Pondicherry – Give Time a break!

Do you ever feel the need for a holiday where there is only yearning for rest? Finding a place where there is no hurry to complete the check-boxes, no scurrying around for sunrises or sunsets. Just the sense of content being where one is..

Such a trip was needed to rejuvenate ourselves. But it’s not easy when you have 2.5 year old kid with you. You need to plan the destination, journey, his lunch/dinner and ways to divert his tantrums to a somewhat enjoyable day out.

Options for “that” ideal destination was searched – Goa was not the “ideal” destination any more, with the kiddo with us. Mountains were out too (3 mountain visits already done in the previous six months for a few of us). It went as usual, with no decisions in 3 weeks’ time. It was doomed to be another failed plan.

However, God is there for us poor souls. So when the kiddo turned on Life on Pi on the tv while trying to use the remote as a phone, lightning struck!Those quays, narrow lanes, gorgeous houses. This is what we call as providence! Pondicherry (or Puducherry) is the place we wanted – it is the traveller’s nirvanah spot! The Maha Bodhi tree of the Marco Polo in us!

Bookings were quickly done – Kolkata – Chennai – Kolkata. Long live Indigo! (except for their bench seats, they should die..). Since last five vacations we had were roadtrips, we had initially decided for a no-drive trip. But I guess the road trip additiction had got into my DNA by now, and we ended up booking a Zoomcar from Chennai for 4 days.

Top Tip – Zoomcar:
Luckily Zoom Car came up with the Drive Out sale just at that time and we booked a Scorpio for 4 of us and the mini-Monkey just for INR 5000/- for 3.5 days including first 400 kms included! What a deal! Watch out for such deals, an offer period is coming up in February 2018 as well.

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Our steed for the tour

The Plan:
1. Reach Chennai on early Thursday morning
2. Take Zoom Car pickup from airport and have filter coffee (yay!)  (& breakfast, of course) at one of the “world” famous A2B restaurants! (For those who did not have the good fortune of living in one of our Southern cities yet – https://www.aabsweets.in/home)
3. Reach Pondi for late lunch and check-in at the hotel
4. Friday, Saturday and till Sunday noon take ample rest and drive around (for us that counts into relaxation zone! 😉 )
5. Sunday afternoon – leave for Chennai and take a pit stop at Mallalapuram.
6. Reach Kolkata late Sunday night.

The bed to crash:
When in Pondi, We had booked L’Escale for 3 nights (through booking.com). It’s nice little B&B in Dumas Street, next door to the Promenade.
Rooms were big and clean toilets! (The owner Nicholas turned out to be a very amicable British gentleman and we had a good time interacting with him. He had graciously accomodated our cancellation requests).
Top Tip –
If you want to savour the French colonial taste of Pondi (not just the food), stay close to White Town. That is where you find those quaint little yellow buildings which we see on magazine covers. Also, this area houses most of the best food joints.

[The bad part – As in case of every trip, sadly, we started with 9 people, but attendance dropped down to 5, due to last minute travels and nasty bosses at office. Also Indigo threw up her own tantrums, cancelling flights, putting us in separate return flights, which we managed to solve after a lot of angry exchanges and some cadjoling]

But, we kept our spirits high and managed to land in Chennai after a very early morning flight!

Drive from Chennai to Pondi via ECR Highway:
ECR
Once we took the Zoom Car, then it took us sometime to negotiate the Chennai traffic to land up in the ECR highway. (And yes, Idly and filter coffee were sooper at A2B!). Top Tip – There is a A2B just after the ZoomCar office within a few miles)

Once we hit the East Coast Road, it was a breeze since then! Almost the entire stretch of the ECR (East Coast Highway) is placed next to the sea or next to any backwaters/creeks from the sea. So apart from the driving pleasure of no-potholed highway, the scenic beauty is so mesmerizing.

Google maps will show you the best way to hit  ECR. Rest be assured, there would be numerous photo stops! 🙂

So what’s so much about Pondi to rave upon?
1. There is something about the place that will slow down your body clock (well not literally, you know what we mean, right!). It is such a place where breakfast is served till 1 PM in the afternoon! That really gives the idea how much people care about “time” here!

2. White Town is mesmerising with the Yellow themed colonial styled homes with French windows and quaint white gates. Time stands still here, and a stroll down any of the lanes in White Town will transport you back a hundred years. [We did hear of the Ashram’s slow and steady grey taking over the bright yellow, though..]

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A typical homestay at White Town

3. Food. Great Food. Awesome Food. More of that in later posts – but couldn’t resist posting a few teasers

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Our typical French breakfast at the rooftop!
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And.. a typical lunch!

4. And the Bay of Bengal, course, with a beautifully maintained promenade. Traffic is shut off from the promenade by 6:00 PM, so it is a wonderful place to spend your mornings and evenings.

Well there are the beautiful churches as well – Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Cardinal De Beausset Street and The white glazed building of Immaculate Conception Cathedral on the busy Mission Street looks an abode of peace and serenity on a sunny day.

 

At the end of the Promenade, there’s the piers we have seen on “The Life of Pi” –

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Auroville and “The Ashram”

Auroville and the Aurobindo Ashram are different entities, but together they comprise most of what today’s Pondicherry is. Auroville is what for which people from around the world know Pondicherry.  Auroville has been created on the works and memories of Rishi Aurobindo and Mother, this is a place of unbridled serenity and peacefulness. It would actually take a separate trip to explore Auroville and the Aurobindo Ashram.

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The unique dome where you can take an appointment and meditate (read: unleash your chi!)
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Formative years of Auroville
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It is a long walk around the Auroville campus, but it is worth the effort.

That was quite a longish piece of text and pictures, going by our recent records! So time to sign off. Keep following for the gastronomic adventures we had in the posts for this week.

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What a spot! A restaurant overlooking the promenade!
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White Town @Pondi – where time stands still!

 

P.S: Interested in knowing who were your friendly Honuman travelers in this journey?
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