08 November 2010

Pondicherry (Puducherry)

Pondy is a nice town on the East Coast of India. It is actually a union territory...not part of Tamil Nadu.

City Mapping
Puducherry (the new name) is a pretty small city. The ECR (East Coast Road) comes north from Chennai. The beachfront road here is called Beach Rd or Goubert Ave. The Rue du Petit Canal divides the French area from the Indian area.

Clearing Up Stereotypes
This city isn't as "French" as some people make it out to be. It's a general Indian city with the typical honking (arguable more), but then it's slightly more pedestrian-friendly (vehicles aren't allowed on the beachfront road for some time in the evening). There is some French influence though, by the street names, the beachfront area, the colonial architecture etc, nothing more. That doesn't make it a bad place to visit by any means, though.

Route
French war memorial
From Bangalore, it's around a seven hour drive. There are quite a few turns, so get a good map. Part of the road, after Krishnagiri on the way to Pondicherry, was potholed, and very bumpy due to the rains. Once you reached NH 66, though, the road was fabulous, and continuous speeds of over 75 kph was not uncommon.

In Feb 2013, this route was supposed to be damaged, 3rd hand info.
So we took NH 7 to Salem (4 hrs) and then to Attur, Ulundurpet, Panruti, Cuddalore and then to Pondicherry.

Sights
Goubert Av
An evening stroll along Goubert Avenue is recommended. You'll notice the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and that of Joanne d'Arc and a French War Memorial . One street behind is the Consulate of France . The sea looks fine, but the beach is only mediocre. There are few restaurants here. This area is called French Quarter .

Street in the French Quarter 

Also the streets behind are worth walking through, the architecture is nice. There are also many restaurants here, and the streets are quiet. Watch out for stray dogs though!

Here you will find the Bharathi Park. On Dumas St, visible from the southern part of Goubert Av is the Notre Dame des Anges church.



Not too far away, on South Boulevard is the Sacred Heart Church.



The cathedral
The canal

  The  Rue du Petit Canal divides
  the "French area" from the
  "Indian area". Around this area,
  on Mission Street is a
  cathedral with a
  nice interior.





   
Statue of Mahatma Gandhi
inside of the cathedral










Accommodation
Puducherry has many lodgings,
and many of them have fine locations. We stayed at the
Ashok, a bit outside the city though, but with a beach (slightly dirty)
and expansive grounds. There are several tariffs available, including
a luxury cottage at INR 10000.
There were several other hotels which looked good to us (no research done about them by me though) including the Atithi  and the famous Promenade right on Goubert Avenue.

Last visit, we stayed at the Zest resort, around 18 km (30 min) from Pondicherry. It has a private beach.
Recommended.

Food
On our first trip, we were slightly disappointed with the food at Puducherry. The one (in four) good meals we ate was at Don Giovanni, at the rooftop of the Hotel Corbelli at Mission St. The owner is a friendly Italian who makes good Italian cuisine. The view are fine, and the food is good.

The other meals we ate were OK, at Le Cafe on Goubert Ave, the food was good, but the staff was rude, and the service was mediocre. At the Lighthouse , the views are good, the food is OK but the service is very slow. This, and another restaurant, both located at the Promenade Hotel, share similar attributes.

From the second/third trip:
Rendezvous, rather disappointing food. Located at 30 Suffren St. Very inflexible- the dishes from the menu are exactly what you can get, no variations are entertained.

Pasta Bar Veneto fine pizzas and pastas. On Mission St.

Zuka diagonally opposite Pasta Bar Veneto. Fine desserts- but the Hot Chocolate and Espresso Shot stand out.

Le Vietnam around the colonial area, close to the beachfront. Serves some dishes from a wide variety of cuisines, including Vietnamese, Mexican and Indian.

Shopping
Nehru Street has the typical shopping ambiance of virtually every Indian city- many shops and small eateries along roads. Perpendicular Mission St has the famous three-floored Casablanca which stocks clothes, accessories, chocolates etc. There is also the Hidesign store nearby.

Auroville

Matrimandir

One of the greenest areas around Pondicherry, Auroville is a serene and tranquil area, a few kilometres from the main town. The obvious attraction here is the golden Matrimandir which will amaze you. You can't go inside though. Around the area is the wonderful shopping of "Made in Auroville" goods, ranging from jams to clothes to umbrellas to books.

To go to the viewpoint to the Matrimandir, you need to collect the free passes, then walk 1 km.

There is a food hall near the Auroville boutiques, and the town itself has many eateries.

Internet resources:

Safety
Most touristy areas are safe even in the evening but of course be careful. Many foreign tourists rent motorbikes here so if planning to rent one, be wary of traffic conditions here. Roads may be bad during and after the rainy season and even if they're fine otherwise, Indian drivers in general follow road rules to their discretion; motorbikes are given very little, if any, consideration. However things are still better than what many Westerners perceive.

Itineraries
Two Days
On Day 1 spend time in the French Quarter and the shopping area of Nehru St, probably spending the hot afternoon in Casablanca or other store. Later, step out and visit the Sacred Heart Basilica. In the evening, roam around the French Quarter. On Day 2, go to Auroville, visiting the Matrimandir viewpoint and the boutiques at Auroville. Get to Mission St's cathedral in the evening. 

Last visit- Oct 2013
No of visits- 3
First visit- Nov 2010

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pondicherry is one of the best places to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Great post! I recently visited and blogged about it here:

http://shradhabhatia.com/2014/02/travel-diaries-pondicherry/

It would be great if you could have a read & leave a comment :)

Thanks,

Shradha

hayden4u said...

Pondicherry is most popular tourist destinations in India. The cost of living and tax are very cheap in this city, similar to Goa.

Aswathi Cedar said...

Pondicherry is one of the best tourist destination in india.The atmosphere of place is much different from rest of place in india.There are

lots of place to see like Auroville Ashram,Botanical Garden,Tiruvakkarai etc..and mainly Beachs.you would

more enjoy the seceneric beauty of beachs residing in seaside guest house in puthucherry. If you are a

foodie, main Puducherry central area has many many French cafes and bakeries with food to kill for..

dimpy roy said...

first of all nice blog name. Pondicherry is pretty laid back and has some fine restaurants serving passably good French cuisine. I just love this place. Check all places to visit in Pondicherry.

Martin Luther said...

I read your blog.It is very interesting. Thanks for sharing about places in Pondicherry. Auroville and paradise is best places I seen in Pondicherry. I will visit pondicherry once again with friends.

Debosmita Roy said...

Thank you for the sharing the blog on the beautiful Pondicherry trip. As we know it is a Union Territory in southern India. The history of the City of Pondicherry is recorded only after the arrival of Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonialists. There exists many places to visit in Pondicherry which still preserve much of the colonial ambiance. Pondicherry is surely one of the choicest holiday destinations in South India.