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Pondicherry

Once an outpost of the French in India, Pondicherry, renamed Puducherry, is an ancient seaside city that dates back to Roman times. Even after the British decisively defeated the French in India, Pondicherry and several other cities remained under French control; after independence, it was merged with the rest of India. Today, Pondicherry retains distinct pockets of French flavor, including wide boulevards, the cylindrical kepis worn by the police, excellent French cuisine, and well-preserved colonial buildings. This relaxing, atmospheric destination, one of the most pleasant in south India, gained further notice as the hometown of the protagonist in the recent award-winning novel and film Life of Pi.
Once an outpost of the French in India, Pondicherry, renamed Puducherry, is an ancient seaside city that dates back to Roman times. Even after the British decisively defeated the French in India, Pondicherry and several other cities remained under French control; after independence, it was merged with the rest of India. Today, Pondicherry retains distinct pockets of French flavor, including wide boulevards, the cylindrical kepis worn by the police, excellent French cuisine, and well-preserved colonial buildings. This relaxing, atmospheric destination, one of the most pleasant in south India, gained further notice as the hometown of the protagonist in the recent award-winning novel and film Life of Pi.

EXPERIENCES

EXPERIENCES

French School for the Far East

Visit Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (EFEO), or the French School for the Far East, which was founded in 1900 in Hanoi but is now headquartered in Paris. Meet with students studying Asian societies, the focus of the EFEO, and have tea with professors who have dedicated their lives to this academic field.

Ganesh Temple

Explore the Ganesh temple, which is usually bustling with locals wishing to get everything from their children to their motorbikes blessed by Lakshmi, a 19-year old female elephant that has been living in Pondicherry for nearly her entire life. Feed her some fruit and she'll tap you on your bowed head with her trunk!

Patisserie

Start off a Pondicherry morning by experiencing the unique intersection of French and Tamil culture at a local patisserie, where you can chat with the owner about his upbringing in Pondicherry, and how he came to learn his craft.

Salle a Manger

Have drinks and dinner at Salle a Manger, the restaurant of The Calve, a property in black town and a former home of a prominent Chettinad family. It was built 150 years ago and restored with authentic materials such as Chettinad plaster and Atangudi tiles.

Silk Shopping

Shop in Pondicherry’s booming commercial district, including the shop of a famed silk designer who Skypes with her clients overseas to show them her newest creations. Her shop has many fine examples of her table and bed linens and sari silk from various parts of India that she personally sources and carries back to Pondicherry.

Soldat Family Dinner

Have dinner in the home of a prominent Soldat family. Soldats were lndian veterans of the French military whose army pensions made them quite wealthy upon their return home. This is a great chance to learn about a little-known slice of East-meets-West history of the 20th century.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a religious hermitage founded by Sri Aurobindo, who came from a prominent Brahmin, or first-caste, family. While there is no present guru, an enormous amount of spiritual works have been bequeathed to the ashram.

Walking Tour

Embark on a comprehensive walking tour of the town, passing by its quaint French colonial buildings, churches, and the war memorial commemorating the loss of French soldiers' lives in World War I. Walk through Ville Blanche (white town) and Ville Noire (black town), so named because the former was where most of the French lived and the latter was the Tamil side.

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