The Closenberg Hotel can be added to one of the hundreds of places I've heard of and always wanted to visit: for the wonderful photos it's produced, the air of serenity it exudes through them, and for its classic architecture. The highlight of this has to be the Luna Terrace (and I didn't know that's what it was called until Shru told me so), a wonderful (insert more superlatives) 180° infinity saltwater pool.
We couldn't check out the rooms or private areas as we dropped in for some pool-time fun with a group of friends; but what we did see pleased us immensely. Perched on the edge of a peninsula just a little way off Galle near the Beach of Bonavista, it's a building that happily blends seamlessly with the land and — even more happily — isn't an eyesore. It's basically clear that you've stepped into a heritage hotel.
You walk into what feels like a sprawling mansion with a massive terrace that faces a small lawn and the much larger Indian Ocean. The infinity pool is about a level below, you have to walk through boughs of arching bougainvillaeas and climb down a short flight of stairs to get to it.
The cashier counter is one of the first things you see when you enter, given that it's literally at the top of the stairs. I have to say, the service is superb: they could clearly see that we weren't going to reserve rooms or grab a meal (given that we got there just a little after lunchtime) yet they were cordial and welcoming. We asked about the pool, and it turns out that you can use it for a nominal fee. Which we did.
You can also grab meals here, I've heard their local cuisine is quite good, but we rather unfortunately settled for some Calamari Fritti (Rs. 700) and Garlic Toast (Rs. 325), both which were rather underwhelming.
Calamari Fritti is the Italian name (and prep method) for deep fried squid: the European version of our mouthwatering Hot Butter Cuttlefish, minus the mouthwatering part in this particular instance. Looking rather bland, it tasted just as it looked. Quite sad to be honest, because everything else about this place was *insert more superlatives*. It also had a very distinct fishy smell/ taste, which I'm particularly biased against.
The Garlic Toast comprised of buttery and toasted sliced bread topped with tons of chopped garlic. It wasn't offensive, but there was a LOT of garlic. I wouldn't usually complain, but this had enough to keep vampires away for miles. Also, the garlic kept falling off because it was just piled on top.
What we eventually did really enjoy was our pot of tea. At Rs. 400, you get a pretty large pot along with another pot of milk and a bowlful of sugar that easily serves over 5 cups; so that's a win.
My favourite bit of all (okay, one of my favourites because the massive old wood-panelled building is also pretty great) is the pool. The murkiness is apparently because of the salt water, or so my friends said. Shaped like a half-moon (or a crescent, depending on how you look at it), this pool overlooks the Indian Ocean (just like any other beach in SL) and a nearby beach, where you can see people paddle boarding and having other beach-side-fun-times.
I wouldn't recommend it for the food, but totally would if you're keen on spending an evening down south away from the more crowded, touristy, and ridiculously expensive areas.
Fun Fact: visitors can use the pool for Rs. 500. If you want to stay, prices for rooms start at Rs. 16,000 for Sri Lankan guests, on half board basis.
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