Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Pondicherry – Day 17

A day of leisure: that special day when you get the chance to head out on your own, to return to a gallery or historic place for a second look, or to track down that special shop or setting discovered during your own trip research. In Pondi, some wanted to be blessed by a holy elephant rumored to make daily visits to Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, others wished to wander the markets and shaded streets looking for a final adventure.

After breakfast we met in the lobby and started out together. Shops where shuttered, not to open until late in the morning, but along the street colourful vendors had taken the sidewalk space and laid out their wares. We wandered this impromptu morning market for a while and slowly began to separate into smaller units, each setting off for something of interest.

I was interested in returning to a lovely garden I had noticed the day before. It seemed to be a quiet place that the people of Pondicherry came to rest and relax from the heat of the day. We found the park, called Bharathi, as the sun moved overhead. Most of the shaded benches were taken at this time of day but after some searching, we found a spot out of the sun with a great view of the surrounding garden. I captured a few mini memories and my travelling friend enjoyed people watching and viewing the local plants.  We stayed out of the sun for an hour and then we strolled on.

The next thing our our To Do list was unfortunately a bit of banking. In this former French colony, Visa cards was not as easy to use as we had found in other parts of Southern India. As funds drew short, we set off to find an international bank that accepted all credit and debit cards. Someone thought that they had seen a Citibank logo the day before and after some searching we tracked down the local branch.

Later as we wandered through the French Quarter we discovered a new edition to Pondicherry's culinary scene and decided to give it a try. Lunch at Villa Shanti was perfect. We liked it so much - the modern décor, the historic location, and of course the food - that we decided to invite the rest of the group to join us for dinner. Not knowing how many of the group would join us, we made the mistake of not making a reservation. More on that later.

It is easy to become relaxed when the temperatures are up in the high 30’s C / 90’s F. especially when you have had a lovely, quiet, relaxing sojourn. We decided after lunch we would head back to the hotel and spend some time in the pool. We found a tuk-tuk (no meter rates here) and headed back to our Atithi Hotel. This hotel has an amazing infinity pool on the roof giving you a 5 star view of Pondi. We floated in the cool water looking over the roof tops of the neighbourhood wondering what it would be like to be staying there or there.

It really was a perfect day at leisure. I painted, I wandered, I ate and I relaxed in the pool. I was happy.

Our full group returned to Villa Shanti that evening for dinner under the stars. As we hadn’t imagined a reservation would be essential in this sleepy town, we were surprised to find that all the tables in the open air restaurant were reserved for the evening. But our disappointment only lasted minutes a flurry of activity led to a private room over looking the courtyard being opened to our group. It was a perfect place to spend our last evening in Pondicherry.  Next time I visit Pondi I will try very hard to make this hotel my home.

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