Haiku Hospitality arranged the luxury travel accomodation for this travel series. For enquiries for Pondicherry visit the Contact page
Packed into a tiny space of just two square kilometers lies the heritage city that is Pondicherry, or Puducherry as its now known. The streets are lined with cobblestones and the French architecture of the houses and buildings transports one not just back in time, but to another continent altogether. At least, that’s what I’d heard from countless accounts from visitors to this city. And so I jumped at the opportunity to spend a few days at this seaside paradise. To top things off we would have the fabulous Mercedes Benz B-Class as our set of the wheels for the trip.
To be honest, my first impression as we drove into Pondicherry through its terrible evening traffic and narrow roads was not promising. I was not looking forward to this hustle and bustle over the course of the weekend. A frown on my brow was probably quite evident as we checked into Maison Perumal that lies in the Tamil Quarter of the town. While checking in we were greeted with cold towels and a welcome drink of lime and ginger. After settling into our beautiful rustic room with its tall ceiling, large wooden windows and gigantic solid wood bed, I felt much better.
Maison Perumal is part of the CGH Earth group of hotels and is actually a restored Tamil joint family house. It houses ten guest rooms that have been meticulously put together, using traditional methods and craftsmanship. Its specialty is its hospitality and the staff go to great length to make sure you feel like you’re not merely a guest but a part of the family.
In the evening we walked through the streets of the French Quarter, a much calmer place now that the traffic had died down and even the hustle and bustle of the weekend crowd along the seafront promenade didn’t dampen my freshly re-kindled spirits. I was warming up to Pondicherry already. The next day we headed out to explore the nooks and crannies of the city via cycle rickshaw that is actually an organised tour called ‘Pondicherry on Wheels’. We explored the Tamil Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the French Quarter that the city is divided into. We also visited some of the churches, temples and mosques in each. After the quick rickshaw ride I have to admit, there is something quite charming about the city.
For our Sunday lunch we ate at the Palais de Mahe that lies in the French Quarter of Pondicherry and is the second CGH Earth property in Pondicherry. The lunch was a mix of Indian and continental dishes served in courses that seems odd at first but is quite in tune with the traditional colonial style of eating. The property itself is also styled in a colonial fashion quite distinct from its sister concern – the Maison Perumal.
The B-Class was a great companion on the trip easily navigating the narrow streets and still managing to look stunning against the charming French architectural backdrop. It was equally well mannered on the long trip from Chennai, making short work of highway cruising duties. As for the city of Pondicherry, it has managed to turn around my initial impression completely, though I’m certain that there is a lot more on offer. If this discovery requires another weekend at either the Maison Perumal or the Palais De Mahe I’ll jump at the chance for another French getaway.
This article was originally written for Overdrive Magazine (www.overdrive.in)