From East Coast To West Coast | Pondicherry | Part 1
On an early Monday morning, smack dab in the middle of July, I found myself crossing the breadth of the country. From Mumbai to Pondicherry to Goa, and then back home. The week was set to be a taste of two coasts of the same country, opposite each other.
Mumbai to Pondicherry was a long journey, but it didn’t feel laborious, since I spent most of the journey asleep. My next four days in the quaint town of Pondicherry were all a blur of tropical delight. My companion and I knew everywhere we wanted to visit, but there was a general theme surrounding all our plans. You’ve guessed it: food.
Our trip was sponsored by booking.com, so through their easy to use website, we planned our stay at Palais De Mahe. Located in the heart of Pondicherry’s French Town, and less than a minute’s walk away from the promenade that lines the Bay of Bengal, our hotel encapsulated the French influence that pervaded our Pondicherry experience. Palais De Mahe was a beautiful union of two worlds. From the colours of the walls, to the trinkets on the bedside table, Palais De Mahe brought together Pondicherry’s French colonial history with an underlying sense of ethnic Indian heritage.
Four days in Puducherry gives you a glimpse into the lifestyle of your dreams. It’s quiet, beautiful and by the sea. Walking its streets is the best way to get to know the feel of the city, and that is how my companion and I spent most of our days. Walking from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, and stumbling upon old architecture and temples was how passed the languid hours.
On our first day, we were literally blessed at the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, by their resident elephant Lakshmi. I offered her a bunch of cucumbers, which she took with her trunk, slipped in her mouth, and then blessed my head with her trunk! Happiness is so often in the small things, so it wasn’t almost an expected decision to go back with more cucumbers for Lakshmi even on our last day.
Every evening, after walking around for miles, I’d go for a swim at the hotel’s pool, while my companion would enjoy a cocktail at the poolside cafe.
In every way, Pondicherry was a dream town. The kind of place you want to settle in after years of being in the throngs of an urban struggle. It’s quiet, kind, and home to a phenomenal gastronomical scene that blew us away in just four days.
A Cafe A Day
When you think of the food scene in our country, the buzzing hotspots don’t usually include Pondicherry. You’re thinking Mumbai and Delhi for their fine dining scene, Kolkata for the incredible street food scene, Amritsar for the chhole kulche and Kerala for the appams and stews. I am confident that you can now add Pondicherry to your list. You will find delicious, homely cafes on every street corner, cozy spaces that you just want to hang out at for hours. You know it, the ones you open up when you’re old and settled, which serve organic food, cute desserts and great coffee. I don’t think a place can have enough of these, and Pondicherry is packed.
One of my favourite cafes there, was Auro Cafe, located near the end of the sea-facing promenade. The little cafe sits outside a souvenir shop of the same name, and faces the sea. We went here for breakfast, and were treated to the sight of a jumping dolphin in the sea while we sipped on our freshly brewed cinnamon coffee! We shared a simple chocolate and coconut waffle with a side of gelato as we planned the day ahead of us.
Pondicherry has a lot of a little gelato shops which serve super creamy gelatos and fresh sorbets. Over our four days, we tried multiple flavours at The Gelato Factory, which is the most popular gelato chain in town. From almond gelato to jackfruit sorbet, they were all so authentic and true to their natural flavours, it was very easy to tell that there were no artificial additives involved!
Right next to The Gelato Factory closest to our hotel, was Zuka, a chocolate shop. We picked up some of their hot chocolate powder, and dark chocolate bars to take back home.
The cafes we loved were the ones that we went back to for all our meals. The food at Villa Shanti, Villa Helena, and Coromandel Cafe was spectacular. Though they serve some North Indian food like dal makhani and kebabs, it’s the food with the French heritage you should go for, because that’s what they do best. An order as simple as a steak and a glass of wine has been perfected by the cafes of Pondicherry.
One thing I wasn’t expecting in Pondicherry, was it to be filled with pizzerias, serving proper wood-fired yumminess, too! Cafe Xtasi and Tanto were our favourite pizza picks. They do pizzas like they should be done – big, thin, fresh, cheesy, everything you want!
The Auroville part of town was where we had two very memorable meals. One was a breakfast at Auroville Bakery, which we visited at 7 am when they open to try out their freshly baked chocolate croissants. The second, was a lunch at Bread and Chocolate, which was absolutely beautiful. This little cafe fully runs on healthy and organic produce, which reflected the quality of the Summer Tartine, Tropical Smoothie Bowl and Avocado Shake that we had.
We didn’t want to leave without visiting at least one restaurant where we could eat some great south Indian. On our last day in the little town, we visited the highly-recommended Arya Bhavan, where we ate a great lunch of ghee dosa, fluffy and soft idlis, and hot cuppa filter coffee. The sheer delight of pouring the filter coffee from one cup to another never gets old! Running with the same theme, our last dinner was a humble chicken stew with appams back in our hotel room at
Palais De Mahe.
If an all pastel town isn’t the stuff of your dreams, then I don’t know what is. Although the thought of actually settling down in Pondicherry might be far off in the future, getting a four-day taste wasn’t a bad deal. It’s just the kind of place you want to go on holiday for a relaxing, inspiring holiday. My favourite kinds of vacations are the lazy ones, so if you relate, I can promise that Pondicherry should be next on your travel list.
As quiet and slow as Pondicherry was, the next part of our week-long holiday, was the total opposite. Stay tuned to come with me on my Goa adventure!