First stop then was a dip in the pool, which is heated these days, a step up from when there would have been a bracing freshwater pool in the 1920s. The pool is small but was just what we needed after a 4 hour drive in warm weather, and feeling refreshed, we explored the village a little. It's a compact site, centred around some beautiful gardens. There are lots of little shops and places to eat, including a 'diner' style cafe in the Town Hall, and an ice-cream parlour. If the filming of the 1960s TV series 'The Prisoner' interests you then you can visit the gift shop, which I think was Number 6's cottage in the programme. The village is surrounded by woodland, and there are lots of paths veering off if you're feeling exploratory. You'll come across little follies and look-out points if you do. After a quick change, it was then time for drinks on the hotel terrace, followed by a picnic overlooking the estuary. Apparently the restaurant is top-notch, but it is pricey, and we were a bit too hot to sit inside for a formal dinner. We had cold salmon and salad off plastic plates, washed down with some wine. Classy!
Above: The top right windows belonged to our room, Neptune 1
Breakfast the next day was a very good experience. The beautiful 1931 Art Deco dining room (redesigned by Terence Conran in 2005) is the perfect spot to drink tea and look out over the estuary through the curvilinear windows. Breakfast was superb and we stuffed ourselves silly.
Above: Nice artwork on the breakfast menu
It wasn't perfect, I have one main gripe with our accommodation. You'll see what I mean in the next photograph. We were accommodated in 'Neptune 1', a standard double room in the village, in a little wonky looking building. What a sight greeted us on opening the door to the room - quite possibly the most hideous décor I've ever seen in a hotel room. Blue and yellow fabric, everywhere. It was like the 'Changing Rooms' team had done it out in the '90s. I could almost visualise Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. The room itself should have been charming - it's spacious, has a nice dressing table and desk, and the bathroom and little sink area are done out well. There are pictures of birds, and a little table by the window with chairs, Portmeirion pottery tiles in the bathroom, and complimentary sherry. But that bed and drapes? What were they thinking?!
At least the view from our room was nice, across the village. I did complain about the décor at reception, and was told that gradually the rooms are being redecorated. Apparently the ones that have been done out are looking swish, with floating beds and such. I do hope that they make more of the Art Deco connection and play on that a bit more in general - not a hint of any Art Deco inspired gifts in the on-site shops, which was a shame. The National Trust have cottoned on to people's love of Art Deco with their impressive range of Deco inspired gifts that they sell in their shops. Let's hope Portmeirion can do the same. The other thing I think is missing is some kind of tourist centre or exhibition as a starting point. We sort of gleaned bits and pieces of information as we went around, about how the site was built, and its connection with TV series such as The Prisoner. I must admit I like a proper exhibition with lots of photographs and models. Perhaps they don't have room for one, it's a small site and it looks as though every bit of space is being used for either accommodation, shops, eateries, or for events like weddings.
Anyway, we have come away with some fabulous memories of this truly exceptional place. What an experience! If you ever get the chance to go - and to stay overnight - I would wholeheartedly recommend it. You'll never find anywhere else quite like Portmeirion.
We paid £174 for the night, including breakfast, through Travelzoo.