Author: David Atkinson

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A Prisoner-themed tour of Portmeirion, North Wales

There’s a place in North Wales that looks like it stepped out of a fairytale.

It draws on the coloured facades of Portofino for inspiration and was described by its founder as “a home for fallen buildings”.

It was also the backdrop to a cult TV series and a haven for artists and musicians from Noel Coward to The Beatles.

For me, it’s the ultimate daydream hideaway in North Wales.

Can you guess where?

Creative vision

Portmeirion is the creative vision of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. He acquired the land in 1925 and dedicated his life to building his site on a private peninsula on the Snowdonia coast, where architecture and nature can live together.

The construction was in two phases, the initial buildings until 1939. Then from 1954 to 76 to filled in the details, often salvaging classical buildings from demolition in a before-his-time take on upcycling.

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired by the harmony of design and nature when he visited Clough in Portmeirion in 1954.

Clough died in 1978 but his legacy lives on at the 130-acre site with buildings such as the Gothic Pavilion, Bristol Colonnade and Hercules Hall, all celebrating his motto: ‘Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future’.

Cult TV

For some, however, Portmeirion is best known as the backdrop to for cult Sixties television series, The Prisoner, starring the actor Patrick McGoohan.

The village provided the perfect canvas for the psychedelic storyline and became a symbol of the counter-culture spirit of the Sixties.

Portmeirion village [pictured above] recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Prisoner episode, Arrival. Catherine McGoohan, daughter of the programme’s star, returned to unveil a bronze statue of her father.

Portmeirion village had always attracted arty types from the Jazz Age to the Sixties.

But following success of the Prisoner, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein rented Gate House cottage as a long-term retreat and George Harrison joined him in 1993 to host his 50th birthday party.

In the year we mark 50 years of the Abbey Road recordings, we can now explore not just the Italianate follies of Clough but also the sites associated with The Beatles.

Nearby attractions

Unlike the protagonist in the TV series, you are free to leave The Village.

I suggest that we head to nearby Porthmadog to visit the new Portmeirion Shop. Formerly Kerfoots, is thought to be the oldest department store in North Wales in Porthmadog, dating 1874.

The Prisoner famously declared “I’m not a number. I’m a free man.”

But I suspect that once we’ve visited Portmeirion, like me you will always be a prisoner to its charms.

More: Portmeirion

A quick guide to the Wales’ Penderyn Distillery in the Brecon Beacons

I’m now into my training for Wales Best Guides and here’s a taster of an idea for a tour based around the renaissance of Welsh whisky.

More news of themed tour of Chester and North Wales to come in the new year.

 

Why you should visit Lyon’s new foodie hub

My final travel assignment of the year was a return trip to Lyon.

France’s foodie hub is one of my favourite French cities for food and culture.

While my main commission was based around the Lyon Light Festival, I also had a look behind the scenes at the newly opened Cité de la Gastronomie.

The site is located next to the InterContinental hotel in the redeveloped Grand Hôtel-Dieu [pictured above].

The historic city-centre building served as its former hospital from the 15th century onwards.

The Lyon opening is the first of four similar projects — coming soon to Dijon, Tours and later Paris-Rungis in time for the 2024 Olympic Games.

The network celebrates the 2010 designation by Unesco of the French gastronomic meal to its Intangible Heritage list.

Each site will examine a different aspect of French gastronomy with Lyon’s foodie hub focused on the relationship between food and health.

The exhibition explores the history of gastronomy with a section devoted to Lyon’s most famous chef, Paul Bocuse, who died in 2018.

The upstairs kitchen, meanwhile, hosts guest chefs from across the world to create new tasting menus.

“The French gastronomic meal was given Unesco status because of the way it brings people together,” says Director Florent Bonnetin.

“It’s the community aspect of eating together that is the single most defining aspect of French life.”

Read more about my Lyon trip, both the Light Festival and the Cite de la Gastronomie, in articles to be published in the new year.

More from Only Lyon Tourism

How to get into travel writing at the Chester Literature Festival

The Chester Literature Festival was in full swing this week.

I was there on Friday to run a travel-writing workshop [pictured above] for future freelancers and career changers seeking to branch out.

Some planned to pitch ideas to magazines, others were looking to develop their voice online as a blogger.

I ran this workshop as a taster session but, given the interest on the day for a sold-out event, I will look at future workshops for the new year.

Meanwhile, as part of the session, I shared my top six travel-writing tips as follows:

People, not places

The best travel stories are not about places. They’re about the people who live in those places.

So talk to local people and weave this into your narrative. Nothing adds life to a story like direct speech.

Find a story

A lot of travel stories are very information led. But the stories that really stand out tell proper stories. So find a real story, get a proper angle, think about your readership. Then frame these elements in the context of a destination.

Get it right

Commissioning editors don’t have the time, nor the inclination, to correct your spelling, cut down your copy if you bust your word count and punctuate your sentences. Want more work? Then get it right.

Work with the medium

And not against it. Writing for print? You have the luxury of longer sentences and more descriptive language. But if you’re writing for online, then take a leaf from George Orwell’s book and keep the language more direct. People are increasingly reading your articles on mobile devices, so format for the screen.

Spot the openings

Publications thrive on regular sections and this is your way in, especially as a first-time contributor. Editors need to fill these sections and often to look to freelancers to plug the gaps. So, read, read and read some more.

 Strictly business

Travel writing is a job. Treat it as such. You’re working as a specialist reporter, covering a niche area. You want to be regarded as a professional? Then act professionally. And expect to be paid …