You know how the people say that no one gives like a mother? Well, it’s absolutely true. This month my mom turns 50 and for her birthday, she wanted to spend 5 stress-free days with her family. She banned all of us from giving her any other gifts and ensured that all of us enjoyed her birthday present as much as her. After weeks of family deliberation through calls, facebook and email, we chose Galle in Sri Lanka.
A bunch of us flew in from Dubai, Hong Kong and Chennai to Colombo Airport and drove 3 hours to Galle to discover paradise. Beaches, plantations, hills and perpetually smiling, sunny people. Unlike my previous holiday with the techie’s family, we decided to forego the chain hotels and booked into a series of highly recommended boutique hotels. Best decision ever.
The first two days at the Galle Fort Hotel, which is owned and run by a former banker (a super charming host who stays at the resort) and an Austrian movie director (who was also present during our stay to entertain us) were amazing. The hotel has only nine (massive) rooms and is located inside the Galle fort. The whole fortress (not to be confused with the ultra new Fortress Resort) area feels like it’s frozen in time in the early 1900s. The streets are paved or cobble-stoned, the restaurants are mom and pop operations and everyone seems to know everyone. The most amazing thing was, people were happy to pass on business to their supposed competitors if they felt the establishment would suit us better. I have never seen such healthy non-competition anywhere, with the only area of one-upmanship being ‘serve your customer better than the others’. The happy and relaxed attitude of these island people just rubs off on it’s visitors and you can feel the stress melting away, as if you are being worked on by an exceptionally good masseuse.
We started off the day with a breakfast of fresh fruit (mangoes pineapple, papaya and island banana), toasted Museli with yoghurt, super spicy Sri Lankan omelettes with coconut milk daal, buffalo curd pancakes with honey, toasted banana bread, french cinnamon toast and freshly squeezed orange juice. Breakfast was followed by half an hour of immobility, as we sipped digestive cinnamom/ginger tea with honey and lemon, while watching the bees collecting honey (even the bees don’t sting anyone, even though they are flying 2 feet away from you).
We spent the first half off the day at the turtle hatchery where I saw a new side to V. The little one has always loved animals, however, this is the first time I actually saw her affinity in action (throughout the holiday). On seeing the baby turtle tank and being told that she could play with them, V spent the next half hour scooping up the little turtles and cuddling them.
I was a little hesitant to plunge my hands into a pool of wiggling babies, but had no choice when my munchkin looked at me with questioning eyes. I actually ended up enjoying the cuddles and even picked-up an adult loggerhead turtle, the rarest type of sea turtle (it was way heavier than it looked).
I don’t know what it is about holidays and the beach, by the time we finished at the hatchery, we were starving! We had an amazing lunch at Nico’s, a lovely bistro and beach club, with a gorgeous pool.
The owners are Indian and split their time between Galle and Mumbai. They have a cherubic two year-old, who V fell in love with, and they spent 3 hours playing in the sand and eating lunch together. While, V burned like a 1000 calories in the sand-pit, we loaded up on mezze (Arabic starters), Sri Lankan curry, fiery sambol, rice and papad, a thin crust wood-fire oven pizza, cruchy fresh greek salad, crushed fruit juice and a variety of breads warm from the cooling rack. My brother had a few bottles of three coin beer as well, while I had mojitoes and my parents had sweet coconut water straight from the king coconut. We took a post lunch walk along the beach and discovered tide pools each of which had an ecosystem of their own.
On the way back we visited a Japanese Temple with gorgeous views from the meditation area. The heavy lunch followed by our walk in the afternoon sun, had all of us sinking into late afternoon siestas while pretending that we were putting V down for her nap. We spent the rest of the day, post-siesta, at the pool slowly working our way through multiple rounds of drinks. Dinner was at Amman Galle, a 7-star property just next to our hotel where we had the set menu of three courses of authentic Sri Lankan food. It was basically a series of super hot curries with rice, yoghurt and papad, accompanied by the thickest hung curd I have ever had, followed by cooling coconut ice-cream. We walked around the area for a while before heading back to our gorgeous rooms – a Grand Apartment and a Loft Suite – and checking email (Yes, I need to be available to my team at all times and ensure that my partners are happy. Pathetic, I know.).
We were all asleep at 10.30 pm, our tummies content from all the wholesome food and our hearts warmed by the happy people.