Architecture, beauty, Clough William-Ellis, dangerous tides, entrance fees, estuary, Heritage conservation, Italianate, Jools Holland, Northern Wales, Portmeirion, restoration, self-catering, Snowdonia, Snowdonia National Park, Tides, utopia, Wales, Welsh
From our cottage, Portmeirion shines like a strange beacon across the estuary. We can see brightly coloured buildings like nothing we have seen elsewhere in Wales. Today we drove over to visit Portmeirion for ourselves. Although it is a “village”, you have to pay an admission fee to enter. No residents live in the village yet there are many signs that say “Private – Residents Only”. It turns out that these cottages can all be rented as self-catering accommodation. Better than camping!
The entrance fee is steep. I did a double take when I saw that adult admission was £10 whereas plant admission was £6.50. What? I have to pay extra for Fahbio’s basil to accompany us? No. Plant is the Welsh word for children. Neato. Of course I had done my research and printed off a coupon for 20% off admission for up to six people. Then I found out that admission is half-price after 3:30 pm so that became my new plan. And before you start rolling your eyes, let me just say that admission for our family would cost £45/$86 Cdn so saving 50% is pretty significant. Besides we can never manage to get out of the house until noon anyways so what’s another few hours?
I was skeptical about a village you have to pay almost a C-note to enter. Was it worth $50? Absolutely. Would it be worth $100? A qualified yes – depending on how scroogey you are, whether you make a day of it and what the sun is doing. In our case, it was raining yet again and so cold we were wearing hats and mittens.
Portmeirion was the labour of love of a man called Clough William-Ellis who bought the 70 acres of waterfront property on the edge of Snowdonia National Park in 1925 and spent fifty years creating magic there. His aim was to prove that the beauty of nature could be enhanced by human intervention. Man, I LOVE that! He drew inspiration from many cultures and his village is a mish mash of pseudo-Italian, pseudo-Chinese, pseudo-Thai, pseudo-Welsh, pseudo-Spanish with a good dose of mythical motifs as decorative elements.
For those interested in heritage conservation, beauty, and architecture, Portmeirion challenges us. The site is so heart-achingly beautiful and yet so corny and weird at the same time. High Brow Kitsch. Time has known many dreamers who have had the tenacity, time and money to realize their own quirky utopias. The world is fascinated by these unique people and their places. Portmeirion is one of the most outlandish, ambitious and well-realized of these. The fact that the creator was an architect himself means that the utopia is more tasteful and well built than most. The fact that he lived to his mid-nineties means that the project had time to grow and evolve with its originator. Overall, thought-provoking for those who are into having their brains poked while genteel and soothing for those who prefer to enjoy an ice cream while listening to the bells toll.
If you have time, like if you are STILL on hold with Bell/Aeroplan, I would invite you to watch a great 8 minute Youtube film on Portmeirion. It is hosted by Jools Holland (former member of the band Squeeze) and very informative. It is called Jools Goes to Portmeirion.
Driving home, a road worker saw our French licence plate and screamed out, “WELCOME TO WALES!” It was a warm end to a cold day.