Those who've been to Colombo and stayed at The Galle Face Hotel have been to Colombo. The rest have been to Colombo in the geographical sense, yes, but not in the spirit of its enchanting history.<...
Those who've been to Colombo and stayed at The Galle Face Hotel have been to Colombo. The rest have been to Colombo in the geographical sense, yes, but not in the spirit of its enchanting history.
You'll hear a lot about the lodge's lofty guests ---- monarchs, ministers, missionaries, myriad film stars, sportsmen of repute, world leaders, writers (Arthur C.Clarke, of course, made it his favourite destination, even though he lived next door) and even a Japanese fighter aircraft that crash-landed on the grounds during World War II ---- and rather more about their carryings-on, selectively, at the hotel. But stories of the glorious ballroom, the seafront promenade, dances and weddings in the Jubilee Room which also saw raucous turn-of-the-century parties and the broadcasting of famous Radio Ceylon programmes, and the food and cocktails, abound.
It's difficult to capture the entirety of this legendary hotel's glittering history in an ornament and no amount of representation would suffice in driving home the fact that the soul of the place is in the long trail of legends it lives with, most of which are wrought around the boarders, famous or not, ever since it began business in 1864. Here, it's more the intangible that secures you that lifetime's experience of what one could call a memorable holiday.
Having said that, note the checked portion made of struck and hand-cut reji sheets between the bands on the lower part of the bala where the hinge is and you'll know that that's the long corridor alongside the 'Verandah', just the same as it was before the recent renovation; the beaded bands refer both to the plaster striations that decorate the facade as well as to the original light fixtures of the dining hall (now replicated in the ballroom as well) that look like brass torches with glass flames; between the ball rows you'll find tiny reji bunting that's taken from the macramé and lace testers on the four-poster beds of the refurbished suites; the honeycombing is a flight of fancy, and that's our way of replicating the popular chequerboard area on the lawn facing the sea from where the sunsets are as wondrous as the sundowners; and the two makars are a deliberate substitution as we could have had a singha-mukh but (a) it seemed too fearsome and (b) with the sea right there and all, a mythical water-creature guarding the gates appeared much the more romantic. The pin has a collet-set pearl on top, you'll notice, and that minuscule gem bodily brings in the surrounding seas.
Done in three separate sections to enable the seamless integration of Naksha and thokai-polish workmanship, this jewel stands testimony to the supreme skills of Bengali artisans who deserve their plaudits to be preserved in pure guinea-gold. And as for the venerable Galle Face Hotel, we suggest you visit the next time round you travel that side, and record its imperishable beauty. Try out the Royal Scandinavian Suite if it's available and be prepared for a huge surprise as much because of its scale as its stunning views of the ocean. You might even think you were on a ship!
All said and done, as hearty and refined a jewel as the great hotel is but without its dazzling history, this eponymous bala had to be inspected thrice during manufacture to ensure all specifications were duly met and the disparate workmanship was evident in the patterns and not in the form.
Wear it when you're having a cocktail at dusk in the lawns, the gold burnished to a blush in the evening light, and make sure the drink's of a kind that prisms the somnambulant rays of the sun upon your face and sets afire the hearts of many of those around you.
Our recommendation : Gone With The Wind ---- this special Galle Face concoction is made of Gin, Campari, Drambuie, Lime juice, with a twist of orange peel.
And, Vivien Leigh did stay at the hotel in the '50s.