Memories of Pondicherry (Part 2)
Picking up from where we left our sightseeing in Part 1.
Paradise Beach – We visited Paradise Beach on our second trip. We took a boat from Chunnambar Boat House to Paradise Beach, a beautiful white sand beach at the point where the backwaters joined the Bay of Bengal. The boat journey across the backwaters was very pleasant and calm, providing us with spectacular views of the greenery along the bank. What I will also not forget is how the boatmen had thundered at Mainoo Ba when she had left her allotted seat and sat on the helm of the boat to have her photo clicked. “Madam! Go back to your seat now or the boat will capsize!” is still ringing clear in my mind.
The beach did not have too many people and at one point of time it seemed as if we had the whole island to ourselves. We picked up a few sea shells as souvenirs, had lunch at a shack and returned. The sea was acting very rough and we were scolded a few times by the coast guards for venturing into the water.
The Rues and the Promenade– I totally fell in love with the quaint names of the roads. Sample these lovelies – Rue de la Compaigne, Rue Suffren, Rue Dupuy. It is another matter that I don’t know how to pronounce them. These streets are dotted with houses as attractive and mysterious (to me) as their names. I remember spending a few good hours just walking along the roads and imagining myself in another period.
Noticed the names?
The streets of Pondicherry
All these roads led to the Promenade (Goubert Avenue) along the beach. The beach was not unlike the one at Marine Drive in Mumbai. Vehicle movement is restricted on this road after a particular time in the evening and that is when you should actually visit this area. The whole promenade wears a festive atmosphere in the evening and people throng about to enjoy the cool breeze from the sea and savour the street food from hawkers. There is a tall Mahatma Gandhi statue there, which was lighted beautifully on 2nd October, during our first trip.
Goubert Avenue (Beach Road)
We noticed these trees in 2007, but they were not there in 2011
The Hidesign Hotel
The Food – We hogged like there was no tomorrow on our first trip. Since we could not ride bicycles we walked the streets from one end to the other, stopping to click pictures, till our legs could take it no more. All that walking built up an enormous appetite and we would order more than three dishes for the two of us. It helped that the prices were quite reasonable, too. We had some difficulty in pronouncing the French names of the dishes, though. I would mostly place my finger against the name of the dish and tell the waiter to get that.
In many places, we would hear people speaking in French and turn around expecting to see firangs but would instead see Indians speaking the language. It showed that the French legacy still continued in Pondy at some quarters.
We had food at several well-known places, one of them being Le Café which was located bang on the Promenade. Although the food was not remarkable, the ambience was unparalleled as we sipped our coffee while the waves crashed against the rocks beside the café. Another good bet for food is Le Club on Rue Dumas, though a tad expensive. I remember having lunch at a garden restaurant called Rendezvous on our first trip, but the food memories elude me.
Le Club restaurant
On our way back from Auroville, on our second trip, we were famished and had stopped at a not so elegant looking place called Paris. I don’t know if hunger had made the difference but the food there was delicious and very cheap. Too bad that I did not click a single decent picture of the food that we had in Pondy. I must admit here that we hardly ate Indian food there, barring the South Indian breakfast spread at the hotel.
Time for food anecdote:
Trip 1 – The guesthouse we had stayed in did not provide food and we were asked to have our dinner at a nearby restaurant. We went there and I will always remember the royal treatment meted out to us. Scores of waiters kept on hovering around us and they provided us with knives and forks even though we had asked for some dosas. The dinner ended with finger bowls being sent to our table while no one else got them.
Trip 2 – We were chilling out in Paradise Beach on our second trip when we decided to have Chicken 65 as a starter. My aunt who was lost amid the pristine surroundings suddenly got tuned in to our order. “Chicken 65? Only Rs.65? So cheap! In Mumbai, one chicken dish costs so much!” she exclaimed loudly. Little did she know that Chicken 65 was the name of a dish and not the price.
Shopping – We did not do any shopping on our first trip. But the second one saw an all-out retail therapy, thanks to my mom, my aunt and my window-shopping crazy cousin. We found out that JN Street was the main commercial street in Pondy and you can have your pick there, whether you wanted to buy from the pavements or from the showrooms. It is a very long street and you can imagine the time spent there. I got an amazing pure leather camera bag at a very good bargain and it remains one of my most treasured buys till date.
The other sights of Pondy - I don’t have enough to write on the museum as it was about to close when we reached there. Besides, our guide-cum-auto driver was getting restless. I loved the botanical garden though. There was a toy train in the park and it took some restraint on my part not to board it. And, you will love the beautiful Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, particularly if you are fond of stained glasses like me. (Pictures of the church in part 1)
The toy train at the botanical garden
Pondicherry is a very safe place for women travellers. In all our 3 days there on our first trip, we never felt insecure and I remember roaming about the Promenade on our own till late at night.
In case you are planning to visit the place, I hope you will enjoy your stay in Pondicherry as much as I did on my two trips.
(In case you are wondering about the girl, that's my sis)