Today's great railway journey took us all the way across Wales from the English border to the west coast on the Cambrian Express! Although express is a bit of a misnomer for a train that took 3 and a half hours to go about 200km!
But no worries, it was our first experience of Welsh trains and the further west we went the more Welsh we heard and the more strange the place names!
Add a dose of glorious coastal scenery like this and you have an altogether unforgettable experience!
Our final destination was Porthmadog - pronounced without the dog........ Port Maddock! Here everyone speaks Welsh and it is a joy to hear! Children learn English as a second language at school.
We have two reasons to stay at Porthmadog. Firstly its proximity to Portmeirion, and secondly because it is the southern terminus of the Welsh Highland Railway, which will take us to Snowdonia National Park. It's also a very pretty little town on a lovely stretch of coast.
Those of you who think of fine china when I mention Portmeirion can think again, and groan when you hear that we didn't even go into this shop!
Those of you who remember the '60's TV series The Prisoner however, will cheer when you hear that Portmeirion IS "The Village"!
John just finished re-watching all 17 episodes before leaving home and was delighted to be wandering the streets where Number 6 tried in vain to uncover the secrets of his captors! Here are some photos to entertain Prisoner fans and hopefully fans of Italian architecture as well!
I was disappointed that the tide was rising so we couldn't run across the sand pretending to escape!
Portmeirion was conceived by an eccentric architect called Clough Williams-Ellis, who took over 50 years to achieve his dream of an Italian-style resort village in a beautiful remote spot. It now attracts over 225,000 visitors a year! No-one actually lives there, all the buildings are part of the resort and it has been used frequently in movies and TV programs, The Prisoner being the most famous.
We took the Prisoner guided tour along with two British couples who were also fans and we all had a great laugh seeing the real locations of our favourite scenes. However, none of it actually feels very real - the whole resort feels, in fact, like a movie set!
Other attractions in the vicinity of Porthmadog include the Wales Coast Path, or at least a lovely section of this 870 mile coastal trail. We explored a short distance to the north-west of town before leaving and it definitely begs for a return visit.