Day 11 – Galle Fort: fried eggs for breakfast today instead of the usual omelette- still came with the standard massive pile of fruit. This is something I always miss terribly when I leave Asia, being given mounds of pineapple, watermelon and papaya as though they’re apples and oranges.
Today I followed a walking tour of Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site, from my Lonely Planet guide, which takes you right around the Fort to the main attractions. This tour takes you from the north of the Fort in a clockwise direction starting at the clocktower, engineered by the British in 1882, along the walls past the Main Gate (also British-built) and past the Amangalla Hotel, down to the lighthouse via the Dutch Reformed Church and Dutch Hospital, past the Flag Rock and then back up the west side of the Fort.
The Amangalla was built in 1684 for the Dutch governor and his officers and today is a hotel and restaurant. You can pop into the lobby and bar areas for a quick look- I tried to grab some lunch here but the restaurant was full! Instead I opted for a look around the Dutch Hospital and picked A Minute by Tuk Tuk to eat a light lunch at with a beautiful view of the sea. There are lots of nice shops in the Dutch Hospital, including a tea shop, Withered Leaves, where I took the chance to stock up (over a year later I’m still working my way through it).
Most of the older buildings in the Fort are Dutch including the charming Dutch Reformed Church, originally built in 1640, although the present building dates from the 1750s. The paving of the church is made from beautifully carved gravestones from the old Dutch cemetery, which is well worth a look- the church also makes a welcome respite from the heat. I also made a visit to the Marine Archaeological Museum, which showcases Galle’s maritime history. There are a number of other museums in the Fort, which I didn’t visit, including the National Maritime Museum and the National Museum. They all charge entrance fees, but are very reasonable, with the most expensive still under £4. The full walking tour around the Fort if you take your time is around 4 hours, but gives you a great overview of the area. Once you’ve seen the sights, it’s nice to spend the evenings wandering the smaller roads and alleys discovering the many shops and restaurants.
Once again I took a walk along the walls at dusk to watch the sunset among throngs of others vying for the best spot. A number of locals were jumping off a rock into the sea below, which grew rougher as the wind piked up. When you see the waves you can start to understand why the seas around Galle are littered with shipwrecks.
Afterwards I wandered around shopping until my 8pm dinner reservation. There are some rather nice shops scattered about Galle Fort and bought myself an aquamarine and silver ring as a souvenir of my trip- it’s long been a tradition of mine to buy myself an unusual ring when on holiday when I can find one. I arranged to pick the ring up the next day before heading off to Colombo.
Elita Restaurant came highly recommended both in Lonely Planet and on Tripadvisor and I had managed to make a reservation the day I arrived, which is pretty much a necessity as it is very popular, although it didn’t seem you needed to book far in advance. I was presented with a white board of the ‘fresh tonight’ options and chose the yellow fin tuna steak. The service was slow, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary in Sri Lanka, and after about a 40 minute wait I got an extremely fresh a beautifully cooked tuna steak the size of my head. The fries were really diabolic, but when you get half a kilo of tuna and a lager for under £15 it’s hard to complain.
My tips for this leg of the trip
As I didn’t visit Kandy and Ella on this trip, I do regret not going to a tea plantation, which is an easy trip from Galle or the neighbouring beach towns if you head to Hundungoda Tea Estate, which is around 20km from Galle.