Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in Pondy!

What better place to celebrate Christmas than  Pondicherry.The place has a different feel to it.Being Christmas we expected it be a totally different experience and were not at all disappointed.The place had a Christmasy feel to it.We  reached around the lunch time,we had some starters and drinks at Pizza hut,we did not want to eat much at one place coz we wanted to try the many other cafes the city offers.Pizza hut being on the way to the beach we thought to munch something before  we go for a walk on the beach.
Thai chicken
Masala Lemonade
With our stomachs full, we marched towards the Goubret Avenue.
A lot of tourists can be seen in Pondy all around the year.December being the holiday season the place is full of tourists.
Goubret Avenue gives a beautiful view of the beach.Le cafe happens to be on the Goubret Avenue which offers a great view with food,so we took a break.
Le Cafe
Not that hungry,we ordered a Veg club sandwich and a croissant.The sandwich was quite good and filling.
Le Cafe
A lot of stall are there near the statue of Gandhiji.
We then went to have some coffee at The Promenade(A property of Hidesign).The hotel looked  impressive and we might soon plan a stay there and then blog about it.Here a few snapshots from the poolside cafe.
The Promenade

The director of Gajni was there too celebrating Christmas.A very simple man who stood there smiling for half an hour with folks getting pictures clicked.
A R Murgudoss

The weather was pleasant with cold breeze,the French colony looked beautiful with all the decoration.We clicked a few pictures.The pictures cannot express how the place looked and felt.Our day was made when we saw the beautiful decorations and lights all over the place.Here are a few pictures of the french colony.
Hotel De Lorient
Hotel de L'orient had the best Christmas Deco in town.The blue lights looked amazing.The courtyard of the hotel looks beautiful on any given day,the decoration just took it to some other level.

In the end we went to the Church as we decided to leave Pondy with a greater urge to visit soon :).

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It was our 1st trip to Pondicherry,we had heard a lot about the french colony,and decided to book a hotel in french colony itself.After a lot of research we settled for Neemrana Hotel.Chennai (Tamil Nadu) to Pondicherry (Pondicherry) is 163 km. Time by road is 2 hrs, 30 mins.There are buses from Chennai to Pondicherry every 5 min or may be less than that. We took an AC bus(every 15 min) and reached in exactly 2hrs,30mins. You don't have to book tickets in advance, in case you want to travel in an AC bus be a little early so that you get the tickets in the afternoon ,the AC buses run every 45min.We then took an auto for french colony for 60INR.The colony is not far from the bus stop.
The Entrance!

We loved the location and the Non-Hotel(Neemrana prefer to call their properties). The hotel itself has a nice French feel to it. The staff is friendly. The rooms have the colonial feel. Almost all the hotels in the area have tried to maintain the Colonial feel and have done quite a good job at it.Well when you are in Pondy you have to be in the French Colony.
The Courtyard!
You would love the place..its a nice cosy property...Its neat and well maintained..

The Corridor!

The door of our room
Our Room!
The room was not so spacious,good enough for 2.They have given all the rooms the colonial feel.The chettinad walls,wooden stairs leading upto the room,overall the room had a nice cosy feel to it.The rooms can be booked online from the website of Neemrana.Book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Breakfast buffet is included which was decent though they can add a little variety..

After checking in,we decided to go to Goubert Avenue.

At Goubert avenue
Goubert avenue

This whole stretch is a lovely road along the coast..This place is just 2mins walk from the french colony...There are no vehicles allowed on the road from 6PM till the morning.The road looks lovely.Loads of people walking up and down having a good time,enjoying the lovely view.
The pier
This pier, started in 1862, was inaugurated on August 15, 1866: built of iron, it spanned a distance of 192 m in the beginning, then it was extended in 1881-82 by 64 m and in 1908-09 by another 80 m, thus reaching a total length of 336 m; it was intended to facilitate the loading and unloading of the ships and reduce losses. A narrow railway line was built to link up the pier to the railway station; this structure was destroyed in 1952 by a cyclone and only a few iron pillars remain. A new masonry pier was built to the south of the town in 1960.

There is a cafe called Le Cafe on the Goubret Avenue itself which is quite reasonable and always abuzz and has a great view of the sea.It is open 24hrs.
As we walked down the streets of French colony we realized that a remarkable degree of French influence in Pondicherry exists to this date. Pondicherry was designed based on the French (originally Dutch) grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets. The town is divided into two sections: the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or 'White town') and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or 'Black Town'). 

French colony
 Many streets still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight. In the French quarter, the buildings are typically colonial style with long compounds and stately walls.
There are a lot of French Cafes in the area where you might enjoy french cuisine...Its a heaven for those who drink(liquor is cheap) and non-veggies..There is a pizza hut just around the corner where one might find some veg dishes ..Seagulls restaurant is where one might enjoy some north indian food and liquor with a good sea view..We had our dinner at Seagulls,the place is quite busy but food is good. The Promenade has a rooftop reataurant with the sea view..The place has a lot of French cafes...Explore the place as you walk down the streets of this beautiful place..Take a few breaks and enjoy some drinks while you explore :)
Maison rose
The next day we got up early and went for a stroll.A walk around 6-7 in the morning is Highly recommended.The neat streets,the doors,the windows,the trees and the list goes on,one cannot help but fall in love with this place.Lot of people take bicycles on rent we decided to walk down the streets and loved it.You would spot a lot of tourists from abroad taking a stroll too.
French Colony

French Colony
Pondicherry is hot and humid throughout the year. Summers during March to April have a maximum mercury level of 41°C. From October to November the evenings are cool. The monsoons are between June and August. Winters (December to February) are somewhat pleasant with minimum just touching 25°C.June and July are humid and cloudy in the afternoons and pleasant in the evening.
Ideal time to come here is between October and March.

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Monday, 24 December 2012


We took the Toy train to Coonoor.The entire route gives some breathtaking views of the Nilgiris.The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu is the second largest mountain range in India after the Himalayas. The Nilgiri hills have a history going back a good many centuries. It is not known why they were called the Blue Mountains. Several sources cite the reason as the smoky haze enveloping the area, while other sources say it is because of the kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years giving the slopes a bluish tinge.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a railway in Tamil Nadu, India, built by the British in 1908,and was initially operated by the Madras Railway. 

 In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the site then became known as "Mountain Railways of India."
The journey is quite picturesque; here are a few pictures taken on the way to Coonoor.

Coonoor Station

We took a half day tour of Coonoor.The package inculded the following sights -Dolphins Nose,Lambs Rock,Tea Gardens,Sims park.The cab driver quoted a price of 750INR and settled for 600INR.You can travel by autos as well they would charge you some 400 INR.
 We skipped Sims Park as it has not much to offer as told by I².
Tea Garden
Ooty and Coonoor are characterised by miles and miles of rolling hills of tea estates.
There are photographers on the way whol would click your pictures like one of these workers and give you an instant picture for 50Rs.I² got one clicked.
Dolphin's Nose Viewpoint is a tourist spot in Coonoor, The Nilgiris District. Dolphin's Nose is well over 1,000 feet above sea level, 10 km from Coonoor and is a spectacular spot to visit.The tip of the peak resembles like a Dolphin Nose and so it is named as Dolphin's Nose. Best part of spot are the hairpin turns and tea plantations and monkeys on the way.

Dolphin's nose
Catherine fall is a double-cascaded waterfall and It is also a major tourist spot in Kotagiri. The upper fall drops to the floor, and is the second highest in the Nilgiri mountains.The waters from the upper stream of the Kallar river are crossed by the invisible Mettupalyam-Ooty road beyond the mountains in the south-west. The height of water falls is about 250 ft.Catherine Falls is named after the wife of M.D. Cockburn, believed to have introduced the coffee plantation to Kotagiri. The native name of the Catherine Falls is Geddhehaada Halla, meaning "Foothills Dale River". It is also possible to take a road to the top of the falls.
Catherine Falls viewed from Dolphins nose!
The Nilgiri tea and spices are very famous too apart from the Niligiri oil.
We picked up a lot of spices and oil too.
The Spices!

On the way,one gets to see Sleeping beauty.It is a range of hills in which the face, nose, lips, long flowing hair and other contours of a sleeping woman are clearly delineated. The view is clearer coming down from Dolphins Nose than on the way up and can be seen from more than one place.
Sleeping beauty!

After enjoying the beauty of Coonoor we headed to have some coffee..And like the CCD at Ooty this one turned it to be pretty awesome too.

CCD @ Coonoor
We headed to Coonoor station to enjoy our Toy train ride back to Ooty.

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Ootacamund (officially, Udhagamandalam sometimes abbreviated to Udhagai or Ooty), is a town, a municipality and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.Since we saty in Chennai and there is a direct train to Mettupalayam(nearest station to Ooty) from Chennai which runs everyday,we decided for a trip to Ooty.We booked the train 2 months in advance from in advance else it's difficult to get the tickets these days.
We boarded the Nilgiri Express from Chennai at 9:15PM reached Mettupalayam at 6AM.Every minute matters,we had almost missed the train by 2 mins.This was S²s 1st and I²s 3rd trip to Ooty.
 The toy train leaves for ooty at 7AM from here.We could  not get the tickets(2 months back when we booked our tickets online ) still tried our luck but in vain and took the bus instead.Bus or cab takes around 2hrs to reach Ooty whereas the Toy train takes around 5hrs.The bus stop is 10 minute's walk from the station.
Mettupalayam Station!
We reached our hotel TTDC smack in the middle of the market at 10 AM.After checking in we ordered for some dosa and took some rest.At 12 we decided to explore Ooty,out first stop was the lake.This artificial lake is a favorite spot for boating,located near the station. It also has a lake garden, a jetty, snack bars, pony rides and toy train rides.
The Lake
We decided to try our hands at boating.

We took the 2 seater pedal boat and it was fun :) Our next stop was the Botanical garden.No that great.Good for a stroll to soak the sun.
Botanical garden
Just out side Botanical garden.
By this time we were famished,we had heard about Nahar hotel so we headed there to try some pizza and soup.
The NAHAR hotel has got 3 restaurants -

1)Sidewalk which is more like a cafe and serves Italian food.A meal for 2 would cost INR500.
2)Garden serves South Indian cuisine.
3)Chandan serves Indian and Chinese.A meal for 2 would cost you around 600INR unless you go for a south Indian meal which is priced at 100INR.
All the restaurants are a bit on the bit expensive side for the quantity they offer.Ooty does not have many options except some local restaurants and Dominos.Do not forget to pick up some home made chocolates from the market.Ooty is known for home made chocolates,you can find a lot of shops selling them.
Our next stop was CCD just a 5 minute walk from Nahar cafe.When in Ooty,this CCD is a must visit.Its big,has chimneys though they were not functional this time around :( (were functioning when visited last.. a few years ago) and you cant help but fall in love with this CCD atleast.
The Chimney
We had booked our tickets for the Toy train to Coonnor for the next day so we decided to sleep early as we had to board the train at 9AM.Between Coonoor and Udagamandalam, there are four daily trains each way.Even though the NMR stations have networked computerized ticketing systems for onward journeys, it still issues Edmond son style manual tickets for the Ooty-Mettupalayam journey to preserve the 'World Heritage Site' status of the railway. Tickets can be booked on IRCTC.
Book the tickets in advance else you would not get the tickets.
The Interiors
The famous Hindi song "Chaiyya Chaiyya" from the film "Dil Se" featuring Shahrukh Khan was shot on the roof top of NMR. The train fare is 24 rupees for second class and 142 rupees for first class, one way.
On the way to Coonoor!
The 'Nilagiri Passenger' train covers a distance of 26 mi (41.8 km), travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. The uphill journey takes around 290 minutes (4.8 hours), and the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours) It has the steepest track in Asia.
The Tunnel
We took a half day tour of Coonoor.We will talk about that in the blog about Coonoor.

The next day we took the Filmi chakkar tour which starts at 9AM and ends at 2PM.A cab would cost you around 900INR and a maxi cab would cost 150INR per person.
It covers the following spots-
 Rose Garden
6th Miles (Old Mysore Road)
Golf Links
Pine Forest
9th Miles
Pykara Dam
Pykara Boat House

We enjoyed the pine forests and the walk to the lake.
Pine Forest
The 6th mile gives some amazing views.Pykara waterfall has no water so you can skip it.
6th mile.
some fun!!
We had already done boating in Ooty so skipped that and instead sat in the restaurant and enjoyed the view as we sipped on some hot tea.
Pykara lake
 The Pykara River is considered very sacred by the Todas. It rises at Mukurthi peak, flows northwards, and then turns to the west after reaching the edge of the plateau.
Rose garden
We left for Rose garden from here.The Government Rose Garden is the largest rose garden in India.The rose garden has also received the Garden of Excellence Award for being the best rose garden in south Asia, from The World Federation of Rose Societies, during May 2006, in Osaka, Japan.This garden is one of the 35 gardens world wide to have won this award.
Rose Garden
This was the last spot of our tour.We had our lunch at Chandan(Nahar) and decided to rest for a while,as it was S²s  B'day we booked a table @Taj Savoy.We left around 7PM for the dinner.We opted for the buffet . the spread was (surprisingly) heavy on the vegetarian side.I² first time ever loved the fish fingers,they were amazing and the tartar sauce too was simply wow.
 The Palak Paneer,Dal,Vegetable rice,Noodles,Triple Vegetables,Chicken were truly the Taj style.The desserts were out of the world in spite of our full stomachs we relished all the desserts.This is the second place(Dinos being the fav till now ) where I² loved the Cheese cake and S² for the first time ever enjoyed the cheese cake :))..
As it was S²s B'day we got a complimentary cake :) which we could not eat all so they packed it for us.Not to mention it was damn tasty!
Taj Savoy, Ooty sets up a bonfire in the gardens around 7:30PM each day. With night setting in, the temperatures drop and this provides the excellent setting for sitting by the fire. Simple Pleasures of Life!!!!!
Our table!!
If you are looking for a nice dinning experience you can head to Taj Savoy, Ooty in their typical Hill Station style restaurant ( wooden interiors and a fire place :) ). You may want to call up and book a place by the fire side for that lovely dinning experience.

Personal experience with Taj in general has been excellent and this time was no different. Service and attention to customer delight was quite evident.The Ooty trip ended with this,next day we left for Mysore.

The best time to visit is April to June and September to November.During these months the days are pleasant and nights a bit chilly.
Winters can get quite chilly.

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