Luxury Hotels

Aman’s unique luxury Galle hotel

Two wedding couples toast the sunrise

Well, the gal has to say that Aman’s luxury resort at Galle was full of surprises from beginning to end of the stay. First, the walled fort area of Old Galle offers endless bastion walks, and today there seemed to be brides all over the place. See a typical bride, preening as professional photographers pose her, above, in front of part of the mediaeval battlements, and see two brides and grooms, left, toasting sunrise at Lighthouse Rock bastion. Even before the sun came up, around 6.30 a.m., there were literally dozens of happy couples, with full wedding party retinues, posing and walking around the centre of the old town (some of the ladies must have been up all night having their hair done, pearls put in place and, in some instances, being poured into Spandex undergarments before their elaborate gowns would fit). See the video below.

Collage in room 22, 6 a.m.

But Amangalla, although it only opened as such in 2004, has seen so much in its total lifetime. The four-floor structure was constructed as two buildings in 1684, to house Dutch military officers: it passed to British army headquarters, by which time there was regular two-horse carriage service to Colombo, in 12.5 hours (it is now three hours, by car). In 1863 it became the New Oriental Hotel, and in 1899 Albert Ephramus paid 40,000 rupees for it, but sadly not only did four of his children die in infancy, but also all five children of his granddaughter, Anestasia Emmeline (Nesta) Ephramus Brothier died before her. She, Nesta, had been born in the hotel, in 1905, and in 1995, now widowed into the bargain, she signed it over to Adrian Zecha. Hence its rebirth as an Aman.

Lobby vignette

Think of Raffles in Singapore, blend in Yangon’s The Strand and add a huge dose of Aman magic and this is the result. The three-floor exterior is complemented by all-white interiors with highly-polished wide wood floorboards, grey window shutters, and a gorgeously lush rear garden with Olympic pool and five permanent cabanas. A one-time row of tiny shops has evolved into a serious five-room spa, with hot and icy bath soaking rooms. The front terrace, on Church Street, morphs into an interior lobby restaurant-bar and the rear lobby, which leads into a library, with Nesta memorabilia and a shaving salon, with two additional chairs for mani- and pedicures.

Sean Flakelar in the quiet garden

No, I did not even miss having a gym as sunset and sunrise hikes taking me all round the ramparts of this fascinating old town more than sufficed – and when I got back, perfumed rolled terry towels were offered on a silver tray (and my 6 a.m. wake-up cafetière arrived on the dot). At dinner, GM Sean Flakelar filled in details of the annual Fairway Galle Literary Festival: he has, in house for their appearances tomorrow, Friday January 26th, 2018, Sebastian Faulks, Alexander McCall Smith and Dame Maggie Smith, the last talking on the serious business of being funny. No sadly we did not meet: undoubtedly one of them will be in Sean Flakelar’s favourite room, number eight, up 56 somewhat-precarious wood stairs to the top floor but the views, south and west, are said to be superb. I really did enjoy meeting the charming and charismatic new chef here, Sagar Rajput, and I cannot wait to see how he enhances the menus at this gorgeous luxury hotel. For those who are interested, by the way, I passed on breakfast’s suggested Sri Lankan omelette, open-face and spicy thanks to onions, tomato and green chilli, in favour of unadorned sunny-side up with a side of avocado. Breakfast is included in your room rate here, as is the minibar, and a full English-style afternoon tea, with hot scones and cream and three-tier curates’ stands of savoury and sweet one-bites. NOW SEE FIRST SOME ‘THOSE BRIDES’ AND THEN SUITE 22, BELOW