Tuesday, 15 March 2016

My story of Pondicherry ( A beautiful french colony )

Oh, how my heart aches to go back to the quaint French eateries and the ever present salty sea breeze. Pondicherry stole my heart away in more ways than one.
We finally reached the Dumas Guest House, 36 Rue Dumas, which was to be our humble abode for a few days. It was such a pleasant surprise to discover that our place was bang opposite the Alliance Française coffee shop – c’est magnifique!
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For those of you who are unaware, Pondicherry is a former French colony. The culture, people and lifestyle are very apparent till date. The French Quarter is lined with cozy cafes serving Indo-French cuisine (authentic crepes, anyone?) and the architecture is markedly European in design and colour. I swear, it felt like paradise.
We started our first day in Pondicherry bright and early at Baker’s Street, where I feasted on a scrumptious ham quiche followed by pain au chocolat. This bakery is renowned for its freshness and quality, but you won’t understand what the hype is all about until you actually take a bite of the produce. So good.
After a rejuvenating siesta which lasted till the late afternoon and a quick stop at Alliance Française for a chicken citrus salad, we wandered down Goubert Avenue, which is also known as the Promenade Beach Road. With the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the salty sea breeze blowing through my hair, everything was perfect. As we took in the picturesque ambiance, we came across a really interesting tiled art piece depicting Gandhi.

Shopping ensued (picked up some beautiful gift bags and envelopes crafted from handmade paper), after which we landed up at Palais de Mahé for dinner. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. The hotel is located in the heart of the French Quarter, with a breezy open air terrace restaurant to boot. After a few beers and much deliberation, I settled on the fennel garlic crust fish in kokum sauce, served with appam. . The combination sounded pretty strange to me at first, but after one bite, I was totally sold on the dish. I earnestly recommend this place to anyone who is looking for the perfect date night in Pondicherry!
The following day was a busy one, so we wolfed down a quick breakfast at our guesthouse before heading off to Auroville. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, as I have wanted to visit the locality for years now. Cheers to ticking one more place off my travel bucket list! Auroville is an experimental township near Pondicherry, which is dedicated to the idea of human unity above race and religion. The population is diverse in nature and less than half the inhabitants are of Indian origin. Upon reaching the expansive Visitor’s Center, we were taken into a dim screening room to watch a short video about the ideation and creation of the township. After this, we obtained a pass and set upon our walk to view the Mantrimandir, a giant golden spherical concentration center for those who wish to reconnect with themselves. Whilst the walk under the sun was tedious, it was well worth it. The sight of the Mantrimandir is breath taking and you simply cannot look away. We sat at the viewing point for almost an hour, observing and admiring the majestic structure which loomed ahead.
Ah-mazing. On my next visit to Pondicherry, I definitely plan on spending some more time in Auroville, volunteering with children, participating in cultural events and learning more about the people who live there. Back at the Visitor’s Center, we managed to get a table in the extremely crowded cafeteria, where I demolished the most amazing chicken curry with rice in five minutes flat. I kid you not.
All the heat and walking really took a toll on us, so we headed back to the guest house to pick up a couple of books and park ourselves on the lawn of Alliance Française for some reading and green tea. This is where I began reading the literary brilliance that is The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, about a decade too late. Oops.
As the sun began to set, we gathered our belongings and headed home to wash out the salt and sand before dressing up for dinner at Villa Shanti. This is one of the nicer hotels in Pondicherry, and I would love to stay here for a couple of nights on my next visit. The restaurant had a super fresh vibe – simple, minimalist and open. Just my kind of place. We had a couple of beers on the patio, after which we moved to the main dining area to dig in. I opted for the chicken marinated in red wine, grapes and yogurt, served with baby naan. I cannot even begin to explain how good the food was. So good, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture and just devoured the plate in front of me. The flavours exploded in my mouth like fireworks. Talk about having a food-gasm. I slept like a baby that night, dreaming of the past week, which was truly a slice of paradise.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, my beautiful travel fairy tale came to an end.
As I sit at my desk typing out this post, I am thinking of the sun kissed sands and the cool ocean breeze, which I grew to love so much in a short span of three days. In my heart, I know that for Pondicherry and I, this isn’t a goodbye. It’s simply till we meet again.
            And its me,

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