Bastille Day in Pondicherry: Part 2

By Reita Hutagalung, Global MBA student 2013-2013, Indonesia

After we reached the hostel, we rushed to take showers to freshen up and then went to the recommended French bakery. The pastries spared our tongues the pain of missing French bread and we were ready to discover the city.

Pondicherry was recently renamed as Puducherry in 2006, taken from the Tamil language, which means “New Town”. It’s a Union Territory of India formed from four enclaves of former French India and named after the largest, Pondicherry, which was known as “The French Riviera of the East” (La Côte d’Azur de l’Est). The town is divided into two sections: the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or ‘White town’) and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or ‘Black Town’.) Many streets are still named with French names and French-style villas are a common sight in the French part of town. The main sights to see were a 32 km coastline, palm-fringed beaches, fishing villages, beach resorts, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Mahatma Gandhi statue, the international city of Auroville, and churches and temples within the city. After discovering some of the historical sites, we wanted to go to the beach called Paradise Island. But before that, we wanted to have a good lunch! In Pondicherry there are many French restaurants because I think that there are still many French people living in Pondicherry. That hot afternoon, we went to a restaurant called La Maison Rose and it was perfect! Set in the backyard of a house, the eating place was in the middle of a little garden shaded by trees. Several plants and flowers were set beautifully and jazz music played softly, brought in the relaxed feeling after going around the city under the scorching hot sun. We rushed to order drinks to re-hydrate ourselves and then moved on to satisfy our grumbling stomachs. The owner of the restaurant was so nice and came to meet us in person to take our orders. When the food came, they were just perfect! We were re-energized to continue our journey around Pondi.

We had to cross the water in a boat to get to the island.  In order to get to the boat hub, we had to ride in a motor rickshaw (called “oto” in India). That in itself was another unique experience for some of our friends who come from western countries where rickshaws are not common. With little knowledge of the actual price, we confidently bargained for three rickshaws; after some (if not little, hahaha) success in bargaining, we took off. The island was not far from the hub and it took the boat around 15 minutes. Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the afternoon, so although some of us swam in the sea, we couldn’t play volleyball since they wouldn’t give out balls with the boat waiting to go back. Another oddity was that we spotted several signs not to swim in the water, but people were swimming. So with no swimming (by rule) and no volleyball, there was little to do besides hanging out in a little shop. Not much of paradise, as it turned out. Coming back to the city, we closed the day with another amazing dinner at a place called Madame Shanti, a fine dining restaurant. Food-wise it was just superb, superb, superb!

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