Having explored Mahabalipuram, we reached Pondicherry around afternoon. We wanted to feel the essence of French colony, hence had made prior booking in a hotel –'Villa Bayoud' at White Town, Pondicherry right in front of the sea. 'Villa Bayoud' has French décor, the furniture are antique in French style. The location of the hotel is also great- right in front of the sea. We are glad to experience what we wanted to!
Villa Bayoud Hotel, White Town, Pondicherry
After quick refreshment, we went out in search of a good place for lunch. After a sumptuous lunch at Café Exotica, we started exploring White Town. It was great to walk down the alleys of White Town in between identical yellow/ grey colored buildings.
French Colony, White Town
First, we went to Aurobindo Ashram. Aurobindo Ashram is an abode of peace. Photography is not allowed inside the place. The moment you step in the place, you will be awestruck by the utter silence of the place. Aurobindo Ashram consists of some interconnected block of houses, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have lived most of their lives. At the centre, in a tree shaded courtyard lies the Samadhi, a white marble shrine where their bodies are laid to rest. One will find people meditating around the Samadhi. This is a very peaceful place. There is a store inside the Ashram, where one will find books, quotes on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in different languages of the world. This is a very popular store. Even after leaving the Ashram, you will be in trance of the peaceful ambiance that prevailed inside.
After spending quite some time there, we went ahead to our next stop - Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. This is one of the beautiful Churches of Pondicherry. We went on 1st January 2016 evening. On New Year, the Church was very beautifully decorated with lights. Felt blessed to have sought blessings of the Lord on the very first day of the year. Having spent considerable time in the Church, we walked down back to Promenade beach. The beach was very crowded on New Year. We found unexpected rush in Pondicherry on New Year. The beauty and breeze of the sea was kind of subdued by the hustle bustle of the crowd.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral
To get rid of the maddening crowd, we started exploring the White Town and landed in our third stop, Eglise de Notre Dame des Angnes. The Church was gorgeously decorated with lights on New Year. The Church was so beautiful and peaceful! I was spellbound by the grandeur architecture of the Church.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Angnes
Finally, We ended our first day in Pondicherry with a grand dinner at La Ville.
Our second day journey began as early as 6am. We went to Promenade beach right in front of our hotel to witness the beautiful sunrise. It was a bit cloudy day, yet we did enjoy beautiful sunrise. The Promenade beach is a rocky beach and is not ideal for swimming or playing in water. One can however sit on the rocks and enjoy the scenic beauty of the beach. There is an iconic Mahatma Gandhi Statue in Promenade beach. The Light House and the French War Memorial are close to Promenade beach.
Sunrise at Promenade beach
Gandhi Statue at Promenade beach
French War Memorial
We had booked a bike for the day. The bike rent was Rs. 400/- per day. First, we went to Auroville- Matri Mandir. On our arrival, first we were introduced to a video of 10 minutes which explains the background story of Auroville and Matrimandir for better understanding. Auroville- Matrimandir is ideally not a place of visit for commercial tourists. One is not allowed to enter Matrimandir unless you intend to meditate. At a distance, a tourist can enjoy the beauty of Matrimandir. However, if you want to go for meditation in Matrimandir, you need to be present in person a day prior to collect ticket. We saw the Matrimandir from a distance. Auroville works exhaustively together with the adjoining village. One will witness their works on the way to Auroville. It is indeed a very peaceful place where one would find solace of heart.
From there, we went to Auro Beach. Though this beach is actually a proper beach, where one may enjoy in the water, yet it is not so commercially exploited. One will hardly come across any tourist in this beach. There is no proper route direction or proper road to Auro beach. GPS came to our rescue in locating the beach. Personally, I didn’t really enjoy the beach much.
Post lunch, we went to Chunnambar Boat House. First, one needs to buy a ticket worth Rs.10/- per head to enter the Chunnambar Boat House. From here, one has to avail boat to reach Paradise beach. One can reach Paradise beach only by boats. No road communication is available. There are several options in boat to reach Paradise beach. The cheapest is Rs. 200/- per head in a shared boat. Speed boat and others are quite expensive. One will enjoy the backwaters, the greenery on the way to Paradise beach. I have read a lot about Paradise beach and had high expectation from the place. However, I was utterly disappointed on reaching the beach. It was more of a small island in the sea. One can walk round the beach in 30 minutes. The place was over crowded. Construction work was going on one side of the beach. Paradise beach was nowhere close to paradise. One can swim and play in the water. Separate changing rooms are there on the beach. It seemed that endeavour is being taken to promote the place as a tourist destination. The last boat from Paradise beach is at 5:30pm. The sunset from the Paradise beach was very beautiful. Sunset by the backwater made our trip to Paradise beach worthy! I found the beach to be overrated. With much disappointment, we returned back to our hotel. Later, we spent late our evening by the beach.
Sunset at Paradise beach
On our last day, we went to Serenity beach to witness sunrise. Watching the Fisherman sailing for the day early morning was nice to observe. The sunrise by the Serenity beach was beautiful. This beach is not so commercially exploited. GPS helped us to locate the beach. After spending quite some time in the beach, we returned back to the city.
Our next stop was Pondicherry Museum. Photography is prohibited inside the Museum. The Museum has an awesome collection of relics that were found from Arikamedu site near Pondicherry. One can find exclusive collection belonging to Cholas and Pallava dynasties. The Museum is a must visit place.
Our final stop in Pondicherry was the famous Church, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Church was grand and beautiful. One will come across beautiful churches in Pondicherry. This is one of the must visit places in Pondicherry.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Having explored the Church for quite some time, it was time for us to bid adieu to Pondicherry. We rode through the long stretch lane in front of the beach by the Promenade beach, bought souvenirs from Pondicherry and left for Chennai Central Station. On our way, we stopped by the Marina Beach, Chennai for few minutes.
Marina Beach, Chennai
I am glad to have started New Year with a happy note in new land- Mahabalipuram- Pondicherry. Hope to explore many more in this year.