Pondy Trippin'

24th Dec 2016
Photo of Pondy Trippin' by Suruchi Bhavsar

This is a post due since so long it's been more than a year! My two girlfriends and I planned this Pondy trip to celebrate the last week of the year, in a place of serene calmness to welcome the New Year in a different way! Me, being a total excel sheet person, I read up everything there was to read and know about Pondicherry and made up a list of things to do and places to be visited, leaving some space for spontaneity to work its magic!

We booked our flight from Mumbai to Chennai costing ₹6000 each and took a cab to Pondicherry to enjoy the scenic East Coast road at ₹1900 each (which can be enjoyed by taking window seat on a bus for ₹150 too!) and reached Hotel Coramandal Heritage, which is a property converted from 150 years old Franco-Tamil home, and provides basic comforts for the stay, for ₹5000 for a week (we 3 shared the room).

Day 1

It was Sunday, 24th December 2016, and it lent a perfect laziness to the atmosphere that even eateries opened up lazily, causing much hunger pangs. The first thing we learnt about Pondy was, invest in a hat & wear it everywhere (its hot out there!) and secondly, you can walk the whole French quarter with the help of Google maps! Our first stop was Indian Kaffe Express where we had a sumptuous breakfast and then roamed around the quarter loving the whole French feel of the area. The exotic Rues and Boulevards and the brightly coloured buildings are a sight you wont get tired of! We were quite bored walking around randomly and entered LB2 Lounge and had food and drinks that charged us up for the evening. Our next stop was the famous Baker Street where I tried an eggless variety of a pastry and I really liked it! The rush on Christmas Eve made us leave soon and we explored the market for a while, queuing up at Cafe Xtasi for their well-known pizzas. Our day ended with a nice walk at the Promenade, reminding us of Mumbai's Marine Drive, but posing as a better & cleaner version of it!

Photo of The Indian Kaffe Express, White Town, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Suffren Street, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Baker Street, Bussy Street, MG Road Area, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Baker Street, Bussy Street, MG Road Area, Puducherry, Pondy, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Cafe Xtasi, MG Road Area, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Cafe Xtasi, MG Road Area, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Promenade Beach, Pondicherry, Puducherry by Suruchi Bhavsar
Day 2

The next day, we headed to Cafe des Art for breakfast (which opened up early enough!) and it became our favourite spot for the rest of the trip, so much so that even the servers became familiar with us! A kitschy Instagram-worthy spot with really good food and a mini library to while your time away!

Photo of Cafe des Arts, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Cafe des Arts, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

Next we headed to Auroville, the sanctuary of peace and a universal community based in the lap of nature. The scenic walk around Auroville was a peaceful one and the Visitor's Centre houses 3 boutique shops and a lovely little bookshop. I tried the fizzy flower drinks - aparijita juice and hibiscus juice which were quite lovely! It is sad that the amazing eateries in Auroville remain closed at noon and we could not have the supposedly awesome La Ferme's cheese pizza and Tanto's pasta, and the delicious veg lunch at The Right Path. You can also stock up on the Naturellement range of jams stocked up at Farm Fresh in Kuilapalayan. We headed to Dreamer's Cafe to grab a cuppa and had a really nice gelato, created in Auroville! We took passes for Matri Mandir meditation for Friday (booking for passes to be done prior & subject to availability of slots) and headed back to Pondy. There is one cool cafe named Motorcycle Diaries on the way back, which has a Royal-Enfield/Che Guevera kinda feel to it and you should definitely try that out!

Photo of Auroville, Pondicherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Auroville, Pondicherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

We roamed around for a while and went to a few shops decorated in green and red for Christmas! Kalki on Mission Street is a lifestyle boutique that one must visit & so is the Hidesign store if you're a fan of leather. I found Casablanca to be the best, decked up like a candy store! (you also get cool frock-dresses & skirts on the roadside in this area for ₹300 each which is a good bargain!)

Photo of Casablanca, Heritage Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Casablanca, Heritage Town, Puducherry, Pondy, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

It was Christmas and we could not miss the brightly lit beautiful church. We visited Eglise de notre Dame des Anges - Our Lady of Angels church and enjoyed the Christmasy vibes!

Photo of Domas Church, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of Domas Church, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

I've heard its a sin to not have cake on Christmas and I was in no mood to commit such a crime, so off we went to Baker Street again!

Photo of Baker Street, Bussy Street, MG Road Area, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

Our next stop was LeSpace for drinks, Veneto Bar for pasta and Zuka for their awesome dessert in which the spoon is also made of chocolate!

Photo of The Pasta Bar Veneto, Mission Street, Viratipatu, Heritage Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Day 3

Tuesday saw us turning into beach babies as we set out for Paradise Beach. The boat services stop at 5.30 pm and the beach closes around 6 pm. The ferry ride was as much fun as the pristine beach! We returned to fried rice and noodles in the canteen and headed back to roam around, still exploring around in the White Town.

Photo of Paradise Beach, Pondicherry Road, Kotturpuram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of White Town, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Photo of White Town, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

We tried out Bon Bakes but there's no eggless dessert available there and the average coffee was overpriced. Can be avoided. There are also other popular watering holes like La Marina, Cafe De Flore, Madam Shanthe's, Satsanga, Seagulls, DisDis and the Asian House. Some we avoided due to non-vegetarian food and some due to expensive menu.

Photo of Bon Bakes, MG Road Area, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

Our saviour in desperate times of hunger and low-budget, were Hotel Surguru and A2B Adyar Anand Bhavan which serve really delicious South-Indian food and doesn't burn a hole in your pocket!

Day 4

Wednesday morning I was excited as I had booked a heritage walk in the evening with Storytrails. And I had planned to attend a night-long Tamil folk dance-drama show of Ravana Samharam (Ramayan) at Adishakti (near Auroville), an artists' residency and institute for performance. We brunched at Cafe des Arts, headed to Pondicherry Museum, which tells a lot about the history of this sleepy little town, and had a nice afternoon siesta lying under a shady tree in Bharathi park.

Photo of Bharathi Park, Rue Saint Gilles St, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

The group for the heritage walk had cancelled out but the guide was kind enough to show me around alone. And this guide Vivek, was courteous, polite, made interesting conversation and is now a very good friend of mine! [Also, he made me add he is handsome :)] We went around talking about the history and culture and prominent personalities of Pondicherry, and we visited the 500-year old Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple of Ganesha where I was blessed by an elephant and ended the walk with a nice hot coffee at the KBS Stall in a small lane near the Secretariat on the Promenade. I invited him to join me & my friends for dinner at L'Orient and he chivalrously offered to drop me at Adishakti for the show. The show was a colourful, rustic folk musical of olden times where men played women's parts too and I got to meet some dignitaries and learnt a great deal about Adishakti. It's not a place to be missed if you're an artist!

Day 5

We had seen almost every Rue and Boulevard in the White Town and it was now time to head out! We decided to go sight-seeing to Mahabalipuram - home to UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples, caves and rocks and a beach! The amazing architecture of the Panch Rathas and the shore temple are a thing of beauty! We took a bus to come back in the evening and headed for a breezy dinner and coffee at Le Cafe on the promenade near the Gandhi statue.

Photo of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Suruchi Bhavsar
Day 6

It was finally Friday and I was really excited to experience whatever MatriMandir had in store for me. After a short documentary about Auroville, we were led inside the golden globe which has stairs lined to the globe's surface inside, spiralling up to a circular sitting room, where right in the middle of the room, passes a ray of light going straight down through the floor surface. Amazing architecture coupled with an awe-inspiring aura and an unparalleled meditative experience amidst deafening silence, is an introspective experience nobody should miss. If you plan to stay on for a few more days, you can drop by the farms in its green belt to volunteer, share a meal or take a class, or take a course at hubs like Pitanga Cultural centre, or sign up for therapies at the Quiet Healing Centre. We visited La Boulangerie and Auroville Bakery on our way back (there's Mantra Pottery at Kottakarai if you're interested in Pottery) and headed to Auroville beach.

Photo of Auroville Golden Globe, Matrimandir, Auroville, Bommayapalayam, Tamil Nadu, India by Suruchi Bhavsar

Either Auroville beach is a well-kept secret or we were just plain lucky to reach there when there were hardly six people on the whole beach. It was clean and pleasant even with a scorching sun above our heads.

Photo of Auroville Beach, Tamil Nadu by Suruchi Bhavsar

We returned to Pondicherry and spent the rest of the day visiting Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Aurobindo Ashram and the Ashram Trust that creates organic perfumes and cosmetics. We were too tired to go to Ray Meeker Ceramic Art and the Cluny Embroidery Centre but I've heard they're nice places!

Day 7

It was the last day of the year, last day of the trip and Pondicherry felt like home. As we brunched at our favourite Cafe des Arts and clicked beautiful places like Maison Perumal and Villa Shanti and Villa Helena, Maison Tamoule, La Maion Rose, Aquarelles Gallery, Curio centre and some random antique shops, we came across Eat My Cake - a tiny pink and yellow cafe opened by three french women just a year ago and offers a different menu everyday, organic and fresh. It is, 'made by women, and run by women.' Their tie-up with a local NGO helps employ women and empower them by making them learn skills like cooking and baking. Kasha ki Asha is also one such art boutique opened in 2013 by an American woman, Kasha, as an initiative to help and empower women, that is run by women, with a cute little garden cafe. We also stopped by Fleurs en Flacon , an enterprise run by Sri Aurobindo.

The evening called for celebrations to welcome the new year! We dressed up and headed out to the Promenade to have drinks at Hidesign hotel and then look around at awesomely lit Secretariat building and govt. sponsored public celebration for tourists and locales ending with fireworks at the Promenade, welcoming the new year, which was a spectacular sight! (Although coming back to hotel is a bit of a problem with drunk rowdy hooligans roaming around on bikes in the name of celebration.) As we left Pondicherry the next morning, I knew I'm surely going there back again some day!

Photo of Hotel Coramandal Heritage, MG Road Area, Puducherry, India by Suruchi Bhavsar