A walk into the history and culture of Pondicherry’s heritage town
The union territory of Pondicherry is also known by many as the French colony in India. Since this small town was a French colony for over 250 years and even post the Indian independence until the year 1962 and as a result of that the French culture and influence is very much still alive in the French heritage section of the town.
The French heritage town is located adjacent to Rocky Beach. To get to the heritage town from the bus station there are multiple options. Walking is also a good option and it takes not more than 15 minutes to reach the heritage town from the bus stand. The other options are to hire an auto rickshaw or a bicycle/motorbike.
Form a distance it is easy to spot the French heritage town since the architecture of the buildings and the houses are quite different as compared to the rest of Pondicherry. Many of the old buildings and bungalows in this section of town have been turned into heritage hotels, restaurants and cafes making them a huge hit with foreign travellers. Majority of the hotels are on the road opposite Rocky Beach.
The main attraction of the French heritage town along with the ambience is Rocky Beach that also houses a giant statue of Mahatma Gandhi which is right at the centre of Rocky Beach and the far end of Beach road is the monument of Joseph François Dupleix who was the governor general of the French establishment in India.
Rocky Beach during the day is pretty much a dead place with very few tourists and a handful of street vendors strolling around the place. But once the sun goes down this place becomes a no vehicle zone and the Rocky Beach road has a host of locals and tourists strolling the Long Beach road making it a complete contrast of what it is during the day. The small patch of sand all along the beach comes to life with plenty of small carts selling chaat and masala corn, mixed fruit plates, etc.
There are also movie screenings every evening. The movies screened are local Tamil movies and also French movies and documentaries. During the evenings there are plenty of vendors selling balloons, cotton candy and ice cream. The other attractions visible from Rocky Beach are the old light house, the war memorial.
Accommodation is available in plenty around the French heritage section of Pondicherry but is a bit heavy on the pocket as nearly all the hotels and resorts are either old French houses turned into hotels or are new ones modeled on the French architecture. These hotels can be found in plenty along Rocky Beach road.
Eating options in the heritage town are in plenty and there are some really good cafes and restaurants that have mouth watering food, brilliant ambiance and many of them also have guide books that come with a map of Pondicherry and also information about the latest happenings around the town. There are also a few roof top cafes. Many of the cafes have karaoke nights on weekends. These cafes and restaurants mostly serve French, Italian and Continental food and carter mostly to the foreign travelers.
For shopping there are some good options in the form of unique handmade mugs, Pondicherry caption T-shirts and Ayurvedic soaps.
The best time to visit this heritage town is during the winter months from November to mid-March when the weather is comparatively pleasant as compared to the rest of the year when the mercury level is in the high 30s.
The French heritage town in Pondicherry has a French feel to it with the architecture and with many of the locals still conversing in French rather than Tamil. This heritage town is truly a place to visit for one and all, from the history and culture lovers to the travelers who are looking for some good food and drink, this section of Pondicherry will surely leave you spell bound and wanting more.
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