January 27, 2015
Lonely Planet is spot on when it warns not to expect too much from Puducherry, aka Pondicherry or Pondy for short, the former French colony on India’s south west coast. Gaining independence in 1954, remnants of the town’s former splendor are visible in the colonial townhouses painted Provençal colors. An abundance of greenery supported by the tropical moisture softens the harshness and grime of the Indian city. Traffic in the old quarter is a little less hectic and horns blare a little less frequently.
It’s an interesting mix of Indian culture and former French colonialism covered with a veil of spirituality flowing from the renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Many French still come here, or maybe they live here, and tourist restaurants and hotels cater somewhat to French speakers, although English remains the primary tourist language.
We came here out of curiosity and for a break from Indian ruins and temples. It’s a good place to unwind for a day, focus on food and ambience rather than stone carvings. We were not disappointed.
An evening stroll on the Beach Road where motorized vehicles are banned after 6pm is about as tranquil as it gets. The locals gather, walk, chat and enjoy the light wind off the water. Near dusk snack carts vendors and other merchants set up along the beach.