Cobbled streets, yellow walls, quaint cafes, tranquil Ashrams, heritage homes, stunning beaches – the allure of Pondicherry is manifold. You can get lost in the pretty French streets and then minutes later, find yourself wandering around the age old traditional Tamil houses. It’s the perfect weekend getaway for people from Bangalore and Chennai and those further afield. The best way to explore this pretty little town is on a two wheeler, and I did just that. I picked up a cute TVS Wego and snaked through the narrow streets, squeezing between vehicles on traffic addled roads and rode blissfully alongside the expansive Promenade.
I’ve put together a lovely 2 day itinerary for those of you looking for a quick weekend getaway to Pondy. Here goes…
Breakfast at Baker’s Street
Kickstart your day with some lovely French breakfast at Baker’s Street. They have delicious croissants, fresh from the oven quiches and tiny pizzas. Make sure you end the meal with either a fresh fruit juice or some strong Parisian coffee. If you’re feeling frisky, why not have their range of fresh ice creams for breakfast!
Look at that spread!!
Delicious fresh ice cream!
Exploring the colourful walks of the French Quarter
After a sumptuous breakfast, it’s time to get on your Wego and start exploring the charming French Town! Use Google Maps to get on the French side of the canal. I would advise you to start the day early. If you’re lucky, the weather will be pleasant and the streets will be less crowded. Honestly, if it were up to me I could ride around these streets all day on the zippy Wego!
Now isn’t that a pretty sight?
Love the smooth roads and the little street signs.
Take a little break and maybe a couple pictures while you’re at it! 😉
When in Pondy, take a picture against a yellow wall!
Moments of quiet at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
A little later in the morning you can head to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a little peace and quiet. Definitely visit their perfume shop, they have some pretty incredible and completely organic perfumes at reasonable prices- yay! You can also take a look at some French boutiques around that area. They are slightly on the expensive side but worth a look!
Navigate the narrow lanes of Heritage Town
What I find the most interesting about Pondicherry is the two vastly different worlds of the French Quarter and the Tamil Heritage Town separated just by a canal. It’s almost as if you’re being thrown from a posh French colony into an old Tamil settlement. I personally loved the vibe of the Heritage town. The dilapidated houses, old Tamil women drawing rangoli designs (patterns on the floor using coloured flour) outside their houses and men sitting perched on their verandahs reading the newspaper. The lanes are way too narrow for a car to pass through and the only way I could make my way through these lanes was because of my bike.
The Pondi air in my hair!
Lunch at Villa Shanti
Villa Shanti is one of the nicest restaurants in Pondy. The decor is minimal, artistic and spacious. It’s perfect for a quiet lunch. They have interesting Indo- French menu. I ordered the Prawns in tamarind gravy and steamed rice. It was simple and absolutely delicious. If you’re a non vegetarian and a lover of seafood, you must try this dish. They also have some pretty interesting dessert choices like the Aubergine Confit and fresh sorbet. After a heavy lunch I’m pretty sure you’ll want a nice siesta, so relax in your hotel and re-energise for the evening.
Coffee at Cafe Des Arts
Grab a cold coffee and a crepe at Cafe Des Arts after your little nap. I fell in love with this place. The crepes were succulent, the coffee was fresh and the feel of the place was just excellent. Make sure to take a picture or two with the cool graffitis outside.
Isn’t that just the cutest!!
The goat cheese and spinach crepe.
Sunset at the Promenade
One of my most favourite parts of Pondy was definitely the open and expansive Promenade by the sea. The roads are wide, smooth and it’s forever windy! I would suggest, park your bike on the side and just enjoy the sunset over the Bay of Bengal. Keep in mind that if you’re planning to enter the Promenade post 6pm, you’’ have to park your bike at the end of the road as this stretch of the road becomes pedestrian only. The vibe of the Promenade in the evenings is just so lovely! There are kids running around, dogs chilling in the sand and young couples enjoying the view. It has a very charming small town feel to it.
Ride blissfully on the Promenade.
A cloudy Pondy sunset
We had a bit of trouble riding back from the Promenade as the streets had become busy and really crowded. Thankfully the lit, digital meter on our Wego helped us navigate in the dark in all the chaos.
A soothing Kerela massage
It’s been a pretty action packed day so far! If you want to relax, just head to the Kerelaa Ayurvedic Massage centre and get an Abyangam massage. It is pretty affordable and really relaxing. In fact, I think I liked the massage here more than a Kerela massage in Kerela, which is saying a LOT!
Love the decor of the place.
Splendid Dinner at the Bay of Buddha
End the day with some delectable Thai food at the Bay of Buddha. Their soup is mouth wateringly tasty. Team that with a plate of steamed momos and you have yourself the yummiest appetisers. I had the yellow seafood curry which had fish, calamari and prawns in it. The gravy was creamy, the seafood was juicy and the fresh herb garnish just tied the whole thing together beautifully. I ordered the lemongrass creme brulee for dessert which was heavier than I would have liked but yummy nevertheless.
A quick breakfast at Cafe Soleil
Grab an early breakfast and coffee at Cafe Soleil which is on the Promenade. I was lucky that the weather was quite lovely when I go there so I got to see the pretty, sun-kissed sea!
Some much needed coffee!
Riding to Auroville
Leave by 8am for Auroville. Take the stunning East Coast Road. The ride is easy and quite fun and the Wego felt rock steady when we pushed it a bit on the empty road. Once you get to Auroville you’ll realise just how massive and spread out it is. Its best to keep your bike with you and explore as much as you can. The signs on the road are helpful and the ever dependable Google maps is always there to help, if you get lost.
Finally in Auroville!
Peace and tranquillity at the Matrimandir
A little about Auroville – it is said to be a universal city in the making dedicated to the ideal of human unity based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. They believe in an international community and sustainable living. If you have more than two days, I would suggest you stay in Auroville, attend a couple of workshops on organic living, contact dance amongst others, and really take the time to soak in the cool Auroville vibe.
At the very centre of Auroville is the ‘soul of the city’, the Matrimandir, situated in a large open area called ‘Peace’, from where the future township is to radiate outwards.
The walk towards Matrimandir
Little parks on the way
I visited Matrimandir but didn’t get to go in as renovations were under way. But if you’re lucky you can go inside and spend some meditative moments inside the beautiful golden globe. The energy inside is considered to be quite charged.
The beautiful golden dome
Discovering the international commune in Auroville over unpaved roads
I loved riding around the narrow mud roads in Auroville. We had a couple small obstacles on the road as with any other Indian town- the lazy cows and goats that decide to park themselves right in the middle of the road and of course bumpy mud paths. But thanks to Wego’s smooth suspension and sleek body I managed very comfortably!
A little company for the road.
How I miss these little lanes!
Immersing in Svaram, a place of sound experience
After the peace and quiet of Auroville, it was time for me to immerse myself into some mellifluousness. ‘Svaram’ is a sound and music workshop tucked away in an obscure end of Auroville. They make innovative musical instruments that aid in sound, vibration healing and music therapy. According to the founder, any of the Svaram instruments can take the role of a companion, friend, or inner child and remind us of inner good and balance.
As I stood there next to this giant wind chime, I couldn’t help but marvel at how the sound had enclosed me within itself, almost forming a safe cocoon around me.
The decor definitely adds to the whole experience.
The wind chimes are made of several different materials and signify different things. The one I fell in love with was the windchime ‘water’ which made a deep, echoing sound much like the Chinese waterphone rather than a sharp, metallic one that you might expect from a regular windchime.
This place is a little difficult to get to and not a lot of people know about it, but trust me it was one of the fondest memories of Pondy that I took back with me.
By the time I finished navigating my way to Svaram and out, my phone was on very low battery. Wego has this very cool feature that helps you charge your phone on the go! It has a USB port in the utility box. So no problems if Google maps sucks your battery, you can always charge it using the port!
Grab a quick bite at Well’s Cafe or Tanto’s
Auroville has some fantastic eating joints. You could either grab a quick bite and a refreshing mint drink at Well’s cafe, a bohemian Israeli joint or head to Tanto’s for some of the best wood fired pizzas in town!
Have a chilled mint drink at Well’s cafe
Grab a yummy pizza at Tanto’s
The sea at last!
It’s kind of a thing with me to keep the best for the last! I feel, your last couple hours in Auroville should be spent lazing on the beach, looking at the waves crashing in, feet sunk in the soft sand. Be warned, it’s not one of the cleanest or the calmest beaches but well, the sea is the sea, right?
I found a sneaky, narrow opening from the main road that led me directly to the beach. I parked my bike on the sand and sat on the beach watching the fisher women weaving nets, watching the clouds move gently over the sea, preparing for an early summer shower.
What a peaceful end to a lovely day!
So there it is, my two day itinerary for exploring Pondy. Honestly there’s a lot more to do in Pondy but when you have two days, you make the most of it… and before I forget, thank you Wego!! 🙂