Pondicherry | Coromandel's French
Pondicherry, nestled quietly on the eastern coast of India, is a paradise for lovers of peace. Popular for Auroville, and heritage French buildings, it is a place for long walks and hammock siestas.

Pondicherry 1We reached Pondicherry via NH 66 from Bangalore, which is probably the worst highway I have driven on for a while. The surrounding scenery was beautiful, the food was good but the roads were horrible! We reached Pondicherry in about 10 hours, having started at 5 am from Bengaluru, with only a couple of stops along the way.

Pondicherry 2We stayed at a beautiful little guest house in Auroville, along the east coast road which was not expensive yet extremely pretty. This place called the Samarpan Guest House was run by an Italian lady and is one of the best places I have stayed at. With a beach strip right in front and a view of the Bay of Bengal, trees and flowering plants in the gardens, I could not have hoped for a better place. It started raining cats and dogs, as soon as we drove into Pondicherry and thus we were confined to the guest house for the day, not that I was complaining! Pondicherry 3After the extremely tiring drive, rest was what I needed! We ordered in from a local pizzeria called Tanto, which brought us a delicious pizza!

Pondicherry 4The next day thankfully brought with it some clear weather! After spotting the sunrise on the beach, we set off for Heritage Town which is in the heart of Pondicherry. It is a complete departure from the rest of the city, which is more or less Tamil Nadu. After parking the car next to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, we began our long stroll through streets with signs in French, and houses lined with French windows in colours that make this place a photographer’s paradise. Pondicherry 5Places to see are the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Alliance Francaise and the Pondicherry Museum. The walk along the beach is a pleasure as well! There are several places to eat but I would recommend Le Cafe for brilliant continental food and some of the best wines on offer, and then a cup of tea at the alliance francaise. The walks will take you back into time, with people riding cycles, ambassadors still being used, and a few yellow coloured auto rickshaws here and there. We spent the entire day walking around and headed back to order some more of that sumptuous pizza at our guest house and watch the sunset at the sea with a different kind of peace in our hearts.

Pondicherry 6The next day was to be our drive back home, but before that we visited Maitri Mandir, a golden dome built at the heart of Auroville, a fascinating place ideal for some introspection. Though visitors are not permitted to go into the dome, it is a site worth paying a visit to. Also to be found in the same complex is a 100 year old banyan tree, with its aerial roots spreading into the ground in various places. We drove out, via Chennai, a much better highway and reached Bangalore late at night. Overall this was a wonderful break, a trip into the past.

Story and Photographs by Sanibh Aryan

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