Southern India 2019 – 2

After travelling from the UK overnight and then on by car from Chennai to Mallapuram and then going to see the Shore Temple and the wonderful carvings by the time we got to bed last night we were both absolutely worn out. I think we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows and slept right through until the alarm went off, at least we didn’t have to make an early start.

The excellent Bala collected us bang on time and we headed off south down the East Coast Road heading for Pondicherry/Puducherry; this is a toll road so is mostly in very good condition. Previously we have been driven in Rajasthan and this is so different from the mainly desert like conditions in the north. Here the road runs through palm groves, a lot of orchards and cultivated areas with often trees growing in an arch over the road to give shade. I noticed that many of the trees had red and blue apinted round the trunks with a white star in the middle, I took this to be either the state flag or the colours of a political party but was told that it was just to mark the edges of the road as there is no street lighting! Some parts of our journey took us past paddy fields and other areas of water and in all these the bird life was abundant; I recognised egrets and saw a tern, there were also brightly coloured smallish birds which may or may not have been kingfishers. Sadly I forgot to pack my copy of The Observer’s Book Of Indian Birds so will just have to say, in ignorance, that they were very interesting.

Eventually we arrived on the outskirts of Pondicherry/Puducherry which was an entralling cluster of small shops selling second hand goods. Literally anything second hand, I’ve never seen anyone selling second hand stair cases before. This is not a large city so we arrived very quickly at our hotel, the Maison Perumal which is nice and convenient for the old French Quarter. Our room was ready so we checked in then had time for a bit of a wander before lunch.

After lunch we had a guided walking tour of the French Quarter, “Pondi” having been the capital of French India and the town still retains much French charm and contacts with France; they even still have very smart policemen who wear the typical kepi of the gendarmerie. Our guide, Ashok, was most interesting and works for INTAC which is broadly the Indian equivalent of the National Trust and is very active in maintaining and restoring the remaining French buildings in the town. We walked down some shady side streets that could have easily been somewhere in Provence and saw some of the excellent work being done by INTAC.

Eventually we parted company on the beach road by the sea which is now pedestrian after 18h00 so that the residents may now “promenade”. It was getting dark as we walked back to our hotel and quite a hairy experience; Mrs Sixwheeler asked me why I insist on walking in the road but honestly the pavements are far too hazardous!

Back at our hotel there was just time for Mrs S to enjoy a cookery demonstration before dinner, which was excellent.

Tomorrow we move on with a long drive south to Madurai. In the meantime here are some pictures from today.

This is the front of the old catholic cathedral Notre Dame des Anges which is still going and very popular today although the mass is now said in tamil rather than french.

I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here but I’d like one like this for my garden, I’m sure that it would keep the squirrels off.

Very occasionally now you will still see an odd Ambassador car, once the mainstay of the Indian motor industry a model that started life as a Morris Oxford built at Cowley in the UK.

“Street Art” is a new thing here and we have this example with Ashok and Mrs Sixwheeler too.

And we passed this temple on our way back to the hotel but it was already getting dark so not easy to appreciate all the very vibrant colours.

And, finally here’s the missing lizard from yesterday.

31 January 2019

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