Pondicherry unlocks a door to a beautiful and thriving cultural blend of the French and Tamilians. An intensive exploration of this town can speak volumes about its colonial past. Usually an offbeat recommendation on lists for travel – Pondicherry has gained significance over the years for the youthful fun it offers to youngsters. Moreover, dubbed as the ‘French Capital of India’, this place has become the eastern alternative to Goa. Most of its appeal is derived from the blend of Dravidian and European culture that has prevailed through the years. Apart from the usual favourites, we have got a list of offbeat things to do next time you are here for a vacay.
UNUSUAL THINGS TO DO IN PONDICHERRY
While providing cultural insight, the place racks up a delicious multi-cuisine experience, pristine beaches, adventure sports along with a vibrant art and performance culture. Being unable to explore the true experience of Pondicherry at home is quite disheartening. However, our list will take you through unique, affordable and crowd-free areas post lockdown.
Midnight Walkthrough Goubert Avenue
The speciality of Goubert Avenue is the lovely leisure walk it offers along its road. The Avenue is situated adjacent to the beach so it offers a beautiful ambience and cool breeze to its visitors. However, you will have the offbeat thrill of this place at midnight. At Midnight, walking through Goubert Avenue is quite cathartic. Restaurants and resorts line up the road so you have the bustle of the town on one side and the sound of waves on the other.
Furthermore, the road is lit with street lights giving the appearance of large fairy lights hanging over the road. As beautiful as it is during the day, there’s something even more endearing about Goubert Avenue at night. The sea offers a calming effect and a lovely landscape to gaze at. Moreover, Goubert Avenue makes for a perfect date spot as well.
Head to an Organic Farm
The Solitude Farm situated in Auroville not only offers a great experience of an organic farm but it has a lovely story to tell. Auroville is merely a 20-minute drive from Pondicherry and provides a heartwarming experience for people. The embodiment of ‘unity in diversity’ can be witnessed here and in the farm as well. The owner of Solitude Farm is a native of England who found happiness in the Tamilian culture of farming. He shifted to Auroville in 1993 at the age of 19. His intention with the farm was to enact social agriculture which is to create a dynamic community around local food, farming and permaculture.
A visit to this farm will offer great insight into the production of organic food. You can stay overnight at the hotel he runs which offers a taste of his organic food such as millet dosa, wood apple salad, papaya salad, cucumber pachadi, and Indravalli green dosa.
Explore The Relics of Arikamedu
An interesting historical fact of Pondicherry is Arikamedu. The place is a Roman relic in itself and an offbeat attraction amidst the beaches. It is a crucial historical and archaeological site in South India as it is the only one confirmed to have had a Roman settlement with strong evidence. Thousands of years ago, Arikamedu served as the Indo-Roman trading centre which welcomed merchant seafarers and encouraged the exchange of goods.
The place is so significant that it has even found its way to a 1st century CE Graeco-Roman text, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Further on, through continuous efforts of excavation, people have found various Roman artefacts in Arikamedu. These artifacts included jars, cups, jewellery, textiles, beads, terracotta materials, pots and more. A visit to Arikamedu is a paradise for history buffs who can witness with their very own eyes a breakthrough in India’s archaeological history.
Eat Through Various Cuisines (French, Creola, Portuguese, Tamil, Vietnamese)
It is very important to try out the multitude of cuisines that Pondicherry offers to its locals and visitors. And we’re not just talking about one or two. Pondicherry has packed a quality experience of various delicacies ranging from South Indian, East Asian and European. But to experience this widespread palette across town, it is crucial to know where to eat. For a lovely French iteration of breakfast, you can head down to Baker Street on Rue Bussy for baguettes, quiches and chocolat. A meal at Le Club will give you fine wine, steaks and delicious French staple diet.
Furthermore, to sneak a taste of Creole cuisine, Hotel de L’Orient offers a lovely platter that has influences of French-Tamilian, Portuguese, Dutch and Vietnamese. The hotel makes delicious Creole chicken, fish, prawn, and squid-potato curries. The Ratatouille served at the hotel is quite popular as well but the squid dishes are a must-try. For authentic east Asian food, Paris Restaurant in MG Road should be on your list. And finally, for a hearty South Indian meal, Hotel Surguru is the best take.
Watch a Petanque in White Town
The youngsters of Pondicherry have grown to become Petanque enthusiasts. A game that originated in France has found its way to Pondicherry and maintained its legacy far across the ocean. Petanque was a game that originated in the La Ciotat commune in France at the beginning of the 20th century. The war veterans French Army brought it to the shores of Pondicherry.
The game uses metal spherical balls called Boules which are used to throw or roll towards the ‘target ball’. One of the many recreational yet offbeat activities to indulge in Pondicherry is to watch a game of Petanque in the streets or ground of White Town. Moreover, you can even witness the games at the Tamil Quarter in the evenings. Meet the right people and you’ll find yourself giving this intriguing sport a try at White Town.
Go Boating En Route to Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach or Plage Paradiso Island is a beautiful and pristine beach located in isolation from the mainland. The beach is only accessible via a boat through the Chunnambar Backwaters. The beach encourages the solitary spirit rather than the adventurous one. However, its strong currents make it less apt for swimming. But Paradise beach offers a beautiful landscape to chill at. Tuning to the sound of waves, one can make sandcastles, lie down on the beach, read a book or play ball.
Moreover, the journey to the beach itself is wonderful. One can fare a boat for 15-20 minutes through the Chunnambar Backwaters. The sight offered during boating in itself is a satisfying experience. You can witness the beautiful landscape of the backwaters and coconut trees as it opens up to the sandy strip of Paradise Beach.
Learn Capoeira at La Casita in Heritage Town
Another fun, offbeat and unique activity you can sign up for in Pondicherry is Capoeira. The La Casita Activity Center is a place to try out the fun and thrilling exercise activities like Belly Dancing, Capoeira, Zumba, Kizomba, Juggling and more. You can even take up Spanish at this centre! The centre is run by Kash and her husband, Romain Timmers. As a certified dancer, Kash will help you let loose and embark on a fun fitness experience.
She offers a wide range of activities but we suggest you try her Capoeira classes. It is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that expertly blends acrobatics, dance and music. Engaging with Kash and her lovely husband will definitely make your day. Further on, the social and performative potential within you is let free here and you cannot help but enjoy the experience.
Explore Local Art at Aurodhan
Aurodhan is a hotel-cum-art gallery which provides a great experience to those who seek to understand local artistry. It offers artsy rooms decorated with beautiful sculptures and art for a stay and engages its visitors with free performances by global artists. Aurodhan Art Gallery is a testament to the thriving art culture in the state of Tamil Nadu. Moreover, it displays the kind of creativity and innovation that persists within the minds of people in Pondicherry.
The excellence of art is put up in the gallery and showcases different forms such as contemporary, folk and tribal art. Art enthusiasts will definitely feel at home in the lovely ambience of Aurodhan. And the best part of all, the homestay along with a visit to the gallery is quite easy on the pocket. For a calming and insightful retreat, Aurodhan should be on the top of your offbeat list.
Get a Bird’s Eye View of Pondicherry Through Parasailing
Most of your experience of Pondicherry will be on the ground. But how often do you get to view a city from the skies? Pondicherry offers a few water sports but the offbeat experience of parasailing will take you to the skies. It serves as a great break from exploring Pondicherry. Karaikal town in Pondicherry offers great parasailing opportunities. They will lift you up in the air from the motorboat while attached to an open parachute.
Moreover, with the wind in your hair, seagulls around you and the thrill of speed, Pondicherry will look quite different to you from this high altitude. The beautiful coastline of Pondicherry will make up your view along with the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal.
Rekindle Your Shopping Spirits At Cluny Embroidery Centre
Cluny Embroidery Centre is a place everyone must visit – lovers of shopping or not. The centre is located in a beautiful old 18th-century building which is run by a local convent. The best endeavour of this centre is that it supports underprivileged women by hiring them and assimilates them within the embroidery field of work. The women employed here are trained in the intricate needlework that you’ll witness in the hand linens sold here.
A trip to Cluny Embroidery Centre can involve a shopping spree and an insightful education about the inclusion of women in commercial livelihoods to improve their economic standards. Furthermore, even the story behind this facility is that the building was donated by a French woman who insisted that it be used to help women. You can browse through their napkins, tablecloths, hand towels and other linen at the centre. Moreover, some of the delicate designs include motifs of sea creatures, butterflies and animals.
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