From the drought-stricken Cape to chaotic Colombo

SRI LANKA – WHERE THE JUNGLE MEETS THE OCEAN

My desire to visit Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, was all about the food and tea, and I was not disappointed. In spite of the poverty and political unrest, it was a gentle country where we found all people to be really welcoming. I was lucky to be experiencing it with my best friend, Anne, otherwise known as Thelma from our previous experiences.

After two flights via Dubai Thelma and Louise landed in Colombo, and once we had cleared customs (note to travellers, you apply and pay for your visa online and then quickly collect at passport control) we were hit by the heat as we stepped outside. Climbing into the cool of the air-conditioned airport shuttle, Thelma, making polite conversation with our friendly driver, asked him if drivers use their hooters much in Colombo. A moment later I laughed hysterically as we snaked our way through the congested, chaotic streets in which the biggest bus gets right of way, and everyone hoots constantly! Whilst there is a high level of chaos, somehow it seems to work, and no-one gets aggressive. We quickly got used to buses overtaking cars and tuk-tuks, all at the same time. Single lane roads make travelling long and laborious, but never dull! Landing the day after the state of emergency had been lifted, we were pleased to see that a feeling of peace pervaded.

An obligatory overnight stay in the capital city of Colombo was delightful. We stepped out in light rain to walk to the Pettah Market area, along the way admiring architecture that pays homage to Dutch, Portuguese and British influences in their history. Here locals shop for everything from food to clothing, and the aroma of spices interspersed with traffic fumes, made for a stimulating afternoon. Jumping into a tuk-tuk (a three wheeler with a canopy powered by petrol) we headed down to the Galle Face Hotel, a landmark next to Galle Park, where locals fly kites and eat from the many food hawkers along the seafront. We sat and sipped gin and tonics watching the sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon the sound of bagpipes filled the air, and we watched a man in a kilt lower the Sri Lanka flag. Note to self- read up on the Scot influence in their history!

By now we had worked out that for every 100 Sri Lankan rupees we were only spending R7,60, which stopped me haggling with the tuk-tuk drivers. The Dutch hospital, opposite our very satisfactory Fairway Colombo hotel in the centre of the city, houses a few interesting restaurants in the corridors and courtyard. By night the atmosphere is romantic, and although one can barely see what you are eating, know that it will be delicious. We settled at a table in the courtyard and ordered a crab curry, hot and spicy and really yum, washed down with local beer. By the end of it we looked like we had been in a food fight, but it was worth it!

Wiping the sleep out of my eyes I made Thel some coffee to get her going, but sadly without my glasses I emptied a few sachets of sweetener, instead of creamer, into her coffee, so off we set in search of a coffee shop whilst waiting for our airport shuttle. Another hour’s drive to the airport but this time to catch the fun float plane. It really is an exciting ride, with great visibility, and we were delighted that we had three stops before landing at Weerawilla, to catch a shuttle to what would be our beautiful home in the bush for two nights.

We are thrilled that our first Sri Lankan cookery course is fully booked. Looking forward to welcoming our gourmet guests tomorrow to enjoy a fun-filled morning.

TESTING, TESTING

For those of you who have not yet booked for The Drought Kitchen at The Test Kitchen, then do so now. It will live up to all expectations, and no doubt exceed them. If you would like to read more about it visit my online article on Food & Home Entertaining’s blog:www.foodandhome.co.za/entertaining/drought-menu-test-kitchen-invitation-innovation.

If you are feeling extravagant, then book for chef Luke Dale-Robert’s pop-up Test Kitchen at the Shangri-La Le Touessrok in Mauritius, from 12 April to 26 May. I’m not sure when last I’ve been so excited – I feel honoured to be heading there for the opening night next week. Having awarded The Test Kitchen three plates in the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™, we know that this is world class destination dining, worthy of a flight. How wonderful to be witnessing this first hand. Stay posted and you can drool too – Jen’s Journeys will be first with the scoop!

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