Having hit the bottom we started our journey north. The first port of call was Pondicherry which is simultaneously both the best and worst Indian city that we have been in. Unlike most of the places this joint was colonised by the French rather than the Brits. The French know how to develop a city…especially a seaside esplanade…wide streets, tree lined avenues and fantastic architecture. It is a calm and relaxing place to be…at 6pm each night they ban all motor traffic from the esplanade and the next 3 parallel streets and it turns into a pedestrian paradise. Add to this that it is about 8 degrees cooler than the south with a brilliant sea breeze that makes it a cool and wonderful place to spend time.
Further to the city the French influence continues strongly up to today. This translates to awesome bakeries, cafés, restaurants, real cheese and real coffee. China had no cheese at all and India has paneer or crappy singles slices wrapped in plastic…cheese is heaven…Brie, blue, Edam and many more…combine this with fresh baguettes and an almond croissant or two and this place rocks. The restaurants are a mix of Indian, French, Italian and the ‘odds and sods’ ones that you generally find around the place. A standout is the steak that pops up on the odd menu or two.
As I mentioned this place is both the best and worst…as no cars are allowed into the last 3 streets before the beach the tuk tuk drivers stalk the third street waiting fo ramblers to finish their afternoon/evening walk. As they wait nature inevitably calls…being India…it leaves when it has to…our hotel was on the third street in and at no time did we leave or enter the hotel without seeing at least two people peeing in the stagnant gutters. Needless to say this has an effect upon the aroma of the area.
Now let’s not be silly here…we have been in India since late November so we are no stranger to the open drains and the smells but this place adds a new dimension. Jill was amused that they called one of the open drains the Rue de Petite Canal. Sadly there is the Grand Canal that runs through the middle of the joint. I titled this Rue de Poopoo. It was disgusting, every time I walked past it I was involuntarily dry retching and Jill was not a lot better. There was a heap of local restaurants along the street of the Rue de Poopoo which we did not go near.
The French quarter of town is the bit right by the water (in the 3 block zone and away from Rue de Poopoo) and is known as white town. In here there are any number of great restaurants and the odd juice bar (Kerala style). In all Pondicherry is great if you can keep away from Le Canal O’Crap.