With its French colonial charm, quaint cafes and frame worthy scenery, Pondicherry makes for the perfect inspiration for our new resort print story.
We asked travel buff, writer and co-founder of Sirf Coffee, Naina Hiranadani to give us her lowdown of 5 cool things you cannot miss.
A two-hour scenic drive from Chennai leads to Pondicherry, a sliver of French-colonial charm (also the pretty backdrop to many scenes in Life of Pi). Stroll or bike through the French Quarter’s quiet, leafy lanes, lined with heritage villas blowing bougainvillea kisses. Sip on hot cortado at a seaside cafe at the promenade, soaking in Pondicherry’s sultry languor. After all, the vibe here is lazier than a Frenchman.
1) Stay: Palais de Mahe.
Be greeted by jasmine garlands and Kombucha coolers at this homely ochre-and-white boutique hotel located in White Town. This CGH Earth property is in a great location (walking distance from most landmarks), and comes with an inviting pool, high-ceilinged rooms and the best breakfast in Pondicherry.
No 4, Busy Street. Inquiries, (0413) 234 5611
2) Day trip: Auroville
Soak in the utopian atmosphere at the Matrimandir, a golden dome more sci-fi than Stranger Things. To enter the structure, you have to collect a pass from the Auroville office a day earlier.
PS: Don’t miss the Auroville Bakery for croissants, Tanto’s (for delicious organic pizza) followed by the Naturellement Garden Cafe (try the fresh mint-chocolate ice-cream). Another highlight is Swaram, a zen-like centre for musical research with creative, space-age instruments. Go play.
3) Shop: Kalki
Lose yourself in a maze of cotton dresses, perfumes, aromatherapy, natural essential oils, pottery, jewellery and unique souvenirs, all made by regional artisans. My stash included handmade soaps, beetroot & carrot pasta, hibiscus syrup, guava jam and spirulina supplements to take back home.
134, Mission St, Heritage Town. Inquiries, 0413 262 3450
4) Surf’s Up
Just 10 km north of Pondicherry is Serenity Beach. Even if you’ve never surfed before, the Kallialay Surf School will teach you to ride waves like you own them. One of the good-looking brothers, Juan or Samai, will be your instructor. (Either way, it’s win-win).
A 90-minute lesson is INR 1,000 per head.
5) Bon Appétit
Girl, let me break it down for you
Breakfast: Café Des Arts
Lunch: Villa Shanti (best red wine sangria ever)
Coffee: Le Café
Dinner: Maison Perumal (go for a complimentary cooking class at 6.30 PM)
Dessert: Zuka or Baker Street
Naina Hiranandani wears our Peonies Peasant Dress