Sunset at the GFH

Sunset at The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
 
 
 
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After our walk along the seafront was a must do. A visit to the Galle Face Hotel (in the 1000 Things........book). We knew this Grand Dame had a long history and what a venue to sit and enjoy sunset.
 
 
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The outer verandah, lobby flowers and sitting area flowers.
 
 
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The elegant passage as we headed to the beach bar. An information board.
 
 
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Settled for sunset. Bear with a local beer. Harrison (Harri or H) had a great puzzle book and Kerri and I ready for sunset.
 
 
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The setting sun did not disappoint.
 
 
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Our table with just some of the hotel behind us.
 
 
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Just as I was back to messing with the sunset I heard bagpipes.
 
 
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The lovely doorman who welcomed us appeared with two pipers and with full solemnity walked slowly to the flag, lowered folded, turned and withdrew.
 
I must thank the BBC for this lovely piece written by Charles Haviland, published on the 18th of November 2014:- A doorman who worked for 72 years at the most famous hotel in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, has died aged 94.

Kottarappu Chattu Kuttan, who had started as a waiter, never retired from his job at the Galle Face Hotel.

Guests would be greeted at the grand seafront entrance by the diminutive Mr Kuttan with his palms pressed together in the traditional greeting. White-haired with a handlebar moustache, the diminutive figure also sported badges from all over the world. Mr Kuttan had emigrated from his native Kerala in southern India aged 18 in 1938 after the death of his parents.

Looking for work, he crossed to what was then Ceylon by boat, starting in domestic employment in Colombo and joining the Galle Face in 1942. The 150-year-old hotel is renowned for its illustrious list of past guests, and Mr Kuttan met many of them.

"Ceylon… was a different country then. Famous people like Emperor Hirohito, Richard Nixon, Sir Laurence Olivier and George Bernard Shaw came and stayed with us," he told Agence France-Presse in 2010.

 

 

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Mr Kuttan carried on greeting guests almost until his death. (Images from the same article)

 

He also met Lord Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Princess Elizabeth - and the Bond girl, Ursula Andress. And he saw a Japanese fighter-plane crash-land in the grounds during World War Two. 'People would notice him'

Sanjeev Gardiner, the hotel's chairman, told the BBC it was a "truly sad day". He said the employee had almost retired after finishing as a waiter in the 1980s but was kept on at the front entrance where he "found his true calling".

"People would notice him," said Mr Gardiner. He recalled the company suggesting, and funding, a trip back to Kerala for his employee, many decades after he had last seen India. Mr Kuttan still had family there including two sisters.

"If they treat me nicely I'll stay, otherwise I'm coming back tomorrow," he recalled Mr Kuttan as saying. In the event he stayed 10 days.

Mr Gardiner says that after his father and predecessor as chairman, Cyril Gardiner, died in 1996, Mr Kuttan came to the funeral and to every subsequent memorial service, once a year. "That says a lot about his character."

Mr Kuttan's Sri Lankan wife, who was a Christian, died some years ago and in latter years a grand-daughter looked after him. He had been ill for his final months but remained on the Galle Face Hotel staff.

The hotel held a minute's silence as a tribute to Mr Kuttan, a devout Hindu, who will be cremated on Wednesday. What an incredible and beautiful man.

 

 

The Grand Dame

 
From the hotel website with grateful thanks:- South Asia’s leading Grande Dame, the Galle Face Hotel is testimony to both Sri Lanka’s colonial past and its independent present. Celebrated within the hospitality world, it blends historical splendour with crafted modernity to form a new model for heritage properties. International guests are immersed in the Galle Face Hotel’s rich traditions and compelling stories, while Colombo society perceive the hotel as the most prestigious, desirable destination in the city for memorable dining and special events. Whether at the hotel for dinner or for a month-long stay, an experience of the Galle Face Hotel is one of timeless grandeur and exceptional hospitality.

The Hotel started out as a Dutch villa called Galle Face House that had been a meeting place for gentlemen of the colonial era. That was until four British entrepreneurs decided to use it to start a business, unaware that, by the late 19th century, it would be known as the best hotel East of Suez.

The Hotel originally opened in 1864, borrowing its name from the charming expanse of ground known as the Galle Face Green, which stretches for a kilometre by the side of the Hotel, along the coast, where, in Victorian times, it was a popular place to take a walk in the sea air, or a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

The Hotel was built section by section, the first being the central area that leads to the awe-inspiring Ballrooms, followed by the South and North wings respectively.

It was in 1894, that it became a two-storey luxury hotel, with the help of the most famous architect of the time, Edward Skinner, while between 1903 and 1909, the Galle Face Hotel Company continued to buy up land that would allow the hotel to expand to its present size. One of the shareholders in 1911 was Mr Victor Vicarosso, the great grandfather of the current Chairman and owner of the hotel.

In 1960 Mr Cyril Gardiner became a director of the Hotel and the Chairman in 1965. Upon his passing in 1996, his only son Mr Sanjeev Gardiner became the Chairman of the Galle Face Hotel and continues to hold this title, extending the family association for over 100 year.

The North wing was refurbished under the direction of Mr Cyril Gardiner. In 2006, the South Wing was restored under the direction of Mr Sanjeev Gardiner after being closed for approximately 40 years, along with which, various restaurants, bars, meeting rooms, and the Spa facility were opened. The North wing has now opened after a complete restoration program that instils timeless grandeur in a hotel that is 154 years old.

 

 

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In the lovely pink shades of dusk The Grand Dame took on a very regal look.

 

 

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Table decoration and another information board.

 

 

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Everything just so. Much as we would loved to have stayed here for the five nights of our Colombo visit we simply couldn’t afford to. Prices range from about one hundred and fifty pounds a night to about three thousand.

 

 

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Time to leave for our supper treat with Kerri and Harri.

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL CHARMING, SOPHISTICATED AND VERY WELCOMING

                     ANOTHER ERA OF SPLENDOUR