t will always be pondy, or Pondicherry. It’s been a while since the official name was changed to Puducherry, but for us who took the random weekend drives and spent days tinted with cheaper booze just lying on the beaches, it shall be perpetually ‘Pondy’.
You will find endless lists on places to see in Pondicherry and all things to do, but it’s alright if you don’t see or do any of them. The important thing is to feel Pondy, it’s like no other place. You compare it to Goa but it’s cleaner, more sophisticated, where would you find cobbled-stoned walkways to the beach; of course you could compare it to France, but where in France would you ever find autorickshaws and crowded markets abuzz with a million different sounds?
The drive to Pondy along East Coast Road (ECR) from Madras is itself amazing. It will take you less than 3 hours; stopping at the Taj on the way is never a bad idea. Originally a French colony, the city retains a lot of its original French feel including the culture and some magnificent architecture. The French buildings are well preserved and serve as fully fledged government institutions to date.
Walking along the cobblestoned streets sure transports one to a different era, and the whole aura of Auroville is worth experiencing. The cheesecake at the Auroville-run bakery in town is a must try. The beaches of Pondy are cleaner than those in the city and quite chilled out. You’ll find a thriving café and bar culture come alive as the sun sets. French food is everywhere, but its authenticity is questionable. As a rule of thumb, Indians at large do not fancy French food. A restaurant that serves only authentic French cuisine and wine will no doubt burn a hole in your pocket and is more likely to be popular in a metropolis and not a quaint pretty seaside town in Southern India. So you’ll find French food being served alongside a mix of Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisines at most places with some good steaks and sandwiches too!
Walk around town and you’ll discover your own favourite places. Like the Pondicherry, Tourism logo suggests, “Give time a Break!”
P.S: Pondicherry is a Union Territory and therefore, the booze is exempt from Tamil Nadu taxes. Well, don’t try to stock up to take back home; there are regular checks on all vehicles leaving the territory.