Pondicherry is relatively close to Chennai, only a few hours’ drive away. I thought it seemed a little classy, with the French quarter and all the nice pastries and wine that might go with that, so we headed down there for a day. There are two sides to the city divided by a canal. The Indian side is, well, what you would expect. The French has nice hotels, restaurants, cafes, and the beach. I’ve only seen two beaches in India, and there seems to be a pattern. There are usually a lot of vendors somewhere along the beach, which can be nice if you need some water or some fresh fruit, but other than that it can be annoying. There’s usually a lot of garbage. In Chennai, it’s buried in the sand. In Pondicherry, it’s hidden in between the rocks. People don’t swim at the beaches here, either. Usually at home in the US, you’ll at least see a lone person out in the waves, but from what I’ve seen in India, people go to the beach and just look at the ocean. A few brave souls might take off their sandals and walk into the water up to their ankles.
Pondicherry was also the first place where I saw cats in India. You see feral dogs all over, but the cats seemed to have actual homes. They stayed near restaurants and hotels. I even had one that tried to jump up on my chair while I was eating breakfast, but then it saw me and took off. Also, we got to see a lot more Caucasian people there, too (not trying to sound racist or anything…) but most of them were French. All of the streets have French names, many menus are written in French and English, and there is a lot of typical French food. I finally got to eat crepes again, and found out that they’re SO much better with meat in them. Holly Beckman recommended a café that was right on the beach, and it made the best cold coffee I’ve had in a long time. They also make these drinks called Lassies (not pronounced like the dog’s name), which are delicious drinks. They taste like smoothies, but they’re not as thick.
Matt decided to rent a scooter, so we cruised around Pondicherry on our own. I should make some jokes here about Matt’s driving, but frankly, I am too scared to try driving on the roads here, so I give him kudos for never getting into an accident. I was a little embarrassed because the women I’ve seen as passengers on scooters are very calm even when they’re quickly weaving in between cars. I’m sure people were laughing at me, because we were never going too fast, but I was freaking out.
Having said that, Pondicherry is a great place to just go and relax. If you’re actually looking for things to do, there’s a nice park, a botanical garden, and a famous ashram. But other than that it’s a much better spot to just sit around, maybe on the roof of one of the local restaurants. OH, this is a much better place to get alcohol, too. It’s looked down on here, because from what I’ve heard from Matt and Dave, Indians drink to get drunk. But there are some places to get decent alcohol, and Pondicherry has some good wine, as well as good liquor stores, which are hard to find in Chennai.
There’s also this great store when they make paper by hand. I wish they had a branch in the US, because some of the paper patterns looked amazing! There were also some beautiful handmade cards, and notebooks, and origami kits. I wanted to buy everything and take it home with me.