Sep 14, 2015

A long weekend trip to Pondicherry

Having been born and brought up in Tamilnadu, my friends found it strange when I told them that I had never been to Pondicherry. "You must go, Anu. You'll love it", one of them recommended during an evening chai meetup. When hubby suggested that we go for a long drive to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I knew exactly where to go. Cleartrip somehow got a peek into our "offline" conversations and sent a hotels flash sale email on the very same day :-) We got a great deal in one of the CGH Earth Properties at Pondy, Maison Perumal.

Day 1
A light drizzle greeted us early morning and we left Bangalore around 5:45 AM and drove straight to Vellore - the route that has become very familiar thanks to our Chennai trips. We took a short detour inside Vellore to have breakfast at our most favorite place - Saravana Bhavan. Loaded ourselves with some amazing dosas, yummy pongal and refreshing filter coffee. After Vellore, we took a right turn towards Arcot (route SH5). That was a beautiful route with greenery all around, little villages and trees on either sides of the road. The weather gods blessed us with pleasant cool breeze throughout the journey. We reached Pondy around 12:30 PM and drove straight to Hotel Surguru for lunch. My friend recommended this place and the vegetarian thali was amazing with a good spread of kootu, keerai, sambar and rasam.


Immaculate Conception Cathedral Church
We checked into our room at Maison Perumal and relaxed for some time. It's a beautiful heritage property with traditional courtyards, paintings and pictures from yesteryears. In the evening, we took a walk on Mission Street, stopped by for few minutes in the beautiful Immaculate Conception Cathedral Church and then went to Bakers street for some pastries. Though the pastries were good, the service could have been better. The coffee that I ordered never came even after 20 minutes. When checked, they realized that they completely forgot.

Traveling with a toddler who refuses to walk and wants to be carried around all the time, we didn't have the energy for longer walks and so took an auto-rickshaw and came back to our hotel. The chef gave us a cooking demo of "brinjal gothsu". We ordered aapams and veg stew along with coconut ice creams for dinner. Loved the dining experience with homely food and friendly service.

Day 2
At Matri Mandir viewpoint
We woke up early and were all set for roaming around. The breakfast was a good combination of continental and South Indian, with fresh fruits, fruit juice, muesli, toast, eggs and dosa/idli. And not to miss the strong filter coffee. By the time, we finished breakfast, it was already 9:45 AM and we drove towards Auroville. The sun was at its peak and we could feel the heat and humidity, as compared to the previous day. We took the vehicle towards Matri Mandir and spent some time admiring the beautiful surroundings. If you want to go inside Matri Mandir, you need to book an appointment a day in advance. I spent some time in the couple of boutiques near the Visitor gate. The clothes and other products were handmade and very expensive and so I didn't explore much, apart from a few packs of incense sticks and scented candles. We drove back to Pondy and had Pizzas for lunch at Cafe Xstasy - these were thin crust and loaded with cheese. D loved them and so did we.

The evening was well spent at the clean and less crowded Serenity Beach. The colorful sky and the moon rise was a pleasant sight. We spent nearly 2 hours in the beach, playing in the waters and observing tiny crabs. Our growling stomachs didn't allow us to venture outside and so we decided to have dinner at Maison Perumal again. A sumptuous Tamil style thali with ladies finger masala, carrot stir fry, papads, paniyaram and curd made us feel completely at home.

Day 3
We started off the day with a quick visit to Aurobindo Ashram and then spent some time at Bharathi Park. Our little one was happy to discover the "play area". The sweltering heat didn't allow us to linger for more time there and so we compensated her with some pastries at Zuka Chocolate Cafe. We tasted the yummy rainbow cake and washed it down with some milkshakes and iced tea. It was around 12 PM by then and we were in two minds whether to go to the Chunnambar boat house then or later in the evening. We took the plunge and drove the 8 kms to reach the boat house. The boat ride costs 200 Rs per person. I imagined it would be similar to that of Kumarakom's backwaters but it was just a straight drive to Paradise beach. Being a weekend, the beach was crowded and I was so surprised to see so many people bathing and playing in the beach without minding the heat. We sat down in one of the shacks for sometime and then returned. After a late lunch at Hotel Surguru, we came back to our room and had a short nap.

While my daughter was extending her afternoon nap, I decided to take a walk by myself to Promenade beach. Very heartening to see the traffic police blocking the beach road from all motor vehicles post 6 PM. It was a memorable walk, with cool breeze for company, observing people - the younger and older ones brisk walking, cycling or just sitting and having a good time along the roads of the beach. If ever I spend a longer time at Pondy, I decided to walk down this road every evening.

After dinner, all three of us took a walk again in the very same road. D was excited to see a wide road completely free of vehicles. We sat on the rocks for some time, admiring the waves and a clear moon-lit sky. This was THE best part of the trip.

Day 4
It was time to pack our bags and head home. After a quick trip to Manakulla Vinayagar temple, we went to Zuka Cafe again. Too bad the rainbow cake wasn't there but we had some delicious blackforrest cake milkshake and bought some white chocolates for home. The drive back home was challenging, with the afternoon sun hitting hard and a huge traffic jam near Krishnagiri. The journey felt tiresome and exhausting. But the memories of Pondy made the effort worthy.

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