Category : India
On our school farewell party, we promised to always keep in touch and go on a trip once we are in college. Four years passed and everybody got busy with their lives. We did meet once in a year or sometimes twice. But that was it.
We have a WhatsApp group named ‘Mouse In Blouse’ (being lame and cheap as always) where we gossip about random stuff once in a month. One day, one of us randomly messaged “Let’s go on a trip girls!!!” and finally everybody replied with a YES.
Considering the budget we had a lot of options to go. After endless discussions, our flight landed in Chennai. No, this is not our destination.
Since there are no direct flights from Delhi to Pondicherry, we booked our flight till Chennai. Landed at 11:30 am, had our lunch at Sangeeta, a South Indian Restaurant right outside the airport, and left for Pondicherry. By what means? Now, that’s interesting. From Chennai airport we booked Ola to CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal) which is 13km away. We reached CMBT by 12:40 pm but the AC bus to Pondicherry had left at 12:30 and we had no option but to take the local bus to Pondy. The price for the ticket was only INR 90 but oh my god, it took us 5 hours to reach Pondicherry. 5 hours without AC in an over crowded bus, just imagine?
Consequently, we reached Pondicherry late i.e at 5:30 pm and our day got wasted. So, I’ll not be mentioning this day in the itinerary. However, to compensate the day and the money we saved on travelling from Chennai to Pondicherry, we went to this beautiful place called Villa Shanti for dinner.
Located in the French Quarters, this place has a minimalist décor and a relaxed and warm ambience. It is a perfect place to spend your evening.
My personal favorites remain Rose Wine and Chef’s Crumble.
We were staying at a 4-star hotel called Shenbaga which has a great location and hence, everything was just a few miles away. We woke up, had our breakfast-buffet, took a dip in the pool and left for the city. Many people told us before going that Pondicherry does not have Ola or Uber. But in fact, it does. Yes, Pondicherry has Ola, not Uber though.
First, we went to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. If you wish to escape the ruckus of the outside world, want a calm and peaceful place to sit and meditate, then you must go there. You have to remove your shoes outside the Ashram and walk quietly around the Samadhi.
Second, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Beautiful Gothic architecture, colorful stained glass panels, pleasant atmosphere .. what else could you ask for?
Third, Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Get in touch with the divine in this magnificent piece of architecture located on the Church Street.
The best part is that everything is located within 2-3 km radius. I’d advice you to walk or rent a bicycle and cover all these places in one day.
We got free by 5 pm and were craving to see the beaches of Pondicherry. Fourth in our Day 1 itinerary was the Paradise Beach. Certainly, Pondy is not a beach destination. And now I shouldn’t compare it with beaches in Goa. So, the beach was quite peaceful, little dirty, no shacks or places where you can buy food or drinks, but then that is the charm, right?
Ended the day at Le café situated next to Promenade/Rock beach. The location is great but the food was pathetic. My personal favorite would be grilled chicken and marinated fish.
P.S. Do not even dare to have the Lasagna at Le Café. IT SUCKS!!!
We could not have ended the day without having dessert. 😛 We went to Cream Affair which is walking distance from the Promenade. They serve ice-cream in two ways. 1) In a bubble waffle 2) In a wafer bowl. Obviously, I tried both. 😛 Bubble waffle was super tasty and a must try but the wafer bowl was not that impressive.
We headed to a very peaceful and beautiful French town of Auroville which was 15 kms away from our hotel, Shenbaga. First stop was Matri Mandir situated at the center of Auroville. Unfortunately, the mandir was under construction and we could only take a look at it from outside.
The walk till the mandir is through 12 lovely parks/gardens named separately based on the principles of life such as power, harmony, wealth, youth, etc. The walk is tiring but engaging. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated!
Next stop was the most popular Cafe Xtasi. I am pretty sure I saw two branches of Cafe Xtasi, one in Pondy and one in Auroville. So I am only going to talk to about the one in Auroville. It was an open café with an inviting ambience. Wood fired pizza is a MUST try.
My personal favorite would be Sausezz Pizza (Non-veg) and Vegetate Pizza (Veg).
Next, it’s sunset time and where could you think of going? To the beach! 😀 Serenity Beach is much cleaner than Paradise Beach but sunset is not the time to go there. It is perfect to witness sunrise, sit back and watch the local fishermen do their job.
Ended this day having dinner at a local restaurant since we were too broke for a fancy dinner. But I don’t know what is with girls and desserts, we saved up some money and went to Ibaco. Ibaco is HEAVEN! Rose wine and Ibaco are my new love after this trip. However, it is when I travelled to Bangalore I realized that Ibacco has many branches in South India.
We checked out of our hotel at 8 am and left for Pichavaram Mangrove Forest located 75 km from Pondicherry. We hired a taxi from our hotel for INR 2200 and since we were four, the amount got split. (win-win!)
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is the second largest mangrove forest in the world and going there is like watching nature in its pristine beauty.
A 4-person row boat costs INR 280 for 1 hour and 1 km. However, we gave the boatman INR 300 more and he took us 3 km deep inside the forest. Even the scorching heat couldn’t stop us from marveling at the nature’s wonder.
As this was our last lunch of Pondicherry, we wanted it to be lavish. 😀 So instead of eating at a local restaurant in Pichavaram, we came back to Pondy and had our lunch at Rendezvous Café Restaurant. Please do yourself a favor and don’t leave Pondicherry without having a meal at Rendezvous. If you are going for lunch make sure you place your order before 3:30 pm as it is their closing time. They reopen at 6:30 pm.
Ambience? Perfect. Service? Quick. Staff? Friendly. Food? Delicious.
My personal favorites – Ratatouille and Bruschetta.
Our bus was scheduled at 10:30 pm from Pondy to Bangalore. We had 4-5 hours of free time. Guess what we did? CYCLING!!!! No google maps, no specific destination to go, just ride around the city. Omg, that was bliss!! You MUST rent a cycle and explore this French town. And yay, there are cheap af. You can rent a cycle for just INR 70 per day and save up on your commuting. Plus, riding a bicycle in a completely different town than your own is in itself a next level experience.
Pro tip: Do not forget your Id proof back at your hotel like I did. Nobody will rent you a bicycle without an Id proof.
Pondicherry does not have a list of ‘things to do’ or ‘things to see’. It’s hard to understand the real essence of this town in just 3-4 days. Those seeking for peace and solitude should stay in Auroville for at least a week. It is a quiet town with no nightlife. So if you’re going there in search of happening parties then don’t. Go there to taste a little bit of France in India. Stroll past the French styled streets and villas, discover the gothic churches on well-laid streets and enjoy both French and local delicacies. Pondicherry will surely not disappoint you!
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