So this week’s theme is School! I don’t see many schoolkids on my commute to work daily so I present Lycée Français, from my trip to Pondicherry – the French riviera of the East. A very charming building, and painted in the vibrant yellow of the rest of the French quarters. Makes me wish I studied there!
As part of the weekly photo challenge from Sylvain: SL-Week 9
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Close Up.”
Well I wish I had something more out-of-the-box, but anyway flowers are meant to be macro’d rite? 🙂
I captured this lotus during my trip to Pondichery. One usually finds lotuses in ponds, and mostly in temple tanks so I was glad to see them grown in small water pots outside a restaurant. It’s difficult to get a macro of them otherwise!
In the Part 1 of my post, I have described about the French Quarters in Pondicherry with its brightly colored houses and quaint cafes that bring back a whiff of French flavor. You may wanna go and read that if you haven’t, because it really gives you a feel for the town and has some nice photographs too! 🙂
Anyway, today I’m gonna be talking about the one thing that can’t be missed when you’re in Pondi. And that’s the seaside Promenade.
It’s nothing more than a thin strip of road and pavement abutting the coast, and it’s actually pretty short. You would be able to walk from one end to other in fifteen minutes tops. But it is this very strip of land that everyone, tourists and locals alike, flock to in the evening times to chill off in the cool sea breeze.
The beach in Pondicherry is not really a beach per se, as there is no sand that gently slopes into the water. Instead, what you get is a coast strewn with black rocks. I understand that they had to do this as the the sea is pretty deep near the coast and they need the rocks to break the waves. People are not advised to swim in the water here for the same reason. It’s quite a different experience, sitting on a rock, and watching and hearing the waves lash into more rocks below, the sprinkle from the clash sometimes rising up to six feet.
In a stroke of brilliance, the local police authorities have banned traffic on the promenade from evening 6:30 PM to 7 AM the next day. So it is pretty cool to come here in the evenings and just soak up the air unadulterated by the noisy vehicles and the smoke. I was in the beach (and aimlessly traipsing through the French Quarters) till about 5:30 PM and then I heard that the Alliance Français at 58, Rue Rufren, screens French films for free every Sunday at 6 PM. So I’d gone (following directions is so easy there) and found myself in a little auditorium at a little after six. It was moderately filled, a lot of faces foreign. They played an animated movie Les Triplettes de Belleville, and I was blown away by the grittiness and the surrealism of it. It was very complex for an animated movie and I was spellbound from the very start. Ninety minutes well spent.
Here’s a gallery of some of the other shots of the Promenade.
So anyway, by 8 PM I was back in the Promenade. The traffic was cut off as expected and it was brimming with people everywhere. I couldn’t even find a proper place to sit down. But I spent a good one hour there and then went over to Pasta Bar Veneto for some…wait for it…Pasta! It was priced slightly higher but it was the best damned Pasta I’d ever eaten! They even heeded my request and made it more spicy than usual. That and a chilled beer and I was ready to turn in for the night.
Next morning, I was ready for some French food. There are a handful of cafes that server your basic French fare but I was told that if I wanted to try it all, then there was no place better to go than Baker Street on Rue De Bussy. It is a moderate joint that is famous for its French delicacies. They have a huge spread of sweet as well as savory items but my eyes instantly locked on to the croissants and the puff pastries. The Chocolatine, in particular, looked delicious! Just imagine a puff pastry with a chocolate sauce filling! I pointed it out to the lady over the counter and she asked “Would you like it warm, sir?” I squealed a little inside and replied “YES PLEASE!!” Imagine again, a warm puff pastry with warm chocolate sauce inside. Holy moly!
And this is what I finally settled down with, an Eclairs Vanille and a Chocolatine with a Sweet Lime juice on the side. 🙂 I could have this everyday!!
After that delightful breakfast, I was up for some peaceful time so I visited the Romain Rollard Library that has a great collection of books, especially on the town’s history.
A couple of strolls after that, followed by lunch at The Indian Kafé Express, and it was time to start my return journey to Chennai again. I gave one wistful glance at the sea and the streets before I finally made my way to the bus stop. And then I come across this on the road –
There is a cycle. Once every six months, my feet start to itch in a hunger for travel. And satiate it, I must. Travel is something I enjoy immensely, as it gives me a recharge like nothing else. I just hope I can keep this wanderlust intact till the end of times (or the zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first :P).
Considering that the last trip I’d been to has been in January, it was time for another adventure into the unknown and there I was at Pondicherry on a short two-day trip. There seems to be a lot going on everywhere in the city, in every nook and corner. I guess it’s gonna take me a lot more visits to completely cover this place. But at least, due to my well-planned itinerary I was able to visit most of the important stuff in my trip. I consider this time as more of an ice-breaker.
A little note on Pondicherry: Initially a French colony and now a Union Territory of India, Pondicherry (aka Puducherry) has the quintessential makings of a quaint European town. I don’t know if any other place in India can give off the same vibes. Always teeming with tourists (more foreign), Pondi feels ever lively and vibrant. One more reason for the vibrancy being the yellow (more like ochre) façade on a lot of buildings. I never realized what great a color this is, and it transported me into an other place and time. This definitely is not India.
Presenting: The French Quarters
Charming. Idyllic. Bright colored houses. French Street signs. Almost deserted roads. And quiet cafés. It feels as if the time has frozen amidst these narrow roads and elegant houses.
I mean, just look at this!
Pondicherry has a clear division between the Tamil Town and the French Town, a little sewer separating them both. The Tamil Town looks like any other Indian town and it’s hard to believe that only a handful of blocks later, the place completely transforms itself as you step into the French town. It is also closer to the seashore, which adds one more feather to its cap.
You can do a DIY stroll through the French Town beginning at the south-end of the beach and going in zig zag through the lanes that are arranged in a neat grid (which if you ask me is non-existent in the more organically grown Indian cities). You can end your walk at the imposing yellow building on the north-end of the beach which is the French Institute. I was simply awe-struck by this one.
What’s important is taking your time as you explore these parts, looking at those curiously curved iron grills, the big windows, the bright paints. And if you ever feel a little parched, step into the numerous little cafes at every turn that serve good coffee/tea and simple French food.
Oh, and one more curious thing that delighted me were the Street signs. Looks like the locals did not bother changing them when the French left (and just as well), so I had a lot of fun reading up all the names of the Rues (that’s roads in French). By the way, did I mention that I studied French for two years? 🙂 My spoken French is pretty bad but I can pretty much understand most of what is written. One more reason why I love this place.
I’ve created a little gallery below with some photos of the streets (and the signs, I went absolutely crazy on them). Hope you enjoy it. Click on any photo to open gallery.
This was one cool builing
Joan of Arc!!
Night times, the buildings take on a different glow.
French Street signs!
The French Alliance
They had the best chicken curry!!
Notre Dame church, built in the 1800s
In a stroke of serendipity, today’s Photo 101 theme is Connect.
Part 2 coming up soon with other explorations of mine!
It’s the same pre-vacation panic again. I’ll be always out of something, this time it’s my sunscreen and face-wash. Oh no! And I realized this a little too late as I was packing my rucksack. But then I thought, wait a minute, I’m not going to the Himalayas or anything!!! It’s just Pondicherry, that’s three hours away from my place. Duh, just purchase them when you get there.
Anyway, so Pondicherry it is! It’s a little town out of Chennai that was once a Portuguese and then a French colony. I’d heard all about how the quaint European culture and architecture has still been preserved well and I can’t wait to explore it! And I’ve got my trusty Lumia, so I’ll be hopefully back with some nice photographs!
I had spent the better portion of today to prepare my itinerary for the next two days (yes, I’m a big-time planner). I do it in Micorsoft OneNote and I like how it nicely syncs to my Windows Phone. And no, I don’t work for Microsoft (though a man can dream). And yes, I understand that you could do this in Google Keep, but it isn’t just as robust. Okay, I’ll stop now. Enough talk of the apps.
So my itinerary usually lists out details such as –
1) Attractions. Grouped by type.
2) Restaurants in town that I plan to eat in. Grouped according to how expensive they are. This time I’m planning to try out as much of the French Cuisine as possible. Croissants, here I come!
3) Localities that I need to check out. For Pondicherry, it’s the French Quarter that I’m interested in.
After this, I open up Google Maps and roughly plot out each location and the distance between them, so I’ll have a better idea and don’t have to waste my time fidgeting with my phone or asking the locals.
I’m not saying I don’t like unplanned trips or on-the-spur decisions. It’s just that when you’ve got less than two days to explore an entire town, best to be as much prepared as you could be!!
So there you go. Wish me a happy journey! 🙂 I dunno how much blogging I’ll get to do over the next two days, but I’ll at least always be connected to the internet through 3G on my phone. The hotel I booked has Wi-Fi that “allegedly” doesn’t work, but we’ll see about that.