My trip to Puducherry holds a special place in my heart as this was the first time I travelled with my friends and not under the guidance of my parents . There are many options to travel to Pondicherry but I preferred an air conditioned sleeper bus , and oh my god, what an experience it was ! It is about a four hour ride ( 160 kms )from Chennai to Pondicherry .
Most of us think Pondy is an extended part of Tamil Nadu but it is an independent union territory. Pondicherry you are mon amour ( my love in french ). It’s architecture and culture is mixed in a perfect Indo -French blend. One of the best ways of exploring Pondy is on foot or by riding a bicycle. Though my stay here was short I was determined to visit the prominent spots I had heard about like Auroville, Promenade Hotel, Paradise Beach, Le Cafe, Old Lighthouse and the list goes on.
I was staying at The Richmond Hotel located just beside the Promenade Beach on Roman Rolland Road. I was highly impressed by this hotel because it’s hospitality was top-notch. Richmond is spacious, hygienic, comfortable with a touch of lavishness. Previously the hotel expenses came across as a tad bit high but eventually I was proved wrong as the service in Richmond is very consistent and warm. During my stay, the part I was most excited about was the complimentary breakfast( Sorry , the middle - class in me just kicked in ). They offer regular South Indian breakfast - idli, dosa, upma, apart from that English breakfast is also available like flakes, muffin, scrambled eggs. Richmond has a rich variety of lunch and dinner options for their guests as well. I am sure one would feel at home in this aesthetic paradise.
THE RICHMOND HOTEL
The vicinity around the hotel is secluded and balmy. Delicate wrought iron balconies wrapped the buildings like metal vine, shuttered windows were old and small and bougainvillea created bright spots of colours. The Bay of Bengal is just a step away and the air smelled of salt.
THE PROMENADE BEACH WALKWAY
During the afternoon it was all about strolling along the bright strip of Bay of Bengal, getting tanned, visiting the quirky boutiques, handicraft shops and laying back by the lazy beaches. During the night I would indulge myself in scrumptious delicacies of steak and wine - the sole reason why Pondi was and will always be a siren call for me. The ambience was quintessentially romantic, languid, windy and the lyrical mood of this place swept me off my feet. Who would ever want to leave this paradise?
The highlight of my visit to Pondy was Auroville, a global village. Sri Aurobindo's spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa, also known as the Mother, founded Auroville in 1968. Her aim was to create a town where people of all nationalities could live in peace and progressive harmony, and true to her ideal, the place is calm and composed. Several workshops and therapies in and around the area help people get over their personal demons and be at peace once again. I was delighted to see how Indians and non - Indians lived together in a small town like Auroville and were so satisfied with their easy going and serene lifestyle. The local people were so kind and their innocence blew me away. I established that the source of income of the local people apart from tourism are the small scale industries and handicraft items like jewellery, bags, keychains and bookmarks. The people also take meditation, yoga, cycling classes which will definitely increase one’s concentration and improve mental health. Due to the scorching humid weather of the place I was feeling dizzy and tired. So we decided to have some food and take a break. So we thought to stop by a small eatery called The Well Cafe. The place serves various types of salads, juice and sandwiches. We had Tuna sandwiches and Greek salad. The ice cream shop named Gelato Factory Auroville was my favourite - it provides uncountable natural flavours of ice creams like tulsi, pomegranate, coconut and a lot more. Even for the casual visitor, Auroville is engaging and enchanting.
MATRIMANDIR (AUROVILLE )
Coming to The Promenade Hotel - it is a five star hotel which has the power to woo the tourists with it’s unadulterated beauty and splendour. Nestled by the Promenade beach it is a luxury spot for everyone. The Bay of Buddha - the rooftop restaurant of the Promenade Hotel is a “pie in the sky”. It tosses up culinary experiences that lingers on the taste buds while watching the exquisite starry view of the White Town. As we were dining for the first time in the promenade , we decided to go by the waiter’s recommendation . The waiter was very professional and well mannered. He gave us a few insights on the history of the hotel and he also told us about the mouth - watering cuisines including Indo- Chinese, Pan Asian, Indo - Portuguese, Thai and so on that the restaurant caters to. Finally after much thought we took some of the dishes recommended by him like The Dim Sum, Thai curry with Jasmine Rice, Malaysian Beef Rendang Curry and Korean Jumbo Prawns. To make it even better, we paired our entree with honeyed Thai Coconut Tapioca Pudding which is so creamy and it just melts in your mouth and obviously a Classic Chardonnay was a cherry on the top.
BAY OF BUDDHA ( THE PROMENADE - A HIDESIGN HOTEL)
One of the best things about Pondicherry is the beaches. There are four main beaches: Promenade beach, Paradise beach, Auroville beach and Serenity beach. We visited Paradise and Promenade beach. They were not too crowded compared to other beaches in India. One thing which struck my mind that the beaches in Pondicherry are pretty clean and well kept. And there is nothing quite as refreshing as sitting by a beautiful beach! There are some things in life that one can never get tired of, and watching the sunrise is right on top of that list, at least for me . And if one wants to behold a magical sunrise, one has to be in Pondicherry. One of the feelings, I will never forget in my entire life is that of the sun coming out of the deep blue sea of the Promenade which lifted my heart and made my day. For me the atmosphere of Promenade is detoxifying and refreshing.
THE PROMENADE BEACH
Though I did not get the time to visit the Old Lighthouse, I have heard about it alot from my friends. It is one of Pondicherry's most famous landmarks, which was constructed in 1836 and at that time, was considered very modern because of its unique round tower. It is not operational today but still remains a very interesting tourist attraction.
My trip would have been incomplete without visiting Le café. It’s right on the beach and one cannot miss this place walking on the promenade and is open 24 hours. According to me this place brought history alive in front of my eyes as it is one of the oldest cafes and bustling with people at any hour of the day. Le café brings out the native culture as compared to the French cafes in the old town. I found out that it is a government run place.I was amazed by its quick service laced with an amazing view of Bay of Bengal and peace of mind. If you are looking for beverages this is a good place to be, I tried their cold coffee, Irish and filter coffee and I have to say that it is creamy and it just fills your heart with happiness. As the place is government run, it’s kept up with hygiene and cleanliness. They also serve quick bites like idlis, dosas, sandwiches, juices, milkshakes.
As they say Pondicherry - “ a cosmopolitan mix of shopping, French food, beer, sea air, plenty of yoga and meditation.” Couldn’t agree more.