Here’s a beach destination which isn’t just about sun and sand, its about vibrant palatial mansions and spiritual pursuits. When in Pondy, go slow. Enjoy Creole influenced cuisines, lazy breakfasts, pause at the promenade and take a break from the searing heat, sit by the Rock beach in the evenings to enjoy the sunset. From bright, colour burst walls and Bougainvillea draped doorways that have been the photographer’s muse for years, to perky French cafes, pristine beaches, to austerity and self-realisation at Aurobindo Ashram-there’s a host of reason to visit the city of paradoxes, a place where modernity meets spirituality. Pondicherry or Puducherry for the formal reference, often referred to as “Pondy” with affection, is a place with a perfect amalgamation of French and Tamil cultures.
How I wish the world was a landmass devoid of Visa and Travel restrictions! Short road trips to literally any place in the vicinity never sounded as exciting as now. I can’t recollect when it was last that I used my beach/swimming accessories-it’s probably been more than a year. A beach vacation was impending and road journey being the sole preference in present times, Pondicherry did sound exciting.
Effervescent yet serene, Pondy won my heart from the moment I disembarked and entered Le Pondy. Masked faces greeted us as we walked through bamboo laden alleys arching to shade us from the scorching post noon sun. Leafy boulevards and colonial arches, the resort resounds the Franco-Tamil culture and ethos we were about to witness over the next few days.
About a 6 hour drive from Bengaluru, this place seems to be have been stuck in a time warp. Pondicherry was a French Colony until the year 1954, way past India’s independence. Be it food, cultural ethos or architecture, Pondicherry has managed to retain its colonial charm and essence and offers a perfect blend of French and Tamil cultures.
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to choosing a stay, there’s umpteen options to choose from. You could either choose to stay at one of homestays at the Tamil Quarter at White Town which would fit any budget, or, pick the luxury stays at La Villa and the likes to experience luxe and comfort.
Just in case homestays aren’t your thing, you could choose to stay at one of the luxury resorts like Le Pondy or CGH Earth on the other side of the town. Most of these resorts have private beach access. You could choose to stay Sea-facing rooms offering picturesque views of the Indian Ocean or enjoy the Luxury Villas with a private pool.
Having done my homework to try out those classic French crepes or the Creole cuisine (authentic Franco-Tamil), I did look forward to those. However, I did receive a blow in those terms. Those exclusive Franco-Tamil flavours were missing from the scene. What’s evolved over the years is a blend. There’s probably just a handful of those authentic ones left in the White Town, likely to be outnumbered soon by the globalization wave and the serve-it-all homogenous Pizza-Pasta places.
Just in case you’re on a culinary tour in Pondy, you’re probably about to witness a unique fuse of sorts-where tamarind meets vinegar go and turmeric and Indian spices make their way to quiches, giving birth to a whole of new repertoire of cuisines. Gratins and chicken chettinad, paysam and chocolate banana crepes on the same plate are again a by product of the “Franco-Tamil” blend in Pondy.
FOOD IN PONDY
Bakers Street is a perfect choice for breakfast in Pondicherry to enjoy flaky almond croissants follow by some delectable crepes and coffee.
If you choose to stay in the White Town area, getting around would be much easier. Start with a breakfast at one of the French cafes at White Town- enjoy a buttery croissant and coffee at Hope Cafe or Baker’s Street and sign off with a chocolate éclair. Next, head straight to the Promenade and Rock Beach for a stroll.
I found Pondy and it’s public beaches cleaner than quite a few other Indian ones. Enjoy a breezy stroll at the Rock Beach. Once you’ve explored the promenade, start with the Franco-Tamil architecture tour-French Consulate building around the corner would probably be the first one to greet you. In close vicinity are the ‘Old Lighthouse’ and ‘Gandhi Mandapam’ with its eight monolithic pillars are an architectural delight worth a capture.
Walk down the by-lanes and alleys to enjoy Bougainvillea heaped doorways and color burst lanes with colonial architectures. You’re likely to be greeted by some gorgeous graffiti art worth admiration as you walk towards “Cluny Embroidery Centre” and enjoy beautiful embroidery by the local women.
Just a few miles away, peace and tranquility awaits those seeking progressive harmony, meditation and spiritual pursuits. Auroville. An experimental township, Auroville was founded by The Mother and draws spirituality enthusiasts from acroos the globe.
You must pre book and collect your passes a day prior to your visit. Some of the activities maybe temporarily suspended due to Covid 19, yet a visit to the Matrimandir dome and gardens are bound to instil peace and tranquility in you.
Post your Auroville visit, you could head to stop and shop at Janaki, Casablanca or The Cotton House. You’re bound to pick some extraordinary souvenirs from one of these boutiques.
WHEN IN PONDY…
So when you’re around Pondy, the must-do list is here, …Auroville- For it’s serenity and tranquility,…Rock Beach and Promenade- for the perfect sunrises and evening strolls….White Town- For those quirky Color block mansions, Franco-Tamil architectures and bougainvillea heaped doorways….French Cafes- For the perfect crepes and flaky croissants.