In honor of the slightly hipster town I visited with my India travel buddy this weekend (review will come Friday), I’ll do the other hipster town I visited with her: Pondicherry.
Pondicherry, aka Puducherry or Pondy , was a French colony in India from 1674-1954. Didn’t know the French had a colony in India, didja? Well, all the European powers did at some point; but I’m getting off topic. Because of this French colonialism, there is a substantial French influence and presence on the city. The French have a Consulate here, still, though there aren’t many people in the city total. It’s quite a small town, and you could easily walk from one side to the other in an hour. There are, though, quite a few ex-pats, mainly French (duh) and Germans. The city is split into two “parts,” I would say: the Indian and the French. The French part of town has all French street names, cobbled brick roads, and is generally pretty quiet/calm, lots of cafes and restaurants, with some cars and lots of people walking. The Indian side is paved roads, lots of shops close together, and people everywhere. There’s a clear and easy demarcation of where one “side” begins and the other ends. Maybe because the French “side” was so unexpected, it really was an adorable, hipster-y city. The French side – for your information – is also right on the beach.
To get there, I took one of the many, cheap flights to Chennai. Then my friends and I drove (okay, hired a driver) about an hour and a half south. We paid him a certain fixed rate to remain with us the whole weekend. We stayed at Le Dupleix. Breakfast was fresh and simple, but good. The rooms were hardwood floor and stunning. Ours had a loft. The hotel was small, but quaint and cozy. It had a little outside resting/dining area too and a bar in the evening. The French part of town has a TON of cafes and restaurants that are all delicious. I really recommend Café des Arts. They have this little store attached to the restaurant that is full of quirky trinkets: great gifts for friends and family. The food is also really delicious, with croque monsieurs and crepes too. I could’ve hung out there for hours. The seafood is also pretty safe to eat here, as I think my friends did and no one experienced any negative side effects. There aren’t many things to see though: some Catholic churches, a few museums, an ashram, and a garden that you can easily incorporate those into wandering around between eating.
You can take tuktuks anywhere, which have a standard 30 rupee rate anywhere in the city. But get the chance to stretch your legs and walk, for sure. We also went Scuba Diving with Temple Adventures. They are a company run by Europeans (mainly French and Germans) and were welcoming, friendly, and we had a great time with our first SCUBA adventure. It’s not an amazing view (it’s still India), but it was still neat. The people that worked there were really, really nice and even helped my friend get over her fear of diving.