A long bus ride through the rugged roads of Tamil Nadu had left me craving for some exquisite French cuisine. Which was natural, as I had come to the ‘Europe of India’- Puducherry.
Instead, I had to settle for a restaurant famous for its Chettinad cuisine. And it has branches in Dubai & Singapore as well! Set before me was a banana leaf. I ordered for Chinese Fried Rice, which the waiter promptly got me. I looked helplessly as he placed the bowl of steaming fried rice before me and walked away. I was expecting him to replace the leaf with a plate, perhaps. Looking around embarrassed, I served myself on the banana leaf. And when I saw nobody noticing the weirdness, I confidently started eating. Soon the waiter returned, offering me a side dish. I thought to myself, what had I to lose anyway? I let him suggest, to which he promptly said- Chettinad chicken was their speciality. And within no time, I was mixing the chicken gravy with my fried rice and eating from my leafy platter. And this was just the beginning of my Pondy-trip.
Pondicherry has an exciting assortment of beaches, each unique and beautiful in itself. The Rocky beach, also known as the Gandhi beach has boulders, on which the sea waves crash. And running parallel is the Promenade. It is a wonderful place by day, and more so by night when it is closed to vehicles. People come to casually stroll there under the warm orange street lights, with the noisy dark sea on one side and fancy eateries on the other, offering the perfect way to retire for the day.
Cruising on a motor boat to Paradise Beach.
A small motor boat takes you through a creek to the Paradise beach. And when you step on the white sand, you realise, it truly is its namesake. A board declaring-‘Welcome to Paradise Beach’ sweeps you into the cool embrace of the deep blue waters. The dwarf coconut trees make a perfect shade to sit & picnic around. There are also some thatched cottages where people can relax. They also have some make-shift changing rooms. A small eatery, selling cold drinks & snacks, completes the perfect setting. Look around you and you’ll see only water. Jump into the sea for a bath. A couple of police securities, with whistles are also posted, to keep a watch that nobody swims too deep. A good long ride back to the city on the hired moped dries you of the salty sea water.
The famed Aurobindo Ashram is close to the Gandhi beach. Set amidst a tranquil neighbourhood, it is a small building. You can almost go past it without it catching your attention. As you enter through its humble doors, you instantly soak in the quietness, as the disciples show you directions about the ashram, in hushed tones. It has lots of photographs and books by Aurobindo Ghosh & the Mother, his spiritual collaborator. You come out feeling, having entered another dimension.
The Matrimandir, at Auroville.
A long (I mean really long) ride takes you away from the city to the township of Auroville. It has settlements and dwellers and shops and is hard to ascertain exactly from where the establishment begins. The main attraction is the much hyped, and very aptly so, the Matrimandir. This golden dome is huge and grand to the sight, but unfortunately allows only those serious about meditating. But a cultural centre gives you all the details about the inside of this mysterious structure. And it’s fascinating. It also has a huge banyan tree, which is the geographic centre of the township. And this isn’t just a tree; it has buttress roots and aerial roots covering an extensive area and looks like an old, gigantic tree stooping over many barks for support. Few minutes ride from here is the Auroville beach. This is a conventional sandy beach like any of our east-Indian beaches, with hawkers selling hats and goodies on the embankment. Getting a splash here is almost mandatory because it’s a safe beach.
The French consulate.
Puducherry is a calm city with friendly, cooperative people. From the typical South-Indian snacks to the tasteful Fresh cuisine, and to the evergreen Pizzas, you’ll be spoilt for choice of food. Life takes a very relaxed pace as you set your foot in Pondy! Not only for tourists, but the people there also have shaken off the hurriedness, which is such a common plague in any city.
Verdict- Must visit!
- Do visit the ‘Rendezvous‘ restaurant, tucked away next to the Gandhi beach, for some nice authentic French dishes and a lovely ambience.
- ‘The Lighthouse’ at the Promenade, another amazing place for food and definitely the view!
I’m looking forward to visiting again for a leisure vacation and this time, stay at Auroville!
Did I miss out anything? Which is your favourite place to eat at Pondicherry?