The long journey home

Juni had slept a few centimeters from me and while moving woke me a few times so my night wasn’t ideal but at least I woke a few minutes before the alarms went off.

We quickly got dressed and left the room, and had our luggage carried down and picked up our fancy take-away breakfast boxes. We sipped on our last cup of tea, I walked out to the courtyard and greeted the slingshot man and took in the calm morning and saying my mental goodbyes to Galle Face Hotel for this time.

We got a PickMe car easy, and following the recommendations about one hour travel to the airport and to be there three hours before departure we headed off. The traffic was very smooth and we arrived well in time. The security was a bit beefed up since last time (I assume the terrorist attack last easter was the cause for this) and armed Air Force personnel checked our passports even before we were near the terminal and still in the car.

We had a our luggage loaded on a trolley and pushed for us by a porter to make the best use of our few remaining rupees. After some security scans we were able to actually check in everything without any hassle. I noted that they still have the good old measuring conveyor belts at the check-in desk where you can use your foot under and push up to reduce the reading on the scale but we didn’t need it this time.

So off we go…

It took three or four scans in total, and we never took out cameras, iPads, computer or opened the lunch boxes with liquids in them. Fun how security always seem to be differently checked, including us having to remove our shoes the third time. Despite all checks we were well in good time. We even followed the call from speakers that we should get to the gate – more than an hour before scheduled departure.

Charging up beats any crappy infotainment system I’ve encountered so far in my travels

The first leg was the long one, and the infotainment system had perhaps the lowest amount of entertainment possible – but it did have a 110V power outlet which was much better since that would power our iPads and Switch. It was a really tight 777-300 with 3-4-3 seat configuration and we were, of course, in the middle. I had hoped that our seats on line 5 might be extra spacious but, of course, it was the row in front of us. We didn’t want to pay for any upgrades and so started to go through the downloaded movies to iPad and the toys given by the staff. The food didn’t look much for the world but tasted rather well for airline food. Mona and Juni managed to take a midday nap while I stayed awake for the whole flight.

Dyrene i Hakkebakkeskogen – 147th viewing

We were among the first out of the plane in Moscow and I speeded for the transfer desk, got our new boarding passes and got us through passport control quickly – only to find out that we had a small walk of 20 minutes or so to get to our gate. We were in no rush but Juni had her sight on the playground from last time so we went there. She made a new friend and kept speaking “English” with her, and every now and then picking up and using a proper word. Moods were good although I was starting to get a bit tired, and when we were at the gate and was about to start boarding and they instead announced gate change and a 50 minute delay I was less than pleased.

Juni was also starting to get sleepy but finally we were able to board the last leg and Juni fell asleep as we were taxing out. MyselfI blinked the eyes, were served some food which and then blinked again as we were about to land and that was a very fast three hour flight.

After going through the last passport control for the day it was time for the true test, to spot our luggage. It seemed bleak for some time after we had identified both our normal bags but no sight of the chair-package but then Mona spotted a familiar package laying on the stopped conveyor belt next to ours (no, not special luggage which I had checked earlier) and it even looked fine. There was much rejoicing and we walked towards the exit, skipping taxfree and thought we would catch a regular train that would leave in a few minutes.

I was in line to get tickets from a vending machine while Mona went ahead, and the clock was ticking mercilessly against the departure time while the person at the vending machine struggled with the concept of entering a credit card. It finally got resolved but with 2 minutes to departure I gave up and jogged to the platform instead. Mona was there, we quickly moved the bags from the trolley into the car – got in and the train departed. Timing is everything, although I felt bad leaving the trolley in the middle of the platform.

As we got to Oslo S it was quite cold and we splurged on a taxi to get us to the doorstep. The long journey was over and after switching the sim-cards and taking out the damp swim clothing we fell asleep concluding it had been a great trip overall. And I’ve managed to get an unopened water bottle with Galle Face Hotel in the carry-on luggage all the way – take that airport security theatre.

Slap a nice logo on your food and water and bring it through security with ease

Colonial heritage

Early, early Sunday morning as Eek-a-mouse would sing

We started the morning with a fabulous breakfast – the omelet made was great, the fruit and bread selection left nothing to wish for and even I had some sweeter buns, some chocolate chips etc. We enjoyed the classic views and soaked in the atmosphere.

This seasoned gentleman armed with slingshot kept any birds away

We also thought that perhaps we could make use of the concierge to offload my current main mental task – how to arrange packaging for the butterfly chairs. Mona asked and they were very happy to oblige finding packaging and safely wrapping the parts up.

Juni wanted to stay inside “the whole day” and watch iPad so rather than force her into the pool we thought why not – she will get fed up soon enough. It was also a good opportuntity for me to get caught up with the blogging while Mona went to see if there was anything left to buy from shops and malls.

Eventually Juni got tired of iPad and we played games for some time before Mona got back and we took a stroll down to Travellers bar. There are a lot of portraits of famous people who have stayed at the hotel throughout the history. It could be cheesy but manages to pass as showing off it’s heritage proudly.

Mona would have her lunch while I went out to do some quick scouting for linen clothes for the summer in the malls. I also double-checked our luggage restrictions and saw that we only had one luggage per person – meaning that the very well wrapped chairs in two packages probably needed to transform into one piece.

I took a few PickMe rides between malls but I soon realized it was a moot point to try to find anything I liked to wear. I did find wanton noodle soup at one mall food court though, which had proper udon sized noodles which was a nice change form then very thin ones that I’d had here so far. I decided that I’d rather go back and hang out for the afternoon tea with the family than dash in and out of more stores.

As I got back, Mona told me she that her lunch hadn’t turned out as expected. One thing led to another and on very friendly terms the head chef and his side-kick had now taken Monas recipe for a Caesar salad and would make one for her to taste and evaluate. They confessed that they have had a few complaints on this dish and realised that the there was a mismatch on what a many guests expected a Caesar salad to taste like and what they created so they wished to align more here. Another example of how the staff go on length to improve any shortcomings or missed expectations.

Caesar Salad wraps by Mona’s recipe prepared to be “tasted” from the head chef.

Having another look at the luggage situation we decided we would take the leather parts from the chair from the nice package by the concierge and instead put in my bag. We should be able to fit everything in our two bags and then with the chair-leg package we would come to our three allowed luggages. The tasting Caesar salad was brought to our room and Mona gave the verdict very good, if anything a pinch more salt but a big improvement.

Mona enjoying the classy High Noon Tea with view and live music

We went down and enjoyed High Noon Tea at restaurant, another thing on Mona’s bucket list. There was a baby shower celebration ongoing with a few kids – which Juni enjoyed and blended in with happily as she also pretended to speak English. She charmed herself a balloon and cookies like the guests – good practice for my ease of embarrassment.

Juni also enjoyed her High Noon Tea. Get you one that can do both.

The traditional lowering of the flag with bagpipes was filmed this time and off course a few nice shots of the sunset from the courtyard. We weren’t really hungry after the tea so instead took another stroll on Galle Face Green.

Yes, I am a sucker for sunsets

Juni ran back and forth like a madman and exhausting herself conveniently while trying to chat with the local kids enjoying their late picnics. Eventually we headed back to the hotel and finished the last packing, including downloading a ton of Netflix for kids on the fast hotel wifi.

Mona and I started to watch a movie on Netflix but when we paused in the middle to put Juni to bed and never got around to start it again and had a long day of travel ahead so set the alarms and went to sleep.

The best hotel east of Suez

Courtyard check, palm tress check, sunset check!

We had a not necessarily good sleep but a fun night, you could hear the party-music slightly but not enough to keep me awake. I could however hear the quite intoxicated woman knocking strongly on a door next to ours and loudly asking in heavy Russian accent for a male name and the lady proprietor urgently trying to get her to stop/leave – clearly the man was not interested in further meeting her at 03:00.

The breakfast was simple, but really nice for being a classic English breakfast – Juni approved and I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed toasted white bread with jam but it tasted delicious. We checked out and left our bags in the hotel and headed off to meet Kalle & Gunnel for the last beach visit at Hikkaduwa for this trip. They had visit from friends to Kalle’s brother so we gave them some traveling tips and discussed possible routes for their upcoming two weeks. It was quite hot so we stayed in the shadows and Juni wasn’t really eager to swim either but played some in the sand. At noon we decided to have lunch and said our final goodbyes to Kalle & Gunnel.

Another final goodbye was given to Salty Swamis, and we booked a small car (no larger were available unfortunately) from Hikkaduwa to Colombo and loaded up. Juni fell asleep a few minutes after we got going and slept almost the full two hours until we arrived at Galle Face Hotel. And just by arriving you realize the world of difference between this classy colonial hotel which has been around since 1864 and the so called five star we stayed at for New Years. A tiny detail, you remembered that we got two vouchers for the slow wifi? Here wifi speeds where good and when logging in with your surname and room number I was informed that this entitled me to 8 simultaneous devices, and how to contact the reception for any questions or further needs. This place indeed is the place to stay at if you are in Colombo, and in my view possibly still can stand by it’s reputation from the late 1900th – to be the best hotel east of Suez.

Not a bad spot to watch the sun set

We got our room, which was a bit on the small side for all us to be fair, but service was excellent and everything about this hotel oozes tradition, heritage and style. We took some strolls with Juni and had a look at the sunset. Which off course is done at the same time they take down the flag. This ceremony includes someone playing the bagpipes in military uniform while the other person carefully takes down the flag timing exactly as the sun disappears in the sea. These things really push all my buttons and Mona confessed she was close to tears as well and that this was striking one of the things from her bucket list.

Since our last visit they had now finished renovations of the North wing, and opened up a new cuban styled restaurant that we may check out later. As we walked around Juni explained she was hungry and wanted pasta, ideally now we headed outside of the hotel to Galle Face Green where all the locals where flying kites and there were street food stalls. We managed to find some pasta, a bit of chicken and naans from a halal street food shop and enjoyed our meal while looking at Galle Face Hotel’s front.

Emperor Juni Aurora Elisabeth Ernholm has tasted the meal and the chef will live another day
North Wing is now restored and act as the main entrance

Well fed we headed back and managed to get all the way without any arguments with Juni despite locals tempting her with shiny, and often loud toys. I did a bit of blogging and then we fell asleep after another long day.