A lovely coastal drive on the East Coast Expressway from Chennai leads you to the quaint town of Pondicherry. The characteristic French and Tamil architecture, rocky beaches and an old-world appeal connote the very essence of this seaside town. For lessons in mind control, Aurobindo Ashram is the place to be! Meditate in peace, with the only sound of the distant waves in the background. Lovingly known as the ‚French Riviera of the East‚, at Pondicherry you can enjoy quiet walks on the promenade running along the roaring sea. The French cuisine restaurants and the old-world sidewalk cafes here are a must-try!
Pondicherry is a great place to shop what with octroi duty not imposed here. Moreover sales duty too is pretty low. Shopping in this old French town is all about pottery, perfumed candles, antique furniture, handmade paper souvenirs, perfumes, semi-precious stone jewelry, fine fabrics, wood carvings, marbled silks, traditional dolls, aromatherapy products, papier mache toys, silverware, hand-woven rugs, jams and pickles, French bakery items, hand-printed textiles and bronze figurines among other interesting souvenirs.
The Sunday market (nullM.G Road) of Pondicherry is a must-visit, it sells everything that is unique to the city, and in a great array. If you are visiting in the day, be prepared for a lot of walking. You will find cheap clothing such as sarees, kurtas, scarves, metal plates, shoes, cups, pots and ceramic tableware. But be sure to bargain! While heading north on the East Coast Expressway, you will come across this shop ‚Auro Wood Works‚ that displays oddball wooden sculptures out on its railing. The store has an interesting range of modern art sculptures, mostly masks. Prices here vary from Rs. 1200 to 8000.
Head to Mission Street if you are looking for some casual and arty footwear. Kalki, on 132 Mission Street, is the place to browse for unique leather footwear, hand-painted silk clothing, perfumed candles, incense, oils, ceramics, jewelry and handmade paper souvenirs. Just across the street on 165 Mission Street is the high-profile departmental store ‚Casablanca‚, housing top-of-the-line international brands spread across three floors. Look-out for some handcrafted leather handbags by Hidesign here. For books, proceed to ‚Focus‚ on Mission Street adjacent to the Church of Immaculate Conception, selling hundreds of reads on Indian culture and religion, owned by the Ashram. Don‚t forget to peruse through the one-off exhibits at ‚Boutique Auroshree‚ on 18 Jawaharlal Nehru Street, home to a small but impressive collection of silver jewelry, paintings, and handcrafted bronze, brass and sandalwood artifacts.
You can pick up some lovely pottery and handmade paper souvenirs at ‚La Boutique d‚Auroville‚, again on Jawaharlal Nehru Street. ‚Curio Centre‚ on 40 Roman Rolland Street, true to its name, offers a unique selection of objets d‚art including indigenous and colonial antique furniture. You might as well take a stroll next door to ‚Art Colony‚ housing antiques, wood carvings and handicrafts. If you fancy carrying back an exotic Indian painting, a visit to ‚Cottonwood‚ on Rue Nidarajapayer next door to Touchwood is recommended; it showcases works by the top five local artists. Then, return to the promenade. Here, it is worth popping into ‚Splendor‚ on 16 Goubert Avenue exhibiting an interesting assortment of exclusive souvenirs by the Aurobindo Society, in addition to toys, bags, belts, incense, and a range of books on the Society and Sri Aurobindo.
You will be delighted to shop in Pondicherry because the shopping districts are easily accessible, and the shopkeepers friendly and helpful.
Chinese - Blue Dragon Restaurant at 33 Dumas Street, China Town on Suffren Street
French/Continental - Satsanga on 30 Labourdonnais Street, Le Rendezvous on 30 Rue Suffren, Space Coffee & Arts on 2 labourdonnais Street, Seagulls Restaurant at 19 Dumas Street on the southern end of Beach Road, Coffee.com on 236 Mission Street, Salt and Pepper on Gingee Salai, Banyan Tree Resort, Le Club at 38 Dumas Street opp. Maison Colombani, Hotel Aristo on Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Le Cafe on Goubert Avenue, Fortune Bakery at 13/9 Therese Street near Nehru Street, Bar Qualithť Hotel on Labourdonnais Street, Le Terass on Subbiah Salai
Regional Speciality - Sarvana Bhavan on Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Appachi on 8 Rue Rangoupillai, Ashram Dining Room to the north of Government Place, Ram International near Botanical Gardens, Seaside Guesthouse near the lighthouse on Goubert Avenue, Anjappar at 5 Vallalar Salai near Jeeva theatre signal, Anugraha in Hotel Surguru on SV Patel Salai, Surabhi in Anandha Inn on SV Patel Salai, Park Guesthouse at the southern end of Goubert Avenue, Indian Coffee House on Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Hotel Kamachi opp. Hasan Honda showroom
Located in Rue de la Marine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram is on the way to Pondicherry‚s famous seaside promenade. The ashram lends Pondicherry a spiritual feel; it is the place where the great Indian philosopher Aurobindo Ghosh lived and died. Set up in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo, the ashram even today attracts hoards of visitors from the country and outside. Aurobindo‚s philosophy is derived in a combination of yoga and modern science. One of the richest ashrams in the country, Aurobindo Ashram is instrumental in giving Pondicherry the title of a spiritual town. It is also the place where Saint Aurobindo‚s disciple and companion Mirra Alfassa from Paris, who later came to be known as The Mother, lived and died.
Pondicherry is categorized into four unconnected districts; Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam on the Bay of Bengal, and Mahť on the Arabian Sea. Of these Pondicherry and Karaikal are the larger ones, and enclaves of Tamil Nadu. While Yanam and Mahť are enclaves of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively. The territory has a total area of 492 km≤: Pondicherry (nullcity) 293 km2 (null sq mi), Karaikal 160 km2 (null sq mi), Mahť 9 km2 (null.5 sq mi) and Yanam 30 km2 (null sq mi).
The best time to visit this quaint seaside town is December through March. In this season, day temperature goes as high as 30 degree Celsius and is compensated with pleasant nights. This is the winter season in Pondicherry, and tourists find the weather ideal to spend a holiday. Heat starts setting in from the end of March and reaches an extreme in July (nullup to 40 degree Celsius) when it is scorching and humid. Pondicherry is known for its notorious summer, and if you happen to travel during this season bring along only cotton clothes. Come July and the city is lashed with the first rain shower of the season bringing relief from the torrid heat of the summer. Light showers can be occasionally experienced till December monsoon. It wouldn‚t be inappropriate to say that each season in Pondicherry has its own distinct beauty.
Surface - With Chennai at about 160 kilometers (null miles) north of the city, getting to Pondicherry involves a three hour road journey from Chennai. You can get a bus from CMBT in Koyambedu or from Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. You can be sure of a seat only from CMBT in Koyambedu.
The drive from Chennai to Pondicherry on the East Coast Road, commonly called ECR, is scenic, and takes about 3 hours. Most tourists, however, cannot resist the sight of the seashore kissing the road, and make a photo stops en route. This route passes through Mahabalipuram, Kalpakkam, Pudupattinam, Idaikkazhinadu (nullAlambara Fort), Mudaliarkuppam (nullhas a cool boat house), Marakkanam (nullcontains large areas under salt pans), Kanagachettikulam/Kalapet etc. before arriving into Pondicherry.
The other route that can be taken to reach Pondy is through the National Highway 45, popularly known as the Grand Southern Trunk GST Road. This route passes through Tambaram, Madhurantakam, Melmaruvathur, Tindivanam before reaching Pondicherry. Both the major roads from Chennai are toll roads and approximately take the same time.
Pondicherry is about 320 kilometers (null miles) from Bangalore. You can drive down National Highway 7 till Krishnagiri, then take a left off the main highway (nullroad signs mark the route) and then take National Highway 66 to Pondicherry. This route passes through Uthangarai, Chengam, Tiruvannamalai, Gingee and Tindivanam. You can reach Pondicherry either through Tindivanam (nullvia Gingee) or Villupuram (nullvia Thirukovilur). Gingee Fort is also on the way to Tindivanam and worth a brief pause. The total travel time should be around 5 to 6 hours. For your journey, don‚t forget to pack some food or snacks as there are no good restaurants en route.
Besides, Pondicherry is well connected to Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Karaikal, Nagapattinam and Velankanni to the South by National Highway 45A. The road is well maintained till Chidambaram. Pondicherry connects to the GST or NH-45 in two places viz. at Villupuram by NH-45A and at Tindivanam by NH-66.
Train - Pondicherry is connected to Chennai by an electric broad gauge railway line through Villupuram. There are two passenger trains running daily to Chennai Egmore Railway station and Tirupati, in addition to a weekly express train service to Bhubaneswar. Besides, there is also a daily express train to Chennai Egmore. Pondicherry is also accessible from Bangalore. Train starts from Bangalore on Friday night 2315 hours, and the return journey begins on Saturday night 2200 hours.
Air - Pondicherry has an airport with facilities for the landing of small aircraft like Dornier, Cessna, etc. But it is not available for public use presently.
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