If you’ve ever dreamt of travelling solo, Pondicherry is a dreamy place to begin with. The French Riviera of the East had been on my bucket list for a long time, before I recently ticked it off. I finally took the trip I had been planning for a year. And it was awesome on so many levels.
From the 3-hour road trip from Chennai to Pondicherry, and humming to unfamiliar Tamil tunes in the local bus, to riding solo to Auroville, an afternoon of book shopping and café hopping, to ordering way more food than I could finish, Pondicherry made me fall in love with its vibrant and quaint streets, its food, its breezy vibe and the local culture.
Sitting alone at the Promenade by the sea, against a bustling street with a crowd that could put Marine Drive to shame made me realise how much I enjoy going to new places and exploring them bit by bit, unknowingly drawing parallels or picking out differences with my beloved Bombay.
Here are some of my favourite things about Pondicherry and why I loved this cultural and historical haven so much.
For the love of nature
Every place has a rhythm. Pondicherry has one that will make you a part of its tune. Before you realise, it will be envelop you in a sense of calm. For someone who has spent most of her adult life in an urban setting, Pondicherry is naturally beautiful, with a nonchalance and charm only a coastal town is capable of.
For the colourful streets
Strolling through the streets of Pondicherry, you will find every colour you have ever known — hues that will draw you in and encompass you in with a sense of unadulterated joy.
For the love of food
We all know about the abundance of bakeries and French delicacies in Pondicherry. But if you’re the kind of traveller who loves to try new cuisines on your trips, Pondicherry will happily surprise you. There are so many cute little cafes to try that you’ll run out of time. Some of the places I managed to visit were Cafe Xtasi, Auro Pizza, Tea Road Restaurant, Villa Shanti, Baker Street, Gelato Factory.
For the love of books
Pondicherry is paradise for book lovers. I stumbled upon lovely bookshops and book fairs during my short stint in this quaint town. Freeland Bookstore, on the way to Auroville, is a beautiful little store to stop by for your dose of bookish joy.
For the love of cosy nooks
Some street nooks in Pondicherry look like they’re straight out of storya book – a storybook I’ve always wanted to live in. So, for the eternal day dreamer in me, walking through the bylanes of Pondicherry was a treat in itself! Sometimes quiet, sometimes quirky, these streets are so full of life!
For the love of cliché
I believe in exploring the unexplored, but how can one not go to the tourist spots of a city? They’re popular for a reason and we must acknowledge that. And so I did! Here are some clichés that need no introduction and that make Pondicherry what it is.
I love museums in general, but this one will be my forever favourite.
While walking to the Promenade on my first day in Pondicherry, I noticed two men following me. I halted at a distance to substantiate my doubts. I wanted to be wrong. To my dismay, I wasn’t and they walked past me only to stand at a distance and wait for me to take the lead once again. I did and walked towards a crossing and stopped again to see where they’re going.
They had probably seen my phone from behind and the Google maps I was using, knew where I was headed, and so they took the calculated right. Now, I was in a fix because that’s was I was headed. Nevertheless, I took the left.
And thank God for museums! I quickly went in to get rid of my stalkers and spent about 40 minutes there – coming out relatively relieved and a little more informed.
The 3 days of solo travel in Pondicherry not only introduced me to new places, idyllic cafes, good food, colonial stores, book shops and the town’s unparalled vibe, but also opened new vistas for the traveller in me. It filled me with a sense of achievement and excitement every night when I returned to my hotel room and looked at the maps to plan the adventures of my next day. So go take that trip you’ve been planning and say yes to adventure!
PS: This piece was first published in Hauterfly.