Memories, Old & New

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Flowers in the garden of the Gallery Cafe, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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A small, almost tear drop shaped country  dangling off the coast of India like a gorgeous emerald earring, Sri Lanka has always held a special place in my heart.  As I mentioned previously, I’ve been here twice before and though I hate to admit how far back that was, the fact that the rupee note I’d saved from my last visit was now in the Colombo Historical Museum (no joke) did give me a moment to reflect upon the swift passage of time (as well as sensation of slight indigestion)

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Don’t look at my manicure. I’m on my hols.

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I have never forgotten the omnipresent scent of woodsmoke drifting in the still, moist air, the beauty of the trees,the wildly exotic birds, the spectacular sunsets, and most of all, the sweetness of the people.

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and don’t even get me started on the children.

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The beach side of the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

We started our adventure in the port city of Colombo where, I must admit, there isn’t a huge amount of things to see, however it’s where international flights land, so after a long journey, in my case from L.A., it’s nice to rest one night here, perhaps visit a museum or two and do a little shopping before you head off for more scenic destinations around the country. We’d asked our travel agent to book us into The Galle Face Hotel, where I had stayed before and adored it. Built right on the beach in Colombo in 1865, this huge Colonial Grand Dame is positively steeped (aptly, in this land so famous for their tea ) in the memories and ghosts of  all the interesting people, events and history of Ceylon that have passed through it’s colonnaded entrance.  Anybody who was anybody, from Kings to movie stars stayed at The Galle Face when they arrived in Colombo.

 So imagine my disappointment when our reservations fell through just a week or so before our trip?!

No. It could not be! Did they not remember me?! :)

Alas, it was true, and with high season in full swing, we had to choose another place to lay our weary heads.  A chance (very lucky) Twitter exchange with a writer from Australian Vogue Living magazine resulted in us booking  “The Tintagel” instead.

 Score!!

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The Tintagel, Colombo, Sri Lanka
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The lounge at The Tintagel Hotel
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Every bit as chic as promised by Australian Vogue, this 1920′s mansion in a fashionable part of town was home to the first female Prime Minister and is now being run as a very cool boutique hotel. And what’s better than a cool hotel with staff that is simply brilliant instead of being busy trying to out-cool the guests?
 My friend and I were happy as half-baked clams our first night, tucked under the eaves of our adjoining terrace (the one you see on the second floor) with a chilled bottle of wine, while thunder & lightning split open the pewter grey skies and rain lashed upon the steaming hot terrace and cobblestones below.
Happiness!
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Lashings and lashings of rain on the terrace of The Tintagel, Colombo
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Almost dry and beautiful again the following morning
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Mosquito netting, a great night’s sleep and a good(ish) cup of coffee – more happiness!
Up bright and early the next morning to visit the historical and the Dutch Heritage museums, before doing a little shopping and taking lunch at the Paradise Road /Gallery Cafe ( former residence of famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa-but more on G.B. later)
The building now houses a shop, gallery and restaurant, also owned by Shanth Fernando, the proprietor of The Tintagel Hotel, although we didn’t even realize that when we stumbled in for lunch.
 
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The courtyard features a pond of giant black Koi fish, fabulously patinaed walls, and revolving art installations.
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Would have loved to see these gas torches lit in the evening, it must look fantastic.
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and what’s an afternoon break from shopping without the requisite Chili & Tamarind Martini
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To go with black pork curry, dhal and poppadums?!
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The indoor/outdoor Gallery Cafe.
If you’re ever in Colombo it’s a must experience.
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Lastly, as I’m like a dog with a bone sometimes, I had to drag my friend to The Galle Face hotel to watch the sunset on the beach terrace but  my Galle Face luck continued and we got there too late. The hotel was still beautiful but absolutely teeming with tourists (harumph) Just crazy busy. We sat outside in the exquisite balmy night and waited for over 1/2 an hour for our drinks while some German men smoked away beside us (it’s illegal to smoke in public places in Sri Lanka, btw)
Nobody else noticed the large rat that scurried by, stopped and looked at me for just a moment as if to say
“You can’t go back. You can never go back” and then continued into the dark night.
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Slim Paley photo
The promenade at The Galle Face Hotel
So that’s it for now, please stayed tuned as that was just our first day on Sri Lankan soil.
Lots more to come including beautiful gardens, gorgeous homes & hotels, tea plantations, mountain climbing,  more changed plans and a giant tooth.
You heard me.
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Overnout from The Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
xx

64 thoughts on “Memories, Old & New

  1. Dear Slim, What gorgeous photos of your magical journey. The Tintagel is obviously the best place to be and it was meant for you to be there! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us.
    Best, Ruth

  2. Ah Slim…as I read, I can smell Colombo. And I must admit, that after looking at all your beautiful pictures, of all the remodeld, chic, places – I smiled when you mentioned the rat. I hope somethings in Sri Lanka still have that musty old fragrance.

    Now, I can’t wait to hear about Kandy and the Queen’s Hotel. I miss my old room there, with the gigantic, old and chipped porcelain tub and the occasional scorpion on the bathroom floor.

    • Yes B.D. you certainly will still find that “musty old fragrance” in many places in Sri Lanka. You must be one of the very few people that don’t mind it, like me- I live for that scent in the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok!
      I was at the Queen’s hotel in Kandy, briefly but not in the rooms. If the walls could also talk in that place…
      The country is just as beautiful as it was when you were here I’m sure.
      PS. We’ve also had the scorpion in the bath experience on this trip!

  3. Sounds magical! Love the plate of black pork curry. Yum. I hope you continue to enjoy yourselves. It’s snowing here in Boston so I will live in the warmer weather vicariously through you.

  4. These are the most wonderful and engaging photos, Slim! I’m thrilled to hear that you are having a magnificent time. Look so forward to more stories, hopefully sans any more rats!

    Off to VOTE! I’m voting early and OFTEN….and for YOU (not in the other elections currently going on back here in the US).

  5. The registering and voting was NOT as easy as anticipated…due to Apartment Therapy web design. After registering, could not find the vote so I had to go back to SP and copy/paste the link. Then I saw the list with VOTE boxes indicated. Voting done!

  6. Stunning photos as always……maybe you could have a book published of traveling-it would certainly be more interesting than the travel books men write—and fill it with this type of photography. I would buy it. Clicking on the link didn’t work so will goto the site and vote for your wonderful blog…outshines the other “homeey” blogs I think! Have fun..thank you for the great info on this country…….I shall have to google it and find out more about the government etc there.

    • Thanks so much Meaux and Linda for making the extra effort to vote. I fixed the issue with the link not working after a few people brought it to my attention.
      Fingers crossed!

  7. Beautiful photos, Slim. I loved the one of your rupee! I’ve said it before – you really (should:) write a photographic journal of your travels and don’t forget the flowers!!
    Kim

  8. Slim,
    Thanks for the spectacular travel photos and details, not that I’ll ever get to these beautiful and exotic places, it’s sure fun to take a break and daydream for a bit.
    Already voted for you, can I vote every day for the same person? Seems to me that was allowed last year?!
    Karen

    • Hi Karen,
      you can only vote once in each category (they have a bunch of other categories besides Home Design).
      thx!

  9. Never considered visiting Sri Lanka before reading this-now it’s a bucket list must! Thank you for the beautiful introduction. Love your lunch! You are a girl after my own heart with the yummy martini. Shopping and touristing is so very dehydrating. Thank goodness you are taking care of yourself! ;-) can’t wait for the next post…

  10. Voted! You should be #1! Come on Slim fans let’s get her to the top where she belongs! By the way, your photos in this post are all beautiful! Transport me to Sri Lanka now….

  11. Beautiful post (as ALWAYS). Thank you for taking time out to share with us. Voted (it was super easy.) Good luck!

  12. I know I’m going to sound like one of the kids coming to the aid of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” but here goes anyway. “Hey guys…Slim needs our help!” If the voting stops sometime soon, we need a lot of votes to get her into the top six. This is obviously the best blog of it’s type on the web and whatever we can do as far as encouraging friends and family to vote, we should do.

  13. ah HA! Now I KNOW this is truly the real Slim because a Martini was mentioned.
    Great posting. Perhaps you should consider submitting your travel blogs to ‘Travel & Leisure’ magazine. ‘Island Magazine’? (I think it’s still around. I know you’re not technically on an island, but it’s all tropical, right? apples and oranges?)). Become a guest editor. You’re that good.
    xox

  14. Aaaahww, brings me back to when I as a young teenager visited Ceylon, as it was still called then. Actually got hold of a copy of Elephant walk and will watch it tonight and reminisce and get very jealous of you being there (rats and all). Beautiful pictures (the place got a LOT chiquer since I was there) and beautiful writing ; “while thunder & lightning split open the pewter grey skies and rain lashed upon the steaming hot terrace and cobblestones below.” I can see a book in the making. Can’t wait for your next “installment”!!
    Off to vote now! (seriously, has it been a year??!)

  15. Thanks Slim for transporting me there. So magical. It’s on my bucket list now..

    I know what you mean about never going back. I am always trying to relive trips I’ve romanticized in my mind!

    Kim:)

  16. I voted for you Slim, of course.
    Personal Question: Can you recommend a good travel agent?
    If you cant I understand. My daughter and her husband are going
    to the South of France and Barcelona and are having trouble
    hooking up with someone who understands Relais and Chateaux.
    Would appreciate it immensely. You can email me at Lmagidsdohn@yahoo.com
    thanks a million.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip. It looks completely AMAZING. Be Careful!
    xo

  17. This was a wonderful treat. Thank you. And it’s cold & rainy in Cali this week, Slim, so I’m extra jealous. (Why don’t we ever get warm rain here?)

  18. Thanks everyone SO MUCH for all your votes. Making powerful strides on the ascent but still not high enough to qualify in the top six yet. If you haven’t voted, please take a moment and help….or ask your neighbour’s cousin’s brother on his mother’s side if they would like to vote for me too :)

    Cheers!
    xx

  19. Oh my gosh, to live a life like yours. I know you know you are blessed, and that you are grateful.

    Thank you for sharing it all so beautifully.

  20. Wow, thanks for the beautiful pic’s. I love to live vicariously through your travels and beautiful homes. Looking forward to more from Sri Lanka, rats and all.

  21. First: Love the Sri Lanka photos. Second: When I told my husband that you were out of the country and running behind in the Homies, he said, “Tell me what to do and I’ll vote for Slim.” Third: I’m traveling to Honduras next week. Do I lug the (somewhat) big camera or go for the consistent but not-as-fabulous Point and Shoot? Thanks and good luck with the Homies!!! In looking at the other bloggers, I am grateful you don’t put words like “I love all things stylish” at the top of your blog in big letters. (smiley face.)

    • Love your husband!
      Re the camera choice, I only had a small point & shoot with me, but being on this trip made me realize that I would really like to invest in a DSLR camera in the near future.
      (I have a big anniversary coming up :) )
      Have a wonderful time in the Honduras!!

  22. Thank you! I love traveling with you. Love the rat story… so true that we can’t go back, but kinda keeps life exciting; no? You got my vote. :)

  23. Dear Slim

    Lovely to hear about your visit to Colombo and that you stayed in what was once Mrs Bandaranaike’s house. When we lived there she was leader of the Opposition. There was a story that her son Anura had a pet leopard that used to sleep in his room. He would take it for walks on a lead, as one would walk a dog. Not a creature you’d want to meet when you were taking a stroll in the gardens during the evening.

    A shame you missed the sunset from the Galle Face, it doesn’t last long though. I remember the sun used to go down very quickly because it’s so close to the equator, there is no real dusk. It was getting too dark to play tennis by 6.15 or 6.20 pm (without lights) and actually dark by 6.30 pm, every night.

    Just one more thing, I noticed there was ice in your drinks in the pics. Perhaps it’s less of a worry now, but when we lived there we always asked for drinks without ice because many places used to make the ice straight from the normal tapwater which is very unsafe. it’s only OK to have ice if it’s made from well boiled and filtered water. Hopefully that’s what it was because there are some very nasty things you can pick up from the tapwater in Sri Lanka. Worth remembering when you’re travelling about the countryside – and the same is true for Burma as well.

    So enjoying your posts and pics on travels there!

  24. Oh my, your photographs are so beautiful! I have always longed to visit Colombo, mostly due to the fact that one of my absolutely favorite books ever, Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher, partly takes place there at the end of World War II. While not an autobiography, the author did experience some of the same scenarios as the main character, including working in Colombo and while obviously it has changed, I would like to see the Galle Face Hotel at least. Can’t wait for your next posts!

  25. What a joy to read your reflections about the island of SriLanka!! I bet my recollections go even further back in years than your previous visits there, Slim!!! I lived in Columbo, Sri Lanka
    from 1957-1959, when it was called Ceylon. I was a teenager then, my father was on an exchange professorship with Texas A&M University, & our family lived in the Galle Face Hotel for 2 months until we found a house to lease. It had such a regal, British Colonial presence, even 55 years ago, & our family walked the “sea wall promenade” to the lighthouse every evening before sunset. You can only imagine the culture shock we experienced as a family who had never flown in an airplane & my sister & I had never been out of Texas!
    You really brought back a flood of memories, Slim, especially your description of the ever present smells, no matter where you were in Columbo. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  26. where oh where are you Slim? We miss you!! Please share more of
    your fantastic trip! We wait with much anticipation….. :)

  27. Chère S.P.,
    I’d love to have the recipe for the tamarind & chili martinis by 1700 heures cst today. Have you tried to re-create them? They look quite seductive.
    Merci par avance,
    Cass

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