Hey guys! As I was travelling all this while so I have not had any time to write a blog but now I am in Goa and going to relax for few days.
So, my trip started from Mumbai which is my home town, breaking my journey in Chennai for a day. As Pondicherry doesn’t have a huge airport mainly all the flights are supposed to be taken till Chennai, from Chennai there are lots of options that will take you to Pondicherry.I choose to go by car as I wanted to visit Shore Temple which is located in between Chennai and Pondicherry in a small town of Mahabalipuram.
Shore temple:Shore temple is the second Hindu Temple in the world which was built 1400 years ago,and is made with blocks of granite. These were built with the purpose of aiding navigation of sailors and is the first sight on the beach hence it was named so.The structure of the table is like a Chinese pagoda and the entrance of the temple is intricately carved and has a huge garden. You will notice that a lot of places in the temple are a little broken or entirely destroyed. This happened back in 2004 when Tsunami struck the western shore of India.
Initially it used to be a temple complex comprising of seven temples but six temples are now submerged under water. One can take a boat ride (1000/-each ) and go near those underlying temples.There are a lot of small sculptures around the temple that were excavated post Tsunami and it has now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This one temple has 3 different temples in it, and the walls around the temple has sculptures of Nandi. In the temple complex is a lion monolith with an image of Goddess Durga. This is unique since the representation of the lion as per Chinese architecture unlike other temples in India.
The road from Shore Temple to Pondicherry is equally beautiful with beach on one side and sometimes on both the sides. As soon as you will reach Pondicherry you will see small streets with gorgeous colourful buildings everywhere. One thing I cannot deny is that Pondicherry has some amazing cafes with a laid-back attitude and wholesome food. These are a highlight of the city as opposed to other attractions. The city is abuzz with lots of tourists of varied nationalities. We were staying in Club Mahendra which is located little away from the city. The Club has its own charm and beautiful private beach.
To be really frank I did not enjoy much in Pondicherry except its two churches and few food joints. In my opinion it did not live upto the hype created by other travellers.
Few of the places I visited and would recommend
Cafe Des Arts: Cafe Des Arts is a very pretty looking cafe with orange walls and doors in White Town. It is a very quiet cafe famous for its french cuisine and a quaint little boutique. By the entry you will see a cycle rickshaw in the veranda with paintings on the wall. The decor and vibe of the cafe is very vintage. The cafe has sofa seating and serves varieties of sandwiches. I did not enjoy like their drinks but ratatouille & cheese baguette with fresh basil pesto was just bursting with flavour.
Play Clan: Right across from the cafe there is a small store named “Play clan” which has some amazing stuff with hand drawn, hand printed and uniquely hand crafted pieces of clothes and bags. I would surely suggest you to at least visit the store.
Bharathi Park : Take a walk to Bharathi Park from the cafe through buildings of coloured walls; pleasant to the eyes and adding a picturesque feel to White Town. Bharathi Park is located in the middle of the city and is surrounded by the most important Government buildings, the garden is also surrounded by a few vintage book stores. The famous monument which lies in the centre of the garden which is known as Aayi Mandapam. The garden is famous but adults don’t have much to do except a play area for children.
Basilica of scared heart of Jesus: This mud colour catholic church is located few lanes away from the Bharathi park, the architecture is gothic and beautiful. This red and white church is one of the twenty-one basilica in India and the only one in Pondicherry. The interior is done gorgeously with mosaic windows and stained glass painting. A statue of Jesus sleeping on mother Mary’s lap is placed in the entrance which my niece really got attached to. As you go forward you will see different glass paintings that describes life of Jesus. Amongst all the attraction in Pondicherry this is one place that I would love to visit again. The red and white architecture is phenomenal.
Rock Beach: Rock Beach is a vibrant and clean beach, surrounded by restaurants and cafe. Best time to visit this beach is early morning or evening, you can rent a bicycle and ride along the long patch of beach. Most of the hotels are located near Rock beach. I spent my evening hearing the voice of waves crashing against the rocks engulfing me in their melody and pristine sparkle .This beach is also known as “Gandhi beach” and “Promenade beach” so do not get confused. I have not come across such a clean beach in India for a while. At the end of the beach by the pier is a small play area for little children.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral: As soon as you enter the cathedral you will see a big statue of Jesus in the middle, it is know as the Christ the King statue. The exterior of the Cathedral is yellow and white, its architecture looks more beautiful with blue doors. The architecture is very “French”. This Cathedral is more like a museum as it has antique statues and altars.You will see some amazing glass paintings here too.
Cafe Xtasi: close to the Cathedral is this multi story pizzeria. Their wood-fired pizza and a cold beer is perfect to unwind after a lazy stroll on the beach or a quick visit to the cathedral.
Auroville:Auroville is a universal township where you will find residents of every culture and everyone from different parts of the world living in harmony. We took a personal tour of Auroville and got to see the local residents houses as well. It boasts of its own solar kitchen and an amazing bakery where you will get different varieties of croissants, bagels, breads, tarts, and different kinds of pizza. You can enjoy a delicious South Indian thali and cold coffee in their visitors cafe. The boutique stocks amazing souvenirs but slightly overpriced.
Auroville has a different way of making payments; visitors can pay by card or cash but residents have their own account numbers that they have to use instead of currency.
Around Auroville there are plenty of cafes and restaurants and trust me, few of them are really famous in its own way. Small, with just few tables but serves mouthwatering food as well as coffees that you must try.
We went to a small but pretty looking cafe named Bread & Chocolate. It is run by a French couple and they use their own grown organic coffee and chocolate. We tried their cinnamon bun, their affogato and coffee. Each was better than the other! But the highlight was their vegan chocolate ice-cream; the taste so rich you would want more. Their pain-du-chocolat comes highly recommended but unfortunately they were sold out. I would totally recommend everyone to visit this cafe without fail.
But the main attraction is a “Matrimandir” a place of spiritual significance. It is a huge golden dome that houses a meditation centre. This is open to the public with prior booking and unfortunately I could not visit Matrimandir from inside. If you are planning to visit Pondicherry make sure you book your slot for meditation. It is free of cost and passes can be issued at the visitors centre. A kilometre away is a viewing point that offers an unobstructed view of this gorgeous golden structure.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram: The Ashram has Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s Samadhi in the main building. The central courtyard of this building houses the samadhi under the shade of a tree adorned by a stunning decoration of fresh flowers. It is a very serene place where you can sit and meditate for a while. Whilst in this complex you will find peace within; with your mind adrift.
In summary Pondicherry is a little French establishment but mainly because of the predominant French architecture in White Town. While the cafes are the charm of the city you can definitely visit another city in a similar budget.