And so, on the eve of Christmas, the 24th of December, we started on what was literally a family road trip. My family, my mom and my sister’s family all geared up for our first joint road trip to Pondicherry from Bangalore. With both our kids in college and high school, holidays were limited forcing us to make do with a 4- day trip including driving timelines.
Pondicherry is a small French town, in the eastern coast of India, one of the 8 union territories, having got its independence from the French in the year 1954 and gained partial statehood in 1963. But time seems to have stood still for most parts of the next few decades. The remnants of the French culture slowly dying into the chaos of the country’s haphazard development of this small town which is neither owned by the center nor by the state. Yet for many this dilapidated construction of what a flourishing mix of once French and Tamil culture was still attracts a drive during the holidays. The white town French villas, the long coast lines, some unclean and flooded with people like the rock beach and some pristine and clear like the Eden beach, the old and beautiful European architured churches and the famous auroville ,are some of the places of visit one must do in the 2-3 days stay in Pondicherry.
Our road trip started with the very hot and humid traffic choked exit out of Bangalore City. Seemed like the entire city was looking for a break and every road from electronic city till Hosur was jammed with both commercial and personal vehicles. The long queues at the poll booths at 9 am on a slow holiday week, started questioning my belief, if it was a mistake to not head out of the city pre-dawn to beat the holiday crowd. Nevertheless, patience prevailed, and both our cars made it out of the traffic woes albeit after a good 2-hour delay what was otherwise a 20-minute drive.
Breakfast at “Murugan Idly Shop” in Krishnagar did not disappoint us. The usual rush at this hot and sizzling Dosa, idli ,shop was actually fun with photos and selfies doing the rounds and the buzz around the holiday season with many other families clicking away selfies gave the right vibe to the start of the trip.
With a quick coconut water stop at Gingee, we made it to our hotel by 5 pm, the 2-hour Bangalore traffic delay well forgotten with the excitement of the days ahead.
That evening was Christmas eve and a walk in the most popular landmark of Pondicherry, The Promenade” did not disappoint us. A lot of people were thronging the beach front and vendors, tourists and locals in the milee were just the ideal mix for a holiday season. The beach front walk and promenade visit followed by a very nice Christmas drinks and dinner at the hotel completed the first day of our Pondi Trip.
The next days was Christmas, so it was dedicated to church visits, prayers and visit to the white town, the old but beautiful facades of French villas, with bold white colors and a heady mix of yellow or pink. Looked like a surreal photo-shopped postcard. but here was a fading story of a popular culture which will in time become history and memories in our albums.
Street shopping a must with my sister being a shopaholic for street shopping, mission street and the Sunday market, was the next destination. Mostly covered by foot, in a normal hot Sunday, these streets were abuzz with people, selling household items to clothes to street food. But in the days of amazon and swiggy, shopping in these streets dint seem much of a merit. A stark reality of how technology is displacing small businesses or development is creating a different consumer buying behavior. Anyways the street shopping on mission street / Nehru Street during the day is little difficult, which on our last day we discovered, is worth trying in the evening, when the sun is a little lenient and the atmosphere most cheerful. We concluded Christmas and day 2 with a nice continental dinner in one of the famous cafes of Pondicherry, trying a variety of cuisines and dishes, much to the delight of my wife and sister who are both great foodies, unlike a “breakfast like a King and Dinner like a Beggar” Person like me.
The Next day was a Trip to Auroville and later the Aurobindo Ashram. The Auroville or the “City of Dawn”, is the biggest draw of Pondicherry from a Global Tourism perspective. This global community of citizens with high thinking simple living agenda, has mixed views and philosophies. Though Sri Aurobindo the original Thinker and his most influential and dedicated disciple, “Mirra Alfasa” also known as “The Mother” are the most influential figures of Auroville. However, given today’s climate challenges and Sustainable living philosophies, somewhere this structure and the teachings seems to make sense. Without any leanings towards any religion, caste, creed or nationality, this place draws people from all over the country and the world perhaps as a testimony to what one should aspire towards.
Nevertheless, the visit to Auroville, its lush green fields, the famous golden globe or the Matro mandir, the self-employed small businesses and the small shops selling cool stuff. All made great sense of adventure, thrill and wonder. A good 2-3 hours can be spent here and return with a positive thought to do our bit for the planet is surely going to make the trip to auroville a must visit.
Later in the evening we also visited the Aurobindo ashram, close to the promenade, but owing to the long line and the crowd, we left this for the next visit. A walk back to the evening glow of Rock beach and hot chai on the beach front against a simmering sunset completed our day 3 at Pondicherry.
Day 4 was a must visit to the beaches before we head homewards for the 6–7-hour drive to Bangalore. While we did a drive thru from Auro beach the day before, we made a quick visit to Eden Beach and thereafter towards paradise beach. But owing to lack of time, we settled in the cool, pristine clean backwaters and the seaside of Eden Beach. In my 2-3 trips to Pondicherry before and the current one. I must say Eden Beach was a pleasant surprise. A Blue Flag Beach, it was literally like the real French beaches, which I had seen many years back. Clean, Proper Parking, changing rooms, drinking water and lifeguards. We were also surprised and happy to see helicopters with lifeguards hovering above the beach. A good 1 hour in the water and the beach is worth a drive to Pondicherry along with the many other beaches on the lovely Bay of Bengal Sea of India.
We concluded our Pondi Trip with a smooth drive from our hotel around 12 00 in the noon and reached back Whitefield, Bangalore our homes around 7 pm. A great Family Vacay with lots of fun and memories to look back to. Here was a small but memorable family roadtrip. I loved it and you will love it too. Try Road Trips soon.