Colours – blue, yellow, red, etc – reflecting on the waters against the backdrop of the houses close to the beach. Come to Pondicheery and see the ethereal scenery and much more. This erstwhile French colony still has road signs in French (along with English & Tamil), baguettes & croissants for breakfast, and some French-speaking people. However, Pondicherry (now renamed as Pudducherry) is also a great mélange of Hindu temples, well-designed abodes, balmy ashrams, exquisite French cuisine, etc. The French colonised this meager town long time ago but some of that allure still hovers in this union territory located 160 kms south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. You can spend your time by eating French delicacies, or walk by the beach, stroll around by clicking selfies around colorful friezes.
Here are the top 5 things you should do, while in Pondicherry:
1. Visit Sri Aurobindo Hand Made Paper Shop
Sri Aurobindo hand-made paper shop sells a variety of eco friendly , colourful hand-made paper in various forms like home decor, diaries, calendar, statues, painting, books, holders, etc. They are made by volunteers who come to visit the ashram specially women who come in search of peace. Volunteers are inspired to believe in themselves, explore their own creative mind, discover, and develop new techniques in art. Inspired by the ancient Japanese art of Suminagashi, their hand marbled sheets present a colourful array of unique design. They are available in bond and card type. You can ask the shop in-charge to give you factory tour of how paper is made from soaking the cotton, to dieing, to flattening into thin layers, drying to colouring, etc. I have seen it all and rejoiced each moment. It is quite a sight to see that recycled cotton can be used in leading edge style; you will definitely be tempted to pick up few.
2. Admire Mediterranean style French houses
French influence being strong in the city, especially in the old quarters, with rues and boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, you can stroll around in the cycle in the lanes of French Quarter. Many private homes you will see with white shutters and bright yellow & colourful windows lined with red/pink bougainvillea, and bicycles parked outside, create a very Mediterranean feel. Sit in a quintessential mango coloured rickshaw and take ride with them to see various streets with names like Rue Romain Rolland, Suffren and Dumas. Many beautifully designed French building have now turned into boutique hotels. Yes now the first thing coming to your mind would be, can you click your Facebook profile picture against these colours? Yes, you can
3. Visit La Villa Shanti for delicious French cuisine
Hidden behind a discrete facade, this big 19th century house located in the old French town (white town) , serves great French cuisine for dinner, lunch and breakfast which you definitely do not want to miss. The service at La Villa Shanti is prompt, and warm to make food more delicious. The restaurant is divided into two areas, one open on the patio and the vertical garden, air conditioned and the other located in the old building. I drooled over raw papaya salad in French style and Salad Niçoise with contains lettuce and includes tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olives, green beans, potatoes, shallots and other ingredients. It is served with a vinaigrette dressing. Now I hope you fill your stomach enough with French delicacies .
4. Watch sunset across beaches
Driving across the East Coast Road, the coastal highway from Pondicherry from Chennai is very scenic; the well-maintained toll road attracts a lot of road trip. After heavy meals, you can take a walk across the landscape of Pondicherry road where you can see orange, red, yellow hue s of sun draping the sky. Your evenings will be serene as you see cultured people walking across the promenade. Each beach, each road across Pondicherry has an aesthetic look to it. Most of my time I have spent cycling and biking around these areas. It has immense number of beaches where the sun and sand junkies can spend the time by lying down and reading book or stare at hues of sunset. The four beaches that I went and stroll during evenings are the Promenade, Serenity Beach, Auroville Beach and Paradise Beach.
5. Discover yourself in Auroville
The visionary thinking of a French lady, Mirra Alfasa, reverently referred to as “the Mother” known to her followers as The Mother, was the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. She developed an ideal township to experiment human unity. Spirituality and discovering yourself is what I figured at this place. This was a coming together of people from 124 nations with each donating a handful of soil from their home country to mark the inauguration. The inhabitants still maintain the international roots of its origin. The place provides an environment-friendly environment for its residents and for others by promoting a range of sustainable research programmes.
Places to Visit in Pondicherry