A photo posted by Nicolas Mirguet (@scalino) on

A photo posted by Nicolas Mirguet (@scalino) on

A photo posted by Nicolas Mirguet (@scalino) on

A photo posted by @_jobar_ on

Surfing in India, it’s possible!

Since last year and our annual trip to Mamallapuram (during the monsoon on the West cost of the country), we discovered that it’s possible to surf in India. At the beginning of this year, it’s in Varkala that we envied British guys who had launched a surf and yoga camp. This year, we came back to the south east coast, near Chennai to witness the growing surf culture in Mammallapuram but also in the rest of the region where surf club are popping up from nowhere.
Thanks to the good tips from a French expat in Chennai (thanks Gaël!), we’ve also tested the Covelong spot (also known as Kovalam but not to be confused with the one in Kerala) where guest-house cum restaurant cum surf club just opened a few months back. And unlike the usual guest-houses in this region, this one stands out with a nice architecture mixing raw concrete, wood and bamboo and even more importantly, it’s just in front of an almost private beach (which they’re maintaining clean) as there’s nothing else in this village. The spot is also good for surfing : a “right-hander” as professionals are calling it thanks to the curve of the beach. Waves aren’t very strong or big which is good if you’re a beguinner like us (they were like 1.5m high when we surfed).
What’s quite impressive though, in Covelong or Mamallapuram, is how surf is becoming part of the local culture with more and more youngs, even Indian kids now practicing it with a quite impressive level (8 years back when we first visited Mamallapuram, no one was surfing there). Offers dedicated to tourists are also now available (surf lessons, renting boards…).
Other spots are still to be tested for us, specially Rameshwarama, next to its famous temple, just opposite Sri Lanka where the sea seems to be really nice. And many more waiting to be discovered for sure!
For once we can even envy Chennai people who can go surfing every weekend!

by in Bangalore, Food

These last months it’s impossible to ignore them : during lunch and dinner time, there are dozens of delivery boys buzzing around Bangalore to supply meals booked on one of the many new mobile applications such as FreshMenu, Spoonjoy or Dazo. This is a kind of virtual war which occurs right now and we can imagine that only two or three will survive…

There are 2 big trends: companies which cook on their own and deliver the food they have made and those who only display the menus of restaurants in the area (selecting sometimes some meals) then order to the restaurant and manage the delivery.

Key of success are based on food quality, price and delivery time, which is an advantage for applications which just have to deliver from a central kitchen and which don’t have to get the food from a third party restaurant.

This model seems very relevant to us in a city as Bangalore where the traffic can be a nightmare. Also, many people work in “IT Park”, sort of office complexes where the offer for lunch food is very low and sometimes even nonexistant…
These apps are very well marketed, featuring nice pictures of the products (even if at the end, it’s just a meal on a tray) and use geolocalisation, even if reading a map is not something people are used to do in India and the phone call before the delivery is almost mandatory (and often difficult to handle).

Since a little time we have begun to test all these solutions to get an idea more precise about which company does what.
First thing, price is always very affordable. But quality remains very random.

Here are the results of our test :

> Fresh Menu : They have their own menu which change everyday. It’s a bit more expensive than the other ones but the quality is really superior and quantity is huge. But it is almost only non-indian food.

> Dazo. The prices are very affordable, the quantity is ok. They have their own menu plus some other selected options from some restaurant. The food is mainly indian style.
The first order we’e done, the food was coming from a single restaurant and everything was fine (they even managed to reach our place without calling for directions).
But for our last order, we’ve ordered food from different restaurants (thinking they would centralize everything) and all the meals were delivered one after an other. Plus, we had to wait a long time (almost 1h30 for the last one) and the food delivered didn’t look like at all as the one on the app picture for one meal…

> Swiggy : They don’t have their own kitchen and only display the menus of a lot of restaurant. The service is quite fast and efficient. Can be usefull to try restaurants where we dont’ go (cause too far or without a nice atmosphere) or to enjoy a good meal of a restaurant we use to go (they even deliver only dessert or ice creams).

We have also tried Faasos, but the food was very bad and SpoonJoy, the food was good and it was too cold when arriving.

This is only a little preview as we haven’t tried yet Eatlo, TinyOwl, Delyver, FoodPanda, Zomato, Latenight, Justeat, Getmyfood, Nutritown and some more !

We’ll be careful not to fall in the trap and to continue to walk around Bangalore to enjoy nice food ! But we’re curious to see how this new trend will progress, which apps will remain in a year. But these services definitly fill a real need here.

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).

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