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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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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ride

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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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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