Three things- Pondicherry

There are few places which call to you both for their inherent peace and chaos. Pondicherry is definitely one of those, known for its beaches spiritual retreats the city draws you in. Parts of the Union territory lie on east and west coast of India, while west is the better known brother. The best way around Pondicherry is to grab a cycle or a motorbike both easily available for travelers. Mobility achieved you can decide to head out north and visit Auroville, Alamparai fort or Mahabalipuram; or turn to the south to Cuddalore to sample the Coromandel  coast of India.

1.       Get Spiritual
Pondicherry is the seat of Aurobindo Ashram, establish by Sri Aurobindo in 1926. The ashram lends a calm aura to the François Martin Street (Rue de François Martin). Visiting hours of the ashram are 8-12 in the morning and 2-6 in the evening.
Auroville is the extension of the thought and ideologies of the
Aurobindo ashram. Some 11 km from the ashram, Auroville is a city for all the residents of the world. Matrimandir is the focal point of the city which houses residences, visitor centre, and communal kitchen to name a few. It would be better if you are accompanied by a member as it is difficult to get food inside the city be it solar kitchen or solar café where non-members cannot buy food, though you can have snacks at the visitor’s centre. You can get refreshments at Dinesh’s chai shop.
Visitor Center at Auroville

Visitor’s centre is the gateway to Auroville. A visit to matrimandir is quite difficult and passes need to be obtained beforehand. Visiting the outskirts of the garden of peace which serves at the viewing point for the Matrimandir requires a free pass issued by the management at the visitor centre. Visitors are given an insight into basis of the ashram and the city through a video presentation.

2.       Relax
Alamparai Beach
Pondicherry once boasted beautiful beaches but severe erosion has reduced them to rocky beaches. The promenade still is a place you would not want to miss while in Pondicherry. Dotted with small carts serving local snacks a walk along the promenade is a perfect way to see the diversity that is the soul of Pondicherry.
Alamparai to the north of Pondicherry is a beautiful beach which can be reached by public or private transport. The drive is around an hour and a half and will take you along the salt pans of Tamilnadu. The beach in itself is quiet except for some locals fishing.
Local Snack at Promenade in Pondicherry
South of Pondicherry is the silver beach which just an hour’s drive away. It is a beautiful beach, which is a fast growing favourite of the tourists and locals alike.
If running is your meditation, run around the promenade in the morning. Find a rock to catch your breath while you soak in the rising sun with the Bay of Bengal. Auroville also has its own marathon in February.
Sunrise at Le Cafe

3.       Eat and Drink
Pondicherry offers a wide range of cuisines from north Indian to south Indian and from French to Italian. Expecting an authentic dish is a bit too much but you can be assured to get something that is close enough and delicious. There are quite a few places which have made a name for themselves. It is easy to locate a pizzeria or pasta place by asking the locals.
If you are a vegetarian fear not there are quite a few options available from the bandi idli breakfast to hotel surguru which serves delicious thalis. If sea food is what you want take a walk along Bharathi street or Mission street and you would end up in one of the many good places. Pattuma restaurant on Bharathi street was where we had the best parothas ever and some really delicious prawns.

Pizza at Hot Pizzeria in Auroville
Coffee is a staple and you can try a cup at Le Cafe after and early morning walk along the promenade the way we did.
Almost everybody agrees that drinking is the best part about visiting this laid back city. Taxes are low and beer is real cheap. You will find a few local brands along with the more established ones at unbelievable prices. It’s just an excuse to have a party.

Have you been to Pondicherry?

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