La Côte d'Azur de l'Est
In September my bro Hrushi visited me here in Blr. We wanted to have some sibling time together so we set off for the French Riviera of the East. As usual I planned a month ahead, the stay and travel. Our itinerary was like this...
1. Travel by Volvo bus to Pondicherry, reach by evening and spend time on the sea front.
2. Visit Auroville
3. Move on to Mahabalipuram, explore the monolithic heritage structure.
4. Reach Chennai and return by Shatabdhi train to Blr.
We started from Blr at 9 am, boarded the bus at St. John's hospital, stopping at the food court on Hosur road for breakfast. It was a very sunny day. After a few 10s of kms on the NH7 we took the smaller SH46 passing by some interesting places like Raman Maharshi's Tiruvannamalai and Shivaji's Jinji fort. Those have got added to my wish list.
We reached Pondi in the late afternoon. The Volvo stopped at the city bus stand, we got off the bus and took an autorickshaw to our Hotel, Ginger. The fare is expensive, meter is not used and they charge 40 Rs. for a minimum distance.
At the hotel we freshened up and walked to the Promenade, 1.5 kms of a neat and spanking clean road along the rocky beach of Pondicherry city. On the land, facing the sea are lined heritage structures and statues. The buildings are preserved for their French architecture. The concentration of French culture in this area is reminiscent of the French Colony that is Pondicherry. We walked back and forth on the Promenade and in the back lanes of streets with names like Rue Dumas. The Promenade is actually the Goubert Avenue. The statue of Gandhi is a space where visitors like to sit.
This sea front is lined up with many memorials too like the French war memorial, The Dr.Babasaheb Mani mantapam, beautiful structures like the Alliance Francaise, the lighthouse, the Customs office etc.
We walked around the town tasting fresh bakes from the famed bakeries of Pondicherry. It is a very laid back town and at 9 pm everything is quite and shops close down. We walked back to the hotel and slept tight for the night.
Next day we were to head to Auroville...
On return from Auroville we decided to check out the Bharati Park with it's Aayi Memorial a pristine white structure in the center and a jogging track around. Later we walked over to see Tapan Bhattacharya's painting exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Pondicherry. That night we had crepes at the inhouse Cafe de Flore and washed down with Cold Coffee to make it a complete Indo-French experience.
One last time we walked down the Promenade across Le Cafe feeling the warm air from the sea. We wished Pondi had more to do. Click for more pics here.