From Colombo to County Durham

Got up early this morning (7.00am) to find that the Boudicca was docked in Colombo the capital of Sri Lanka.  We hadn’t been here before, but our flight home wasn’t until teatime, so at least we’d have some time to explore our 89th country, and indeed we had an excursion booked after breakfast.

We had a good breakfast to set us up for what would be a very long day; I enjoyed the full English washed down with coffee and orange juice.  We then made our way to the Neptune to await the call for our excursion; we weren’t actually disembarking the ship until after lunch, so we left our carry-on luggage in one of the meeting rooms for safe keeping.

Our bus number was soon called and we went down the gangplank to the bustling dockside, where there were a number of small shops and stalls selling local handicrafts, scarves, pashminas and wood carvings, as well as embroidered handbags and clothing.  In addition, every other shop seemed to be a Tea emporium because, after all, Sri Lanka used to be known as Ceylon, and one of Ceylon’s most famous exports has to be tea.

Our bus slowly made its way through the traffic into the city centre.  We noticed that it appeared to be a lot cleaner and less chaotic than Indian towns such as Delhi or Mumbai, or Nepalese cities such as Kathmandu. However, there were also similarities in their colourful shops, garish billboards and never-ending blare of traffic horns.

There were also a lot of historic colonial buildings still in evidence, from when Ceylon was under British rule.  It gained its independence in 1948, and changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972.  We saw a 100-year old clock tower as well as the more modern Lotus Pearl tower, and we passed the impressive Old Parliament Hall, before the bus pulled up to allow us off for a photo stop.

We had arrived at the impressive Independence Square, a large open-sided building held up with many carved pillars. You had to climb up a series of steps, guarded at regular intervals by a series of stone lions, into the building which afforded good views over manicured gardens and leafy avenues.  The weather was roasting hot, and it was nice to take refuge from the sun in the shady building.

We continued on our way, and left the city behind as our bus made its way along to the sea front, via a wide promenade which gave onto golden sands.  We also passed Buddhist temples, mosques and churches and many colourful shops.  All in all, Colombo looked a really interesting place and would make me want to explore Sri Lanka more, maybe in a longer stay in the future.

We arrived back at the docks around 11.30am, and spent some time browsing the stalls and shops, although there was nothing we wanted to buy.  We then spotted John and Margaret from our table; their bags were being loaded into a taxi as they were being taken to a hotel for another three days, not flying home until Monday, lucky things.  We said our goodbyes and ‘safe journey’ and all that, then made our way up the gangplank of the Boudicca to go and get something to eat and drink.

We went into the Lido Lounge and enjoyed a couple of beers, before heading for the Poolside Grill where we enjoyed a light lunch; I had a delicious tuna steak with salad Niçoise, washed down with a couple of glasses of chilled cava and finished with fresh fruits and cashew cream.  We wouldn’t be getting another meal until we were on the aeroplane home, so we made the most of it. 😊

Around 1.30pm our call came to disembark, so we collected our bags and went down to deck 3, where we despondently scanned our cruise cards for the last time and left the Boudicca.  Then we had to go to the luggage collection point and identify our cases to be loaded onto the bus for the half-hour ride to the airport.

Colombo airport isn’t very big, so it didn’t take long to check our cases in.  Then we just wandered around and looked in the duty free shops, where I bought a bottle of the apple-scented “Be Delicious”, by DKNY.  We then just went to the departure lounge where we sat around and made use of the free airport wifi, read magazines and relaxed, until we heard the call for boarding the Thomas Cook charter flight to Manchester.

We took off on time, then had another 12-hour flight to get through.  It was just the usual, incredibly tedious stuff – drinks, meal, reading, listening to my iPod, trying in vain to sleep.  Boring. Boring. Boring.  We watched the progress of our aircraft on the Sky Map, as it inched ever closer to Europe, across the North Sea, then into good old Blighty.

We landed slightly earlier than scheduled, around 23:50 hours.  It was a bit of a shock to my flip-flop clad feet leaving the aircraft into a temperature of 2˚C, a good 30 degrees less than we’d had the last couple of weeks, but it didn’t take too long to get to the arrivals building, where we collected our cases and phoned the Britannia Airport Hotel, asking for the shuttle bus to come and collect us.  While we were waiting, we saw Gary and Angela, who live in Manchester and would be home within half an hour.  At least we were staying here overnight, otherwise it would have been nearer to 4.00am when we got home to Durham.  ☹

Our taxi came and we arrived at the Britannia about 12:45am.  Then we checked in and made our way to our basic, but clean and comfortable, hotel room, where we thankfully settled down to sleep. In the morning we had the three-hour drive back to Durham, which would herald the end of another wonderful, wonderful cruise holiday.  Can’t wait for the next one!  😊

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