“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine
Once settled in our final destination of Talpe we took a day trip to the nearby historic city of Galle (‘gawl’) in a convoy of colourful tuk tuks. Galle was totally different to any of the previous beach resorts I had visited on this trip and somewhere I had wanted to visit for a while.
We started in the Dutch colonial quarter walking along the old city walls that look out to sea and frame Galle’s famous four hundred year old fort. Local crafts and souvenirs were being touted from stalls that line the wall, some vendors were not shy to approach and several snake charmers (who I avoided) were seated in the shade under the trees.
Galle lighthouse, which is still fully functioning, is probably the most photographed landmark in the city. At the southernmost point is Flag Rock, once a Portuguese fortification and now a favoured spot to watch crazy locals jumping off the rocks and the sunset.
Nowadays the fort has undergone extensive renovation and transformed into a tourism hub with a museum in the former stables, cafes, shops as well as a luxury hotel, the Amangalla located in the former Dutch Governor’s residence. The fort, named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, is a heady mix of history, colour and noise.
Narrow lanes are home to chic shops filled with local crafts, art, homewares, handcrafted jewellery and books while others are bursting with cheap souvenirs, textiles and loose leaf tea, an abundance of quaint little restaurants and cafes are intermixed with boutique hotels.
We stopped for coffee and a respite from the heat at Barista, one of the corner cafes and had lunch at Sugar Bistro, a trendy cafe serving Sri Lankan classics and fantastic burgers. The traditional colonial exterior hides a modern interior with exposed brickwork, large chalk boards, comfy sofa seating and an open kitchen, large open shutters let in a welcome breeze. I can thoroughly recommend their delicious custom made veggie burgers served with fries.
Top shopping spots were the iconic Sri Lankan homeware Barefoot selling chic brightly coloured hand made textiles, arts, crafts and coffee table books. Mansion House sells tea, spices, crafts and a wide selection of Sri Lankan clothes. A lady seated on the veranda demonstrates traditional Beeralu lace making using bobbins while a man cleans and polishes semi-precious stones. Stick No Bills is the go to shop for reproduction vintage Ceylon movie and aviation posters and Exotic Roots is an art emporium selling boldly coloured art, fashion, home decor, antiques and jewellery.
One of the most popular hotels is The Galle Fort Hotel located in a restored 17th century Dutch merchant’s house. The colonial style building has been transformed into a stunning boutique hotel with only twelve en suite rooms decorated in traditional furnishings and textiles.
Galle is a must visit place, a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s colonial past and somewhere that’s not shy to embrace the future. The city is awash with sights, sounds and smells, a vibrant place to explore on foot and spend some of your rupees, make sure you leave some room in your suitcase for all your souvenirs.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved.
Read more about Sri Lanka in my previous posts In Pictures | A Postcard From Sri Lanka, Discover Sri Lanka | Hikkaduwa, Discover Sri Lanka | Weligama and Mirissa, W15 | Weligama, Discover Sri Lanka | Talpe and Unawatuna and Olanda Beach House | Talpe