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Galle Fort
Sri Lanka

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Sitting on an isthmus nudging into the Indian Ocean, Galle Fort lies at the most south-westerly point of the island once known as Serendip. (Whence the term 'serendipity' originated).

 

Taprobane, Simhalan, Ceylon, Eelam … the country has had more names than I’ve had egg hoppers.  (Well … not quite). 

 

The egg hopper, by the way, is Reason #3 in its own right to visit Sri Lanka. Picture your breakfast curry of choice, served in a bowl-shaped pancake, complete with baveuse egg nestled at the bottom. Cut into the yoke and marvel at liquid gold mingling with your spicy feast!

If that hasn’t transported you the 5,500 miles there already, imagine a colonial town nestled within 16th Century ramparts.  Built by the Portuguese and occupied by the Dutch, much (but not all) of the town’s charm has resisted the influx of all-you-can-eat tourism (most of it, fortunately, passing through on day-trips).

Wooden porches, internal courtyards, swaying palms, creeping bougainvillea, slatted shutters, the patina of time, dark shadows penetrated by shafts of scorching sunlight, sudden tropical downpours forgotten in an instant, exuberant surf held back by the robust parapets, washing chilling flamboyantly on the line, tuk tuks clustered together for maximum colour-clash, a gaggle of convivial locals curious to chat, commanding churches sitting beside collapsing project-worthy villas, Galle Fort embodies the melting pot that is Sri Lanka. But with refinements, like gelato and Ralph Lauren styling.
 

When I first visited in 1992, a hustler approached in the street and whispered, “Pssst, wanna buy a villa?”. I wish I had, as they’re all the height of uber-designer desirability now.

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The colourful patina of time 

To my eye, much of Galle’s character lies in its details. An exhausted bicycle propped against an invigorating red door, neither adequately locked, of course. Patina abutting pristine. Sinhalese signage alerting you to goodness knows what - It barely seems to matter here.  

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With a manageable grid of practically-named streets, Lighthouse Street, Cross Street, Middle Street, Rampart Street, etc., it’s hard to get properly lost.  But lost you must get, to befriend this charming, intoxicating, ‘just so’ place.

 

As with all the places I recommend, you could tick off Galle in a day.

 

But don’t.

 

It takes at least five days for that serendipity to work its magic, for me anyway.

I was thoroughly well looked after in the Galle Fort Hotel, luxuriating in its prime centre location and with the supreme rarity of a pool, with actual water in. 

An exhausted bicycle propped against an invigorating red door 

I was put up in the Library Suite, a room so monumental you could easily play a few games of badminton in it. (Although, there are two even better suites, the Garden Room and – predictably - the Grand Apartment, both rivalling any Aman anywhere in the world).

 

The AmanGalla is, however, indisputably the best place to eat in the Fort.  Don’t sweat the menu, plump for the local curry selection, truly a feast for the eyes.  And nicely plump is how you’ll feel afterwards.  Honourable mentions also to the curries at Church Street Social and The Fort Printers. 

 

I’m already plotting my return to this little pocket of paradise. February is probably best, combined with a week’s surfing and Yoga along the coast at Soul and Surf, to work off all that curry.

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Beyond ; an inviting courtyard and pool 

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'Art Gallery'.  Very mixed media.

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'Steps'.  Galle Fort Hotel.  Very mixed media.

A Few Links and Practicalities

(Just sharing the love. I absolutely don’t get paid for these.)

 

Galle Fort Hotel:  www.galleforthotel.com/rooms_rates/the-grand-apartment-2/

 

AmanGalla Hotel: www.aman.com/resorts/amangalla/dining

Fort Printers Hotel and 39 Bistrot: www.thefortprinters.com/bistro-bar

Church Street Social at the Fort Bazaar Hotel:  https://www.teardrop-hotels.com/fort-bazaar/dining/

 

Wherever you stay, do make sure it’s within the Fort itself, not in Galle new town, which is strictly for practicalities only.

 

You can stop off at various lovely beach villas as you make your way down from the airport. (I rate Villa Bentota www.kkcollection.com/the-villa-bentota). But with the new motorway, you can now blast the 2 hours down to Galle. (Many flights seem to land at unsociable times anyway, so maybe best to just take the hit, along with the jetlag).

Soul and Surf Ahangama : www.soulandsurf.com/retreats/sri-lanka/

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Don’t miss;

Sunset on the ramparts.

 

The fish market, just outside the walls

 

KK Collection, probably the best shopping and wonderful courtyards

 

Did I mention the curry?

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