For my final road trip in India, I spent a long weekend in Pondicherry – a small, coastal city one state over from Bangalore which is the perfect distance for an overnight bus and a weekend getaway. I had been planning this trip with friends for some time now, and was really looking forward to spending some time at the beach and at the gorgeous hotel pool.
Pondicherry is a small Union Territory (about 2 square km) surrounded by the state of Tamil Nadu. It was ruled by the French long ago their presence is still heavily felt today. Street signs posted on walls feature road names in both French and Tamil, restaurants offer cheeses and fresh breads, and locals passing each other on the street wave and say “bonjour” to friends. Schools within the city limits of Pondicherry are still under the control of the French government, so most children grow up being at least tri-lingual between English, French and Tamil. The architecture is a beautiful fusion of French and Tamil and historic buildings bear names like biblioteque or tribunal superior. Even the small, blue and white ceramic tiles displaying the house numbers were the same as what was on my house when I lived in France. It is like a little French bubble had traveled across the vast continents and popped right over top of Pondicherry.
Needless to say given my obsession and love for all things French – I was in heaven. My favorite aspect (other than the Camembert…obviously) was finally being able to understand what was going on around me. My Kannada never really advanced as much as I would have liked, so while I have become a master of interpreting hand gestures and picking up on one of the 20 words I know to make my own version of what is actually happening (which has actually proven to be fairly accurate), I could finally understand conversations with ease and join in if I chose.
Most of our time was spent reading, lounging by the pool, or exploring the nearby beaches. One morning we woke up early to walk out on a rocky pier to watch the sunrise which was absolutely beautiful. Fishermen slowly patrolling the waters, aunties and uncles getting in their morning exercise and children playing in the surf before school.
Good food, peaceful beaches and pretty architecture. Nicely done, Pondicherry.