If you admire nature, indulge in yoga & meditation and love to watch the sunset near the sea beaches, without a doubt Pondicherry ( Today renamed Puducherry & Pondi as we call it) is your destination.
It was a random plan, when we just loaded our SUV with some quick bites, beverages and good music 🙂 and was all set to go to Pondi from Chennai, which is only 4 hours road trip of around 150kms. Cruising along the ECR (East Coast Road) and playing hide & seek with the Bay of Bengal, we drove into the French quarter, the city unfolded its rich past transporting us to the old colonial era. Six thousand miles away from france you can feast on just-baked baguettes and croissants for breakfast; celebrate Bastille Day and Noël with the locals. Sunflower colored churches, painted and sculptured pillars of Hindu temples and mustard yellow town houses — sums up this contradictory yet a pleasing town.
The best thing about this place is that one can cover all main points on a day-trip (about 8 hours) if you have private vehicle. Two days are more than enough to cover all spots leisurely. Anything more if you want to take things very slow and enjoy the city. Pondicherry town is divided into French quarter and Tamil quarter by a canal running north-south. The better planned French part has a vantage location facing the sea. This part also houses all the Govt. offices, museum, hospital and Aurobindo Ashram. The street names such as Rue Francois Martin, Rue Bussy, Rue Romain Roland etc. have a vintage smell. Colonial villas & mansions abound in the French quarter. Many of them have been restored well and transformed into boutique hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. The houses with balustrades on the balcony, ornate grills and large wooden doors & windows can be a photographer’s delight. And the Tamil quarters reflects the traditional southern India.
If you are a sun and sand junkie, then head to any of the four popular beaches around Pondicherry: the Promenade, Serenity Beach, Auroville Beach and Paradise Beach. We drove down to Chunnambar water sports centre, located about 8 Kms. away from Pondicherry town on the way to Cuddalore. The river Chunnambar flows down to the sea and near the estuary is Paradise Beach. The journey along the river by a motorboat was quite scenic with lush greenery on both sides. Watching the flocks of egrets heading home in the evening and silvery fishes jumping with joy, the boat brought us to the small jetty of Paradise Beach. The beach is pristine, very clean and so less crowded, may be due to not so easy accessibility. The sea here is gentle and the waves carry a whole of live shells, which immediately retract into the sand as the wave recedes.
Today’s Pondicherry can surely be classified as the haven for the gourmet. Many interesting eating joints dot the French quarter. Pondi also offers plenty of exciting places to drink, across all budgets. It will never disappoint you with the widespread concoction of spirits it offers.
Pondicherry is also a spiritual pilgrimage to many, with a secular offering of churches, temples and mosques. Visit the Ashram Centre at Rue de la Marine, which has the tomb of the philosopher Sri Aurobindo and his living quarters amidst a pretty little garden. Visit Auroville, 10 kms away from the city. Catch a glimpse of the spiritual center, a golden meditation dome called Matri Mandir.Pondicherry has today emerged as a chic shopping haven. You can shop on crowded Mission Street and visit the funky boutique Casablanca, filled with bric-a-brac, pottery, jewelry and exquisite linens.
After this sunny and sandy day on our way home, we met the rain showers too which we enjoyed with the yummy hot and masala milk and drove back with memories forever and smiles on our faces.
Mrs. Stuti Singh