We all know that India was a former British colony, but I never knew there were pockets of the country under French control as late as the 1950s. One of these is the city of Pondicherry, on the southeastern coast of India. This seaside city, with its touches of French cuisine, culture, and architecture, is a pleasant getaway from the bustle of Delhi.
I took a walking tour offered by Storytrails. The tour guide told us fabulous stories about the battles back and forth between England and France for control of the city, the quirks of the various city rulers, and the intrigues as the city developed. Even though the tour was in the late afternoon, the temperatures were hovering around 90 degrees, so I was grateful for stops in the shade and even more grateful once the sun started to set!
|Raj Nivas governor's residence|
The tour ended with a farewell drink. South India is known for its coffee, but since I'm not a coffee drinker, I asked the guide if there were any other options. She suggested masala milk. Never having heard of it, I responded: "Yes, I want to try that!" Turns out masala milk is milk boiled with ground nuts, saffron, cardamom, and sugar. It has a bright yellow color, almost like an egg or lemon custard, and a lumpy consistency. I immediately loved its sweet, creamy wonderfulness!
|Erica discovering an Indian treat: masala milk|
From Pondicherry, I took a side trip to Auroville, a community that eschews material items, champions hard work, and embraces self-discovery along a path seeking peace, harmony, and human unity. I will limit myself to that factual description of Auroville's raison d'être and refrain from any further terms that may have positive or negative connotations.
|Erica with depiction of Auroville's values|
The centerpiece of Auroville is the Matrimandir, which is really hard not to compare visually to Epcot Center or a golden golf ball. Matrimandir literally means Temple of the Mother and is considered by Aurovilians to be the soul of their city. This is their place of concentration, introspection, and consciousness. Visitors may enter only with advance reservations, so I viewed it solely from the outside.
|Erica at the Matrimandir|
In addition to the above highlights, I ate raw oysters (in India!) and drank a roadside coconut. It was a weekend full of new adventures!