It was our first wedding anniversary and we wanted to celebrate it big way. We researched a few places and zoomed in to Pondicherry-French Riviera of the East. Well! Pondy as it is famously called because of its architecture reminiscence of the French colonial rule and culture.
Little bit about the place
Pondicherry now called Puducherry or Pondy (unofficially) is a Union Territory situated at around 150 Km from Chennai. Interestingly, this place is not a single mass of land rather it is divided into small pieces, thus while driving in Pondicherry, you may enter Tamil Nadu at several places and again enter Pondicherry. Before being united with the Republic of India in 1954, it was a French colony who purchased it in 17th Century. Pondicherry was established in 1674 by François Martin, who was the first director of the French East India company. French constructed many buildings here and the city has still retained its French signature. Many of those buildings have been converted into Govt buildings like Raj Niwas and many other into Heritage Hotels.
How we reached?
Since, there are no direct flights available to Pondicherry from any where in India as of now, the best way to reach Pondicherry is to reach Chennai via flight/bus/train. We reached by flight to Chennai and drove to Pondicherry through the beautiful ECR (East Coast Road) which took around 3 hrs (approx 150 Km) with a pit stop for some delicious and authentic sea food. The ECR route in itself is mesmerizing with Green cover on both sides and driving alongside backwaters of the sea for a stretch of around 2 Km.
We stayed at...
We had already booked our hotel with http://goibibo.com. The Richmond, located in the French quarter which is the White Town area. It has 14 well appointed rooms with all the modern day facilities. Immediate proximity of the promenade beach in the quiet French colonial quarter, Pondicherry is completely accessible from here.
The days spent Day 1
We reached around 4 PM and checked in to our Hotel. Without wasting any more time, we immediately set out to explore this beautiful and serene place. We reached The Premenade beach which was about 10 min walk from our hotel. We were greeted by the cool breeze and calm atmosphere of the beach. The Promenade beach is banned for vehicular traffic from 4 PM to 9 AM, thus providing a peaceful experience of strolling along the sea. We sat on the rock beach and relived ourselves from the noise and pollution of big cities we live in. There are many eateries, cafe and restaurant on the Promenade where one can enjoy amazing food especially sea food. We took our seat at one such cafe, Le Cafe. In fact it is the only cafe situated right on the beach and the rooftop view of the sea on one side and the city on the other was definetly a breathtaking experience. We ordered the wood fired pizzas which are a speciality of Pondicherry. We complimented that with the taste of some GMT ice cream few mins walk from the Le Cafe.
This completed our dinner and we returned to our hotel after spending some time on the beach allowing sound of crashing of waves against the beach to replace the disturbance of our minds and hearts.
Next day, we woke up early at around 5:30 AM to witness the sunrise at the promenade beach. It was a great experience to see the sun rise from the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, with its first ray of light kissing our face, as we sat on the rocks at the beach. The French Quarters opposite the beach were seem to be illuminated with this first ray of sunlight. Soon, we were once again at Le Cafe for our morning coffee, freshly brewed out of the French cuisine, the Cafe Cortado to go with some french fries.
Google Le Cafe to know more about its interesting history and its cuisines.
Our next destination was Auroville, about 15 Km from White Town. So, we rented a Honda Activa arranged by our hotel and set off to Auroville. Situated amidst the lust green cover, this place is as cool and relaxing. Auroville has a unique history about its creation and establishment which can be read on their website, Auroville.org. Unfortunately, due to COVID related restrictions we could not visit the Matrimandir as it was closed. However, If you plan to come to Pondicherry, Auroville is a must visit. You can spent as much time you wish and they have all arrangement for your comfortable stay. We ate some light stuff at the restaurants inside the Auroville. One can find mouth watering food in these restaurants. Vegan food is also served here.
In order to satiate our hunger pangs and savor some delicious sea food, we once again headed to the Promenade and enjoyed some fried prawns at the rooftop of Seagulls restaurant.
As it was Valentine day, we spent our evening at LB 2 Lounge, next to our hotel and danced it out to the some latest numbers on the dance floor. DJ concept is somewhat new in Pondicherry but you can definitely enjoy some live music at many cafe in white town, Rendevelous being one of them. Also, alcohol is cheaper here as compared to many other cities in India and is served in almost all café and restaurants in Pondicherry.
We got up with some hangover of last night. After some light south Indian breakfast at our hotel, we set out on our scooty to Chunnabar Boat House for a ferry ride to Paradise Beach. The ferry ride takes around 20 min to reach Paradise beach. The way through the backwaters with lust green mangroves on both sides are a treat and a enchanting view. Once we sat our foot on the Paradise beach, we were taken aback by the clean blue waters. We spend around two hours in the waters. (Due to strong waves, swimming is not allowed). There are only two restaurants on the beach. However, we took some fresh tender coconut water to refresh ourselves after the bath in the sea. This was a serene experience as this beach is not only very clean but unique in the way that on this small island, on one side is the strong waves of sea of Bay of Bengal and on the other side is the calm Backwaters.
In the afternoon we visited the Cafe, Les Saveurs for some authentic French cuisines and were greeted by its courteous staff. We had Ragout De Champignons De Poulet Cremeux, a French delicacy made with Chicken and stew in White wine. This is a must visit Cafe if one wishes to try some authentic French food.
We visited a few Churches like Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Conception Cathedral to witness the wonderful architecture and for divine blessings. We also went to Sri Aurobindo Ashram for meditation and then to nearby market areas for some shopping.
Now, it was time for our evening coffee so we headed straight to Coromondal Cafe, the another must visit cafe in Pondicherry, not only because of their mouthwatering food, but also the cosy ambience. You can try any dish here and won't be disappointed, be it the pastas, cakes, pastries or beverage like coffee or anything on their menu, you may have to wait as this cafe is at times houseful, but let me tell you, its worth the wait.
Now, it was almost desk and we headed to serenity beach to spend our evening in the serene environment of the beach. One of the distinctive features of the Serenity Beach is the existence of sandy beaches and also a rocky beach along its stretch. We stumbled upon once such rock stretch going into the sea to feel the cool breeze on our face. The Serenity beach has a number of stalls providing fresh fish delicacies and other Pondicherry local food. We munched upon one such shop for some freshly prepared fish fry in authentic south Indian flavor. It was perfect end to a long day before heading back to the hotel for a good night sleep before checking out next day for our return journey.
Few notes, if you wish to travel to Pondicherry.
Hiring a two wheeler costs in the range of 250-400 bucks per day and there are many shops offering such facility.
We booked our cab through Goibibo.com and it costed us approx Rs 1900/- inclusive of all taxes and toll charges
There are many areas for photography, be it the beaches or cafe
Shopping freaks can enjoy buying Handicrafts, fabrics, food items, home decor, you name it, they have it. The places include, Serenity Bazar, casablanca etc.
Many other places to visit include, French War Memorial, Kargil War Memorial, Mahatma Gandhi Statue, Pondicherry Mueseum etc. Most of these one may find at The Promenade itself.
White Town area is the French Colony where one can find the French Quarters and almost all famous cafe, restaurants in and around it.
For south Indian food lovers, Chettinad Karaikal and Surguru good to go.
White Town is home to some of the best buildings and the whole place seems like you are in some part of France of that era. As the name suggests, this area was reserved for the white (French) people back in the day. It is a very well planned area and this is where you can find the bright yellow and white walls, arched gates lined with bougainvillea, and clean European-style streets, even the names like Dumas street etc. It is also home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in Pondicherry and taking a stroll through White Town is a must for any person visiting Pondicherry, one can rent a bicycle to take a ride to enjoy the exquisite view of this place
Enjoy local sea food at small shops near Sea beaches especially Serenity beach.
We stayed for 3 days in Pondicherry in the month of Feb, it was an amazing trip not only because it was our wedding anniversary but also it coincided with the Valentine weekend and we managed to enjoy and relax at this small but spectacular town on the east coast of India.
This was originally posted