When we made our reservation to stay at the Thambapanni Retreat, we were required to commit to participating in the Christmas Eve dinner that was being hosted by the Thaproban Hotel, the sister complex located right on the beach. We weren’t really interested in a huge buffet meal, but I could see that it was hard for the hotel to plan the meal without knowing how many guests they would have.
We were invited to head to the Thaproban and select and reserve a table, and were surprised that no one had chosen the table on the corner of the terrace, the one closest to the surf and farthest from the buffet table. I knew we would get more than enough to eat; we didn’t need a table beside the display of desserts. We were also asked to pre-select a wine if we were interested, so that they could be sure to have our choice on hand. I was delighted to see a Malbec from Argentina on the list and we all agreed that was our beverage of choice.
Adia and Anil are not too enthused about Christmas, so we didn’t even contemplate exchanging gifts. We all felt that just being together was celebration enough, but a nice dinner and a bottle of wine always makes a holiday better. When we arrived and got a peek at the buffet table, we were impressed at the broad selection of cuisines available. I couldn’t help noticing the huge roast turkey with side dishes of cranberry sauce and gravy. I can’t remember when I last had turkey, I was in for a feast.
We made our way to the terrace and several waiters made it clear that the other guests were eyeing our table with envy. It was wonderful to spend the evening with the surf pounding literally below our feet. It’s hard to take good photos at night with my simple camera, but I think the one I posted of Anil and Adia shows how happy we were that evening. (Please note that the wine hadn’t even arrived yet!)
It had been a long day and we weren’t the first people to leave the restaurant. The sun and sand really drains a person, and a heavy meal, topped off by incredibly fresh mango cheesecake is very sleep inducing. We headed back to our room and were surprised to see our beds decorated with flowers wishing us a ‘Merry Xmas’. There was a Christmas card and little red packages containing chocolates and cookies. Santa had come and gone and we hadn’t even left cookies and milk for him.
How to spend Christmas Day? Adia and I decided to head into Galle and treat ourselves to a pedicure and foot massage. We asked Nandini, the receptionist at our hotel and she recommended a salon near the bus station. We weren’t able to find the one she told us about, but came upon one with air-conditioning and slipped in. We were there for the whole afternoon and stepped out with the prettiest Christmas toes in town. I kept saying to Adia, the red colour we chose reminded us of the glass ornaments we used to put on our tree when I was a child. Trust me to remember the exact red. Well sure enough, later that day we saw a tree with red glass ornaments. I’m sure you’ll agree; I have a ‘nose’ for colour.
We ate a light meal that evening, I don’t think I had finished digesting the wonderful food we’d had the night before. When we returned to the hotel, the chef surprised us with slices of mango cheesecake. We had raved about it at breakfast to such an extent, that he had saved the last three pieces for us. Now that’s a Christmas present that we won’t have to stuff into our suitcase, but we might have to ‘carry’ it around for a few weeks to come.
The next morning, when Adia and I went down for an early swim, we found the blow-up Santa face down in the pool. I wasn’t sure if he was just exhausted from all the deliveries he had made on Christmas Eve, or whether he was crushed that no one remembered him. And then it dawned on me; it was close to 8:30am, December 26th, almost five years to the minute since the first of the two tsunamis to hit Sri Lanka struck the beaches of Unawatuna. Not one Sri Lankan had brought up the subject with us. I’m not sure if it was too painful, or if they didn’t want to discourage people from staying at the beaches.
Though it was on my mind that day, I didn’t dwell on what has passed, it seems the Sri Lankan people have rebuilt their lives for the most part and look forward to the future. No doubt there were prayers said in the temples around the country, for those who lost their lives and their loved ones, but for us, it was just another beautiful day, in a beautiful time and place.