Saturday 12 May 2018

Pondicherry India . January - March 2018


Toronto to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Chennai overnight in Chennai then by car to Pondicherry. A long journey but worth it.

January 28, 2018 
We arrived in Pondicherry around 3:30 today.  Our B & B is at 19 Manakula.  Quite comfortable, nice couple as our hosts and as far as Bruce is concerned the best breakfast in town. 
Tomorrow I hope to sketch and Bruce is going to run.

journal # 1 - cover
my journals are 7 1/4" x 3 3/4" or 18 1/2 Cm x 9 1/2 cms

Day 1 January 29, 2018 in Pondicherry.. that is our first full day. It’s Sunday and a festival weekend. The Pondicherry Food Festival and it's Republic Day! There are a lot of people walking in the cool night air along the promenade. They close off the road each night at 6:00 to vehicles. A wonderful feeling of family and fun. I sketched from the balcony looking down on Manakula then my coffee cup to complete one of the challenges on the Waterloo Region Urban Sketchers 2018 Fifty Two week Challenge. The colourful awning was at Cafe de Flore. 

I would say you should all come here but then it really wouldn’t be the same, I know you understand what I mean. We spent a leisurely day, I had my paint brush in hand whenever I wasn’t walking or shopping 😀 

Day 2 January 29, We spent most of the day walking, looking, walking and I did some sketching. Oh  yes stopping to drink tea, coffee and fresh sweet lime sodas. Shopping on Mission Street was an experience. It is not in the French part of Pondi, so there are many more people and a lot more excitement. We will return many times to this part of town during our time in Pondicherry. 

Day 3 January 30. We spent the day out in the green area of Auroville. Our son gave his father a day at the spa for his birthday gift.  We had a taxi that picked us up at our accommodation and took us  to the Spa Equilibra. We had a room to change in and if we felt like it a nap. We spent all our time by the pool. It was quiet. I tried the water, actually got in up to my waist but it was just too cold to actually swim. There was one other woman beside the pool. She was doing what we were doing, resting.   I sketched, we had lunch, it was a beautiful day!

Day 4 January 31, 2018 
I started my day as was to become a habit by sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee my book or my sketch book. I would go to the kitchen, three flights down and there on the counter would be a French Press ready for my morning coffee. Back to our room with the coffee, a cup and some milk for an hour or so of special time while I waited for Bruce to return from his run or walk along the Promenade. 
Today I sketched the chair I sit in each day. Not terribly comfortable but better then the floor. When Bruce came back from his run on the Promenade we headed to the Airtel office to get a sim card. It was 500 INRS ($10.00 CDN) for the two cards. We thought we were buying a plan....wrong but it will take a few days to find this out. 

We stopped for our first visit to the market. It goes on for ever. I didn't sketch just took some photos and looked. The air smelled of ginger and jasmine. You will find that in India there is so much to see often just looking is the best thing to do. A stop at the Ganesh Temple gave me a chance to do #1 of Waterloo Region Urban Sketchers 52 week challenge...sketch a store window. Then to Le Cafe on the Promenade for coffee. 

Day 5 Feb. 01, It was a rather lazy day today. We started slowly this morning I was working on a small watercolour. We had lunch at Cafe de Flore which has become our favourite place. The owner of Cafe de Flore invited us to come to her B & B.  Back at 19 Manakula more time to work on my painting then out for dinner. Tonight we headed to the promenade. It was a beautiful night the winds had stopped and there was a full moon. We changed our cell SIM cards so we could contact each other, some kind of a glitch, we can’t use our phones at all. Tomorrow a new day and a journey back to Airtel to get things straightened out.

Day 6 February 2, I would call this the best layed plans! 
Last night we successfully installed a SIM card for both our phones to find out that we couldn’t use them for text etc outside of India. Not good we needed to be in contact with our kids. So we took out the card and reinstalled (very easy) our home SIM cards. Most places have wifi including our B & B so really did we need to be worrying about phones. Bruce wanted to be able to contact me is he was out for a run etc. so we continued to try and get this very simple (so they tell us) system/telephone set up.  Back to square one. We took a taxi and went to Auroville to get a scooter. Just like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we were going to toot around India on a scooter. Bruce would drive and I would sit side saddle on the back. 
Everyone drives scooters or motor bikes here. We thought it would be wise to try one out of the city before renting one. The rules of the road are nonexistent you just stick your nose in and go. We are safe though, no scooters for rent today. Now we are back at our B & B settled for the night. Tomorrow we go hunting for a throw away phone. 

sketching the green in Auroville

Day 7 February 3, Pondicherry. We spent the day wandering.That is what we came for. First stop we had to purchase a phone. 800 INR’s and the SIM cards we purchased and couldn’t use, now we can ! Then to the market such a happening place. 😀

Day 8, February 4
I started my day sketching the Ganesh Temple. The sketch in my journal is the third try. There is so much going on. I will try again another day. Lunch today was at the Villa Helena Garden Restaurant. It is a beautiful colonial building very peaceful away from the crowds. Tonight we went back to the Promenade, Bruce’s favourite evening walk. Tonight it was so busy. I think on Sunday this is the place all want to be. Fun to participate with the families.

Day 10 February 5 of our journey. A journey that we decided would not take us much further then Pondicherry. So far we have been able to entertain ourselves each day. The weather is warm a big positive to what is happening at home. Snow!! 

Another great day in Pondi. We do a lot of walking here. Basically that is what we do. India is an amazing place the visuals never stop. The bike is for you and as you see I have now done #7 of the 52 week challenge.  My painters who did Anne-Laure Jacquart's workshop, Pondi is a little part of France so I have included lunch today, a crepe!

Day 11 February 6
I am sorry to say not much sketching today. We were travelling around. The page in my sketchbook didn’t start until around 1:00 PM. We took a tuk tuk (motorized rickshaw) out to Auroville. Ben had suggested lunch at the Auroville bakery. It was great!  Back in Pondi, an afternoon coffee at Cafe de Flore then along the Promenade with a stop at Le Cafe by the Sea to sketch the Pondicherry Light House.  

Day 12 Febrary 7, Pondicherry India
I am amazed that wehave been here for 12 days and are still finding new things to see. Lunch once again at the Auroville Bakery. I had time to sketch the ugly fruit tree while they made my sandwich. On returning to Pondicherry we stopped at a small restaurant near the Ashram. It had a beautiful iron stair case which I tried to sketch. For some reason the perspective was completely backwards. Makes it hard to think you could climb these stairs but then it was just one of those days. 

Day 10 February 8,  This journey was to take us not much further then Pondicherry. We came to India to experience and the way to experience is to stop! So far we have been able to entertain ourselves each day. The weather is warm a big positive to what is happening at home. Snow!! 
We have pretty well kept to schedule today. We walk, wondering what was behind the walls, trying to peek through the gates. Back at Cafe de Flore, behind the wall and through the gate we relaxed in the garden. It actually rained today. The furniture had been all moved in the part of the house we have our breakfast in each day. There is no roof to keep out the rain. 
We left with the idea we might get wet. People had umbrellas. It rained about 4 drops and out came the sun. Now we can say it rained in Pondi in February. 

Day 11 February 9,
Oh so hot and humid today. We wandered, I sketched, we are not moving very fast. Gates, doors and windows continue to interest me. The French history is everywhere. Buildings are being renovated on every street. Most of the big homes will be come hotels. Pondi is becoming a destination for French tourists as well as Indian families heading for the beach. Then of course we did meet some French Canadians and we were there not French. 
Dinner tonight was at Villa Helena garden restaurant a heritage hotel. Lovely service and good food. 

Day 12 February 10,
If they ask me what I did in Pondicherry I guess I would say...walked, looked and when lucky sketched. We had great meals and basically relaxed. 'Eat My Cake' was a little restaurant on Rue Romain Roland that became an afternoon stop. Often we were on our way to Cafe de Flore and would stop here half way. We had a table for two on the sidewalk. The drink of choice a sweet lime squeeze. Many of my daily sketches were done sitting at this table. 

Book 3 and the beginning of a new journal. This one was more difficult as I didn't find a brochure to use. I decided that some of the business cards I needed to save for future travel arrangements would be perfect. A little bit of a quilt pattern. Not the colours that I usually would use but certainly a good way to save info. The card in the middle is from the Art Gallery that after much searching I found sold watercolour paper by the sheet, just what I needed to continue my books. Anokhi is what I would say one of the best clothing shops in India. 

Day 13, February 11 A big night in Pondicherry a huge tent has bee assembled down near the Gandhi statue on the promenade. Dealers in Indian crafts will be there for three days to sell their wares. Lots of excitement as we walked with the crowds along the Promenade.  Our walk each night to dinner is 1.6 K. Helps with the calories as we walk down and back at least twice a day. 
Le Cafe by the Sea, originally the Customs House is one of the oldest buildings in Pondi dating back to the 18th century.   We often stopped mid day for a cold drink is one of the very few places in Pondicherry that you can enjoy lunch or a cold drink and see the sea. Bruce often stopped here after his run in the morning for tea.  A favourite stop. 

Sunny, Warm 30C and if you get close to the sea, breezy. We started our day slowly, seems like a habit. Today is Sunday and things are still hopping in Pondi. There was a marathon for kids but you had to be out by 6:30 AM to see it. I only heard about it. I filled my sketchbook page this afternoon. First having coffee, at the Cafe by the sea, then back at our B & B to capture what is happening in the construction / destruction of the house out behind.

Day 14 Feb 12,  All of India has come to Pondicherry at least it feels that way down on the Promenade. This afternoon they came for the craft fair and tonight an antique car show / rally that came from Chennai. Lots of excitement. Today we found an art gallery at the Ashram. Paintings done by the mother and a collection of watercolours (part of a permanent collection) of the area. Good show, beautiful gallery, worth the visit. I will tell you about the pictures in the album.
Lunch was back in Auroville at the Bakery. We seem to find a place we like an it is hard to break the routine. I especially like the Auroville Bakery because we go by rickshaw. They have a very diverse menu always helpful if like me you don't like the spice of southern India. I can get a good sandwich here, ham and cheese on a croissant, yum. 
Todays sketch is a little different then my norm. It is a line drawing then a bit of colour. I have been watching what my USKR friends back home are doing and thought this would be a good method for sketching. It is quick which is good for sketching. 

Day 15 Feb. 13  

Day 16 and 17 Feb. 14 and 15, 2018
I just didn’t get this done last night so officially missed posting day 16.  
Still in Pondicherry but doing a little tuk tuk rides out and about. We have met so many great people because of my sketching. It is like walking a puppy, sketching seems to attract people who normally would never as much as smile as they pass.  While I was sketching the statue in the park, part of the UBSKRS 52 week challenge, I was watched by three men sitting behind me on a bench. They didn't say anything nor come to look until I was ready to leave. As i packed up my things one man pointed at me and and then at himself. I went over to see what they wanted. Of course it was to see what I had been doing. I so love the people. These men were excited about my little sketch, bad or good they loved that I was doing. Days later I passed the same place in the park to be met with a wave and a smile. I had new friends in India. 

Book 3 second side.  The cover is from a 'Story Trails' brochure. Story Trails does walking tours in India. We did the tour in Madurai and thought we might do it again here in Pondi but it just didn't fit in our schedule. I don't know why...but it certainly made a great cover for my little books. 

Day 17, we had a great idea today we would get a tuk tuk and head to the botanical gardens. Last time we went we walked, a long way. This time like the last time it was closed 😫 today it was maintenance. Oh well we will try again tomorrow. It looks beautiful through the gate where the big man says “closed”. He said it would be open tomorrow so crossing my fingers.

Day 18 and 19 Feb. 15
More new places to try for our meals. It seems we did this more then anything else. Today we met up with our rickshaw driver and asked that he take us to Bread and Chocolate, a restaurant that was recommended by my son and by the owner of our B & B. It is just past Auroville and certainly was worth the drive. We met a nice couple who were holidaying from Mumbai. Another good reason to go to restaurants and to have my sketch book. They were interested as that was their car in the middle of the sketch. They said that Pondicherry was a very now destination for a weekend getaway. 

Day 20 Feb. 16th Pondicherry and the beach. This morning we walked to the Promenade stopping on the way at the French History Museum. The guard told us it was a museum and the sign out front said it had a UNESCO designation. It turned out that (Ben would love it) it is a part of the university and is really a library that houses the historic documents of the French in India. A library is for the use of academics not for tourists. No one seemed to be worried that we were walking around though.

Next...We grabbed a rickshaw and went to Serenity Beach for a great lunch, prawns for me! We walked the beach picked up shells and waded in the Indian Ocean. Then returned to Pondi another walk on the Promenade. Being Friday night it was busy and exciting. We will return to Serenity Beach.

Day 21, Feb. 17th --  half way to home or from home, but half way.  
We tried to visit the Botanical gardens again today. Guess what? Closed! It will be open on Monday according to the guard at the gate. We won’t be going 😀 You must admit we have tried. What to do now? 

1. Walk back to Cormandel for lunch. 
2. Walk back to 19 Manakula stop at “Eat my Cake” for a sketch 
3. Rest 
4. Enough rest get a rickshaw and go to Serenity Beach  
5. Walk in the sea, sketch and have a sweet lemon soda 
6. Return to B & B rest 
7. Walk along the Promenade to La Villa for dinner. 
8. Return along the Promenade stopping at Ibaco the new ice cream parlour in our neighbourhood. Sorry Baskin Robins. 9. Back in our room 
10. Facebook, night!
You have to tilt your head to see the sea on this page.

Book 4 - Day 22 Feb 18, 2018
Pondicherry, Puducherry, 
Now to explain the different spelling of the name of our host city. Pondi is the older spelling of the two names, both are used so you may choose. 
Today being Sunday a big day in India (family day, Street market day) and in Pondi, celebration on the Promenade day we decided to go shopping. Our first destination was a book store (Ma Pondi Cherie) that was recommended by our B & B host.  We headed out to find it. 
Then we found a street market a very exciting time when those without shops bring out what they have to sell and line the street. Everyone comes out! 
After checking this out we headed back toward French Town. On the way we stopped at “Baker Street” bakery/restaurant. While I sketched we both enjoyed a drink (my drink today was chai and the sweet was very much like a cinnamon cookie made from pie pastry like my mother used to make for us)  and a small something from the bake shop. Walking on we stopped into Cafe du Flore before heading back to Manakula for a rest. Lunch was late today but at Villa Helena so worth the wait. Tonight we joined thousands on the Promenade for music, dancing, strolling and family fun. Can’t beat Sunday night in India!

Day 23, Feb. 19 
it is amazing how fast time goes when you are resting. I can’t believe that we have been in Pondicherry for 23 days. I hope you are all enjoying our journey. Today we decided that we have to visit all the church’s, temples and mosques. We have been in the churches and the temples not the mosque 😩. We have tried out most of the restaurants been back to some more then once. We have become quite familiar with the area of Pondi we live in known as White or French Town and have strolled the streets of what is called black town. All are exciting and if you didn’t know you had crossed a border the only thing that would tell you that things had changed is the number of grey buildings in French Town. These buildings are all (and there are many) owned by the Aurobindo Ashram. Today we wandered again in the morning then got a rickshaw and went to the beach. I sketched and Bruce walked. This is what we both like to do.

Day 24  Feb. 20, 
Pondicherry is on strike today. I don’t know why. It seems I too was on strike as I didn’t do one sketch and only took a few pictures.
Today we decided to spend the morning in Pondicherry then go out to Auroville have lunch at the bakery, stop at the bookstore and visit the Matrimandir the temple of meditation at Auroville. You know what they say about the best laid plans, well nothing worked today. The roads out in Auroville were under construction, there as a large group at the bakery just before we arrived and the trip to bookstore was further then we thought. It was interesting so like all bookstores took longer then we planned. We cancelled the idea of the visit to Auroville and returned to Pondicherry. Tomorrow is “The Mother’s” birthday. The mother was one of the founders of the Ashram. We were told today that it is felt she was the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. The Ashram is preparing and the population of devotees is growing. More tomorrow about the celebration.

Day 25,  Feb 21 Koil Street.The Mother’s birthday and since we are only a couple of blocks from the Ashram, my neighbourhood was busy. We didn’t get involved so found things away from here to do. We hadn’t been to the Pondicherry Museum so that was our first destination. We stopped at the gates to what was the French Governments counsel or ambassadors home, now the government offices for Pondicherry, so I could do my first sketch of the day. Lunch followed at the Coromandel Cafe then a break back at our B & B before heading out to find someplace to finish my days post/sketch. In India most businesses close in the afternoon for siesta. We are starting to think this is a good idea. Not sure how you deal with siesta lag when we return home.

Day 26, Feb. 22, 2018 This is a very special day for me. Today is Thinking Day! I so love all the posts from all over the world wishing our sisters in Guiding and Girl Scouting the best on this special day. To top it off here in Pondicherry, India an elephant came to the temple! I had time to sit on the curb across from our B & B and sketch the entrance. Of course the neighbour came out to see what I was doing and Nick our host came home on his motor bike. 

Book 4 second half 
Day 27, Feb. 23
Another full day which included a visit to a Temple, lunch at The Baker Street Bakery, a walk along MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road for approx. two hours, sketching time while resting in the KFC where all we purchased was a bottle of cold water then to Serenity Beach for time to walk, enjoy the sea breeze, sketch and dinner at Theevu. We split a plate of prawns. Back in Pondicherry we dropped our gear at our B & B and headed out for our evening walk on the Promenade. On the way we noticed lights and activity at the Ganesh Temple so of course had to stop by. The elephant, Lakshmi,  was thereI She was blessing people outside the temple as she was doing yesterday. After she had finished blessing outside her mahoot took her into the temple where she participated in a very special pooja. It was all so colourful and so exciting. 

Day 28 Feb 24
Today we had a great idea “let’s go see if the Botanical Gardens are open today. It is quite a walk so we decided to make it a journey and fit in a couple of other places. Our first stop was at the train station number 11 on the 52 week challenge I am working on for Urban Sketchers. Once I had that done giving me something to share from my sketch book with my Urban Sketcher friends, we stopped at Sacred Heart Church. It was time for lunch so we changed direction and headed to the Baker Street Bakery. As I am sure you guessed, it has become a favourite. Then back to the gardens. Yes it was open! This was our 4th visit so we were pleased to finally get in. Now that is done I would recommend you pass up this 25 acres of sad park. It certainly could be something but it isn’t today. Back at our accommodation for siesta then a half hour out to sketch before finding a place to have dinner.

Day 29 Feb 25
We are heading into our last week in Pondicherry. Today is Sunday a very busy family day in India. We decided to go out for coffee around 10:00AM. We headed off towards the Promenade. The breeze is nice there most times of the day. As we stepped onto the Promenade we were met by police officers who told us No! We had to find another way. Each corner we turned we met the same direction! No! Finally we joined many others and walked along the canal. On  Marine St. everyone stopped. President Modi was in Pondicherry visiting the Ashram. So much excitement when he got out of his car stopped waved and then went inside. My sketching didn’t happen until around 4:00 pm when we walked to MG Road sat on a step and watched the Sunday market. Always a good time if you are a people watcher. 
The step I was sitting on was dirty/dusty. A vendor from a near by stall came over to give me something to sit on. He didn't want me to get dirty. I am still smiling when I think of his kindness. 

Day 30  Feb. 26
 I am still trying to keep up to date on the 52 week challenge for the Urban Sketchers of Waterloo Region. I convinced Bruce we needed to find a mosque. He did the research and found 3 in Black Town near Cazy Street. (Not crazy Street). It was warmer today than it has been on this holiday. Temperatures were up to 34C or 93.2 F and the humidity was high. We found the Jamia Masjid Mosque. #15 is done! While I sketched Bruce went into the Mosque. Not a place I could go but then I had lots of interest from those coming and going to the Mosque. They stopped to see my sketch and even though I would not say it was my favourite they certainly were positive. We did some walking but just what was necessary. Lunch was at Villa Helena then back to our accommodation.

book 5

Day 31  Feb. 27
“Let’s go to Auroville! 
We had been out to Auroville this trip but hadn’t visited the “Matrimandir” the meditation centre for practitioners of yoga. We went in last March and spent a quiet time in the centre. It is a very special place. This time we went so I could sketch the building, it is also very amazing. The road to Auroville had been re-paved, what a difference! This was done for Prime Minister Modi’s visit, not for us. We did enjoy the much smoother ride in our motorized rickshaw. Back in Pondicherry we returned to the Temple on MG Road. I sat outside and sketched while Bruce enjoyed his quiet meditation near the memorial to the Mother. Dinner tonight was at the Promenade Hotel. Great view and good food, lovely service. 

Day 32 Feb 28
I had wanted to have time at a beach, someplace where I could hear the sea while I sketched the waves. Our host told us about Tanto's Far Beach where we could get a day pass to swim in a pool or pay 100 INRS and wander the beach. If you had lunch at Tanto's the 100 INRS was waved. We did that. The beach was beautiful but much to hot for this N. American to sit and sketch. Bruce went for a walk and I returned to the shade of the Banyan tree in the restaurant and sketched the tree. Lunch was an interesting salad that seemed to be perfect with the heat of the day. 

Day 33 March 1, IT'S HOLI! the celebration of Spring
Up on Mission Street we found a step to sit on. It is getting hot in India and time for N. Americans who don't like extreme heat to head home. We had many thoughts about this. It was still cold in Canada. Very Cold! 
 Chidambaranar Gov. HR. SEC. School needs some TLC but it is so interesting. The light was so strong it was hard to see what the colour was that I was using. This had been a problem for the last couple of days, but it was Holi and I needed to get out and capture the last bit of colour of India for this trip. I wonder how many of these amazing buildings will still be here on our next visit to Pondicherry. 

Then to the Seagull restaurant - Looking down from the Cafe. 
great fries!

Day 34 March 2, 2018 Last day in Pondicherry for 2018.
I decided that I would use as many colours as I could on the next sketch. We went to The Cormandel Restaurant to sketch but really to say goodbye to Arun. Unfortunately he was not there so we didn't get to tell him that we so enjoyed getting to know him. I hope that his dream to come to Canada to live will happen and he and his beautiful family will stop one day for a visit, here in Stratford. 
Nice to meet special people when you travel and Arun was certainly one of those special people. 
The sketch is the large circular benches that are in the Cormandel. I really didn't want to sit on them preferring the tables and chairs but it did look like they would be a great place to wait. 
Mine are many colours...they are Spring in India. 


  1. Just discovered this via an Xmas greeting that was sent to you.
    What a lovely chronicle replete with artfully creative sketches. Like the daily journal alive with documentary and pictures.
    Just thought I'd leave this comment.

  2. Thank you, wish I knew who you are?