UK travel writer John Gimlette described Sri Lanka as “the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen” in his entertaining travel memoir Elephant Complex (2015).
The island's natural beauty is legendary, but amongst its built environments the Old Galle Fort is really something unique. At first glance the streets may remind you of an Andalusian village, the French enclave of Pondicherry in South India, or even an ancient medina in Morocco. In fact, Galle is all this and more, for it has featured on seafarers' maps for more than 2000 years, as traders sought its many riches - elephants, pearls, cinnamon and rubies.
Portugal colonised a fort here from 1505, the Dutch usurped it in 1656, and in 1795 Ceylon became a British colony (until 1948). Each epoch has left its mark and for an artist, inspiration is everywhere: time-worn surfaces of colonial architecture filled with fascinating objects, lush jungly plants shading and scenting cobbled streets, the diverse dress and food of cultures who’ve lived here for centuries beneath an ever-changing tropical sky ... it's like being inside a novel ... while never far away, the sound of the cerulean sea lapping at the ramparts which have encircled this fort for five centuries.
THE SERENDIPITY ART RETREAT in SRI LANKA with ESTE MACLEOD
An all-inclusive tropical holiday with art and yoga tuition, fine dining & cultural adventures in UNESCO’s World Heritage Old Galle Fort and beyond. Presented by acclaimed UK artist Este Macleod in collaboration with Anna Kwiecinska, who is currently living in Sri Lanka.
STARTS on Arrival (Day1) 29 November & ENDS after breakfast on December 7 (Day 9), 2021
Este Macleod is an acclaimed British artist and designer whose way of teaching will show you ways to turn the things you notice into expressive, sophisticated artworks on paper using new dynamic painting and mixed media techniques.
Her way of teaching will spark your imagination, get you in a creative flow and show ways to broaden your art practice as anyone who's experienced Este's popular on-line courses will know.
Este will have your imagination sparking from the get go as we journey from Colombo to Galle, your creative flow just bursting to express itself once we take up residence in our private boutique hotel for the week ahead!
Meet Este Macleod
Your Serendipity Experience Begins in Colombo
Your Sri Lankan experience starts the moment you arrive, with your private taxi bringing you from the airport to the iconic Galle Face Hotel, known for years as the 'smartest hotel east of the Suez Canal'. Your deluxe 'Landmark' room awaits, and I'll be there to meet you - and if you're not too late, let's meet for a welcome drink on the verandah, overlooking the Indian Ocean ?
Breakfast leisurely before a guided drive through Colombo on our spacious coach, as we travel to the property of one of the 20th Century's most influential architects (110Km). Known as 'the father of Tropical Modernism' his designing did not stop at buildings - furniture, textiles and landscaping completed his famous ensembles, and today you'll be treated to a welcome lunch and tour of his private estate.
Afternoon tea and an art viewing of works by eminent Sri Lankan artists of the late C.20th complete our explorations before we drive the final 74km to Galle Fort with a quiet dinner in our hotel.
Your home for the next seven nights is within the 3km perimeter of the C.17th Galle Fort.
It's a world away from the bustling Galle town just beyond the ramparts. Your Dutch colonial-style hotel is a our private oasis this week. A courtyard garden filled with frangiapani, shady verandahs, spacious work areas and an atmospheric dining salon, and an elevator for those that want to avoid the stairs (the hotel's 14 rooms are on two levels).
Beyond the gates, a quaint village atmosphere caught in time, where you can safely wander, discovering cafes, restaurants and gelaterie, emporia of Indian textiles, and dazzling jewellery boutiques showcasing the most precious of the island's many riches - Sri Lankan blue sapphires. The village is friendly, welcoming and I can't wait to introduce you to my friends there!
Did you know that 'Serendipity' is a word that derives from Sri Lanka ?
British aesthete Horace Walpole coined it in 1754 to describe "the finding of agreeable things not sought for".
He was drawing on the heroes of a Persian fairytale 'The Three Heroes of Serendip' who were 'always making discoveries, by accident or sagacity, of things they were not in quest of'.
Centuries earlier, Arab traders, plying the region for rubies, topazes, sapphires and cinnamon, called the island we now know as Sri Lanka, 'Serendib', and today the OED defines seredipity as 'the occurence ad development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way'
So why not join us for a week of Serendipity ... happy encounters with history, art and inspiring people
More about Este Macleod
Este is a free-spirited artist with a background in textile design. She has been teaching on-line art courses since 2015, focusing on processes and concepts to make individuals' creativity blossom. These courses have gained an incredible following, as Este combines carefully-selected materials and techniques and shows different methods to be used for continued exploration.
"When I teach, I keep guidelines tight and simplify processes, the knowledge gained enables the flourishing of new ideas when applied to individual art practices."
Este is a professional artist and designer. In addition to her paintings sold in galleries in the UK and internationally, her work is used in a variety of products ranging from wallpapers and textiles, homeware, ceramics, puzzles, stationary and book illustrations.
Born in South Africa, Este has been living in the UK since 1999.
Her educational background includes: HND Textile Design, Fine Art Printmaking, BA Hons Ceramics and Glass, MA in Contemporary Jewellery Design.
How did the retreat come about ? and who is Anna ?
This Serendipity Art Retreat evolved through my participation with Este's on-line art courses during the first year of Covid, when I found myself stranded here in Sri Lanka. They were something of a life-saver and offered me new approaches to drawing and design which have created really wonderful avenues to expand my ways of working. I feel kind of empowered with these new resources which offer a freedom within frameworks - and I'm now practising art as I do yoga - most days!
With our evolving friendship and Sri Lanka returning to life with excellent management and tourism already happening since mid-February 2021, we decided to create this retreat together for those who yearn to travel and paint amongst friends in a beautiful tropical landscapes.
I have been designing and coordinating art and yoga retreats since 2011 in Bali and now, Sri Lanka is an exciting new option. Of course, safety is always my first concern, so I've been mindful to choose a hotel which can accommodate our small group (max. 12 participants) in an exclusive environment where we will be the only guests - and yes! there's a full refund for covid-related cancellations. About Anna
Este and I really look forward to sharing our passion for art, design, travel and food with you this year!
You may wish to extend your island experience on your own or follow your art retreat with our 'More Serendipity Slow Travel Option, the shape of which is evolving as Sri Lanka opens up and I have the opportubity to personally check the destinations and accommoations before confirming the details, as not all hotels have fared as well as others during these long months of inactivity.
I can also assist you with transfers and other options should you wish to do your own thing before or after the retreat. In any case, please don't hesitate to be in touch if you have any queries - there is a live chat line on this site or just use the contact form.
How does the retreat work?
Each day is a little different, and we want to keep it relaxed and relaxing, but Este is super-keen that you get as much out of your retreat as possible, so here's what you can expect (leaving room for serendipity!)
YOGA 6.30 - 7.45 am on alternate mornings with UK instructor Hayley
(gentle hatha yoga for all levels of experience, including those trying it for the first time)
On two other mornings there will be guided walks around the fort and breakfasts in lovely locations
BREAKFAST 7.30 - 8.45
(lots of choice, including traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts. Special dietary requests can be catered) for)
ART SESSION 9.30 -12.30 with morning tea
LUNCH BREAK 12.30- 2.00
ART SESSION 2.00 - 5.00 with afternoon tea
DINNER from 7.00 pm
and sometimes we’ll also have a bonus impromptu art session after dinner
An afternoon excursion with sunset cocktails and fine dining after dark
and of course, there’s time to explore the fort and its labyrinth of alleys historic churches, Buddhist temple, mosque and museums, all within easy walking distance of your hotel
You’ll also have two free evenings with a wealth of options both in the fort and beyond for dining
A Word about Food
Sri Lankan food is very flavoursome, and reflects the many ethnicities on the island. Sure, an authentic curry can be fiery, but you won't be challenged to that unless you wish ... culinary choices here are diverse, and as mild as you like.
Let Anna know of your special dietary requirements at booking.
What does your Retreat include?
Airport Taxi collection with name board on arrival at the International Airport
Deluxe 'Landmark' category Room in the Galle Face Hotel Colombo Heritage Hotel with breakfast and wifi inclusive
A/C bus tour from Colombo to Galle Fort (day 1) 147 km
Day 1 includes bus tour of Colombo with driver and guide
Each passenger is assured of a window seat and a spare seat next to them for social distancing (if your partner comes along they will be sitting next to you)
‘Welcome Lunch’ is a private dining experience in a gorgeous tropical garden setting in an iconic private estate (not a set menu – plenty to choose from including Western and Sri Lankan dishes, with a delicious selection of fresh seafood)
Private guided walking tour of the seductive country retreat created by Geoffery Bawa, father of the international architectural movement known today as ‘Tropical Modernism'
Afternoon tea with Art Get too know the works of Sri Lanka’s most influential late 20th century artists
Deluxe Accommodation for 7 nights in Galle Fort, at a peaceful and spacious Dutch heritage-inspired garden property, reserved for our group's exclusive use throughout the entire retreat week.
There are 2 categories of rooms :
DELUXE (10 identical A/C rooms) – QS bed, balcony garden view with ‘sit out’ recliner facing into the frangiapani courtyard
PREMIUM (2 extra spacious, identical A/C rooms) - TWO QS beds, balcony view with ‘sit out’ onto garden and Church Street.
The HOTEL HAS AN ELEVATOR (this is very rare in Galle Fort - possibly unique!)
Your hotel is private, spacious, off the busiest streets and centre of town, yet within a five minutes’ walk of two museums, the two main churches and the white sand (swimmable ) beach.
30 Hours of Art Tuition with Este Macleod - 10 x 3 hr sessions - at our hotel, plus impromptu evening sessions with Este
All Art Materials that you will need to do this course (concentrating on watercolours on paper - these are the same professional materials that Este uses in her work and online teaching, but feel free to bring your favourites brushes or drawing equipment too - more details in pre-retreat information
Yoga with Hayley (from the UK), on alternate mornings (3) – gentle stretchy yoga suitable for experienced yogis as well as those looking forward to trying yoga for the first time.
Two walking tours of the Galle Fort with a fort storyteller
Lunches - 6 - provided during the retreat - a selection of working lunches at our hotel for those that don't want to stop painting, and delicious light lunches at safe and pretty venues within the fort
Morning and afternoon teas each day
Dinners - 4 – two fine dining experiences in the fort plus a couple of adventures beyond the ramparts:
On one evening we’ll set off to a dreamy destination for sunset cocktails and dinner at a stunning mountain retreat
And we’ll dine at an elegant seaside location in one of Sri Lanka's most iconic settings
Entry to the Galle Maritime Museum … an excellent place to spend some hours getting to know about the two millennia of seafaring history that Galle has been an essential part of - not to be missed!
Full details and inclusions not visible on mobile view
We have just 12 places for fully participating artists. Non-participating partners and friends are welcome to join us as ASSOCIATES and participate in all of our activities and meals except yoga, art and our working lunches.
There's a wealth of activities that partners can avail themselves of for the hours of the retreat. This is an exceedingly rich area, and there's no shortage of possibilities. I'm happy to offer any ideas if you care to share specific areas of interest with me, and I can arrange transport with trusted providers if you need any assistance in planning your days.
In Galle, all rooms are Deluxe, with a QS bed or twin singles, and the super-sized Suites features 2 QS beds (only 2 suites)
Single -1 Participant £2350 per person
Twin - 2 Participants £1775 per person
Twin - 1 Participant + 1 Associate £2795 total for 2
Suite - 2 participants £2050 per person
Suite - 1 Participant +1 Associate £3250 total for 2
Booking your Place
Your place is secured with a deposit of £250 per person. Full payment is not required until 29 October 2021.
*We have only 2 Premium Deluxe Suites, and as of 6th June, one is still available.
This retreat is not designed with children in mind. Please read the retreat terms and conditions
SECURE YOUR GUARANTEED PLACE with a refundable deposit
JOIN A PRIORITY WAITLIST to be notified when places are available / retreat is definitely confirmed (in respect to Covid)
Two Ways to Save Your Place on the Serendipity Retreat
Booking with a deposit gives you Priority Booking for SERENDIPITY PLUS - an optional extension Masterclass with Este Macleod and Anna starting after lunch on December 7 (Day 10) and ending after breakfast on December 13 (Day 14).
The details of this extension will be available shortly, Anna is personally scouting venues that suit our demanding requirements for beauty, service, comfort and inspiration!