Pondicherry was renamed Puducherry after finding its independence in 2006, but it’s frequently referred to as “Pondy”, too. This “Indian Cote d’Azur” is an elegant seaside town perched on the Bay of Bengal. You’ll find a relaxed and rather sophisticated seaside vibe, charming walkways, European style houses, and meticulously manicured gardens. Landscapes from Pondicherry featured in the 2012 Ang Lee film, “Life of Pi”, and the city is a welcome breath of fresh air from the stress and chaos that reign in plenty of other Indian cities.
When the British took over much of India in 1850, they allowed the French to retreat to four small quarters in Indian territory. Puducherry, or Pondicherry as it was then, was thus beautifully designed and carefully maintained using a typical French grid system, and was neatly divided into two quarters, the Indian quarter (Ville noire) and the French quarter (Ville blanche).
Visitors tend to spend most of their time in the French quarter on the eastern side of Pondicherry, which is full of lovely clean cobbled streets, colonial-style townhouses shaded by bougainvillea, charming boutiques, and fine French cuisine, including world class steaks and wine. Here, you can stroll down the Promenade, a boulevard lined with palms, take in the sea breezes, spot beautiful churches, and wander through galleries. On the west side in Ville noire, there is a fast-paced hectic vibe, not dissimilar to other Indian cities.