellis changed the name to Portmeirion: Port, because it’s on the coast and Meirion, Welsh for Merioneth, because at the time it was in the county of Merioneth.

Work started on the hotel and campanile immediately and the resort opened to visitors in 1926, new structures were added each year until 1939.  

In 1956 on his one and only visit to his ancestral homeland of Wales, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright visited Portmeirion.

The 1960’s cult TV programme ‘The Prisoner’ starring Patrick McGoohan was filmed in Portmeirion.

If you’ve never heard of it the programme is about a chap who resigns some sort of top secret government job, and the next day wakes up in a beautiful village.  The name of the village or it's location is never actually disclosed.  Inhabitants of the village are known by numbers, rather than names.

The character played by Patrick McGoohan is Number 6 and frequently shuts “I am not a number I am a free man”.

I don’t remember there being any actual violence in the programme but it always had an air of supressed menace about it.  As for what it was actually about, if I ever figure it out I’ll let you know!  

Portmeirion itself is very picturesque and meanders its way down the hillside to the river. Full of pastel coloured buildings it really does feel as though you’re in an Italian village.

The Portmeirion Hotel overlooks the Traeth Bach (Welsh for Little Beach) estuary.   On the quay beside the hotel Clough Williams Ellis built a concrete yacht, it’s painted white, and, from a distance, especially when the tide is high, it could easily be mistaken for the real thing.

We strolled along one of the woodland walks, following the estuary.   In places at low tide you can walk down to the sands, surprisingly there were quite a lot of jellyfish by the rocks.

Almost at the end of the estuary we came across a very convenient seat by a white tower.   Another path led across the rocks down onto to the open sands at the mouth of the estuary.  

In ‘The Prisoner’ if inhabitants of the village tried to escape across the sands a huge white rolling ball that looked like a massive tennis ball, always caught them.  I tried to persuade my friend to run across the sands and see what happened, but sadly she wouldn’t.

Wandering back into the village, we decided to have tea on the hotel terrace.  It’s a lovely spot, unfortunately half-finished teas left lying around attracted pesky seagulls they really were a nuisance, so we moved inside. Seagulls cause dreadful problems in some seaside towns and villages as they can be really aggressive and vicious.

Our plan to explore the shops was thwarted by the simple fact that it was by now so late in the afternoon they’d actually closed (DB was most pleased about that) so we decided it was probably time to head for home.

We had an absolutely fabulous day.

Have fun, we are!

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