Thou beauty! Where do I begin to describe you! Perhaps from the bus-stop itself?
A beautiful cloudy morning of July and I landed on Pondicherry in Adige Salai, the new bus stop. I had chosen my hotel nearby for I had small budget for staying.
What one needs to know while in Pondicherry is where exactly to hangout. I personally love the road that extends from M.G Road to the beach.
Small buildings and amongst them lies Tanjore painting shops, great other shops for jewelry lovers and Kashmiri works (Yes, you can get that here too), the shop is just infront of Aurobindo Ashram road. Aurobindo Ashram can be viewed as the entry point to the French Colony; the French part of this town can literally take you out of India. Clad in yellow and grey, the buildings are soaked in French architecture and one can just keep on going discovering The French Institute of Pondicherry, local garment shops, old lighthouse and other shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs that you can carry home.
One of the good things about Pondicherry is that, all of the places that one needs to wander are kind of accumulated over a walkable stretch. A stroll across Gandhi beach in the morning or at night is pleasant. Though you will have to climb down the rocks to get your feet soaked, just sitting on those platforms watching the morning sun rise blocked by a distant fisherman’s boat or if you are lucky enough to catch super moon over the deep blue sea, is no less pleasurable. Le Café is also on the beach to keep you from dehydrating. If your budget allows you, any hotel near the beach can serve you as a treat. Gandhi beach is just a road cross away from most of them.
Any journey to Pondicherry is incomplete if one hasn’t set foot on the local café-Indian Cafe Express. Some places are exactly the way you want them to be. Indian Kaffee Express is one such place for me. Located at Rue Dumas facing the Eglise de notre Dame des Anges and not far from Le Café, the place is small with small sitting area but with carefully planned furnishing which is comforting for couples and groups alike. A small pantry, minimalistic interiors and lighting, light crowd and soothing music can make anyone be at peace! And food? It’s too good! Whether you have spinach-corn sandwiches with iced mocha in dinner or pan cakes with maple syrup early in the morning, this place never gives you the slightest chance to complaint! And yes, if you are looking for something more “desi”, cheese and mushroom parathas can make you cancel your return tickets!
A great deal of other restaurants can be found in the French colony. Just roaming around this grey-yellow-white colony one will find something to try out. I happened to be at Madame Santhes. A multi cuisine rooftop restaurant with great ambience and good food. Whether you bite on pasta with pesto sauce or French fries, you won’t be disappointed.
Booze anyone? There are liquor shops at almost every corner of the street. And so are the churches. You need not go far to wash your throats and your sins. Hashtag kidding.
Being in Pondicherry and not being in Auroville is like not being in Pondicherry at all! Though it is located around an hour’s distance from the main town of Pondicherry, this place is a must visit!
Spread across acres of land, the center point of Auroville is through a kuccha road surrounded by greenery. A walk to remember for sure; and if accompanied by a good weather, the feeling just gets augmented! The end of this road and you are welcomed by buildings that form a beautiful part of the landscape. Have a nice tea here with some dosa at reasonable price (or fondle the cat which is always around), buy works by The Mother or Sri Aurobindo, stroll around the museum or just do some more shopping; the everything at once, at the same place kind of thing. One of the primary attraction of Auroville is the Matrimandir, the great golden dome! Though you get to see this from a distance, the view is awe-inspiring leaves you a little more knowledgeable.
Do not miss the Auroville beach! You do not have to climb down any rocks here to get wet. Take some extra clothes and just plunge in!
One thing that I learned from travelling to Pondicherry twice is that if you want to be a better person, then travel. If you want to be a better artist; travel! Places are like people; changing from time to time, have mood swings ranging from skin burning heat to soothing rain that fill its oceans. Travelling can be a life altering experience. Being in this town twice, I realized that no matter with whom I travel, a part of me will always want to go solo. The gypsy in one’s soul can only come alive when you are actually exploring a city on foot.
The more you explore its veins, the more it gets into yours. A graffiti of Christ, happy face on the door of a parked car or the zombie crabs stuck in beach rocks are moments that only you can carry; something that no travel website or blog can preconize. There is no other thing like wandering that brings you closer to yourself.
This entry has been shortlisted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest in association with Linger. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Sangita Ekka