Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pondicherry, A French Twist

Arriving in Pondicherry, the former French enclave abutting the Bay of Bengal on India's East coast, the slight scent of salt in the air excited the lungs, quickened the heart and put a smile on the face of this maritime boy.

I checked into an overpriced, underspaced room overlooking the canal that runs through the heart of the French quarter - really a trickle of foul smelling effluence of a strangely green color - took a quick shower and headed towards ocean. A short stroll brought me to the waterfront, where the Bay of Bengal breaks hard on the coast, sending dramatic plumes of sea spray into the air and a salt mist over the boardwalk.

I was in love with this town, with its continental elegance built of low-lying French architecture flanking wide, tree-lined avenues and boulevards. The streets are still choked with modern Indian traffic and the noise and pollution that is part and parcel to the urban India experience, but the ambiance is unmistakable in its charm...

I only plan three days in Pondicherry, but it looks as if these days will be filled with surprisingly good food, seaside promenades, French-era cathedrals and local galleries sellign beautiful paintings at prices that are lamentably more in the range of package tourists than scraggily backpackers.

Could I possibly get "trapped" here for a longer span...?

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