Friday September 2, Festival No. 6 in Portmeirion.
We slept well in our fancy tent, though it came complete with spiders in webs. I wondered how long ago they set them up (ha ha – the tents not the spiderwebs). We got breakfast from a food truck (good stuff – eggs on potato cakes) and tried to get our bearings. The festival was in four main areas. A huge grass area with big stages and covered stages (near our tent) and food trucks, a middle “food court” with one covered music venue, the village (which has no permanent residents, the whole thing is a spread-out hotel), which had indoor and outdoor areas, and “the woods” – stages tucked away in a gorgeous forest.
The Village, before the hoards arrived and trashed the place
The Village (as featured in The Prisoner) was great but not in the way I expected. Not empty and pristine like it was in the show, instead full of people and pop up booths and temporary restaurants. So, despite not being what I imagined, I really liked it.
Prisoner-themed something-er-other going on
I’d downloaded the festival app while I still had internet (thank god) and had a full slate of cultural and artistic events planned.
The first was Welsh lessons. I’m terrible at languages but I did my best, and made a couple friends in the process. Next I planned to learn to make Welsh sourdough but this event, like all events in Town Hall, was too popular and had a huge line. I never did make it to any event in there!
Me and all the stupid wristbands
Fortunately I ran into R. and we went down to the waterfront and had Fabulous Fish Fingers – recommended by the drunk ladies behind us on the bus. The sandwiches were pretty good but the first of many unhealthy meals. I ate little that wasn’t fried or made of bread and cheese.
Afterwards I trekked into the woods and found the floating dance floor. It was an idyllic setting but floating dance floor? As in, swaying and bouncing? I didn’t get the appeal.
I continued on…feeling very adventurous creeping around on unknown trails. I could hear music but had no idea where I was going. I came upon a DJ in an owl-looking booth, tent over him, a handful of dancers around him, kids climbing trees.
I continued on, stumbling across the dog cemetery (with full-sized grave stones) D. and J. told me about.
The sun broke through the clouds and I really wanted to get a view of the ocean that I knew was out there. When I finally got to a vista point I was astonished to discover how many people made it there carrying a pint or a glass of champagne.
The sea, I discover later, is way way out there in the distance and what I’m seeing is a huge, very shallow bay. Probably called something else in Welsh.
It was low tide and as far as I could see was bare sand interspersed with shallow rivers, green hills beyond–a restful kind of beauty.
I wanted to get to the beach. I’d been warned it was all quicksand at low tide, but that certainly didn’t seem to be the case since there were dozens of people down there. I followed a path that headed down and ended up on top of a small ravine. The path ended with a cliff and a knotted rope tied to a tree. Hmmmm. I wasn’t totally confident of my rappelling abilities but the alternative was going back up the hill and I absolutely did not want to do that.
Okay, the ravine doesn’t look that treacherous here
I made it. The sand was odd, more like snow, my feet sinking down six inches every time I took a step. It was tiring and I was already tired. I found an easier way up on the far end of the beach.
The woods were more like a botanical garden. Super lush with some clearly non-native (but thriving) plants.
Back in the village I collapsed into a chair and listened to a very good spoken word poet while I recovered. I’d been strenuously hiking for longer than I intended.
The paddle boarders have a message for us
Thank god I ran into D. and J. soon after that because I’d forgotten we’d pre-booked dinner at a long table for that night. I thought it was Saturday night. I slogged all the way back to the tent (it must be at least half a mile from the village to the tent) to clean up and slogged back. Hills everywhere!
The good part of the dinner was meeting people. To the left–genuine Welsh people from just down the road who told us about a place where you can jump on trampolines underground in an old slate quarry. !!!! To the right–a woman of (presumably) Indian descent, born and raised in London, who complained that her parents moved to the country with nothing, bought a house in London, raised two kids, and she will never be able to afford to do that. London seems to be having a housing crisis in the same way San Francisco is. I heard this from many people. Several cabbies in particular. Hope I’m not repeating myself…the cabbies were both in favor of Brexit. One complaining that people from poorer countries, Poland in particular, move to London, cram many people into small apartments (which presumably makes the rental market tighter) work for a few years and save money, don’t put any money into the British economy, then move back home and buy a home there. The other complained that new housing was bought by Russians and Arabs as investment properties and left vacant until prices rise enough, and then sold. He claimed that all the units in an under-construction building we passed would never be put on the market. They’d all be pre-sold to investors, and that entire buildings sit vacant in London. Whether or not this is true I don’t know, and I’m not sure how Brexit would fix that.
By this point it had become clear that WE were exotic and foreign and actually slightly interesting because of it! I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere where being an American tourist was interesting to the locals. The festival was a very UK-centric event.
The dinner was only half full. We are way down there on the other end.
The bad part of the dinner was that it was a total rip off! It was supposed to be some multi-course fabulous experience by chef so in so. I assumed we’d be eating crappy food most of the time and this would be a nice break. The dinner consisted of a beet-flavored welcome cocktail (blech), a small beet salad (fine tasting but again, small), and then, confusingly, a complete leg of lamb put down between every six or so guests (people that didn’t know each other) with a knife and no instructions or assistance. Not to be helpless, but I personally don’t cook lamb and have no idea how to carve it or what the good or bad parts are. We all politely took small amounts. Accompanying the lamb was a bowl of raw peas. We thought they’d gone cold but found out later the chef thought they were so amazing they didn’t need to be cooked. Plus some good small potatoes that instantly disappeared.
Dessert was a kind of fruit cobbler (?) – cooked apples and berries with a cinnamon topping. The woman across from me laughed and said her kids make this at home.
Also, they blasted awful loud music. Like, Bon Jovi. Weird stuff with no theme and didn’t match the mood of the pretty tent. There were speakers every 10 feet. We begged them to turn it down or turn off our speaker but they didn’t.
I left hungry. Argh. I have to find a place to really review this because I don’t want anyone else to make this mistake in the future.
Similar view as earlier in the day, but the tide is in
I dragged everyone out and down a trail to the vista point to see sunset, but we just missed it. Still, it was pretty, with the tide in and twilight. They were just shutting down the floating dance floor and we passed, and we headed to the village to see the “famous” torchlight parade. In the promo pictures, torches carried by people in costume and pretty goddess girls, in real life, the first 100 people to grab one, most of them in jeans and hiking boots.
Our tent is right behind this huge stage! Isn’t that lucky?
We wandered around after that, none of the bands captivating us. I for one was dead tired, having been on my feet nearly all day and running up and down hills for most of it as well, and was happy to go to bed early (around midnight). We were directly behind the largest stage but mix of sounds that reached us (smaller stages, crowd sounds, etc.) blended into a very loud white noise that, with enough cocktails, allowed me to sleep.