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Published: December 18th 2013
The old town, Fort, is completely enclosed by ramparts. The rebuilt international cricket ground is on the isthmus connecting the Fort to the new town
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December: we checked out of the Laya Safari at 10am for the 100 mile, 3-4 hour, journey to Galle. The roads were again well surfaced and not too busy, except in the towns we passed through. One section of the road had been upgraded to a 6 lane dual carriageway but this only extended for 2/3 miles past a very large modern building that Diya told us was a new conference centre – basically in the middle of nowhere. The reason for this was obvious once we realised that this was the President’s home territory – and he was due to arrive the same day as evidenced by the very large number of armed military guards along the road. We stopped for lunch at the Closenberg Hotel just outside Galle as Diya had recommended it to us as another colonial era hotel of the sort that he now knew we liked. Indeed, it occupied a breezy position on a promontory across the bay from Galle and was a typical, gracious single
Open road at last
Just watch out for elephants
storey colonial building (I noticed on a large scale map of Galle that the part of the town next to the hotel was called Gibbet Island; presumably where the non-paying guests were strung up). The hotel had not been damaged by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami as it was above the maximum height reached by the tidal wave, although the adjacent beach that the hotel overlooked has been completely submerged; and up to a mile inland.
After lunch we drove the final mile or so along the seafront through Galle and into Galle Fort, the old part of town built by the Dutch in 17th
Century. It was completely different to any other town that we had visited in Sri Lanka: narrow streets, lovely old buildings and very little traffic and none of the hustle and bustle that characterizes all the other towns we had passed through. Our hotel was a genuine art deco masterpiece, being built as a family home in the 1930s and beautifully restored to its original glory by the present management (the freehold still being held by the family of the original owner). We were shown to our large room and then went out for
a walk around the town and along the ramparts that enclose it (these ramparts had protected the Fort area from the tsunami which had inundated the low lying areas outside the walls). As it was a Sunday evening there were many people out along the ramparts enjoying the sea breeze; as well as several games of impromptu cricket being played on the open level areas. The breeze didn’t penetrate down into the streets which were well below the level of the ramparts and they were very stuffy. We had been a bit concerned about the heat as the hotel’s dining room wasn’t air conditioned. We needn’t have worried though as when we went for dinner the heat had dissipated and it was very pleasant in the dining room underneath the fans: and the meal was even more pleasant: tiger prawns for Jane and curried normal size prawns for Jenks. Another great seafood meal.
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