Juliet Coombe experiences staying in the fabulous Galle Heritage Villa by Jetwing in Asia’s largest living Sea Port UNESCO World Heritage site Galle Fort
Legend has it that Galle was originally the biblical city of Tarshish to which, many moons ago, King Solomon came in search of glittering gemstones, exotic spices, apes and peacocks. A place rich in history, first colonised by the Portuguese when blown off course on their way to the Maldives in 1505, Galle became an important trading post under the Dutch from 1640 onwards before passing into the hands of the British in 1796. Inside Galle Fort, time really has stood still and that is part of the magic you feel from the moment you enter the old city walls.
Set back slightly from the lengthy passage that is Lighthouse Street, is the superb Galle Heritage Villa, a delightful merchant property, a high ceilinged sanctuary that, once inside you feel you could be on the top of an isolated hilltop, not in the centre of a fortified citadel. Colourful embroidered drapes hang on the main sitting room wall where you are greeted with fresh passion fruit and the lack of a sidewall by the staircase means that there is a constant cool breeze that ripples through the wall hangings. Thick white columns that hark back to the original Dutch family who dwelled in the house, surround by a small green grass courtyard area at the back, hides a wonderful kitchen where delicious Sri Lankan and Western breakfast are prepared daily for the guests. Meals that the staff are happy to serve anywhere in the villa from the high table to the veranda and in your four poster bed room.
I stayed on the ground floor and enjoyed the veranda style garden , which is excellent for people watching and along with the rest of the house was used in January for a number of events during one of the worlds most popular literary festivals. The dark brown wooden staircase takes you to the other rooms, all beautifully decorated chambers with adjoined expansive bathrooms. Managed by the illustrious Jetwing hotels group, this villa is a testament to the company’s respect for the country in which they operate, as it is simply a wonderfully restored merchant house that sits perfectly at ease nestled in amongst the other homes of the Fort, allowing one a first hand experience of fort history and lifestyle.