We woke up to a miracle of well being on the day we planned to leave for Puducherry from Mahabalipuram. Perhaps it was because we have visited so many temples, maybe because I have patted so many cows, it could be modern medicine, who knows?
Sheila was feeling so back to normal, despite my suggestion we catch another taxi, she was happy to go by local bus.
Overnight train trips get you to your destination overnight, but you don’t get to see a lot. Daytime bus trips through rural India are another story. Salt harvesting, rice paddies, other unidentified crops, countless shrines and temples and on this trip, a real thrill to see wild flamingoes in a lake we passed.
Lonely Planet had another win with the Park Guest House where every room has a balcony overlooking the Bay of Bengal. This place is run by the Sri Aurobindo ashram and the grounds are full of simple but beautiful pieces of art some of which are going to be replicated at home.
All over the place are posters of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, a French woman who became his collaborator. There are lots of rules and even a curfew, but it was a great place to stay and see if Puducherry would scratch Sheila’s itch.
Of we set on foot in search of French influence. We didn’t get far before we fell victim to the ice cream shop just down the street at Alliance Francais. This was a good start.
The old map had lots of streets with French names. A newer map, and the streets themselves, had Indian names. The good start was tarnished a bit.
Before long Sheila was so well and in such rapture that she was salivating at all the Frenchiness ranging from buildings to food to faux gendarmes with non-faux firearms.
There is a French embassy and to ice the cake of expectation, people actually speak French here. Sheila is in heaven and I have to conceded that I was wrong about Puducherry being as French as Nouméa I.e. not at all.
The cherry on top of the croissant was a wonderful meal in an almost French restaurant. My how the appetite has returned.
There was also a certain amount of wistfulness starting to creep in because our trip is ending . Puducherry is our last stop before heading back to Chennai for our flight to Malaysia. So we were lapping it up.
Of course there were Hindu temples, one particularly spectacular and another with what can only be described as an endearing performing elephant.
Place some money at the end of its trunk and it will touch you on the head to “bless” you. This is important enough to people to have them lining up and the elephant receiving enough coins to keep it supplied in croissants.
You can take the girl out of the Catholic Church but you can’t totally remove the church from the girl. So we visited some old churches and I scratched my head as Sheila, who had been a bit puzzled by the overt devotion of Hindus, crossed herself entering and leaving. Or maybe the scratching was from the elephant blessing.
I think you get the drift: there never was a Pondicherry zoo, but the French really were there and their influence remains. We had a lovely time and the truth is, there’s not a lot to write about, but plenty of pics of a relaxing couple of days.