from caernarfon we drove for about half an hour (if that) to get to our next stop. it's the place we had both been most looking forward to, mainly because whenever anyone asked where we were planning to go, and we told them we were going to portmeirion village, the standard response was: "lovely, although a bit weird". anywhere that gets a resounding weird-vote from all reports is basically a place i want to go, so this firmed our decision to keep it on the list when the day began to go a bit off-course. we arrived before 3pm and we knew the village closed down for the night at 6pm, so we had a few hours to wander the grounds, and see what all the fuss was about.
first (of many) weird thing to note: there's a fee to get into the village. it's about eleven quid for an adult, but the lady was super nice and let us both in for a tenner. i think she was confused by the change, but whatever. i'm sort of glad; spoiler alert, but i'm not sure i got my eleven pounds worth.
we found a tour guide and headed off on a walking tour of the village. lead by a well-versed and very knowledgeable glen (i think. or graham. or grant. i can't remember, but it started with a 'g'), who took us off around the village, pointing out particular houses or "things" of note. apparently a really well known british tv show/fillum is set and filmed on site: the prisoner. i've never seen it, but according to grant, that - as well as the annual music event, festival no.6, is usually what brings people to the eclectic village.
i wasn't really paying attention to geoff, so here's what wiki says:
portmeirion is a tourist village in gwynedd, north wales. it was designed and built by sir clough williams-ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an italian village. sir clough williams-ellis denied repeated claims that the design was based on the fishing village of portofino on the italian riviera. he stated only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the mediterranean.
so, not very helpful. i do remember gary telling us about why sir ellis wanted to build a village like this, but i can't now remember - helpful, i know. the website says it's because: he wanted to show how a naturally beautiful site - like this one, nestled on the side of a cliff oevrlooking a beautiful inlet, could be developed without spoiling it. the village was built as a place people could enjoy for its own sake.
in which case... fair play, ellis. we wandered around the multicoloured houses pretty much repeating exclamations of "how random! it's so weird! isn't this pretty? it's so... weird, though" until we got too damn hangry that we had to stop in for food. the old town hall has been converted into a 1950 diner serving classic british food; the weirdness was never-ending.
we grabbed ice creams after that and had a final wander around the bay until it looked like we mightn't have too many hours left to do so, so headed back slowly via the giant bronze buddah in the middle of the piazza - because, of course there was a giant bronze buddah. why wouldn't there be a giant bronze buddah? while we wandered, we caught site of a wedding party entering the biggest of the hotels on site - something i do remeber greg saying was that even though the village is privately owned now and no-one actually lives on-site, the hotels and houses are all still fully-functioning, and are all available for hire. looking on the site, his next tidbit of info has been confirmed: there are no standard rates. you basically find the place you want to stay in, then offer a price to the managers of the village for your stay. they will either accept or decline your offer as they please. same goes for weddings.
some of the hotels and houses were absolutely incredible, and i can totally see why someone would want to get married there; beautiful sea view, incredibly colourful accommodation, a definite quirk about the setting that most venues don't offer, but it definitely had a touch of the "house of wax"es about it. we were nearing 5:30 and we were panicked that if we didn't leave by 6 then, you know, we might not be allowed to leave at all.
we had no idea what to expect from the reports of weirdness, but portmeirion well-and-truly lived up to the hype. it was the prettiest and most colourful little village i think i've ever seen in the uk, and certainly the most vibrant since visiting burano in march. and of course, obviously the strangest. why does it exist? why is it the way it is? why is there a giant bronze buddah? i have so many questions. so many.