At our café destination, we enjoyed cold beverages, French baguettes, soft ocean breezes and good conversation. It was here that Charlie and I first introduced Alok to foods and beverages he had yet to try. For the past few months, we have been the recipients of the “Have you had (fill in the blank with any Indian dish of choice)?” or “Try this (again, fill in the blank)” comments. We willingly, for the most part, try anything that is placed in front of us. This time we were the ones placing the “unknown” in front of our friend. Alok had never had a cappuccino. He willingly partook. Alok had never had a croissant. He willingly indulged. It was fun to introduce him to French-style food in his own country.
|Alok and Charlie at the cafe. Notably missing: Neeraj.|
|Indian colors by the waterfront|
|Gandhi statue along the waterfront.|
One of the things that struck both Charlie and I was how “un-Indian” the French quarter in Pondicherry really is. The street names are all “Rue this” or “Something-or-another Rue.” The streets are slightly wider with cobbled paving and far less crazy traffic than what we have grown accustom to. The Indian bustle of everyday life was also noticeably lacking. I think this is what made Pondicherry a lovely place for a change in pace, but I don’t think I would like it for more than a day or two. It lacked the elements that have endeared India to me.
After our late lunch, we dragged poor Alok down to the shopping district to fill our bags with gifts and our minds with memories. We had a few stores in mind to visit, but on occasion we would wander past a unique shop front and pop in to see what treasures we could dig up. Along the way we found an elephant. These elephants have a habit of turning up in the most random of places!
|Watermelon season has arrived!|
|Brother, this one is for you. That is all.|
Once we had had our fill of shopping, we navigated our way back to the hotel to again freshen up before dinner. On our way back, we past what looked like a quaint little restaurant which we decided to return to for dinner. It was a good choice. We celebrated Charlie’s birthday with too much food for our own good, as is often the case when we dine out. (How is it that when you order one dish per person you end up with what seems like enough food to feed Hannibal’s army… including the elephants?)
|Dinner is never truly complete without dessert.|
Day two of our adventure began with breakfast at a respectable hour followed by a trip out to Paradise Beach. To get to the beach, we hired an auto to take us to the dock, and a boat to take us across the backwaters to the beach. A unique assortment of people lounging in the bright sands of Paradise Beach was the scene that we encountered after disembarking our vessel. Charlie and I both noted the Indian men were freely frolicking in their swim costumes while the Indian women were donned head to toe in sarees or salwar kameez. We both understood and respected the cultural influences, yet we couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the women who knew must be sweltering beneath the yards of material they were wearing.
We were allowed an hour at the beach before being herded back on to the boat that brought us to the beach. An hour was really all we needed as Charlie and I both managed to acquire new tan lines within that time. Back at the boat launch we planned the rest of our day: shopping, lunch, bus station. We found a few more gifts for ourselves and family before locating the restaurant touted by The Lonely Planet as the most air conditioned location in Pondi.
|Alok, Charlie and I waiting for our ship to come in...|
|Our destination, taken from the boat.|
|The first sight of Paradise Beach.|
|Fact: oceans turn this one into a kid. Love it.|
|Charlie and Alok enjoying Paradise. Notably missing: Neeraj.|
|Charlie left a passing mark.|
|Right. Need I say more?|
We left for the bus station with a quiet hope that we would somehow manage to find an air conditioned, private bus for ride home. It was erroneous thinking. In fact, in her wisdom, Charlie sought out the most tattered and road-weary bus she could find and asked if it was the bus to Vellore. Sure enough. The beauty was our set of wheels back to Vellore. As it turned out, the bus was the very same bus we had ventured to Pondi on. The five hour ride back to Vellore was much less entertaining and deceptively long. The last twenty kilometers stretched on for an eternity. We were wise to the bus route once it neared Vellore, so we disembarked from the bus at Bagayam rather than riding all the way through town this time. It saved us forty minutes, lots of grief and six rupees.
Despite running rouge with the planning, our weekend in Pondicherry was beautiful. Perhaps it was because we didn’t begin our adventure with a laundry list of “to see/do” items that made it so enjoyable. Perhaps it was just getting away. Or perhaps it was introducing Alok to a different style of Indian life… The reason may remain unknown, but we returned to Vellore refreshed and ready for the weeks ahead of us.