Another weekend, another vacation. Life’s been really hard lately.
Since we couldn’t be at home on Long Island to celebrate our usual Easter holiday dans le style Français, we chose to hop on a plane to Chennai and catch a pre-paid taxi for a three and half hour trip to the closest thing…Pondicherry (or “Puducherry”, depending upon one’s perspective). From friends’ accounts of their own experiences, I knew it was one of those places we’d either love or loathe, but the consensus from all was that our four day stay was likely two days longer than it needed to be.
Aside from booking flights and our hotel, we kind of winged this trip and decided we would just figure it all out once we got there. The flight was short, only an hour and twenty minutes, and after getting a taxi from the pre-paid counter, we were off on our three-hour car ride south.
We stopped along the way for some snacks, and the road was touch and go with traffic since we arrived near rush hour, but we still somehow managed to make the time Google Maps gave us. I’m still amazed at the accuracy of Google Maps here in predicting time in transit.
The weather was a throwback to Kochi, a balmy 35-40C (about 95-104F) during the day with high humidity, and we opened the door to our hotel room with utter relief at the wall of air conditioning that fell on us as we walked through the threshold. It was 10:00pm and we were spent!
After a little lingering over the Chennai Times, eggs and coffee, we started off on our early morning wander through town. It was already hot, but we put on our best “we’re used to this” faces and trudged on through. We went to the seaside promenade, strolled through the clean and manicured Bharathi Park, and checked out the houses, which had been kept in their glory with bright colored walls and detailed iron balconies.
By 9 ‘o’ clock I was begging for sweet mercy from the heat, so we gave in to one of the “100% Air Conditioned Ferrari ride” offers through town. The Ferrari, by the way, is just a funny term for a rickshaw with the windows open. For $8.00USD, we got a two hour tour through the whole town, which was enhanced by the fact that we were out of the sun and getting a breeze as we put-putted down the road. The driver stopped so we could take pictures, and gave us some information about what was what and where we were. It may have been the best investment of the whole trip.
Later that afternoon, we took a ride out to Auroville, “a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics, and all nationalities”, to learn about the history of the community at their information center and take the meditative 1km walk (in the crazy heat) to visit the Matrimandir, their landmark building (Auroville.org, 2015). We learned that the residents make a lot of different products that are sold online and in stores in Pondicherry, so we kept a look out and found a great boutique in town on Bazaar St. Laurent Street that houses a multi-room hoard of Auroville products. We stocked up on a bunch of gifts and some goodies for us, too.
I don’t think our four days in Pondicherry was too long, in fact I think it may have been just right for us because it allowed for a nice balance of touristing and relaxing.
In addition to the charming buildings, an awesome café on Rue Suffern called Café des Arts, cute boutiques to fit every budget and fancy, and the picturesque promenade, we attended a beautiful Easter Mass at Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, a sea-facing Catholic church that was within walking distance of our hotel. The church was decorated with flowers and the detailed painting on the interior was spellbinding in soft hues of yellow and blue. It marked the end of our time in Pondicherry, and left us with a memory that will linger for quite some time.
Cited: Auroville.org, (2015). Welcome to Auroville / Auroville. [online] Available at: http://www.auroville.org [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].