Le Dupleix , Pondicherry

Situated in the heart of old French Quarter of Pondicherry,  Le Dupleix was built in the 18th century as the residence of the Mayor of Pondicherry, and stands on one of the most important corners of the French town. The beautiful experience begins right at gate that is topped with perfectly manicured vine leaves. The massive wooden door entrance lead you to heart of the restored building – the courtyard that is surrounded by modern hotel with deep French roots.

Rooms
Every room in this hotel is different! Every detail in each room has been specially thought out and chosen for that room alone, with the end result being a hotel with delightful surprises around every corner. The mix of the modern and the traditional gives much warmth, but at the same time ensures that the hotel is exceedingly comfortable.  It’s no wonder that the Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Travel Awards listed Le Dupleix as among the three best boutique hotels in India. While the rooms are extraordinary i loved the courtyard the most, giving me a full view of the property, a place where i did a lot of reading in company of 200 (plus) year old mango tree, had all my meals and some great evenings catching up with friends over finest of wine and food.

Food

Le Dupleix and Pondicherry have a very complex, diverse and cosmopolitan culture and they bring it all together, in the menu at Le Dupleix. One of the main things I have noticed over my repetitive visits is that they keep upgrading their menu and are far from boring or old fashioned; so heritage and tradition of Pondicherry is modernized and becomes part of their culture that’s moving forward. Influence of Creole is clearly visible in Le Dupleix’s menu through recipes from New Orleans (which created some of the most exciting Creole dishes) like Gumbo soup and Creole Shrimps & Crab cake. The menu celebrates Japanese cuisine with Miso Glazed Fish & Soba Noodle soup, Classic French dishes like Confit de Poulet & Crêpe Suzette, and presents dishes that stand out like Wild Game Quails & Soft Shell Crabs. 

The strongest influence on modern Pondicherry cuisine has been the emphasis on being natural, organic and healthy. At Le Dupleix they are going organic all the way; their rice, wheat, dals, spices and oils are all organic. Fish is fresh from sea, caught by local fishermen and chicken is free range & organic. Also all soups, salads, appetizers and main course dishes have been presented with suggested pairings of International and Indian wines that helped me experience beyond what i knew and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I know as a matter of fact that whenever i return to Pondicherry, i will revisit the property for its lobster night or their in-house Vanilla Ice cream, which by the way is the best vanilla ice cream i have had in my life.

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The Bungalow on the Beach – 17th Century Tranquebar

Tranquebar is also known as Tharangambadi, ‘the land of the singing waves’ is a stunning coastal town located 283km from Chennai. Tranquebar is a Danish, British Colonial heritage town of pristine beauty and charm, established for the Danish for Pepper Exports on the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu. An offbeat location with the best of breathtaking views, intriguing history, and most importantly – least of tourist buzz, isn’t that exactly what we all need at the moment?

The Bungalow on the Beach by Neemrana group is located 118 km from Pondicherry at Tranquebar (Tamilnadu, India). The beautiful property with its high ceilings, arched pathways, and beautiful colonnade speaks of its colonial architecture. The property is an 18th-century Danish colonial house that once belonged to the Governor of Danish India and is right opposite the Fort Dansborg built by the Danish East India Company in what was once a pepper trading post of Tranquebar, now known as Tharangambadi.

This was our first travel post lockdown and we wanted to be as safe as we can. With fewer tourists and Neemrana’s name attached to our itinerary, we just had to pick Tranquebar. The hotel has two restaurants that serve Indian and French cuisine. You can choose to dine-in in your room or at the restaurant. While we did not spot a menu, what we did get is special recommendations from the chef. Before each meal or your arrival, you can share your choice of dishes and let the chef do the magic with it. We enjoyed all our meals in the verandah with the sea and wind for company. Even though we were there just for the weekend, the time had slowed down as we dwelled over the sea that endlessly stretched in front of us.

Rooms: a spiral wooden staircase lead you to high walls and a room with a chandelier that leads to rooms and further opens up into a verandah. Each room is named after a ship and is equipped with a canopied bed, linen that matches the color scheme of the room, a writing desk, a vintage cupboard a relaxing lounge chair, and amenities for a comfortable stay.


Masilamani Nathar Temple– the 700 year old Masilamani Nathar Temple built in 1306 AD by the Pandya King Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan is unique in its architecture.


The Beach – One of the major attractions of Tranquebar is its rich ozone layer beach. Did you know that Tranquebar has the only Ozone rich beach in India? The ozone has a rejuvenating effect and does wonders to the tired urban body. The Bungalow on the Beach literally sits on the beach on which it commands an emblematic position. The Ozone layer here is the thickest in the country and the second thickest in the World.
Dansburg Fort
The Danish East India company was established in 1616 and the Danes wanted a fair share of the spice trade from India. British and Portuguese companies had already established themselves at various places in India. A treaty was signed between Christian IV, King of Denmark, and Ragunatha Nayak, King of Tanjore for permission to build a fort in Tharangambadi (Tranquebar). This Fort remained with the Danes in 1845 until the British took over. It is now a protected monument overseen by Tamilnadu State Department of Archeology since 1977.

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Svatma – Luxury Resort, Thanjavur

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Svatma – Luxury Resort, Thanjavur

I love travelling, what i love even more is when the journey or destination brings an exciting story or an experience. When i chose my destination this time, i knew i would be taking home a lot of interesting memories. I picked Thanjavur, also known as Tanjore when i was in Pondicherry and it was just a 4 hour drive. We had a very amusing start, our driver was a Rajnikant fan and he entertained us through out the way, while i enjoyed the blabbering my friend found him overwhelming as she just wanted to doze off. The landscape on our way was full of palm trees and paddy fields, i din’t snooze even for a bit, i never can, in flights, in cars, i love watching the landscapes change.

Maratha history, Tamil food, Indian Art and Architecture – Thanjavur is an exquisite southern city formerly known as Tanjore. It is world famous for hand crafted brass idols and Tanjore style of painting, a traditional style that is characterized by the use of gold foil and religious imagery. It’s best known today for being home to the great living Chola temples, a UNESCO world heritage. I was invited to experience the hospitality of Svatma Luxury Resort Hotel, a restored family mansion, that gave me an experience of a magical journey that included the luxury of leisure while dabbling with arts in a traditional home environment.

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Living area, for guests to read, chill and enjoy over arts or games at Svatma, Thanjavur

Visit to local palace with at Svatma, Thanjavur

Much like Thanjavur’s temple architecture, which blends styles from multiple eras, the seven-room heritage wing at Svatma is over 100 years old and the erstwhile family home of the Carnatic musician Rama Kausalya, melds seamlessly into the new building built around it. Across the property, murals of dancers, architectural drawings of Chola-era structures, religious verses and black-and-white photographs adorn the walls.

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The restaurant that leads to patio and further to pool and other restaurant, at Svatma, Thanjavur

Beautiful mornings in this traditional Swappanam Suite at Svatma, Thanjavur

Room: Svatma, recreates the ambiance of a classic Tamil residence in a century-old home flanked by old trees. Keeping you company is period furniture, local art and craft and traditional board games like pallankuzhi. I was staying at the ‘Swappanam Suite’ the best in property with unique design and abundance of intricately carved wooden furniture and pretty balcony. it has a living area, airy bedroom and washroom with closets.

Lounge area in Swappanam Suite, at Svatma, Thanjavur

Catching up on some reading in the private veranda of the Swappanam Suite, at Svatma, Thanjavur

Traditional Thali at Svatma, Thanjavur

Food – The hotel has three restaurants serving south Indian and continental vegetarian food. Aaharam, the indoor restaurant – meaning food or nutrition in Tamil, overlooks the pool, and the outdoor restaurant Amar Chitra Katha-themed Palaharam -meaning snacks offers an excellent local and European vegetarian fare. There’s a set menu for the day, but you can expect dishes such as fried banana flower cutlets, ammani kozhakattai (spiced rice flour balls), puliyotharai (tamarind rice), a variety of rasams, and desserts such as feni (crispy vermicelli) with almond milk and boondi. The terrace bar, Nila, is great for drinks under the stars.

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Pool at Svatma, Thanjavur

Relaxed afternoon with some old old comics by the pool at Svatma, Thanjavur

Experience- Svatma offer a fully equipped gym, spa and pool that looks like a temple tank and you can spend your day around it. Apart from leisure and doing all things touristy planned by Svatma for us, the experience i will cherish forever was the live Veena performance, it was the very first time i experienced it and it blew my mind, i din’t move an inch throughout the performance by the three incredible artist in front of me, it was an experience that i will cherish forever.

Another incredible and yet another first was the sound therapy. I loved every bit of it, a unique sound therapy that was like nothing i have ever experienced, it was calming, and rush of something so new and so amazing left me in a state of zen for hours. Post spa i spent my time by the pool reading one full comic, another first (yes, i never read a comic before)

Spa at Svatma, Thanjavur

Brass Idol Making Experience with Svatma, Thanjavur

Another experience we took was of Bronze Sculpting, Thanjavur is the cradle of this ancient art form and the skill has simply transcended generations of sculptors. We watched cire purdue (was casting) live in action from casting to the sculpture taking its final form and it was just brilliant. Watching things being made from the scratch, especially when its handcrafted, makes you value the artisans and the products a lot more (well at least to me).

Check it out- Tanjore is most famous for its UNESCO-listed Brihadeeswarar Temple, an 11th century Shiva temple built in tawny granite. The edifice was built by King Rajaraja I to celebrate a military victory. Any way you look, it’s a lesson in architectural excellence: from the musical pillars, Chola-style murals and lime plaster frescoes to stucco sculptures of Lord Shiva’s various incarnations and ancient Tamil inscriptions. The central tower has 16 tiers rising to a height of 216 ft, making it one of the tallest of its kind in the world. Several shrines dot the sprawling lawns of the complex, including one of India’s largest statues of Nandi (Shiva’s sacred bull) carved out of a single rock.

Try – Tamil-Maratha fusion cuisine, Thanjavur is synonymous for the famous pulisadam (tamarind paste mixed with rice) and other types of dry rice mixes like ellu sadam, sambar sadam and thengai sadam, all of which are also served at temples as prasadams. Some locals claim that the south Indian sambar was first cooked in the Maratha royal kitchens of Thanjavur. When Sambhaji, the Marathi king and son of Shivaji, wanted something tangy for dinner, the ingenious cook substituted the tarty kokum with tamarind in a dal, threw in some sautéed veggies and the sambar was born! The Maratha influence on the region’s cuisine can be seen in dishes such as shakar biranji—sweetened pulao with almonds and coconut to ambat bhendya—okra tossed with Indian spices.

This blog is so informative, yet i feel there could have been so much more written, but i guess some things are left for experiences. I hope we get through these covid times soon and when we do, we will all travel safe, travel local and see experience the incredible India.

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Maison Perumal , Pondicherry

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Maison Perumal is a 130-year-old family mansion dating back to French colonial times in Pondicherry. The heritage property is immensely influenced by the local culture and details of it can be seen in its design aesthetic to a great extent. It took them over a year to restore the building and refurbish it with a studied attention to detail that its former owners would have been proud of.

Inviting courtyard

At Maison Perumal they believe in ‘less-is-more’ philosophy, that is reflected its minimalistic interiors that are adorned with a spare style, yet pay much attention to detail. Stained glass offsets the familiar local white plaster in a telling example of creating a distinct identity. It is how Maison Perumal celebrates its special heritage. 

On arrival the lungi clad men welcome us with a jasmine garland and escorted us to informal reception area, where we checked in and enjoyed our welcome drink (lime and ginger drink) while soaking in the beauty of the cosy courtyard that was filled with a subtle aroma (i assumed it was lemongrass)

Tamilian hospitality and French architecture

 It’s in the details that the property steals your heart, though minimalistic in décor the details get your attention like no other. The stained-glass balconies at the hotel offset the familiar white plaster of local houses to create a distinct identity while the period furniture at Maison Perumal symbolizes a simplicity and elegance that was characteristic of prosperous Tamil households of yore. Again, in deference to tradition and their own obsession for the novel, the rooms at Maison Perumal are fitted with the famous ‘Dindigul‘ locks & keys, reputed for their antique and intricate designs.

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Rooms: The property has 10 rooms and has a very intimate vibe that helps them serve their guests in the best way possible. All the members of the staff are warm and well aware to guide you, be it about the food or local recommendations. The architectural character is deeply rooted in Tamil culture, with a whiff of French colonial influences. To be a guest in a gracious Tamil home was once an honoring experience of a very high kind. In those traditional times, a guest was perceived as a member of the household and treated indulgently. It is this special experience that CGH has successfully recreated at Maison Perumal.  Staying here you can experience a simple and relaxed way of life that echoes the elegant guest traditions of Tamil Nadu with a gentle French accent, which together make for a truly ennobling experience. 

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Food: At Maison Perumal, you can encounter a true local food experience, be curries with best of south Indian spices, or best of local sea food, as in all CGH Earth properties, locally grown produce – from yams to okra and drumsticks – is given pride of place on their tables. Even a plate of exotic pasta gets a carefully crafted local makeover with tiny prawns, fish, chilies, garlic and chef’s unique mix of local spices. We would definitely recommend you to try their Vazhopoo Vadai which is a banana flower pattie, Era Podi Thooval that is tossed in Lentil Prawn that is full of flavors and in chicken try their Kozhi Idicha Masala which is cooked in crushed spices and masala, and in dessert go traditional with their wonderful Payasam 

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Curated experiences– CGH properties are all about experiential stays, they make your visit worth your effort not only by hosting at their mesmerizing properties but also by organizing experiences that gives you a peak into the city and its culture in most personal way possible. They offer options like heritage walks, cooking with chef, a tour to AurovilleKolma Art and our favorite – Pedal through time, a rickshaw ride through the by-lanes of the historic town. This again can be organized by the hotel on request, and we recommend you do it on your first day, the whole tour will take minimum one hour, the rest depends on who long you end up taking pictures at each place. This way you will have ample of time to explore more on rest of the days and pick favorites if you want to revisit a place leisurely later. 

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Palais de Mahe, Pondicherry

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If you ever visit Pondicherry, i promise, voluntarily or involuntarily you will find yourself in front of Palis de Mahe. The hotel is one of the hot spots for tourist to click pictures. Well i will know because the one year i spent in Pondicherry, i stayed right next to it (oh i was damn lucky) tourists would flock in front of the building right form morning 6 till sunset, apart from that there were movie shoots, pre-wedding shoots and what not.

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Palais De Mahe is situated at the intersection of two beckoning worlds. One gently murmurs the spirit of Colonial France with its clean streets, neatly plastered bungalows and flower-decked balconies while the other envelops you in its salt and spice-laden air coming off the Coromandel coast of India in great animating gusts.

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Colonial To The Core, The hotel and the rooms have plenty of distinctive French elements that will catch your eye at Palais de Mahe, in particular, its classical period style furniture. We believe that if Monsieur Dupleix were to visit us he would feel quite at home at Palais de Mahe. There can be no better endorsement for all our painstaking efforts to go French.


It stand out with its yellow and white walls and is one luxurious option to stay when in Pondicherry. However, if you don’t stay here don’t miss an opportunity to have a meal at their fine dine restaurant – Les Alizes. They are known to serve some of the best seafood in town, keeping it fresh and appetizing. Overlooking the pool, the place also serves some interesting cocktails. You should try their Mushroom and Spinach crepe, served with chickpea salad, Prawn curry and Spicy Orange – Grilled Calamari.

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Les Alizes, rooftop restaurant at Palais de Mahe, Pondicherry

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Ayurvedic Spa, No travel is ever complete without a relaxing spa therapy. The Ayurveda center at Palais de Mahe offers a range of herbal massages and therapies to help you get rid of accumulated stress and shape up a bit while you are with us. My masseuse was the sweetest and gave me a lot of tips to keep my skin and hair healthy with simple home remedies and absolutely loved how warm she was.

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Must try a cup of freshly brewed coffee and baked croissant at Earth cafe by the pool at Palais de Mahe, Pondicherry

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Villa Shanti, Pondicherry

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Entrance of  Villa Shanti, Pondicherry

2018 has been a really special year so far, and most important part of it was me braving up to take my first solo trip ever. Being born and raised in south, I wanted to pick a place in south (i think its more of a mental satisfaction for me) and a place that had a lot to do, gave me an opportunity to interact with some interesting people and also enjoy a bit of solace; and so i ended up in Pondicherry (which by the way has a direct flight from Hyderabad)

Corridor that leads to room and courtyard at Villa Shanti

I stayed at the French quarters where bougainvillea adore the walls, streets are filled with colored buildings and excited tourists. Right amidst all this beauty stands a beautiful boutique property ‘Villa Shanti’. A wooden door that is hard to miss leads you into this 100-year-old property turned into a boutique hotel with new additions to its architecture, tastefully done. Right from the entrance of sturdy wooden doors, that will want any passerby intrigued to step inside; the property is a beautiful amalgamation of urban luxuries and heritage influence.

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The property is minimalist, yet rich in details. From door knobs to tile work, murals to crockery that intricately blend in and make  Villa Shanti unique. Apart from being a welcoming spot for tourists, the place also promotes local artisans and try sourcing most of the products locally. Staying or not, there restaurant always has a waiting that pretty much speaks about the food and service.

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The four poster bed in my room at Villa Shanti

My room at Villa Shanti

Rooms: Villa Shanti has 15 aesthetically designed rooms that are built around the inner courtyard. I stayed in one of their ‘Junior Suits’ that is generously sized and comes with a four-poster king-size bed. The room also has an extended and spacious wash and change area that include his and hers sinks, shower area and toilet. The room in addition has a study table, cupboard to store your essentials and windows that lead ample of sunlight and some that open up into a balcony. The furniture is all made of locally sourced wood, antique door handles, handmade amenities from Auroville and structural lamps added up as magnificent details, one can’t fail but adore.

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Working on a holiday never felt better

The indoor and outdoor living spaces harmoniously balance comfort and simplicity, a broad veranda runs alongside the bedroom around the verandah below, providing ample space for outdoor lounging, I however loved spending time here working, having my evening tea and overlooking all the buzz taking place in the courtyard, which helped with fact that even though I was working, the vibe was of a vacation.

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For breakfast the spread includes freshly baked breads and croissants, fresh juice, eggs of your choice and fruits of the season.

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My first attempt at the Betel leaf salad, and totally loved it

Villa Shanti serves up some amazing meals, with a selection of sea food, continental bakes, grills and a choice of regional and Indian dishes. Breakfasts to Dinner everything is served out in the courtyard, yet ambiance during the day is completely different than what it is at night. While during the day it has more tropical vibe, at night its lively, candle lit and romantic making it perfect place to dine, be it with family or friends.

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Cafe Bar at Villa Shanti

The Café bar- It is my favorite place to chill adjoining the courtyard offers some amazing alcoholic concoctions you would love to sip on, even if you are sitting by yourself in the softly lit courtyard. Located opposite to the patio and the vertical garden, it offers snacks inspired by Indian street food, as well as various sandwiches and salads. Here you can also choose to enjoy a meal, sip a cocktail made from fresh juices, listen to music, or just relax and read one of the books from their library.

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Courtyard lit up for dinner at Villa Shanti

The Restaurant: Staying or not the resto is highly recommended to anyone visiting Pondicherry. Weekday or weekend you are bound to see the restaurant full house most of the times. The restaurant is divided into two distinct spaces; one opens onto the patio and the vertical garden; the other is air-conditioned and located in the older part of the building. All the dishes focus on quality, freshness and seasonal ingredients, which they source from the local suppliers.

Vacation isn’t ever complete without a spa for me, it’s like a ritual. So, when they told me I could have mine in the room, I just took up the opportunity and got myself a well-deserved massage, that it felt so good after a long day at Auroville. Also move on to my next blog to read all about ‘La Villa’ the sister property of Villa Shanti where i stayed for next two days in Pondicherry. 

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La Villa, Pondicherry

La Villa, Pondicherry

La Villa, the sister property of Villa Shanti was my second stay on the trip to Puducherry. A beautiful street in French quarter leads to this 19th century French house, turned into a luxury boutique hotel.

Lobby at La Villa, Pondicherry

La Villa is much calmer, intimate and offers six tastefully done suits, each offering a completely unique experience. The property houses a restaurant, swimming pool, bicycles for rent, Wi-Fi and staff that is available throughout your stay to assist and guide you on anything.

Staircase to (bridge to) heaven- my room at La Villa

A cobbled way leads to it an open lounge area, connected to lobby that is my most favorite part of the property. The seating area is comfortable with walls adorning map of the city and shelves with well stacked books you can borrow throughout your stay.

The suite at La Villa, Pondicherry

Spacious and relaxed outdoors that comes with the penthouse suite at La Villa

I was offered one of their best rooms, pent house suite indeed ‘Bridge to Heaven’. The room surprisingly had no walls and only wooden sliding doors. So private, so close to being in an open-air environment, easy view of sunsets and sunrise. The staff informs you before they visit the floor, keeping your privacy intact, every evening they spray for mosquito (to avoid any, not that I encountered any) and light up candles for you to enjoy outdoors as much as indoors during evenings. The room has contemporary furniture designed in reclaimed old wood, a signature style bed, lounging areas, private bar, study table and a dining option and a fancy bathroom. All of it come together to offer you luxury through minimalism.

Everything about the room stands out, including the bed at La Villa 

You have the luxury to order in, just like I did as most of my time was spent exploring the city, I preferred to have a hot shower followed by dinner in room. Or enjoy a relaxing and cozy early dinner in the garden, order while you breathe in the pleasant air and notice the freshly bloomed flowers and wide spread branches.

In room breakfast in calm with only chirping birds around

Both the properties, Villa Shanti and La Villa have a very elegant amalgamation of tropical vibe and influence of bygone era in terms of architecture and surroundings. Even in term of food, they give importance to best quality of fresh and local products, the menu is limited though rich in flavor’s, colors and textures that will change with the seasons. The choice of fine porcelain, period silver cutlery, crystal and other natural materials will enhance your experience of sharing and relaxing around a delicious meal.

Long touristy day that ends with a delicious meal in comfort of my room 

The open air restaurant at La Villa, Pondicherry

My visit to Pondicherry will always be special, as it was my first ever solo trip and Villa Shanti and La Villa played perfect hosts, welcoming me with warmest of hospitality, finest food and memories I will cherish forever.

Its luxury when spa comes to your room

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