Simple yet pretty, chic yet spiritual, flamboyant yet restrained…Pondicherry indeed is a rare concoction. It was a few years back that we first met this place and needless to say it was love at first sight. A three and half hour drive from Chennai airport transported us to the French Riviera of the East, where we spent a good and wholesome four days.
A strict and structured schedule is the last thing you want to do to this place as Pondy is free, abstract and unstructured. The cliché touristy sight-seeing and souvenir shopping is just what is not needed. Sharing a relaxed outline of things we enjoyed doing during our stay.
1) WALKS DOWN THE FRENCH QUARTERS
Tree lined broad clean boulevards, pastel toned buildings, quirky graffitis, the smell of bougainvillea and baguettes… yes the French quarters are straight out of any fairy tale. Be it an early morning exploration or an afternoon stroll or a late night walk- Ville Blanche can do wonders for your mood.
2) VISIT AUROVILLE
This experimental township dedicated to universal peace, harmony, sustainability and divine consciousness is just a bus/auto ride away from Pondy. The simplicity and serenity of this place is something you cannot ignore. We visited Auroville thrice during our stay. The first day saw us doing some touristy stuff like posing in front of the Matri Mandir, gorging on sumptuous food at the café in the visitors’ area and some shopping in the boutiques. On the second day we went for a concentration session inside the Matri Mandir for which prior registration had to be done. The walk through the interiors of this architectural marvel and the cathartic concentration session in that chamber within was a transforming experience and was well beyond words.
3) VISIT THE TAMIL QUARTERS
Dusty, dirty and chaotic, the Tamil Quarters are a stark contrast to its French counterpart, but yet has its own charm. You cannot just ignore those unique Franco-Tamil architecture, the steel utensil selling shops and the glass of hot filter coffee.
4) SIT AND STROLL IN THE PROMENADE
This 1.2 km long stretch along the Bay of Bengal is a signature Pondicherry. The rocks, the cafes, the statues and a harbor and happy faces are what make this place extremely popular. This stretch is kept closed from 5 pm in the evening to 7 am the next morning thus giving the pedestrians all the freedom they need and want! A walk down the promenade during those hours is something one should not miss out on.
5) EAT, EAT AND EAT
If not for anything else visit Pondicherry for its culinary offerings. Quirky cafes like Café des Artes, eclectic fine dining at Le Dupleix and The Promenade, the perfect croissant at Baker’s Café and anytime knick knacks at Le Café…Pondy has it all. I would not be wrong when I say that we were in a perpetual food coma for all those 4 days.
Pondicherry was an experience rather than a holiday. I am sure I am going back again. Hope this guide helps you to explore and love Pondy, just the way we do!
Devlina, in her own words, is “Just another Bengali woman proud of her Rabindrasangeet and Rosogolla roots ….. a Psychiatrist, still picking up the shells on the Freudian shore !”