The last week of December turned out to be unexpectedly active. None of us had planned any travel at all. I had a vague hope that I may be able to take a couple of days off and visit my family in Chennai, but considering how hectic December was, I was okay with just quietly unwinding at home too.
Then an unplanned argument arose at home – we were arguing about something really random, and in the course of the argument, we decided that a break was in order. It was only the next day when K called me at work (when I was neck-deep in work!!), that I realized that
- He was serious.
- All arrangements were made and I could not back out.
- And, that in spite of all the inconvenience of finishing up work, applying for leave, packing, etc…I really, really wanted to go and take a break
Within the space of a couple of hours that evening, we decided on places to go and see, booked rooms, and arranged transport. In Chennai of course, we stayed at mom’s but we also planned a short getaway to Pondicherry, which is fast becoming one of my favorite places to visit.
I remember Pondicherry (Pondy as we call it), being a sleepy, one-horse town in the nineties. But the recent emphasis on tourism and arts has made it one of the more charming and eclectic places to visit in South India.
When we went though it was raining and we couldn’t take advantage of the beach or our hotel’s sweet swimming pool causing the snubnose to pout and declare the trip a total loss. However, we still managed to have a good time eating and shopping, and generally taking in the sights.
We were late starting from home and it was past two when we reached Pondy. We checked in at our hotel, and immediately rushed for some food. A quick scan on my Foursquare app told us that Le Hidesign Cafe was nearby and was well-reviewed and so we made our way there.
Here are some photos:
I can’t recommend Le Hidesign cafe highly enough. The place is quite unassuming and they take their time with the food. However, there was a plate of cheeselings to satisfy the kids, and the beer was nice and chill, so very quickly we moved into laid-back holiday mood. The food is mainly continental, but with enough variety in both veg and non-veg sections. I had ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, and it was just heaven. My father-in-law loved his grilled chicken, it was done to perfection, and the chicken very tender. K was also pleased with his spaghetti with prawns. They also made a special omelet for the snubnose, which she enjoyed.
The best part of the lunch was the service. The waitress was so kind enough to walk the piglet around the cafe while we ate our lunch in peace. It’s a small place, and he was always within our eye sight but it was still pleasant to be able to eat our lunch without interruptions while she walked around stopping him from licking the floor, and other such embarrassing and gross behavior. By the end of the lunch, the two had become fast friends.
My only regret is that we were too full to attempt what I am sure were the utterly divine desserts on the menu. What makes it even sadder is that for some reason or the other during our entire trip, we never had any desserts although Pondicherry supposedly has the most awesome bakeries .
Anyway, post-lunch was sight-seeing and shopping. We went to the Promenade where the snubnose blew off some of her excess energy.
For once, she was happy to mug for the camera and we managed to get some lovely shots with her and K in front of the statue of Lord Dupleix, and on the beach.
We also paused to take a shot of Le Dupleix hotel. Somehow, I don’t think we did justice to the architecture of this place. It’s really a lovely building.
We then did a lot of walking around looking for antique shops. K likes antique furniture,I don’t, and when the opportunity arose I did a quick detour to go to Yaka Home Design, which is a home shop that just suits my style. I loved their range of cane outdoor furniture
Since they say they also do custom orders, I am dreaming about having some cane furniture made to order for the terrace garden in our new house. For now though, I picked out the cutest white flower lampshade that I am totally in love with. My only regret? I should have gone all the way and just got the lampshade in the largest size they have :).
We then moved on to Amethyst/La Maison Rouge. Amethyst is a famous cafe and shop in Chennai and one of my favorite hangouts, and so I wanted to explore the Pondicherry one as well.
Like the Chennai Amethyst, this one is also an old colonial house, with some very nice things. The atmosphere was also lovely enough that we were willing to rest our feet and try some of their cocktails, but their service was so unenthusiastic, that we left within minutes. Beautiful but very unwelcoming place! I did love the Titanic chandelier on the ceiling made of old plastic bottles. So creative! Really, my trip seems to have been all about lighting
By now, it was late, and we were ravenously hungry so we popped over to The Promenade Hotel for dinner. They have a famed Christmas buffet and our expectations were high. Unfortunately, they were too high. The buffet spread was average, and so was the a-la carte food we ordered. What was nice was the ambience. We took an outside table, the weather was pleasant, and the sea-breeze very calming. We ended up having a nice time anyway.
And then back to the hotel and bed. What a hectic day it was!
Btw, this isn’t our first trip to Pondicherry, here is an older blog post about an earlier trip we took to Pondicherry with the snubnose.
Had a whirlwind of a time in Chennai. I was only gone for 4 days, but in that time we really managed to squeeze in a lot.
I went to Chennai primarily to attend my cousin’s wedding, and catch up with all my relatives. Took two very tiring, and hot days to get that done leaving the rest of the time to do whatever we feel like.
This involved mostly roaming around the streets of Besant Nagar, checking out whatever new boutiques/stores/restaurants catch our fancy. Besant Nagar is one of those “cool” places to be in Chennai, filled with a young and happening crowd. This makes for a constantly changing neighborhood with new places popping up all the time.
Some great and not-so great places we stopped by in Besant Nagar:
- Auromode was one of the first shops we visited. This is run by the folks from Auroville in Pondicherry. Having already visited their store in Pondicherry, I expected this one to stock high-quality merchandise at high prices. And this store is precisely what I expected. Apart from the usual candles, soaps, biscuits, and agarbattis, they have some excellent leather bags, and wallets, clothes, and furnishings.
Although the store is not very large, the owners have used the space superbly, and are able to stock quite a lot of goods without without making the space feel cramped at all.
I loved one of the handbags and a wallet, but the price made me hesitate a little bit. I did not think Rs.5000/- for a bag to be very reasonable (even though it was a good design and very well-made). The mezzanine floor has some great costume jewelery, which is reasonably priced. They also have a very good selection of western women’s clothing. I loved the collections of shawls they had, and ended up picking up one of them.
The second floor has some (overpriced, I thought) dhurries, bedcovers and so on. Nothing too interesting, or novel. What we loved though, was the huuuuge bean-bag they had for sale (Rs. 7000/-). This has to be one of the most comfortable bean-bags I have ever sat on (and I have sat on many). The hubby is a big fan of bean-bags and is always looking for the perfect one for him to lounge on with a glass of beer watching cricket on the TV. This bean-bag was perfect, only the price made us hesitate, and the fact that the shop can’t send it to Bangalore. Even we were not so crazy as to attempt to cart it by train!
Now, enough about the bean-bag. Some other great items we saw, were the teak-wood framed mirrors and the teak-wood pedestal lamps. They were just too beautiful, really exquisite workmanship and the quality of the wood was just great…
Definitely, this store has a lot to offer for people who are looking to redecorate their homes. Even if the prices are a bit steep, it is still worth it to come here and get some great design ideas. The staff are also very knowledgeable and helpful, very good service. Definitely 2 thumbs-up!
- FabIndia Furniture is a new store that has opened up in the past week. We went there with very high expectations, as this is the first time we are going to a FabIndia that is solely focused on furnishings. But, we were in for a real disappointment. Maybe it is because this is a new store, but they hardly had anything solid on display. Just the same stuff that we have seen in numerous FabIndia stores any number of times. The stock is old, and their designs are mundane. The staff were not able to distinguish the sheesham wood from the mango wood. All in all, a total waste of time. We just hung around there and browsed their catalog out of politeness and then discreetly left the store.
- Purple is a boutique located in Arundale Beach Road. From the outside, the place looks very interesting. There is also a sign for an attached bakery. This store supposedly attracts a lot of people from Tinseltown, so when I walked in, I was definitely not expecting fake D&G bags sold for 3k! The clothes and shoes are very blah, nothing even tempting me for a second glance. Since I had walked in, I thought let’s at least go to the bakery and pick up something, but there must have been something very wrong, because I just could not find the bakery. Went around in circles for about 15 minutes and then gave up the attempt. My only guess is, the owners probably keep the good stuff inside for the celebrities and leave all the junk out for the aam aadmi (common folks, like us).
- Cascade is a very popular Chinese restaurant in Besant Nagar. There is not much I can say about Cascade that hasn’t been said umpteen times in various restaurant reviews. Consistently good food at a very good price. The menu is not that extensive, but that doesn’t matter to us. This is the place to go gorge on the superb soups, the crunchy cream cheese wontons, the spicy chilli garlic noodles and fried rice, and the fried ice-cream. Left the place barely able to walk :).
Summary of events: A mixed experience. Auromode and Cascade were terrific. Purple and FabIndia Furniture were disappointing. There are probably tons of new places, which we might have missed visiting.
I was very eager to go for the Bella Ciao Sunday brunch in Kottivakkam. Heard it’s a very good experience, but since we were leaving on Sunday, we couldn’t make it this time. It is definitely on my place to visit list.
Now looking forward to a long and busy week ahead with tons of work to catch up on …
Oh well, short but a really sweet and action-packed holiday !
Next week, I am going on a short holiday to Chennai. I can’t really call it a holiday as no one (positively no one) would want to visit Chennai during the peak of the summer season.
I am actually going there to attend my cousin’s wedding. Although I am really looking forward to the break, I am also stressed about the number of things I need to take care of before I leave.
My to-do list and major cause of stress:
- Complete all my official work in time before I leave, and so hopefully not have to cart laptop off to Chennai (hahah…in my dreams)
- Make sure I pack everybody’s wardrobe appropriately – including jewellery, sarees, and shoes that all work together. Garrrh…this is going to be difficult. Practically all my jewels are hand-me-downs from elders in the family, and my sarees are pretty much as per their taste. Think, heavy wedding Kanjeevaram siks from Nalli ONLY! Had big dreams a couple of months ago of buying a designer saree and blouse and really dressing my age, rather than an aunty…Thanks to my profound laziness and permanent state of brokeness, that dream dies a natural death
Even worse, thinking I am going to buy a designer saree, I just did not bother to stitch a blouse for the saree that my mom gifted me and has been nagging me to wear for ages. Of course, there is no time for stitching now! Will land up at wedding wearing salwar kameez or ghagra choli (neither of which is close to wedding-appropriate)…oh…no, I will end up spending my hols listening to moans such as:
“I told you months ago to bring that saree and still you haven’t done it … how come you are always so busy for these things, but are never busy to update your blog”…and so on and so forth…
- Make sure that all the train tickets are confirmed and not to forget to take the print-outs of the tickets. I am very much capable of landing up at the platform without print-out. I am put in charge of this whole expedition, and so I am solely responsible for anything going wrong.
- Remember to go to the beauty parlor this weekend. This trip has been a handy excuse for putting off all grooming activities for months on end. The idea being, I will get everything done at one shot just before the trip and land up there looking really neat. Unfortunately, months of unwaxed limbs, untweezed face, un-manicured hands and un-pedicured feet, and untrimmed, uncolored hair is not really going to go away after a couple of hours. I will probably need to book the parlour for the whole day and time is just what I don’t have right now
- Return books and borrow books from Eloor library (because no trip can be complete without some reading material)
- Research for some new places n things in Chennai to do (so that I have something to blog about when I get back, as well as keeping the snubnose occupied)…hah! this is what we call “oru kallu le rendu maanga” (translation: drop two mangoes with one stone)
Do you wonder that I am stressed?
Here is a cartoon depicting how I am feeling right now:
One thing I don’t have to remember is to get the gift. I have cleverly decided that money is the way to go. Not only that, I have budgeted the amount correctly AND ensured that I haven’t spent it on anything else. HURRAH for me!
On an aside: anyone have any suggestions regarding things to do, places to eat, in Chennai (something preferably air-conditioned)? Vandalur, Pondicherry, Amethyst, Snow-World do not count – already been there …
I am from Chennai but living in B’lore…so as usual we went to Chennai to celebrate the festival. Man…was it a blast ! My daughter is a handful who always insists that we go out. She literally pushes us out of the door. To satisfy her, we ended up having day trips to Pondicherry and the zoos. We ended up having as much if not more fun than she did :).
I have been to Pondicherry before and I have never been impressed with the place. Too hot, and slow, and nothing to do. But, I must say that this time we really enjoyed ourselves. We started off a bit late from Chennai, and I was concerned that we would have barely enough time to do anything. But the East Coast Road is truly amazing, and you can just zip by at a very decent speed. Reached Pondicherry by lunchtime, and went to this really nice Continental restaurant called Rendezvous. At first, I was a bit disappointed that the place wasn’t air-conditioned (Pondicherry was extremely sultry), but later on settled in and was feeling quite comfortable. They have really nice food and a really pleasant and laid-back ambience.
After lunch, we did some antiquing at a store close by called Geetanjali. They had some beautiful olf furniture, including some lovely antique doors. Kalyan was very interested in the doors and got talking to the owner. The doors seem quite expensive (about 65000), and I am not sure how practical it would be, but they sure are beautiful. It turned out that the owner is opening a store in Bangalore (Indra Nagar), and he gave us an invitation for the opening.
Kalyan’s friends had told him that there are plenty of stores that sell foreign-reject clothes. So, off we went to have a look. There are plenty of such stores and Kalyan scored a few really nice shirts and t-shirts. Not much stuff available for women though. They have really cute children’s clothes, but Jahnavi was quite restless and we had to leave without getting her anything.
We also went to a store called Casablanca (this was more a shopping and eating trip rather than sight-seeing). This store is like a department store but fashioned to look like a sophisticated middle-eastern market. Really a beautiful shop to hang out. They also had some really nice stuff and a coffee shop. Hidesign (the leather store) has an outpost there, and I ended up buying a really nice red leather bag, as well as some agarbathis for my grandma who was unable to come.
Janhavi and Kalyan navigating the stairs at Casablanca
After that, we went to Auroville. Only, we got lost and by the time we reached, they had closed for the day. Got a nice shot of the Matri Mandir though. It looks really beautiful from the outside. But, I think it’s good that it was closed. It is supposed to be a meditation center, and I don’t think people would have done much meditating with my daughter wreaking havoc everywhere
Shot of Matri Mandir
On the way back, we had this impulsive idea of having dinner in Fisherman’s Cove (a beach resort). They had a nice buffet and we all indulged. The price was pretty reasonable too, I was quite surprised. Anyway, we had such a nice time at Fish Cove that it is definitely on our to-visit list the next time we come to Chennai. Only, then we will spend the day here… All in all a wonderful day. Next up will be our trip to the Vandalur zoo.
Dinner at Fisherman’s Cove
Janhavi Playing Cricket in my Parents Living Room