Trip to Auroville, Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry, India (October, 2016)

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November 11th 2016
Published: November 11th 2016
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Auroville is a beautiful place partly in Tamil Nadu & partly in Pondicherry, spread over acres and acres of land with lush greenery and is very close to nature. It is also a place that follows a unique blend of traditional living practices which are enjoyable in this modern world.

Auroville has some tar roads, but mostly muddy roads. Many place of interest like farms, eateries are located in areas accessible by narrow red mud/sandy roads, so
hiring a two wheeler, available aplenty there, is the most convenient mode of transport. Other modes include cycle and car.

It is full of a variety of trees, plants, flowers and naturally, insects and worms too! minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin;
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One of the most interesting features of Auroville is the food! It is awesome. It is lined with various restaurants and cafes serving an amazing variety of bread, cake,
burgers, pastas, coffee, tea, smoothies, sandwiches, South Indian food etc. My account exploring vegetarian options in some cafés is given below:-

i. Veganza

It is a fairly new café located in Kuilapalayam. As the name suggests, it serves vegan food. I had a veg. burger and almond milk cold coffee. The burger was awesome and the coffee wasn’t great.

ii. Greek Café

Went there for dinner and ordered their in house Finger Chips Greek Café and Piperies Yemestes Me Pligouri. The Finger Chips were delicious. The taste of the spices blended in it bore semblance to the taste of South Indian bread upma! I tried cold coffee with coconut milk and didn’t like it. That was the last I experimented with the type of milk in coffee. The taste of the milk in both, Veganza & Greek Café overpowered the taste of coffee. So much so, that I didn’t get the taste of coffee in them!

Guess I am not a fan of coffee in any milk other than cow milk!

iii. Dhiya’sKitchen

This restaurant was opened in February, 2016, and serves a wide variety of Indian Food – South Indian, North
Indian, Coffee, Tea etc. and, behold – Chaat! Ordered Tandoor Paneer, Roti & Pav Bhaji. Yum, Super delicious food, all of it! The Pav Bhaji tastes nothing like it does in Mumbai. The taste is unique and very nice! The lady who owns the restaurant as well as the staff are very sweet. Open till 10:00 p.m. The restaurant claims that no ajinoto moto is used in its food.

iv. Auroville Bakery

Much written about bakery and café! Lives up to its reputation. Opens at about 7:00 a.m. and shuts at 5:00 p.m. Café serves breakfast & lunch. Went to this café on several occasions and had breakfast (Red Rice Dosai), evening snacks (Veg, Burger), Hibiscus Drink & Ginger Lemon Drink. The Veg. Burger requires a special mention. It comes with French Fries and Salad. The Patty & Fries are freshly fried after your order! I had it one late afternoon after roaming Auroville and was very hungry, could just devour food. Lo and behold, the fresh, super delicious and super heavy burger arrived to satiate my appetite! The Ginger Lemon drink was tasty too! Had it each time visited the café.The Hibiscus Drink tastes like kokum sherbet having a sweet and tangy flavour.

v. Solitude Cafe

This café is situated in a farm.It is owned by Krishna, who is a foreigner and also a part of a rock band ‘Emergence’ which plays worldwide. It serves farm fresh food, grown on their farm. They have an in house ice cream made without sugar and milk, YES, without sugar and

milk. It was nice. The ice cream gives off a slight sweetness once it enters your mouth. Each of the items in the lunch plate or thaly were grown in the farm, the salad, vegetables, rice etc. The salad included pumpkin tendrils!!! Never heard of that before. The experience was refreshing!

vi. Kofi Bar

Had read a lot about this café. I had cold coffee here, which was tasty and heavy (tastes like bru coffee). The ambience is very nice with a thatched roof, which keeps the interior cool even on hot days.

vii.Mother’s Café

This is a café cum handicrafts shop. Had dosai with tomato, capsicum and a few other vegetables. It was tasty and felt just like home made food. Bought a locally handmade bar of soap too –which claims to be made of bamboo charcoal and other oils, without any colorants or preservatives. The soap bar is black seems to smoothen skin!

viii. Well Café

Open café with a garden seating. Calm and quiet. Serves sandwiches, cakes, coffee, hummus, burgers. They have some dishes and dessert listed as being specials of the day too. Ordered an open aubergine and other vegetables sandwich, forget the name (it’s in French!), which was fresh and tasty. Felt like I was eating a dish made with ingredients plucked freshly from the garden! I went to Naturellement Café from here, to try deessert and coffee, as I had little time in my hand to explore both places for food and dessert.

ix. Naturellement Café

The locals know the place as Udyogam, so in case you ask for directions to the place, use this name. It is a pleasant open garden café serving the sandwich, burger, falafel food. Their speciality is their inhouse ice cream. I had coconut Chocolate ice cream, which was made of coconut milk and chocolate. The taste of coconut blended well with the chocolate and the taste was different from regular chocolate ice creams. Their special inhouse cake (with a complicated name in French!) was a disappointment. It tasted like hardened bread had been slathered with some chocolate and almond shavings. The cold coffee was good.

x. Aurevelo Café

Aurovelo is a shop which sells cycles, also having a café. It serves coffee, tea, smoothies and coolers. For eating, the only item listed was Red Rice Dosa. Thankfully, I had visited it after a heavy breakfast at Frite's Corner, & had a cold coffee. It was very nice & chilled.

xi. Tanto Pizzeria

Again, one of the most written about restaurants in Auroville. It has outlets in ECR & Romain Rolland
Street at Pondicherry city too. Ordered a small Veg. Pizza with zucchini, tomato, basil and some other vegetables. It was tasty and filling.

xii.Frite’s Corner

Located adjacent to Tanto, this place has a clean, open kitchen, serves good south Indian coffee and made me a mixed vegetable sandwich, though it was not on the menu. The coffee and sandwich were tasty and good for a light morning breakfast.

A point to note about Auroville,pay attention Filter Kaapi fans, you do not get Filter Coffee at most places here!!! I found it in Auroville Bakery
and Frite’s Corner, out of which the one at Frite’s Corner was good. The filter coffee served at Auroville is made of a decoction that is made after straining
water boiled with coffee (instead of using a filter), which doesn’t appeal to a typical Filter coffee fan’s taste buds! Most places have a kitchenette, so I suggest you carry your own Filter Coffee paraphernalia with you! minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin;
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In Auroville, most of the restaurants/cafes are located in Kuilapalayam, some within seconds of each other. To explore these cafes, staying in a guest house close by would be convenient. Also, during my stay in the third week of October, 2016, the sun would start setting by 5:30 p.m. and by 6:30 p.m., it would be completely dark!!!

Most of the food I had didn’t seem like it contained any chemicals/preservatives which are the norm in most restaurants today. The average price of the food, for a snack and a drink for 1 person ranges from Rs. 250 to Rs. 300.

Please ensure that you carry mosquito repellant as Auroville has a lot of mosquitoes (so does Pondy city). Almost all the eateries I mentioned have stray dogs and cats strolling around you while you eat, sometimes happily nibbling any food that you feed them. At Auroville Bakery, I was told not to feed the dogs, but the staff wasn’t around to shoo away the dogs who came constantly for food.

During my stay there, I was looking to participate in Art & Craft workhops. There was not much happening at the time, but I found one at Wellpaper, located at Kottakarai Road. I took part in a workshop on weaving basket out of newspapers there. A group of local women make paper baskets coloured with vegetable dye, paper mache handicrafts and coir accessories. The workshop is held every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I missed the Wednesday workshop, as I wasn’t aware of it. So I called up WellPaper to know if they would conduct a workshop for me. The lady there was so sweet, she said it is possible and there I went, on a Friday. It was a very nice workshop where each step was demonstrated, which I was to follow in order to make the basket. It was a very fulfilling experience. I also bought a basket from their workshop. The workshop fee is Rs. 500. A few metres after Kuilapalayam, on Auroville main road towards the inrerior is Ganapathy Pottery which offers pottery workshops for Rs. 150 an hour. During my visit, the owner was bust with loads of work, as Diwali was upcoming the following week. There is another pottery, called Sunshine Pottery, on Auroville Main Road to ECR, which conduct pottery workshops for Rs. 200 an hour. Here also, the potters were busy preparing their products for Diwali.

I visited Auroville Press which manufactures handmade paper. I happened to reach there during a guided tour of the press for some other tourists. I was blessed and totally impressed! The owner took us through the whole process of making the paper. The paper is made with cloth and paper. They also make paper products like earrings & lampshades. Each person working there is meticulous and their craft is clearly visible in the end product. They have a website from which their contact details can be obtained.

I bought some hand pouches with drawstrings (called ‘surkupayyee’ in Tamil & ‘batwa’ in Hindi) from the lady pictured below. She makes them herself with cloth purchased locally. There are some other sellers of these pouches too in Auroville & Pondy city; what I found unique about this lady was her aesthetic sense reflected in the colour combinations of her pouches. They were so beautiful! Also, this lady is crippled in one hand and yet manages to sew the pouches together, which an hour each to make. A pouch costs Rs. 20/- only! These pouch sellers will urge you to buy more, which is an indulgence you can definitely make, considering there is so much variety - plain cotton ones, zari embroidered ones.

A thorough look at the Auroville Website will give you an idea of what to expect inside. The News & Events schedule given out every month lists out upcoming events, workshops, classes,movies etc. which is available on the website. A movie is listed every Friday at the auditorium in Bharat Nivas. I happened to be interested in watching the movie listed for the weeked of my visit, a screening of Agatha Christie’s ‘Death on the Nile’. Surprizingly, movie watching is free for all and not very crowded. The whole experience was fun. The movie started at 7:45 p.m sharp and ended at about 10:00 p.m. When you come out after the movie, the whole road outside is dark and spooky! Locals seem to be used to it.

For public transport between Chennai & Auroville/Pondicherry, you can step out of the airport, enter the Airport Metro Station right outside, take a metro train and alight at Guindy Metro Station. It takes about 10 minutes in the Metro Rail to reach Guindy. From there, lot of buses are available. Non Air conditioned government buses come every 5 mins and airconditioned PTDC buses have a frequency of half an hour. From Guindy, it takes about 3 hours to reach Auroville Bus Stop and half an hour more to reach Pondicherry Bus Stand. There are no buses/public transaport from Chennai Airport to Pondicherry. The buses start from CMBT/Koyambedu bus stand and then come to Guindy. It is possible that the bus may be full by the time it reaches Guindy. In that case, you can take a metro ttrain at the airport, alight at Alandur and change to another metro train for CMBT/Koyambedu Metro Station, and take a bus from there. Airport to CMBT/Koyambedu takes about half an hour. It takes about half an hour to reach CMBT/Koyambedu from Chennai airport this way. For returning from Ponicherry/Auroville, you can alight from the bus at Guindy and take a metro train to Chennai Airport. I found the metro trains very useful. For travel within Auroville, a bus service is provided, with fixed timings, not all day.The time table is available on the Auroville website. Further, to visit Matrimandir from Pondicherry city, 2 buses are run at 10:00 a.m. & 2:00 p.m respectively.

As a solo tourist, I enjoyed my stay at Auroville thoroughly. The locals are friendly and even offer you a ride on their 2 wheelers. As stated in some blogs, to enjoy Auroville and visit various places of interest in it, you must stay there for some days. I stayed for a week, enjoyed the food and participated in art workshops. Volunteering for farming is also a way of exploring Auroville.

Additional photos below
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28th February 2017

Best Place to Visit in Pondicherry
Auroville is certainly best place to explore on your trip to pondicherry, check for more details..

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