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5 hrs 58 mins
To Chennai 1 hr
A cocktail of two cultures, this easy-going capital of the union territory of Pondicherry (which spreads out to Mahé, Yanam and Karaikal) has a beautiful French Quarter embraced by a striking Tamil culture. A relevant French cuisine and a heritage of colonial architecture are a boon to locals and travelers alike.
Getting to Pondicherry
Known as 'The French Riviera of the East';Time to visit: November to February;Auroville, an experimental township;Learn a craft at Sita, a Franco-Indian cultural centre;French cuisine ;Many shops are closed for lunch and early at night, even on Sunday.
Known as 'The French Riviera of the East'
Time to visit: November to February
Auroville, an experimental township
Learn a craft at Sita, a Franco-Indian cultural centre
Many shops are closed for lunch and early at night, even on Sunday.
Puducherry Museum: On the ground floor look especially for the Chola, Vijayanagar and Nayak bronzes, and the pieces of ancient Greek and Spanish pottery and amphorae (storage vessels) excavated from Arikamedu, a once-major trading port a few kilometers south of Pondicherry.
Timings: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm. Monday holiday.
Fees: Rs.10 per head. Rs.50 per head for foreigners.
Churches: Pondicherry has one of the best collections of over-the-top cathedrals in India. Make sure to grace their beauty with your presence!
Sri Aurobindo Ashram: General visits to the main ashram building on Marine St are cursory - you just see the flower-festooned samadhi of Aurobindo and the Mother, then the bookshop, then you leave. Collective meditation around the samadhi from 7.25pm to 7.50pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday is open to all. The ashram's Bureau Central has interesting exhibitions on the lives and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Sita: This Franco-Indian cultural center runs a host of activities and classes for adults and kids, and visitors are welcome to join. You can try Indian or French cooking, Bharatanatyam or Bollywood dance, Kolam making, Mehendi (henna 'tattoos'), Yoga, Ayurveda and more. For most activities, it's possible to do a single session.
Timings: Single class Rs.250 ? Rs.1000
Address: 22 Candappa Moudaliar Street
Seafront: Escape from traffic between 6pm and 7.30am at the Seafront on Goubert Ave, where it has been banned by the city council. Enjoy a killer stroll at dusk and dawn.
Satsang: Deservedly popular for its excellent Continental cuisine, Satsanga, like most places in this genre, offers a full Indian menu as well. It's especially strong on steaks, fish, prawns and pâtés. There are good vegetarian options too, and the homemade bread and butter go down a treat.
Kasha Ki Aasha: Serving a great pancake breakfast, good lunches and delicious cakes on the pretty rooftop of this colonial-house-cum-craftshop-cum-cafe. Fusion food includes chips with chutney, 'European-style thali' and 'Indian enchilada'. The heat in some dishes has been dialed back for Western tastes, but it's all tasty.
Kalki: Beautiful, jewel-coloured silk and cotton clothes, as well as incense, essential oils, handmade-paper products and more, nearly all made at Auroville.
Languages spoken: English, Tamil, French.
Currency: Indian Rupee.
Climate: Mostly humid except for a few winter months.
Connectivity: Mobile connectivity should not be a problem in this city.
Trivia: The novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel and its namesake movie by Ang Lee is partially set in Pondicherry.