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Revisiting Pondicherry

by Payel Kundu on May 10, 2018

It was 2007 when I first visited Pondicherry. I was still in college and it was my first trip with friends. We started early in the morning from Chennai with very little money in pocket and a heart full of enthusiasm, travelled for four hours in a crowded bus, roamed around the streets of Pondicherry under a hot sun and retuned back exhausted long after sunset. Actually it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Probably because I didn’t know that it could be better. The highlight of my trip was the French colony of Pondicherry – I loved the beautiful streets lined with colourful houses and cafes. Neither of which I could enjoy to the full extent.

More than ten years had passed by when Pondicherry crossed my mind again. I figured I had the money to sit in those cafes and stay at one of the hotels inside French colony now. Why not give it another try. So last January I went back, stayed in a vintage colonial house turned homestays, enjoyed the cafes and restaurants, walked the streets and came back with tons of good memories this time. Now, there’s nothing much I can share about Pondicherry that is already not available online. So I will just share the highlights from my trip here.

 

How I reached

Wherever you are travelling from, you would want to land at Chennai first to proceed to Pondicherry. I reached there by train – on a tuesday morning I landed at Chennai Central station. Chennai to Pondicherry is around 140 km, which I planned to travel by bus. I don’t trust the autos in Chennai, especially the ones outside station. So I booked a cab (Ola) for CMBT – the main bus stand in Chennai. It was around 10 km from station and took me about half an hour to reach.

Chennai Central
Chennai Central Railway Station

CMBT is pretty huge with many buses going to various destination within state and outside as well. I asked some ticket conductor for Pondicherry buses and they directed me to the right one. The bus I was to take looked pretty good and I took a window seat inside. After 4 hours of peaceful journey on a smooth road I was at the Pondicherry bus stop.

Road
En route to Pondicherry

Getting around in Pondicherry is another challenge. The only mode is auto rickshaw and the charges are quite high. They have pre-defined rate for every distance and the calculation comes around 20-30 bucks per km as per their rates. But soon you kind of get used to this. At least that’s what happened to me. Another effective means of travel is by cycle, which can be rented at pondicherry.

 

My stay at Coloniale Heritage

My hotel was perfect. It was a homestay run by local (I am guessing) Pondicherry residents. The house was gorgeous in its yellow and white paint and wooden furnishing. Everything in my room had a vintage feeling to it. I was specially charmed by the colourful glasses over the windows and doors. And the place was much cheaper than most of the hotels in that area.

Coloniale Heritage
Main Gate to Coloniale Heritage
Dining Hall
Dining Hall decorated with artefacts and wooden furniture
Porch
Beautiful verandah outside my room

 

Glimpse of Aurovindo Ashram

I had been to Aurovindo Ashram in my previous trip, which was ten years ago, and I remember not feeling impressed by it. It was a rather small place overcrowded with visitors. I came across the place again this time. After a short pause, I decided against going inside.

Ashram
Entrance to Aurovindo Ashram

 

The beach and Le Café

The main beach in Pondicherry is the rock beach which is adjacent to white town and hence walkable from my hotel. The beach is long and a beautiful road runs by the side of it. The name Rock Beach is apt given the glossy gray rocks lining the shore. I found a cafe right on the beach called "Le Cafe" where you can sit and enjoy the blue water along with a cup of coffee. It was not a fancy place as the name suggested. It resembled more of a college canteen or a food court. I had to first take a coupon before ordering my coffee. But I got a seat by the sea, so that was alright.

Beach Road
The beach and the road by the side
Rock Beach
The sand, the rock and the blue water
Le Cafe
View from my table at Le Cafe

 

Church at Dumas Street

One afternoon I went out walking and found this cute church at Dumas street. I went inside the main gate and went up the stairs to the front door of church. There were a handful of people sitting inside. I went inside and took a seat in an empty bench. The place was eerily silent. I sat there as a long time passed by enjoying my solitude and quietness all around. I left only when they started preparing for the evening mass.

Church exterior
Church building from outside
Church interior
Sittig inside the quiet church

 

Cafes: DisDis & Spice Route & Villa Shanti

I tried a few café in Pondy. I didn’t find any Indian restaurant in White Town (the French residency), but they had pretty good continental food. And most of them came with a great ambience as well.

DisDis Cafe
Interior of DisDis Cafe at noon
DisDis Food
Food served at DisDis looked quite tasty
Spice Route
Interior of Spice Route at night
Church exterior
Dinner at Villa Shanti Cafe

 

Basilica Of The Sacred Heart of Jesus

This one I didn’t stumble upon. I found it online and thought it was worth a visit. It was only a km from my hotel, but the route passed through a busy road. Even the church was quite crowded and noisy. Overall I found it only alright and wouldn’t miss much if I didn’t visit.

Church exterior
Church from outside
Church interior
A glimpse of the interior

 

Street Photos

Most of my time in Pondy I spent in walking around the streets and clicking photos. How could I not! The streets were just too beautiful. I have selected some of those photos to publish here.

Dumas Street
Street name written in french & Tamil
yellow building
A beautiful yellow house near the beach
Streets
Something more raw
Grey Building
Further into the residential area
Pondicherry Streets
Heart of the town

 

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