After a hair raising taxi ride from Chennai airport in the dark with most oncoming vehicles having their lights continuously on high beam, we arrived at the Gratitude boutique hotel in Pondicherry.  It’s name now is Puducherry but none of the locals call it that.  It is the same with the people you meet from Mumbai – they all still call it Bombay.  The two owners of the Gratitude hotel Kakoli and Madame Jhoti from Delhi were staying at the hotel also and gave us some good tips for restaurants in the area as well as catering to my post treatment breakfasts with ginger or tulsi tea. We have not had a coffee in more than a month and I think the time is getting close to having one especially when we go past the coffee shops and smell the aroma.

Gratitude is a very calm oasis and the staff are most obliging. It is an old French heritage building which has been lovingly restored by
the two owners. All the guests (there are only seven rooms) have breakfast together (either Indian or western) and it is a nice way of meeting the other guests. The major coincidence there was that there were four of us staying there who were from Perth. Maurice and I have come across a few people from Australia on our travels but none were from Perth.
We went for a 5hour walk on the 23rd and managed to get all that we wanted to do – done. We went to a tailor who had previously altered a couple of things very sucessfully to get some more alterations done on several items of clothing. We also ordered replacement lenses for my sunglasses and had my Nokia phone fixed.  Everywhere else
in Europe everyone said that they would have to keep the phone for days as it is not easy to access the battery etc. The repair centre here had it opened, a new speaker inserted and ready in an hour for $9!
We dodged the autorickshaws, motorbikes and bicycles down Mission St. I took a picture of a cow (which are normally very placid) and as we walked by it, the cow butted me in the leg with it’s horns. I got a fright as it was quite unexpected but luckily the horns were not sharp and it just gave me a bruise.
There is a great contrast between the French side of the canal and the Tamil side of the canal. The French side is much quieter and neater with not so much traffic however the Tamil side is buzzing with activity day and night with many kinds of vehicles – rickshaws, carts,motorbikes, bicycles and then the occassional cow wandering along the road.
Anto our lovely receptionist gave us the name of a restaurant where we had a delicious meal. We have just been eating  vegetarian meals here but they are all tasty dishes.
On Christmas Day I heated the plum pudding that I brought from Perth and made custard to go with it. I also made my first batch of meringues and the staff and other guests enjoyed them. I abstained but the other 3 Perthites enjoyed the plum pudding and custard.
Most of the streets have a French name and an Indian name. We went to a charming Tamil hotel called “Maison Perumal” in the Tamil quarter for dinner and enjoyed the food very much.
Walking around there are so many wonderful aromas of Tamil street food as well as some not so pleasant drain odours. All part of the experience. Most of the Autowallahs drive their Autorickshaws at breakneck speed and have clownlike rubber horns which they constantly squeeze which make a high pitched squeak.
Maurice and I went to the Aurobindo paper factory again and this time saw the processes of making, marbling the paper with colour and the manufacture of some of their products.  They have a great range of paper products – everything from diaries and photo frames, greeting cards to paper earrings.

We have only eaten in Tamil restaurants in town and they have delicious vegetarian fare with tasty breads – roti, parathas and chappattis. We have chosen to be vegetarian while in India and will probably stay that way in Indonesia also.
We splurged while we were here and bought a lovely silk carpet and a beautiful small cupboard with tile inserts which was extremely
reasonable even with shipping it back home.
On the 29th December Pondicherry had a competition of pavement drawings called “Kolam”  They are geometrical line drawings composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots. In South India, it is widely practised by female Hindu  family members.  There were over 200 pictures on the road by the seaside promenade. There were some beautiful pictures made from coloured sand,ground rice, rock powders, flowers and seeds. They were very colourful and some very inventive.
Some of the locals speaks good French (a left over from the colonial days)and there is a very active Alliance Francaise here in Pondicherry.
There are a few French guests at Gratitude so I have been practising my very rusty French but I can understand most of it.

We visited the “Art colony” shop where we bought our cupboard and watched while the manager sat on the ground and packaged everything to go into the cupboard (other purchases) in a lot of bubble wrap. He then asked us to come back the next day after telling us that
a lock would be fixed on the cupboard and it would be dusted and polished. He assured us that everything would be “pukka madam” and ready for us to see the next day which is was.  He and an assitant duly wrapped the whole thing in heavy cardboard while we were asked to sit and watch them do it.
Our last full day in Pondicherry was spent visiting the Botanical gardens. The gardens had some interesting trees and contrary to reports we had read the large area was clean and there was a lot of work being done.
We met up with three young boys who wanted to go on the train trip so we paid for them (the large sum of 15cents each).
Two of them looked very poor so we bought them an icecream afterwards and they were very happy with that.
We took an autorickshaw down to an old abandoned distillery on the waterfront where an Indian photographer was displaying very
large black and white photographs on the old walls. It was very innovative and the setting seemed very appropriate.
We had our last massages and tried another restaurant the “Surguru” for dinner in the Tamil quarter.  Three dishes and chappatis for $8 total.  One can eat very cheaply here.

We were again sad to leave a place.  The owners, guests and ambience of the Gratitude made you feel as though you were at home and we had a very relaxing 9days there.   On the 31st we left at 9.30am for the three hour trip to Chennai with a driver who kept taking his foot slightly off the accelerator and then pressing it again.  I nearly asked if I could drive.

We stopped briefly at Mahabalipuram to see the beautiful bas-relief, life size carvings on the rock.  We arrived three hours later in Chennai and stayed at the GRT Grand hotel in T. Nagar where we spent New Year’s eve night at the “Copper Pot” Indian restaurant.  Little did we know that the hotel would have four bands playing ear splitting techno and other such music.  We did complain and they did turn it down for a few seconds so we endured it through our meal and then we went out to the front of the hotel where other young and older people were trying to get away from the din.  We then waited in our room until midnight (where the music? was still very loud and it was pointless to try and sleep) and then we saw in the New Year.  Luckily the music stopped promptly at 12.30am so we could get some sleep before leaving the hotel at 8.45am for the airport for our flight to Kuala Lumpur and on the next day to Bali.  We have had a wonderful 2013 and hope that 2014 will be just as enjoyable an adventure.

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