I have been back in the Land of Sand a little over a week and I haven’t stopped gushing about our Sri Lankan adventure, to anyone that will listen. I think I have convinced a few folk to take the plunge and go visit but just case you are yet to decide, whether this tropical, untouched country is for you, let me take you on the second part of my round up, moving away from the beach bliss and onto a historical town. Why did Hubby and I fall head over heels for Galle?
We had heard many great things about Galle, a town on the south west coast and about 20 mins from our Unawatuna bolt hole. Anyone that has stalked Instagram will have no doubt come across many iconic images of this historical district. Before we went to Sri Lanka I had known about Galle, because of the Cricket ground (thanks to many hours watching with Hubby) and tragically because this was one place in Sri Lanka that was hit hard by the Tsunami, losing more than 35,000 of its people.
The main attraction in Galle is the fort. This walled “village” is set within the fortress remains of different colonial rule. Influences from the Dutch, Portuguese and British all rolled into a melting pot of religions and local treasures. We had scheduled a morning to explore, knowing we would be out in the open walking, so opted for the coolest part of the day. From Unawatuna we were able to travel by tuk tuk, taking in the early hustle and bustle of the fisherman, selling their wares on the side of the road, only feet from the beach where they had moored their boats.
We were dropped just inside the main gate to the fort and all that was left was to simple walk the ramparts and see what all the fuss was about. That time of the morning it was fairly quiet of tourists, but there was a buzz of locals going about their usual weekend routines. The fort has an interesting mix of all religions, so one moment we are passing a Buddhist temple, turning a corner to hear Sunday hymns being sung at All Saints Church and then Muslim children heading to the local Islamic college for weekend studies. Each one had landmark places of worship and their influences were shown in architecture in around their designated areas.
The first Insta worthy shot to take in, was the iconic lighthouse. It was a shame that on this occasion it was covered in scaffold, for what looked like its annual clean and paint, but I have to say even with all this outer armour, it was beautiful, framed by palms overlooking the glistening bay. In the distance we could see the Japanese Peace Pagoda we had visited the previous day and the beaches we had discovered, showing us how secluded they really were to the rest of the landscape.
Systematically we walked the outer walls of the fort, taking in the mix match of European influences and watching young Sri Lankan couples walking hand in hand, having breakfast picnics or families taking to the water. As we rounded onto the main open space, we could see there was a hard fought cricket match going on. It took everything for Hubby not to get down there and join in, instead I got the English man’s commentary on bowling speeds and batting response! When I finally got him to leave the teenagers to their battle, we realised the morning was getting hotter and we were looking less fresh that we did an hour ago, but we pressed on and climbed to the highest point. From here we looked over the busy town and the main Cricket ground. Much to Hubby’s delight there was an actual club game being played, so we pitched up and watched for another few runs and I loved that he was in his element.
By this point in the morning I was desperate for coffee. I must warn all coffee drinkers that, whilst Ceylon tea is incredible (as you would expect) I was yet to find a decent cup of joe. I had abandoned the absolute tar that the hotel served each morning, so I was absolutely gagging for caffeine. So we left the fort walls and headed into the lanes, via a cricket shop so hubby could add a Sri Lanka hat to his collection! (Are you sensing a theme here!?) We didn’t walk too far, when I spotted some cute pastel coloured bicycles propped up against a wall, so the instagrammer in me couldn’t resist. As luck would have it, they belonged to a beautiful establishment called The Bungalow, so we made ourselves comfortable on their impeccably decorated terrace. We were shortly delivered two coffees, presented equally with perfection, and for the love of god, the coffee was good! So there you have it, my tip for a decent cuppa in Galle fort head no further.
Cooled off, caffeinated, facilities taken advantage of (another tip public restrooms are not readily available so always make advantage of a pit stop) we took to the streets and just walked and walked. By this point the streets where alive with activity. Shops had opened, tuk tuks were whipping around and the atmosphere was glorious. The lanes were packed with local stores, showing off local art, gems, textiles and Ayurvedic potions. What surprised us the most what there was some lovely traditional shops, as well as more up market, modern takes on Sri Lankan wares. I was tipped by Wandermust Family to check out Barefoot, which housed some beautiful textiles and close to a great tea shop. One of my favourite finds of the day was Karma. I wanted everything in this shop (I came out with a yoga bag) it was presented fabulously and had wonderful jewellery and clothing. We had lunch in the upstairs Crepeology (run by a Brit and his wife , who met whilst volunteering with the post tsunami effort and stayed) which was delicious and a nice break from of Curry!
Hours seemed to pass so quickly as we explored every nook and cranny, not bothered by the heat or our rather sweaty appearance. Then out of nowhere, we were lucky to find a glorious boutique hotel to escape a very quick tropical downpour. Literally diving into the nearest doorway, only to find that The Prince of Galle, served up, what has to be one of the nicest lemonades, to refresh and reflect on a fabulous day. One final stroll and a G&T on the colonial veranda of the old Galle Fort Hotel and the day was done. I couldn’t believe that we had managed to spend almost 5 hours wondering around what is a relatively small area, but the place was fantastic and it was certainly a highlight of the trip.
Needless to say that one afternoon, a few days later we spontaneously decided to go back for more. Mainly to pick up some more souvenirs (as on our first trip we hadn’t realised the shops would be quite so good and simply didn’t bring enough money with us) and thought that watching the sunset from the fort walls would be another wonderful moment. This didn’t exactly go to plan, as half way through the shopping the heavens opened and rain fell hammer and tongs out of the sky. We ran for refuge at a near by restaurant The Church Street Social, which had a lovely veranda and a nice spot to watch the rain. So we watched the storm and sipped, on some of the best tea I have every had. An hour passed and we realised that this rain was not going to stop and we had 2 options. Wait it out or head back to the hotel, knowing that we would have to eat there as the beach village would be a wash out.
We decided to stay put, making the most of the surroundings and a tropical downpour it wont last and we may get a sunset after all. We made ourselves comfortable and ordered curries from the menu. One thing I learnt in Sri Lanka is that whatever curry you chose, whether its chicken, beef, fish that’s just one element, you then get about 6 other small curried sides along with it, so when the meal finally came we were hard pushed to fit it on the table! That being said, this was a very nice meal. We had not eaten badly this trip, in fact everywhere had served up amazing food, even in the most humblest of establishments the food was incredible. But this was refined, still very much local and traditional but refined. It was utterly delicious and by the time we took the final spoon of our shared Ginger and coconut cheesecake the rain had almost stopped.
We ventured out of our refuge, stuffed on curry and headed towards the sea, but it was not to be. Half way the rain returned heavier than ever. Only one thing for it……..we dove into another hotel, ordered a glass of champagne , kicked back and smelt the rain.