Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Enchanting Tea Country – Ceylon Tea Trails 2

One of the amazing things that strike most people about Sri Lanka are the huge differences in landscape and climate that such a small country boasts. Following on from my previous post about my trip to the Tea Country with Ceylon Tea Trails, there is one such thing which I want to share with you and that is the absolute abundance of beautiful flora in the Hill Country (AKA Tea Country).

Fresh tea bushes

Fresh tea bushes

Castlereagh Bungalow details

Castlereagh Bungalow details

We were staying at an elevation of 4,025 feet (1,227 metres) and in complete contrast to the South Western coast where I live normally, there were no coconut trees and paddy fields to speak of.

What we saw instead were luscious green hills carpeted with tea bushes as far as the eye could see, tall pine trees towering over mountains with waterfalls and amazing flowers that would not look out of place in royal stately gardens in the UK.

Many of these plants are not indigenous to Sri Lanka and were imported (as were the failed coffee crops and the hugely more successful tea!) to the island by the British.

Scotsman James Taylor is attributed to planting the first tea estate in Sri Lanka. It was in 1867 that Taylor planted 20 acres of tea on the Loolecondera estate (of which he was superintendent). It was here he perfected the technique of fine plucking – `two leaves and a bud.’

Ceylon tea became the front-runner of the industry and was much loved for its unmatched quality and variety. The alchemy of land, sun and rain in the Paradise Island of Ceylon, as it was known then, presented the ideal climatic conditions for cultivation of tea. Ceylon added a new dimension to tea by producing variations in taste, quality, character and appearance, largely based on the territory of the region. Ceylon tea with its distinct taste and character became every consumer’s favourite cuppa.” – courtesy of Dilmah Tea.

With the British tea planters came their wives who I imagine had a vital role to play in some of the beautiful floral displays which can be seen to this day. Created by a touch of home-sickness perhaps or simply to stay busy but the ideal climatic conditions in the Tea Country means that their initial efforts are still currently enjoyed by many and will continue to please in the future.

Lilies galore!

Lilies galore!

Roses, carnations, tea and a magnificent lake (and a thistle??)

Roses, carnations, tea and a magnificent lake (and a thistle??)

One flower which is local – the Hibiscus…although I had never seen a white one!

Wonderful white hibiscus

Wonderful white hibiscus

Amazing anthuriums

Amazing anthuriums

The evergreens thrive in the Hill Country because of the warm days, cool nights and more than average rainfall. I can’t get enough of the beautiful tea plantations on rolling hills…

Tea plantations near Dick Oya

Tea plantations near Dick Oya

Complete with quaint churches….

Warleigh Church. Built: 1878

Warleigh Church. Built: 1878

And imposing but pretty tea factories  in the hills opposite the Castlereagh bungalow, surrounded by extremely tall (and in most cases elder than me) pine & eucalyptus trees…

A tea factory as seen from the Castlereagh Bungalow

A tea factory as seen from the Castlereagh Bungalow

Stunning floral displays everywhere you look…I don’t know the names of some of them. Please inform me if you do!

Floral display near the pool and summer house

Floral display near the pool and summer house

Tropical crimson poppy-like flowers

Tropical crimson poppy-like flowers – Canna lilies…thanks Anne Morton for pointing that out to me!

Spherical flowers

Spherical flowers

Orange and yellow carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus)

Orange and yellow carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus)

And this is what it’s all about:

Tea leaves

Tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis)

I hope you’re enjoying these pictures as much as we did taking them. Next the incredible Ceylon Tea Trails hospitality!

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The Enchanting Tea Country – Ceylon Tea Trails 1

I’ve been on a trip…a trip of a lifetime.

A few months ago I entered a photography competition through Sri Lanka in Style and amazingly enough I won!! Needless to say I was surprised, very excited and completely bowled over. The photo below was my entry:

Business after the tsunami

Business after the tsunami

Entitled “Business after the tsunami”, this photo encapsulates the Sri Lankan spirit; to keep going when things are tough. It was taken on Beruwela beach about one month after the tsunami. The thambili (coconut water) seller does not really look happy but he knows that thirst must be still be quenched and that his and his family’s livelihood must continue.

Anyway, the first prize was a two-night all-inclusive stay at Ceylon tea Trails.

From the Ceylon Tea Trails website: “Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort connected by hiking trails, situated in the heart of Sri Lanka’s stunning tea country. The award-winning boutique resort comprises of four colonial tea planters’ bungalows, offering gracious living thanks to butler service, gourmet cuisine & authentic period furnishings. Guests are absorbed into life on a working tea estate, whilst reveling in five-star luxury.

I had only been to the  Hill (and Tea) Country in Sri Lanka once before so needless to say I was extremely excited. What greeted us on our arrival was beyond our expectations.

The view from the Castlereagh Bungalow overlooking Castlereagh lake was stunning:

Spectacular views over Castlereagh Lake

Spectacular views over Castlereagh Lake

Pool at Castlereagh Bungalow

Pool at Castlereagh Bungalow

Castlereagh Bungalow @ Ceylon Tea Trails

Castlereagh Bungalow @ Ceylon Tea Trails

Castlereagh Bungalow

Built in 1925, Altitude: 4,025 ft (1,227 metres).

The actual bungalow lies nestled on the banks of Castlereagh Lake in a woody glade and is perhaps the most romantic of the four Ceylon Tea Trails bungalows. It is also the most remote and is reached along a picturesque and somewhat bumpy road (which adds to the ambiance!) from Dick Oya (near Hatton) around the lake and over the reservoir. The road passes through tiny villages and tea plantations where pickers are busy at work in their bright attire. Whilst driving through these areas you are greeted by warm genuine smiles and waving children.

Tea everywhere

Tea everywhere

Lush green tea fields

Lush green tea fields

Smiles all around - tea pickers

Smiles all around – tea pickers

Ancient Hindu Kovil (temple) on an island in Castlereagh lake

Ancient Hindu Kovil (temple) on an island in Castlereagh lake

I have much much more to share with you, awesome scenic photo’s of flora, pictures of the bungalows’ interior, a bit of history and some tea-infused recipes…please stay tuned 🙂

I’ll leave you  with this for now…courtesy of Tea Trails…

Luxury in the Tea Country of Sri Lanka

Luxury in the Tea Country of Sri Lanka

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Foreign marriages in Sri Lanka

Been away a few days – mainly in bed with a stomach bug. Sometimes this happens when you live in the tropics, no amount of cleanliness, or strict adherence to only bottled water will stop it. Being a lover of most Sri Lankan street food such as kotthu roti and egg hoppers as well as regularly eating out in “tourist” restaurants you can never be sure….it could have been a dodgy beer.

Anyway back to the subject of foreign marriages in Sri Lanka. By this I mean people from other countries marrying Sri Lankans, not the tourists who come here for 2 or 3 weeks for their all-inclusive wedding in a 5* resort complete with elephant rides on the beach.

Tourists getting married in Sri lanka - courtesy of Vivanta by Taj

Tourists getting married in Sri lanka – courtesy of Vivanta by Taj

I just read this blog by Indi, who is a great blogger on all things Sri Lankan and wanted to share it because I have a lot of non-Sri Lankan friends (both women and men) who are married to Sri Lankans. In the majority of cases these are genuine love marriages and these couples have a hard time of it…both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Here is Indi’s view on the situation in Sri Lanka and one which I share.

http://indi.ca/2012/05/unequal-marriage-in-sri-lanka-the-foreign-kind/

There are of course people who marry solely for residency visa’s both here and abroad (or for money etc.) but these are generally easy to spot and Sri Lankans especially tend to be very intuitive and emotional when it comes to matters of the heart. I say give MORE rights to the genuine couples and families but to shift the immigration legislation focus from income and wealth issues to establishing whether these couples are genuine by interviewing them, looking at photo’s of them together, observing behaviours, perhaps visiting them in their home and finally wishing them a wonderful life together with the blessings of this beautiful country.

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BLT – the best thing since……

In honour of today being the 250th birthday of the sandwich I will give you a quick recipe for my favourite (well one of my favorites that doesn’t involve cheese). The BLT – Bacon, lettuce and tomato. This is my simple version – simple is good and it’s tasty.

Ingredients for two people (one sandwich per person):

  • One pack of smoked back bacon (available in Sri Lanka too 🙂 )
  • Bread (preferably fresh from the bakery and still warm…if it’s older toasted works well too, sliced)
  • 2 or 3 plum tomatoes
  • Lettuce (go for gem or iceberg lettuce if you like it crunchy, in Sri Lanka – pick the inner leaves of lettuce)
  • MAYONNAISE (I say go for your favourite, mine is Hellmans….if it’s not available try making your own. I will blog a recipe soon)
  • GOOD quality butter (yes on top of the mayo – it’s all about taste here, not diets)
  • Some good quality vegetable oil or butter to fry (just a bit – good bacon gives off plenty of it’s own fat)
  • Salt and pepper.

Method:

Heat your preferred oil or butter in a large frying pan until the oil is simmering or the butter is foaming, add the bacon. Fry until slightly browned and turn.

In the meantime (or before if you’re no good at multi-tasking 😉 ) – slice the tomatoes and chop the lettuce very finely.  For each person butter one slice of bread  and keep it on a plate, spread the other slice with mayonnaise (so you now have two slices facing upwards per person, one buttered, one mayo’ed). Get back to your bacon.

Now here is where it all depends on personal preference…I like mine crispy…if you don’t then take it of the heat when it looks done. If you’re like me and like it crispy I recommend another two turns in the pan…pressing down all the fatty rind bits (take care not to get the fat spitting on you). When you’re happy place the bacon on the buttered piece of bread (so the butter melts yummy), put a pinch of pepper on if you dare, throw on the lettuce leaves and then layer the tomato on top with a sprinkle of salt and more pepper (if you like a kick like me)…..finally put the mayo’ed slice of on top and enjoy.

Don’t hold back with this recipe – it’s not for the dieters amongst us….I sometimes dribble the fat from from the pan into the sandwich for extra measure…bliss. I’ll put my own photo up soon..but here is a taster (I borrowed this one off the web)….

BLT

BLT


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Happy Birthday Sandwich!!

I just have to share this article on the BBC news today with you today….have sandwiches really only been in existence for 250 years? Invented by the Earl of Sandwich because he couldn’t be bothered to leave his game of cards for his normal formal meal??

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-18010424

Perhaps only in the upper classes at that time…

Croque Monsieur...dribbling yet?

Croque Monsieur…dribbling yet?

I’m finding this hard to believe because bread has been around forever….I’m intrigued and will do more research on this 😉

[found these links today (14th May 2012): http://www.loveurban.com/blog/urbanbeach/?tag=great-british-sandwich

http://www.lovesarnies.com/yum/ ]

*********************************************************************

One of my favourite things in the world is the sandwich, brown or white bread, fresh bread or toasted, buns, baguettes, ciabatta, pitta – can a hamburger be classed as a sandwich?? Your thoughts are welcome….meanwhile my thoughts are wandering….roast beef and English mustard (or horseradish), creamy not-quite hardboiled egg mayo with fresh mustard cress, light and refreshing cucumber, turkey and tangy cranberry, the classic BLT, roast chicken with mayo and rocket, a croque monsieur (or madame), tuna salad, prawn mayonnaise with iceberg lettuce, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, mature cheddar (or gouda) cheese with cherry tomatoes or onion chutney, chilli chicken with roast peppers, crisp little gem lettuce and the slighest hint of lime, falafel with garlic sauce on toasted pitta or something more exotic….ok….you get the point!

What’s your favourite?

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Dhal-licious!

Before I came to Sri Lanka I wasn’t a fan of lentils. On the few occasions I had tried them in Europe and the Middle East they were prepared in a generally bland and tasteless way and during my one experience of eating dhal with Indian friends of mine in Kuwait, the dish practically blew my head off (Goan food is on a par with Sri Lankan food for it’s heat). I also shamefully admit that eating dhal conjured up images of extremely thin hippy-vegan types with long dreadlocks standing on their heads in some insane yoga pose in those days….

In Sri Lanka dhal is a staple comfort food all year round – usually eaten with rice (it is omni-present in the rice and curry dishes), bread (I love it with bread and coconut sambol for breakfast), roti and vegetables and it is typically your British equivalent of mash, baked beans or even mushy peas, at a stretch.

Full of protein and rich in calcium, iron and B vitamins more than 60 different types of dhal are made across India alone. Sri Lanka  has it’s own regional varieties and you will find that breakfast dhal is usually soupier than lunchtime dhal, which is stodgier.

Yummy dhal

Yummy dhal

The following recipe is for the authentic Sri Lanka dhal or parippu as it is also called, especially by the youngsters.

Sri Lankan Dhal Recipe – to serve 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Mysore Dhal (Red lentils)
  • 1 tsp turmeric (or saffron powder as some call it here!)
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2-3 green chillies halved diagonally (de-seeded if you want it milder)
  • 1-2 dried red chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 red (or bombay) onions, chopped
  • piece of cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 6-8 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (fresh or canned)
  • 2 tsp oil (I prefer vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  •  4-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lime

Salt to taste

Method:

Wash the dhal thoroughly in about 3 pots of fresh water or leave it to soak for a couple of hours.

When cleaned boil the dhal in a pan with 1 cup water (or more – you need to cover the dhal), 1/2 tbsp turmeric, the green chillies, the cinnamon, 1 onion and the garlic. When the the colour of the dhal turns from orange to yellow the dhal is cooked. Remove from the stove and set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the remaining ingredients except the coconut milk and cooked dhal. Fry until the onions are golden brown. When done add the fried ingredients to the dhal, add the coconut milk and salt to taste and cook for a few more minutes until the dhal curry starts to boil. Turn the cooker off and add the lime juice.

A very simple and scrumptious dish. If you are preparing dhal for a special occasion you can garnish it with some deep fried onions and/or crispy curry leaves.

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Translation funnies

When a non-native speaker of a language translates something there is always a danger of getting it almost right but very wrong! Below is a list of funny translation errors compiled by airline staff from around the world (from http://www.world-time-zones.org).

Lost in translation

Lost in translation

Japanese hotel room – You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid

Paris hotel elevator – Please leave your values at the front desk

Tokyo hotel – It is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such a thing is please not read this notice

Bucharest hotel – The list is being fixed for the next day. During this time you will be unbearable

Leipzig elevator – Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up

Athens hotel – Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11am daily

Belgrade elevator – To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving then going alphabetically in national order.

Sarajevo hotel – The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid

Moscow hotel – You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday

Swiss menu – Our wines leave you nothing to hope for

Hong Kong tailors shop – Ladies may have a fit upstairs

Bangkok dry cleaners – Drop your trousers here for best results

Paris dress shop – Dresses for street walking

Rhodes tailor shop – Order your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation

Hong Kong advert – Teeth extracted by the latest methodists

Rome laundary – Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time

Swiss mountain inn – Special today… no ice cream

Copenhagen airline – We take your bags and send them in all directions

Moscow hotel – If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it

Norwegian lounge – Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar

Tokyo shop – Our nylons cost more than common but they are better for the long run

Acapulco hotel – The manager has personally passed all the water served here

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