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Monday 15 April 2013

3BM in Sri Lanka: Colombo

It's taken us a while to write this post partly due to laziness and partly because we knew it would be a painful experience, the latter was far too true, ALL we really want is to be back there, but better late than never I here is Sri Lanka Part Uno!  
If you're planning a trip there then hopefully you will find our discoveries useful, it seriously is a paradise full of fun, exploration, delicious food, incredible safari adventures and picture postcard beaches - I can guarantee you won't ever want to leave!
We flew out on a Friday night after work, there is nothing quite like putting your out of office on and skipping out of the building with two blissful weeks of no emails or late nights in the office or work dilemmas ahead! Imagine that, plus extra excitement bubbling as HK Mouse was already there and waiting for us in Colombo..too much I can tell you! I'd spent so long exctedly babbling about it all that my work colleagues were literally kicking me out so they could concentrate! After a few glasses of champagne and a Jo Malone duty free pit stop we were on the plane and jetting off - up up and away!  
Eleven odd hours later and we touched down at Colombo airport! Grabing our cases, we jumped into a cab and just under an hour later arrived at our first stop and home for two nights Colombo Courtyard. This boutique hotel is a relatively new addition to the Colombo hotel scene, comprising of 26 rooms, a strong design element and charming staff, it's a peaceful haven away from all the city bustle! Once the hugging and incessant chattering had died down we had a good snoop around our room....

Moments later and a delicious welcome drink arrived, the perfect refreshment to accompany a wander around the rest of the hotel...

We loved the art and design element to Colombo Courtyard, the hotel has commissioned a designer to build a tree in the reception made solely from bicycle parts. It snakes up the total height of the building, along with little birds also made from nuts and bolts and bits of brake mechanisms - a really quirky twist giving a bit of wow from the moment you set foot in the lobby...

Hotel fully explored, we decided to head out for some afternoon shopping and a late lunch...where ticks both boxes...? The beautiful Barefoot of course! Just a quick two minute stroll from our hotel and we were browsing through rack upon rack of gorgeous fabrics, sarongs, clothes, jewellery, books and sweet little fabric mice...the perfect 3BM pic opportunity!!

Exhausted, we settled down in the cute courtyard at the back of the shop for some snacks, fresh mimosa cocktails and a chilled bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Just as we finished up the heavens opened and we experienced by far the most exciting tuk tuk ride ever! The wind and rain whipping and drenching us from head to toe whilst we chugged along and then stalling at a busy roundabout with a queue of traffic driving at us, this resulted in the poor driver having to get out and push us through the deep puddles and torrential downpour! 

We eventually made it to the warm and dry Paradise Road for a spot of early evening shopping! This can only be described as 3BM Paradise! Shelf upon shelf of hand painted mugs, jugs and plates, printed napkins, bedlinen and homemade jams and chutneys, along with rooms piled high with lanterns, ceramics, candles and oils!

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A dangerous place to visit especially when all three of us are together encouraging impulse purchases... having said that, everything is so reasonably priced that it would be rude not to schedule a visit and go a little bit Paradise Road crazy! Word of warning, make sure you have room in your suitcase or bring another with you as you can't buy online...and maybe visit on your way back to the airport, we got ours at the start of our holiday and came back with one broken bowl... one beautiful bowl down seriously heightens your holiday blues!
Our favourite Barefoot and Paradise Road purchases...

Shopping done, we braved a tuk tuk once more back to Colombo Courtyard for a quick change before dinner at Ministry of Crab. If crab is your thing then you will be one happy chappy, a menu dedicated to literally just prawns and crab! Non fussy decor, laid back dress code, basically just rock up, pick your size of crab and sauce from the menu or even go to the kitchen and pick one out! 

We opted for the 'Suggested Agenda', a sharing menu of the restaurant's famous clay pot prawn curry with fresh bread to mop up the delicious sauce followed by crab in a size and sauce of your choice, garlic or leek rice and a portion of KanKun (very similar to pak choi) stir fried in garlic. We chose the garlic butter Kilo crab and garlic rice (absolutely no danger of any vampire attacks...) and it really was the tastiest crab I have ever tummy is rumbling just thinking about it! Look at the beast we picked...
Dinner devoured and it was home to bed ready for our bright start the following morning, never a good combination with three jet lagged girls especially when the alarm doesn't go off...!

Jolted awake by the telephone telling us that our car was waiting outside, we did a super speedy ten minute turn around chucking on clothes and shoving sunglasses, cameras and suncream into bags! We then grabbed a packed breakfast box that the hotel very kindly prepared for us and jumped in our car to begin the journey out to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. A sleepy two and half hour car journey outside of Colombo and you will find Pinnawala located towards the centre of Sri Lanka just before Kandy. Sounds lengthy but a definite must see on your SL agenda, the orphanage was opened in 1975 to provide protection for baby orphan elephants found alone in the jungle, it really is very sweet. Over the years it has hugely grown and the orphanage continues to care for all the elephants in an environment imitating as much as possible a natural and wild life. The elphansts aren't in cages or small enclosures, they're allowed to roam freely around their home and create a herd structure as they would in the wild.

You pay £12/£15 admission and for this you can see the elephants in their grassy open landscaped environment, feed a baby elephant a bottle of milk and walk down to the river to watch their bath time.

We headed to one of the two restaurants overlooking the river and had lunch whilst watching them bathe, play and be get up to mischief, generally wandering off and pulling down anything they could get their trunks on! Only note of caution would be the staff, they are all very kind to the elephants but are over eager for you to have photos, wash and stroke the babies....later you find out it's all for an extra fee and they don't like the answer no! We steered clear and instead just watched and enjoyed taking photos without us in them! 

A fantastic day out and an incredible experience to be that close as the ellies all trot on down to the river and bathe playfully in the sunshine!  

Just after lunch we tore ourselves away from our sweet new friends and headed back to the city. When we eventually made it back to Colombo, we made another stop at Paradise Road for everything we didn't get on our first visit...I told you we fell  in love!! If you plan a visit you have to let me know as I have an order to put in in exchange for giving you the best shopping tip off ever!! 

Another quick shower and change was in order, before hitting up the hotel's rooftop bar, Cloud Cafe for a couple of cocktails before our dinner reservation...

After our second bout of Paradise Road love we thought we'd make a night of it by eating at the restaurant owned by the same company called The Gallery Cafe. Again just a few minutes walk from our hotel which really couldn't have been in a better location for us Mice!

The restaurant has a buzzy yet peaceful ambiance and spot on beautiful decor. Chic, monochrome, cosily lit and yes you guessed it completely decked out with Paradise Road napkins, glasses, plates, jugs and cutlery...perfect!!

The food was also amazing, I had baked crab to start followed by tuna which was cooked to perfection. The menu is bursting full of flavours, curries and was a tricky one to pick from believe me! Top marks for wine and food, so we decided to not stop there and continued on for dessert and cocktails, we were on holiday after all! However we were slightly disappointed, the dulce de leche caramel cheesecake was a bit flavourless and the espresso martinis far too bitter...having said that, the majority of the puddings were finished and after some sugar syrup the cocktails weren't too far behind!  

Tummies full and with the slight exception of pudding, very content little Mice, we scurried off for another luxurious night's sleep. Before we knew it we were packed, dressed and back in or car en route to our next stop...Galle! A completely different adventure was ahead full of beaches, shopping, sunsets, passion fruit mojitos, fabulously fun HK friends and one very turbulent whale watching excursion....however I'll leave that to Sri Lanka Part Two...!  

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