Tag: The Beatles

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.

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Story of the week: Maritime Hamburg for Telegraph Cruise

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The port of Hamburg [pictured] has a proud maritime tradition — 826 years of trade and passenger traffic.

Today it’s Germany’s leading cruise destination, welcoming 189 ships and 590,000 passengers in 2014, including AIDA Cruises, TUI and Cunard.

It celebrates its maritime legacy each May with the Hamburg Port Anniversary [May 5-8 this year] and biannually at the September-anchored Hamburg Cruise Days festival, the latter involving a spectacular, firework-shrouded sail past of ships.

The 5km sweep of the main harbour offers plenty for a day ashore with museums, markets and café-mooching all within walking distance.

That is, if you disembark at HafenCity, the most central of the three cruise terminals. If you’re arriving at Altona or the newly opened Steinwerder terminals, then factor lengthier transfers into your timings.

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Urban renewal

The burgeoning HafenCity district, covering 157 hectares along the northern banks of the River Elbe, is still something of a work in progress but growing as urban-regeneration extension to the port city.

The ten neighbourhoods, ultimately home to 12,000 people, are currently witnessing an influx of business, hotels and places to eat. It is an integral part of Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 summer Olympic games as the potential site of the Olympic Stadium.

Join a Saturday morning walking tour of the area, themed around architecture and design, to witness the new face of Hamburg while awaiting the critical mass.

Curated collection

The International Maritime Museum Hamburg is the pet project of the retired local businessman Peter Tamm.

He donated his vast, scholarly collection to the city some five years, helping to found the museum on the fringe of HafenCity — but it’s not without controversy.

While the ten-deck museum is well curated with interpretation in English as well as German, deck five has attracted criticism for allegedly glorifying Germany’s role in two world wars.

More considered are decks two and three, which take a more international perspective on the history of seafaring and maritime exploration. There’s a compelling section devoted to Lord Nelson and a display about the rise of the English navy under Henry VIII.

Light lunch

Take a break from exploring for the good-value set lunch at nearby Wasserschloss, an atmospheric waterside restaurant and teashop.

The 17th-century building, set amongst old storage warehouses, served as a residence for wealthy Hamburgian merchants at the height of the trading era.

After soup and the catch of the day, served with potatoes and vegetables (budget around 20E), pop to the next-door shop to stock up on speciality teas from around the world. The green tea with lemongrass is particularly refreshing and available by the cup in the restaurant.

World heritage

Heading inland, take a stroll around the historic Speicherstadt warehouse and Kontorhaus business districts, recently granted World Heritage status by Unesco for their functional and architectural interest.

The 19th-century warehouses of the former once bulged with coffee, spices and tobacco while the 1920’s buildings of the latter include The Chilehaus, styled like a ship’s bow, which is a fine example of the German Expressionism style.

The new landmark on the Hamburg cityscape, The Elbphilharmonie Pavillion, will open in this area in October 2016 with the first concerts staged in the triumvirate of concert halls in early 2017.

Fresh catch

If you’re after some local colour, then the historic Fish Market, located along the harbourfront from central Landungs-Brucken, offers lots of produce-vending theatre.

It is accompanied by a flea market, which is great for inexpensive souvenirs and Hamburg-branded gifts.

It’s particularly colourful on a Sunday morning when a broad of visitors from local couples to tour groups via a raft of all-night revellers, gather from early until 9.30am in the Auction Hall for a surreal blend of club after-party and early-morning shopping trip.

Head upstairs to the quieter mezzanine for a slap-up 20E breakfast buffet with plenty of fresh fish.

Fab four

Heading inland, the former Red Light District of St. Pauli, straddling the legendary Reeperbahn, has cleaned up its act since the day when four lads from Liverpool arrived to play The Indra Club in August 1960.

Get the full story with a musical accompaniment on the Hempel Beatles tour, tracing the landmarks around the backstreets with the ukulele-playing songwriter-turned guide Stefanie Hampel.

There’s an open tour on Saturdays at 6pm or contact her direct for other times. Audience participation on the harmonies of Twist and Shout is actively encouraged and a rousing conclusion to a day ashore.

What did you think of this story? Post your comments below.

This story was first published in Telegraph Cruise.

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