Swimming pool at Dune
Tower room at Dune
French Consulate at Pondicherry
Promenade at Pondy

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).

Transit in New York

21 Jun

Big Cadillac car
Brooklyn Barclays Center
Manhattan skyline
New Whitney Museum

We know you can think it’s a bit stupid to do a blogpost on New York City on a blog dedicated to India and the surrounding area.
Actually (beware, it’s the “life-is-hard” moment !), as we live in India, we spend most of our vacation in France (and we have to go to France for business anyway). But we believe that, if we want to be able to last in India (and not to become mad), we have to come back quite often : to keep strong links with our family, our friends and to remember why we are in India (cause, with the time going on, we can feel that our experience is a bit less exciting that 3 years ago).

Well, se we go back to France 2 – 3 times a year, so we only have little time remaining for other big trips and this is quite frustrating for our never ending wanderlust. So we have decided to take advantage of these trips to France and to stop on the way (like we’ve done already with Oman). Ok, that’s here that it can be a bit ridiculous. Yes, we know NYC is not on the way to France from India but, because the international airplane ticketing system is very weird, it’s not that more expensive to do a stop over in New-York (you only have to add 200-300 euros) instead of booking a classic ticket.

We also really wanted to spend time with friends settled there, change the surrounding and feel once again that exciting atmosphere of New York City (we’ve already spent several months there almost 10 years ago) so, hophophop, 2 luggages and 20 hours of travel after, here we were, walking in the NYC streets, almost as damaged as Bangalore ones (well,almost… !).

During 5 days, we’ve ticked all the clichés we had and wanted to experience in NYC: to become a hipster in Brooklyn, to eat some (ramen) burgers, to discover not yet gentrified neighborhoods (Bushwick et Red Hook), to eat enormous pork ribs, to eat again pastrami at Katz’s, to drink ONLY local and carft beers, to attend an NBA play-off basketball game, to walk until being completely exhausted in Manhattan, to cross Obama’s car (with Obama inside) on the 5th avenue, to picnic on the Highline, to go and see the new september 11 memorial, to discover the new Whitney Museum, to rise the head very high to be able to see the sky, to admire the Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg beach…
All this thanks to a perfect schedule organized by our hosts (thank you Mariols !).

Result of the trip : it was great to feel so disconnected and we’ve enjoyed it a lot :)

So now, we have to find the next stop-over !

Biennale Kochi
Pause dej
Annish Kapur
Toit de Cochin

We came already 2 years ago for the first Biennale edition and we almost missed it this year. So that’s during the last week-end of the Biennale 2014 (which lasted until march 2015) that we had the opportunity to go, surrounded by a crowd of curious and enthousiastic people, who came to enjoy the last hours of the event.

Once again, we really appreciated our stay in Fort Kochi during the biennale. Of course, the quality of the work was not equal : some were done by internationnally known artists (like Anish Kapoor), some were students work… Some were surprising, some were very interesting, and some were more boring (not the majority at all)… But anyway, it’s always delightful to wonder in these magnificient old buildings, which are usally closed to visitors. Also, Kochi, already a charming place is morphing into a heaven of peace dedicated to art during those 3 months and that’s the perfect time to come again to this colonial city.

Next to the main venues, other exhibitions were hold. For example, we have dreamt in front of wonderful old maps of India in the Ginger House, which described perfectly India colonial history.

We were also very surprised by the enthousiasm of the locals around the event. Even if it was the last week-end, many people came (maybe helped by the very cheap tickets) to see work from local and international artists.

We have to admit that, being in Bangalore, we’re completely out of the artistic scene (on the contrary, in Paris, we were literally watered with cultural life), because the offer is limited and because we do not make the necessary efforts to take advantage of it….
So finally it was also a nice discovery of the artist-bobo indian world, something we don’t really experience in Bangalore, which is more likely to attract people from the geek world :)

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