One of the best things about staying in Bangalore is that there are numerous places at overnight travelling distance from here and one of the most tempting of the lot is none other than the age-old French colony of India, the quaint li'l town of Pondicherry.
Pondicherry is such a place where you can spend a lazy, relaxed weekend as well as a laid-back sabbatical of six months! This small sea-side town that used to be the erstwhile French colony decades ago, have been made popular and an inspirational location by the eminent philosopher, yogi & guru Sri Aurobindo and his partner The Mother. These two icons of peace made Pondicherry their abode and draw thousands of not only Indians, but foreign nationals (specially French) to this small town till this day, years after their death.
I had been to Pondicherry for just a day long back with my parents and the calm beauty of the place have been calling out to me ever since. Soon after stepping into 2016, we decided to take a quick family weekend trip to good old Pondi, specially since my in-laws were visiting us and my father-in-law wanted to go to Pondicherry. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity and an overnight train ride took us to our destination.
The must-visit tourist place in Pondi is Auroville, an experimental township built around 12 kms from the main town following the vision of The Mother. Auroville consists of arty guest houses, laid-back cafes, quaint stores and loads of foreign tourists zipping around on rented bikes & scooters. At the centre of all this, stands the golden domed Matrimandir which is the soul of the town. Auroville welcomes people of all caste, creed & religion from all around the world to stay happily together, unified by humanity. It was The Mother's goal to achieve unity without the shackles of caste & religion dividing human beings. And Auroville helps keep this motto alive with its all-welcoming, peaceful environment.
Pondicherry mainly runs on auto-rickshaws, but if you take an auto to Auroville it'll charge you anything from 400 to 500 bucks one way. But you can avoid the extortionism of auto-wallahs if you are smart enough to have the OLA app on your smartphone. We booked an OLA cab, which took us to Auroville, waited there and brought us back to Pondi and we had to pay only around 550/- bucks in whole! Yay for technology!!
The MatriMandir can be viewed from a viewing point which is accessible by a beautiful tree-lined road which made for a lovely walk. The Matrimandir is surrounded by lush green gardens and the whole area is fittingly called Peace. Entry to this sacred structure is restricted and permitted only to those who want to indulge in serious meditation, or concentration as they call it.
[Tunic: Westside | Earrings: Forever 21 | Aviators: Bangkok | Sling bag: c/o Jabong.com | Sandals: Metro Plaza, Kolkata]
After spending a tranquil afternoon at Auroville, we came to sit at the Promenade which is an embankment along the sea. One can spend endless hours sitting there, enjoying the cool sea breeze, seeing the sun go down beyond the horizon and feeling completely at peace with oneself.
The road leading to the Promenade, called the Rue de Marina, is home to a lot of iconic buildings such as Sri Aurobindo's grey & white home, which is now the Aurobindo Ashram, and the French Consulate whose vibrant yellow walls and colonial windows demand to be made into backdrops for pictures!
The next morning, we went to have some fun in the sea at the Auroville Beach which is around 8 kms out of town and it's again advisable to book a cab, rather than take the local auto rickshaw.
The Auroville beach is uncrowded and safe, with fishermen's boats lining the shoreline. I even found some pretty purple flowers blooming right in the middle of the sandy beach - Nature never fails to surprise us, eh? :)
If you take a stroll around Pondicherry's, quintessentially French, White Town, you'll be greeted by many such cheery yellow walls. We spent hours walking around the lanes of this part of the town with its old-world charm and serene beauty. You can explore the town walking too, or rent a bicycle, scooter or bike which come at pocket-friendly rental charges.
We had lunch at a vintage little cafe run by a French couple that was recommended by blogger pal Smrithi Rao on her blog and which was there on my mind ever since. An old building has been transformed into the laid-back Cafe des Arts and its the vintage furniture and unmodified old-world look of the place that adds to the charm. Not to mention the cool wall art that greets you from afar!
[Floral top: Colaba Causeway, Mumbai | Denim joggers: Myntra.com | Reflector aviators: Forever 21]
There are a lot of cool cafes to check out, tranquil roads to walk around in and tourist places to visit; but I saved them for my next trip. Pondi isn't a place to rush around in, playing tourist whole day. It soothes your soul and urges you to stroll its roads at leisure, chill at it's eateries, mingle with artists who come here for inspiration and stop & breathe for a while.
I can see myself returning to the French colonies and yellow walls time & again in the future.
This is just the beginning of a life-long love story.
Do you have any memorable experiences about Pondicherry to share? Or any must-visit place you recommend? I would love to know!