Heaven on earth: Irish writer discovers Sri Lanka’s magic, romance—and delicious marine cuisine!


Irish Times writer Gemma Tipton describes her recent visit to Sri Lanka and stay at the Owl And The Pussycat hotel in the ancient souther city of Galle as “heaven on Earth”.

Co-owner Shane Thantirimudalige regales her with stories of our romantic past: “Mythical figures mingle with history, and I’m reminded of Ireland and how our lore and legendary heroes weave into our sense of ourselves.

She notes that Sri Lanka was once called Serendib, from which our own English word, serendipity derives—happy accidents leading to good conclusions. “It feels like an incredibly apt way of describing this beautiful country. Pure serendipity indeed.”

No visit would be complete without a visit to a tea plantation, in this case nearby Handunugoda. “To the sound of peacocks calling, we listen to owner Malinga Herman Gunaratne tell of how his grandfather gambled away vast acres, and how the plantation was saved with the rediscovery of Virgin White Tea.

“A 5,000-year-old tradition saw young tea buds harvested by virgins clutching golden scissors, dropping them straight into golden bowls; the first human touch, Gunaratne says, would have been that of the Emperor’s lips.

“Now, the plantation has revived the making of tea entirely untouched by human hand (and the question of staff virginity is irrelevant).”

Sri Lanka’s world-famous marine cuisine also made an indelible impression. “We go to the fish, vegetable and spice markets of Galle in the expert company of Anthony, our hotel chef.

“He trained with Gordon Ramsay, but doesn’t seem scarred by the experience, and his enthusiasm for food is, you could say, delicious.

“The fish is boat-fresh, and the spices are heady. We discover how to fry spices, infusing a coconut and lemongrass sauce for crab and parafish (a succulent local white fish).”

Read more here.

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