For a dose of south Indian culture along with French flavours, travel to the city of Pondicherry, perched on India's east coast in Tamil Nadu.
Pondicherry, the French capital of India, is a destination that offers you a lot more than you can imagine. You will feel serenity and sanctity in its true sense. The city will charm you with its colourful urban architecture depicting the French style, ample of places to fill in our tummy with French delicacies, streets with French names keeping the vintage touch alive.
I wonder how a bridge managed to separate the chaotic Indian atmosphere from the serene French culture.
Pondicherry is a haven for both - the traveller in the quest for spiritual awakening, and the leisure-seeking tourist. One of the region's most sacred attractions, is the internationally acclaimed Sri Aurobindo Ashram located off Goubert Ave. Drawing lakhs of devotees from across the world every year. This place is devoted to the shrines of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother). It also has a meditation hall, which is one of the most peaceful places to visit in Pondicherry.
Before we rundown through the trip, here are few things you all need to be aware of.
Best time to visit : Pondicherry will serve you with its best climate during the pre-winter and winter months. You can experience rains during the months of October and November due to retreating of monsoon.
How to get there :
By Air : Pondicherry Airport is a domestic airport located at Lawspet in Pondicherry is the easiest route to reach. There are frequent flights from Major Cities. Chennai Airport is the nearest International Airport which is 135 Kms from Pondicherry (3hrs drive)
By Road : Pondicherry lies on NH 45 which is 150 Kms from Chennai (3-4 hours drive) would recommend you travelling by State Volvo Buses and from Bangalore it is 320 Kms.
By Rail : There are trains up to Pondicherry station but the connectivity of the trains are not frequent. Other than that you can get down at Villupuram station which is 35 Kms from Pondicherry and is very well-connected.
Places to visit :
Sri Aurobindo Ashram :
It is a spiritual community that is located in the French town. The ashram is surrounded by trees shading the blissful courtyard, at the centre of which is a Samadhi covered with variety of flowers. You will instantly fall in love with its serene environment. Many come here seeking solace from the stressed life. The calmness of the place is the best for meditation. I remember going there twice during my trip and I was truly charmed by its positive Aura around.
Apart from that, this place also has a huge library presenting spiritual books in languages all around the world.
The place has few time restrictions and also you are not allowed to use your cell phones or camera to maintain the silence and sanity of the place.
Promenade beach is very close to Sri Aurobindo Ashram and is something which cannot be missed. As entered the vicinity I could smell the fresh breeze of ocean and a view of the gigantic waves crashing relentlessly to the rocks, sending salty spray over the front road. I reached early in the evening so that I don't miss the beautiful sight of the sun disappearing behind the ocean and painting the sky with different shades of orange and pink.
There is no entry for the vehicles after 5pm to ensure hassle free wandering of the people. The beach road filled with delight sight of locals and tourist cycling and lazily walking around the long stretch. On the stretch, there is the Dupleix Statue, Gandhi Statue, Ambedkar Mani Mandapam, French War Memorial, a few Government Offices and some beach side Hotels.
French War Memorial
Dedicated to those soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country during the first world war. Located opposite to Gandhi Statue on Beach Road, it takes a small amount of time to stroll around the area. It was built-in 1971 and is illuminated on 14th of July celebrated as Bastille day.
It's impossible to come to Pondicherry and not visit Auroville. Known across India and the globe for producing high quality natural incense sticks, essential oils and exquisite handmade paper, which are also retailed throughout India. The Auroville commune founded in 1968, is the brain child of the Mother (Mira Alfassa) who aimed to create a free thinking society/nation made up of people from different countries creating cultural harmony.
This restaurant is a perfect blend of South meeting North. The first thing which will attract you to this place would be a colourful, quirky Scooter right in the entrance followed by lovely decor and fairy lights adding its own charm. I remember ordering Chole Tikki Amritsari, Lachha Tokari, Dahi Papdi, Dahi Bhalla which clearly states how much I love Chaat. All the items were delicious mix of tangy, sweet and spicy.
Address : 6, Rue De La Marine, White Town
Baker Street :
Your trip would be considered as incomplete if you miss this bakery joint. Hidden in the midst of the crowded MG Road this Cafe offers you authentic French Delicacies. They serve varieties of croissants, cinnamon rolls, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, stuffed puffs and don't even get me started on the bakery!
Address : 123, Bussy Street, MG Road, Puducherry
The Indian Kaffe Express :
This place is a great to start off your morning. It is tucked inside the bright and beautiful lanes of the White town. They serve the best eggs in Pondicherry. I even ordered Mushroom Parathas and trust me you'll love how buttery and stuffy they are. How can I forget those yummy waffles dipped in maple syrup with whipping cream which added exquisite taste to it.
Address : 3, Rue Dumas Street, Near IG Office
Am sure this is enough to tempt you to book your tickets for this French experience without Visa ????