Travelogue: Driving around Pondicherry in the B-Class
Packed into a tiny space of just two square kilometres lies the heritage city that is Pondicherry, or Puducherry as its now known. The streets are lined with cobblestones and the French architecture of the houses and buildings transports one not just back in time, but to another continent altogether. At least, that's what I'd heard from countless accounts from visitors to this city. And so I jumped at the opportunity to spend a few days at this seaside paradise. To top things off we would have the fabulous Mercedes Benz B-Class as our set of the wheels for the trip.
These beautiful rock carvings in Mahabalipuram date back to the 7th century AD
A fabulous sunset over the Buckingham Canal
To be honest, my first impression as we drove into Pondicherry through its terrible evening traffic and narrow roads was not promising. I was not looking forward to this hustle and bustle over the course of the weekend. A frown on my brow was probably quite evident as we checked into Maison Perumal that lies in the Tamil Quarter of the town. While checking in we were greeted with cold towels and a welcome drink of lime and ginger. After settling into our beautiful rustic room with its tall ceiling, large wooden windows and gigantic solid wood bed, I felt much better.
Both of the CGH Earth properties are equally tranquil places to stay in.
Maison Perumal is part of the CGH Earth group of hotels and is actually a restored Tamil joint family house. It houses ten guest rooms that have been meticulously put together, using traditional methods and craftsmanship. Its speciality is its hospitality and the staff go to great length to make sure you feel like you're not merely a guest but a part of the family.
In the evening we walked through the streets of the French Quarter, a much calmer place now that the traffic had died down and even the hustle and bustle of the weekend crowd along the seafront promenade didn't dampen my freshly re-kindled spirits. I was warming up to Pondicherry already. The next day we headed out to explore the nooks and crannies of the city via cycle rickshaw that is actually an organised tour called 'Pondicherry on wheels'. We explored the Tamil Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the French Quarter that the city is divided into. We also visited some of the churches, temples and mosques in each. After the quick rickshaw ride I have to admit, there is something quite charming about the city.
The B-Class' smooth flowing lines and curves contrasted well with the geometric angles of the colonial buildings in the French quarter
The Vedapureeswara temple lies in the Tamil quarter of Pondicherry
For our Sunday lunch we ate at the Palais de Mahe that lies in the French Quarter of Pondicherry and is the second CGH Earth property in Pondicherry. The lunch was a mix of Indian and continental dishes served in courses that seems odd at first but is quite in tune with the traditional colonial style of eating. The property itself is also styled in a colonial fashion quite distinct from its sister concern - the Maison Perumal.
Palais de Mahe, Pondicherry
The B-Class was a great companion on the trip easily navigating the narrow streets and still managing to look stunning against the charming french architectural back drop. It was equally well mannered on the long trip from Chennai, making short work of highway cruising duties. As for the city of Pondicherry, it has managed to turn around my initial impression completely, though I'm certain that there is a lot more on offer. If this discovery requires another weekend at either the Maison Perumal or the Palais De Mahe I'll jump at the chance for another French getaway.
The Matrimandar rests at the centre of the Auroville and took 37 years to build. Its a place for meditation and concentration for the private communinity
The B-Class was a great companion on the trip easily navigating the narrow streets and still managing to look stunning against the charming french architectural back drop
- Photographs by - Varun Anchan
All images shot on the Canon EOS 6D