— Pondicherry ‘French Riviera of the East’ —

With its seafront promenade, wide boulevards, enduring pockets of French culture and architecture, and a popular ashram – Sri Aurobindo Society – harming Pondicherry – whose name officially changed from Pondicherry in October 2006 (though everybody still refers fondly to Pondicherry) – is unlike anywhere else in South India. Pondicherry has a very special ambience, not felt anywhere else in India. It is a blend of spiritual aura, French colonial heritage, Tamil culture and the cosmopolitan flair of many nationalities in a small but varied town.

A remarkable degree of French influence in Pondicherry exists to this date. Pondicherry was designed based on the French (originally Dutch) grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets. 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 still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight. In the French quarter, the buildings are typically colonial style with long compounds and stately walls.

These French and Indian style houses are identified and their architecture preserved from destruction by an organization named INTACH. The use of the French language can be still seen in Pondicherry.

Puducherry still has a large number of Indian and a small number of non-Indian descent residents with French passports. These are descendants of those who chose to remain French when the then-ruling French establishment presented the people of Pondicherry with an option to either remain French or become Indians at the time of Pondicherry’s transfer to India in 1954. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French period, there is the French Consulate in Pondicherry and several cultural organisations.  Source: Wikipedia

In terms of climate December is a good month. Average temperate is between 25 – 30 degrees, sunny (no monsoon rain though this is not guaranteed as I understand).

Your accommodation in Pondicherry:

The Retreat:  This is a guest house (not a hotel) run by Sri Aurobindo Society situated right on the promenade with views over the Bay of Bangal (opposite Sri Lanka). It offers basic accommodation with modern comfort (includes air conditioning) but no TV (though through W-Lan you are connected to the ‘world’ …. you may choose not to do so!).The guesthouse is spotless. A daily newspaper is being delivered to your room (you may not even have time to read!). The service is most genuine and professional. The dining room serves breakfast (including European), lunch and dinner (vegetarian only, no alcohol).


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