Puducherry Diaries 🏖🏝🏰🍰
My husband - Ganesh & I normally go on our mandatory yearly trip in December and we plan for it by July-August. In 2014, while deciding our destination we finalized on Puducherry since we wanted a short and relaxing trip. Puducherry had been a French colony in the past and from what we had heard there was lot of french architectural influence in Puducherry. The place is also famous for the Rocky beach, Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville - Matrimandir.
Day 1 :
Chennai being the nearest airport to Puducherry, we booked our flights Mumbai - Chennai - Mumbai in August, 2014. By November 2014, Spicejet had some operational issues and then it dawned upon us that we are flying by Spicejet, we called the customer care but we were given evasive answers. Having no choice we landed at Mumbai airport on 16th December, 2014 by 4 a.m. only to be told that the flight is delayed by 4 hours and will take of by 10 a.m. We were given an option to stay at the airport or come back later. We took the first choice. First couple of hours was spent at CCD outlet sipping morning coffee. As we finished our coffee, we decided to window shop around the Airport. Spicejet had some serious financial issues then and kept on delaying the departure time. Various spicejet flights were cancelled and it was a chaos in the airport. The flight finally took off by 2.45 p.m. after almost 10 hours of wait at the airport. We were in constant touch with our driver who had reached Chennai Airport by 7 a.m. for pickup. Our driver patiently waited for us till we reached Chennai by 5 p.m. After a full day at Airport, we were famished and stopped for Idli and Wada Sambar break. After having delicious South Indian snacks, we started our journey towards Grand Serenna Hotels and Resorts which is located on the border of tamilnadu and pondicherry. We reached our resort by 8 p.m. fully exhausted after our 18 hours journey; we had our dinner in the room and dozed off.
Tip : In Tamilnadu Savaari.com is the best car service provider. But whenever you are booking any online car in Tamilnadu insist for a driver who can speak or understand English. Day 2 : Next day we woke up to the noise of rains. Puducherry gets two monsoon seasons, the south-west and the north-east monsoon. Hence, Puducherry has rains from July-February. Our hotel was located 2 kms from Auroville and 10 kms from Puducherry town, surrounded by lots of trees and green vegetation. We wanted to stay away from the hustle bustle of Puducherry so we booked a room in a quiet hotel. The hotel has spacious 1 BHK and 2 BHK Units. We had our morning breakfast in the hotel and left for sightseeing.
Tip : July to February is the best season to visit Puducherry. Otherwise Puducherry will be too hot.
Auroville / Matrimandir :
Auroville is the brainchild of a French woman Mirra Alfassa popularly known as The Mother. In Auroville there is no concept of religion. Though, it does have a temple called Matrimandir, but it does not belong to any religion or faith. It is used for meditation and is open for people of all religions. The township houses about 2,500 people from 49 different countries. The purpose of Auroville is to realize unity – in diversity. At the visitor’s center, you are required to watch an interesting 10 minute movie about the town and The Mother’s vision for a peaceful society. Then a pass to visit the Matrimandir is given to visitors. The Matrimandir is a place for meditation for people who believe in the Aurovillian philosophy and not for visitors. The Matrimandir is a huge Golden globe like structure standing in the middle of acres of land surrounded by vegetation and trees. It’s a kilometer walk to the viewing point for the Matrimandir but you can also opt for a free shuttle bus. Auroville boasts of a huge Banyan Tree which is more than 100 years old. The Trunk of the tree is so huge that it covers a few acres of land. Though it is not as huge as the Banyan Tree in Botanical Garden at Kolkata but it is still worth the watch.
There are 2 shopping centres - Auroville city centre, La Boutique d'Auroville where you can buy Organic food, Organic consumables like Shampoo, Soaps which are made from natural ingredients. What surprised me was there are t-shirts which do not have any colour but the shop provides red coloured soil which is used for colouring the t-shirt.
After that we had a delicious south indian meal nearby our hotel and then relaxed in the hotel.
Day 3 : After having sumptuous breakfast at the hotel we decided to visit local places of Puducherry and visit Silk saree making factory. So we booked a car from our hotel.
Silk Saree Making factory :
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple :
Dedicated to the Lord Ganesh, it is a popular pilgrimage site in Puducherry. Despite the number of people in the temple offering their prayers, it was surprisingly calm and quiet. This temple is located in the heart of Puducherry. Sri Aurobindo Ashram :
This place houses the final resting place of Sri Aurobindo. A quiet and calm place where you can be at peace with yourself amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. The Ashram has a library comprising all the works of Aurobindo written in different languages. The place attracts many international tourists who stay in the Aurobindo Ashram's guest house and study Aurobindo teachings. The Sacred Heart Basilica Church :
This 100 years old Church is at a 5 min walking distance from Rocky Beach. The church has a typical European French architecture and worth a visit. French War Memorial :
This stylish structure was built in 1971 to commemorate the brave soldiers who laid down their lives during the First World War. There is an inscription that says, ’Aux combattants des indes Françoises morts pour la patrie, 1914-1918’ which means French fighters of India who died for their country in 1914-1918. Promenade / Rocky beach :
The Promenade is mainly a rocky beach and a nice area is developed along the sea beach. This is very popular among tourists as well as locals as you will see a lot of morning walkers, joggers and people doing yoga. Every evening lots of street food vendors set up their stalls and you can enjoy various food items here. The vehicles are not allowed after 6.00 PM on the road running along the Promenade beach.
Old Lighthouse in Puducherry :
A lighthouse was constructed in Puducherry in the nineteenth century by the French rulers. The old lighthouse had first beamed light on 1 September 1836. A new lighthouse was constructed in 20th century by the government of India. The new lighthouse is functioning since from 1979. We could not visit New lighthouse.
Bharati Park - Botanical Garden :
The 22 acres botanical garden built by French colonists is a house for more than 1500 species of plants. This botanical garden also has musical and dancing fountains. You should visit this place in the morning to enjoy the fresh air and chirping of birds.
Sri Aurobindo Paper Factory : Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory, in Puducherry, manufactures handmade papers from cotton pulp. You can visit the factory to understand the process and the techniques. Also the paper factory has a retail shop for selling the handmade papers and various utilities created out of paper. You can also purchase the paper utilities manufactured in the Aurobindo paper factory in Auroville Ashram as well. After an eventful day we finally decided to end the day with some authentic french cusine. So we decided to have dinner at Satsanga. We had Ratatouille, Some Croissants, French egg toast and Caramel custard. After having sumptuous dinner we retired for the day.
Tip for Best restaurants in Puducherry :
Surguru, Le Club, Satsanga, Villa Shanti, Appachi Chettinad and Le Dupleix
Day 4 : We spent most of our day relaxing in a hotel. And by evening we decided to spend our last day in Puducherry by visiting the French quarter in Puducherry. The French quarter or white town area as it is called is located close to the Promenade facing the sea. The villas in the French quarter are multi colored and attract a lot of tourists. In the French quarter there was French cafe called Disdis & Co which served coffees and French snacks. We ended the day with Simple light south Indian Lemon rice at our hotel.
Day 5 :
The day started with packing and checking out of the hotel and our return journey to Mumbai. Though we managed to visit all the important places in Puducherry, we still missed some places and we hope to see them soon.
- Mohini Nabar