Friday, July 20, 2007

Horton Gardens

When I visit Sri Lanka, my residence for the past four years has been #100/5 Horton Gardens. It is an old house in Colombo’s upscale, but old-fashioned Cinnamon Gardens district. Once, most of Sri Lanka’s political elite, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and burgher lived here. Now, many of the old houses have been taken over by Non Governmental Organizations. Others have had once spacious yards encroached on by further building or been demolished to make way for condominiums.

100/5 Horton Gardens has suffered neither fate, perhaps because the area around it was built up with older houses many years ago. The living room, dining room and the room where I normally stay overlook a quiet interior garden, with sufficient trees and greenery to cool down the air at days end. It is down a long lane from the busy main road (Horton Place), which insulates residents from traffic noise and pollution.

My hostess has trained an efficient staff who clean, manage the guesthouse, provide healthy meals and do laundry inexpensively. The breakfast table and, to a lesser degree, the dinner table often gathers an interesting collection of scholars, humanitarian workers and other transients. At the moment, guests include young American professor, married to an Indian woman (also a professor) who is studying the coordination of educational programs in Sri Lanka. Another is an Indian gentleman from New Delhi who administers a de-mining program that uses trained dogs to help with detection.

From my standpoint, 100/5 Horton Gardens is the perfect home away from home in Sri Lanka. It is comfortable, but modest and inexpensive. It provides a quiet retreat, but is within walking distance or an easy “three wheeler” ride from my base of operations and most Colombo destinations. It provides mealtime conversation that is intelligent and engaging, but not intrusive. How fortunate I was to have had it recommended to me.


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