Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory

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Pondicherry or Puducherry, or Pondy as it is colloquially called, is a dreamy, quaint French-inspired Union territory with gorgeous views of the Bay of Bengal, tucked away in Southern India. It is called the yellow city of India, perfect as a quiet, peaceful weekend getaway with its serene beaches and dainty cafes. I visited Pondicherry on my official trip to Chennai. I just extended my stay over the weekend. Pondicherry is just a 3-hour drive from Chennai. The drive via the East coast road is picturesque and enchanting, with a surprise at each bend. Pondy is a place where the contemporary and colonial, hedonistic and spiritual, tranquil and chaotic, past and present, wonderfully coexist. And only a few cities in India can claim to be so compact yet cosmopolitan.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
Steerts of Pondicherry

I loved the weather in the late afternoons when the sunshine was mellow and warm. And my cabby dropped me in front of Anantha Heritage, my place of stay for the next three days. A unit of Dravidian Hotels, an 18th-century classic Franco-Tamil Villa, has been renovated and kept with Architectural changes made to the property with antique furnishings. I was awestruck by the amalgamation of the well-arranged decor with a traditional touch.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
The Tamil part of Pondicherry

The hotel is located on Perumal Koil street, very next to the Perumal (Vishnu) Temple, with a view of the temple pond from the hotel. Moreover, it has access to the main Shopping areas, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, The Promenade Beach, and the Famous Manakula Vinayagar Temple. After an hour, I checked into my hotel. I was ready to take a walk in the heritage town of the Colonial French City, which portrays the essence of the old French city with its splendid edifice of Pondicherry.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
Anantha Heritage

I walked past the narrow, snoozing lanes where trees meet overhead, where commercial establishments hum beside crumbling Tamil houses, held fast by sturdy old pillars and verandas built for weary passers-by in a more trusting age. Its streets of the city indeed reveal its soul but slow you down too. And then a realisation hit my feet. I needed to explore the town since I did not know how to cycle.

Overlooking Perumal temple

Pondy is a place where you can do everything and nothing. When I stroll through a starkly different side of the town Broad, sun-dappled boulevards greet me, lined with mustard, apricot and tangerine walls with bursts of bougainvillaea cascading over them. Known as the white town, it was designed by the Dutch, coveted by the English, built by the French, and engaged in trading with Rome. Glimpses of Mediterranean Europe linger in this city.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
Glimpse of Mediterranean Europe

White Town is every photographer’s dream town. All I saw was a bicyclist often pedalling by. Or vintage bicycles perched up against vibrant yellow walls with oil lamps. And was astonished by shoppers with strings of jasmine in their hair conversing in fluent French. Even an autorickshaw driver greets people with a resounding “Bonjour”. I even clicked the I quicken my pace to meet the sprawling Promenade- “Cafe Des Artes”.

Cafe Des Artes

I started my exploration with Cafe Des Artes, which is an old bungalow converted into a cafe in the quiet streets of White Town. I was amazed at the French Décor in the vintage setting. The restaurant Propounds a Bohemian charm and an eccentric ambience, especially the walls.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
Cafe De Artes

Also, the laid-back and welcoming atmosphere of the place made me stretch myself alone. And I ended up sipping a coffee and a crepe from their menu. The café also has a boutique offering trendy cotton and leather collection. 

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

This place requires no induction, a 10 min walk from the Cafe Des Artes. I decided to visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is known for its significance, heritage, and values hence chose to spend some ME time in serenity. I was stunned to see the grey that cloaks the Ashram buildings contrasts with the French Quarter’s vibrant villas. 

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory
Aurobindo Ashram

The history is 100 years old, founded by Aurobindo Ghosh after he retired from politics. The Ashram is where you can seek spirituality in a laid-back atmosphere and attain inner peace by meditating in its serene aura. Mira Alfassa, or “The Mother, ” an ardent follower of Aurobindo Ghosh, joined the Ashram in April 1920. Gradually more people paved their way towards this Ashram. It became a small community quickly and later converted to Ashram in 1926.

Pondicherry: A dreamy French-inspired Union territory

The magical environment of this shrine took me aback. The beautiful backdrop awakened me, and the Asharma bustled with high energy. What drew my attention was the library that boasts over 80,000 books in 25 different languages, along with several Indian and Western classic musical tapes and recordings.

I spent a reasonable amount of time before heading to the Marine drive of Pondy.

Promenade and Rock Beach 

Promenade is the marine drive of Pondy; hence I quicken my pace to meet the sprawling Promenade. Beyond stretches the Bay of Bengal, cordoned off by craggy rocks, which the sea sometimes whispers to and sometimes whips, its waves crashing all over them.

Rock Beach

Although this beach is less sandy than others in the area, a stroll along the Promenade is perfect, as vehicles are allowed from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. 

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

While at the rock beach, I took an autorickshaw to Immaculate Conception Cathedral. As I stood before the cathedral, images of Old Goa’s Portuguese-style churches with orange, blue and white hues and sturdy columns on their façade floated in my mind. For a few minutes, I was ogling at the characteristic Jesuit structure from Robin’s egg blue and cloud white-coloured Portuguese style.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral


This is also the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Cuddalore of Pondicherry. It is also called “Samba Kovil”, which is a phonetic version of “Saint Paul’s”, where “Kovil” means Church. Dedicated to Saint Peter’sPeter’s, the Church was once famously known as the Church of Capuchins.

Church of Capuchins

As I entered, the Nave of the Church caught my attention. The dome-shaped ceiling, sectioned seating area, and hanging paintings were utterly charismatic. The grand chandeliers added a touch of Colonial Finesse. Moreover, four altars in the Church are carved in gold and decorated by them with porcelain tiles with biblical illustrations. 

Colonial Finesse

This beautiful ChurchChurch is around 300 old, constructed successfully three times but eventually destroyed by different parties. But it was finally built successfully in 1971. And the prime attraction of the Church is the bell tower, with a substantial, imposing bell hanging from its support. The magnificent structure was brightly lit when I arrived. 

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Next, I went to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located on the south boulevard of Pondicherry. The Church is an architectural marvel and one among the 21 basilicas in India. 

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

The sacred heart Basilica is a 100- year- old structure built in 1908 by French missionaries. It is 50 meters long, 48 meters wide and 18 meters high, representing gothic architecture.

Gothic architecture

I walked into the Church just to be left stunned by 28 glass paintings depicting the life of Christ and the saints of the Church. The Church has a large area on the exterior, too. Interestingly, the aerial view of the monument depicts a Latin-rite cross shape.


Le Café

The remaining evening I wanted to spend by the rock beach. Hence I rode back to Promenade, & walked into Le Cafe’sCafe’s only seafront café in Pondicherry. The sky was turning crimson red, and the sound of waves splashing by was a marvel. I sat and ordered a hot and steaming cup of cappuccino. 

Le Café

It is a place to relax and soak in the sea’ssea’s view; the cool breeze added a topping to the cake. What differentiates this café is that it is open round the clock and 24 hours service time.

Later in the night, I had an earlier dinner & head to my bed. 

How to Reach 

By Air: 

Pondicherry does have an airport and can accommodate the landing of a small aircraft only. However, Chennai is the second nearest domestic, approximately 135 kilometres from Pondicherry. Upon reaching, hire a cab to reach Pondicherry.

By Rail:

Villupuram is the nearest railhead to Pondicherry, about 35 kilometres away. This railway station is well-connected with New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Trivandrum. Upon reaching, hire a cab to reach Pondicherry.

By Roads:

Pondicherry is connected via Chennai, Thanjavur, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Madurai. Both private and state-owned buses frequently ply. Even one can self-drive from these cities to Pondicherry.



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