Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Yesterday, Tuesday, I got up at 6:45 a.m. after a restless night sleep -- didn't want to miss my trains to Portmeirion. I settled my hotel bill, ate some Coca Puffs and drank a glass of OJ, then hopped in the cab for the the Liverpool Lyme Street Station. Interestingly, the cab drive was only six pounds or so (compared to 18 a couple days ago); this time, I gave the driver a tip . . . not much, only a pound a change.

I got to the train station super early -- my 1st train wasn't leaving until 9:15 -- but I didn't mind. Plenty to do. I withdrew 200 pounds from the station's Barclay ATM, bought my tickets for a couple days from now for going to Glasgow, and I read a Cure biography.

Real quick: Liverpool accents are insane. Real thick. Many times during my stay I had to ask Liverpudlians to repeat themselves. Craziness! John, Paul, George and Ringo weren't that way!!!

Anyway, my first train was on time. It was a Metro line that took about 40 minutes. At the next station I waited about 20 minutes for the next leg, which only took a half-hour. The last leg was the longest at about three and a half hours. I was worried that I might miss it because there was only a ten-minute gap between the 2nd leg and 3rd one, but my fear proved unfounded since England's rail system, unlike America's flight schedule, runs generally on time. Oh, and for those of you playing at home, the last two legs of the journey were on Wales' rail system, Arriva Trains Wales.

About 20 minutes into my last train ride, I started getting a little worried because most of the stops were in the middle of nowhere -- no shops and only sheep farms as far as the eye could see. I probably wouldn't have been biting my nails (figuratively) if back in Liverpool if both times when I was buying tickets, the agents never heard of the train stop near Portmeirion (Minffordd).

Thankfully, everything worked out in the end. The trek from the station to Portmeirion wasn't five miles but only about one mile. It was a nice walk, with the sun hiding behind grey clouds.

A little after three I walked into Castell Deudraeth. A driver took me into Portmeirion's actual village -- about three-quarters mile away. I checked in at hotel reception, then the driver drove a few hundred yards to my room in the village (called Cliff House). Very posh. Free Internet access, bottles of Welsh water, and a view looking out to the estuary. Oh, and the room locks with a skeleton key. How cool is that!

After settling in, I charged my camera's battery and wandered around the village. Wow, seeing Portmeirion on the TV show The Prisoner doesn't do it justice. It's something you have to experience. It's not a lot of land but the way the father of Portmeirion -- some architect -- laid everything out, you could walk around for hours and not get bored. I would've went down to the beach, but the high tides hit at four and it can get dangerous, so I didn't bother.

Around five I returned to my room and took those five CDs from Liverpool and put 'em on my computer. By the time I finished showering and shaving, it was dinnertime; my reservation was at 7:45, which I made when checking in.

The dinner was at the hotel in the village, and it just may have been the best meal ever (outside of my mother's Thanksgiving meal). It began with small white and wheat rolls (one each), then the waiter bought around a spinach soup in a small cup -- probably four ounces. I was gonna pass on it 'cause I only like spinach in salads, but I figured what the hell. It was awesome! Couldn't even taste the spinach. It had black specks in there. Pepper? Whatever, it went down like a good vodka. Tasted rich and nothing like I've ever experienced before.

Next up was the starter, delivered on a black slab. I had ordered thinly cut Welsh beef with six dots of butter, lettuce, tiny mushrooms and long carrots. I practically licked my plate clean but refrained myself.

The main course was lemon fillet of sole over spinach, and mixed vegetables in a bowl. I ate it all with delight, except I didn't touch the three thumb-sized mushrooms. Just couldn't get past the sight of 'em.

After I drank my glass of milk, I did something I never do at restaurants: I ordered desert. I went with chocolate cake (motif?) and ice-cream cappuccino. They were both out of this world! The cake was sorta like an ice cream with some white milky liquid in the center. And the cappuccino in a cup tasted so much like coffee I prayed I wouldn't be up until three in the morning.

A little after nine I retired to my room -- watched some stuff on Portmeirion on YouTube, then turned on the telly. Channel-surfed, watching mainly a documentary on Tom Jones (didn't know he was Welsh), and fell asleep with MTV airing an early episode of The Osbournes.

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