Pondichéry, from Bangalore (and even more from Chennai), is an easy week-end trip to escape the city life. Indeed, it’s very popular for Indian tourists who are happy to get a piece of Europe in these French colonial streets quite well maintained.
For us, “Pondy” was, until now, a place which had let us always a bit cold. Of course the old French “quartier” has a certain charme but it’s quite limited or feel even a bit fake at times. Concerning Auroville, the promise of visiting a lively utopian society is quite appealing but as the access for outsiders is restricted to a guided path, we felt there a bit trapped (even if we understand why Aurovilians are doing that). Also, there’s not a single really nice beach in the area and the sea is quite dangerous to swim…
Nevertheless, we went back, once more to Pondy and its area over a week-end, as monsoon hitting the west side of India (so Goa and Kerala), we’re not having too many options at this time of the year.
So even if we went there a bit by default, it turned out to be an exciting week-end thanks to a few innovations (at least for us).
First, we had booked a room in a pretty quirky hotel that we heard about since a long time, Dune Hotel (quite affordable at this time of the year), which stands some 20 kms north of Pondicherry, on the shore, and offers unique rooms, each of them bringing a different theme: the tower room on top of a… tower, a silver room, an artist room… To complete the experience, they also have a nice and tasty restaurant, their own farm on the hotel land, not to mention a swimming pool next to a desert beach…
Then, we also had the chance to visit, for the first time, the famous Matrimandir (Auroville’s symbol and meditation place) and it’s an experience which lets us in awe. Even if we thought it was off limits for common people to enter this very particular place, we finally discovered that the process is quite open, free and straightforward even if it requires a bit of planning and patience (you have to come, in person to book the day before and it involves waking up early and waiting, waiting the day after). Without spoiling you the surprise (anyway, we weren’t allowed to take any picture), the place is a mix of a Star Wars set, a sci-fi comic, a bit of Japanese minimal architecture, some retro-futurism, the whole being dotted by mystic symbols. Overall, quite an experience that we were surprised to never heard about before!
Concerning Pondy, more than the French colonial charm (some part of it being quite lively as we’ve spotted grandpas playing pétanque for instance!), we were surprised to find out that the “Promenade”, on the seafront, was closed to vehicles every night (quite an impossible concept in India), letting an enthusiastic crowd enjoying freely their evening walk.
And, coming to the food, the French heritage seems to have never been that vibrant with many French entrepreneurs having set-up local businesses those past years: breakfast with perfect and simple French pastries at Baker’s Street (you have to see the face of europeans entering the shop to understand how much it’s something which can be missed in India), seafood well cooked at one of the many restaurants set up in restored colonial hotels (we have tested and approved the one at the Dupleix) and to finish, the french delicatessen and cheese, locally produced at the Mango Hill Hotel near Auroville!
Finally, a new flight has started between Bangalore and Pondicherry (which is the only flight in this airport!), allowing us to arrive by the night train and to return with this flight (Air India), end of the afternoon on Sunday.
We still have to test the local surf spot to make it a favorite week-end getaway for us (specially during monsoon time in the west).