If you've seen the Ang Lee film Life of Pi you'll understand why the opening scenes of the hero's early life a're set in Pondicherry. Whether you're watching in 3D or not, the lush gardens, European mansions and elegant walkways leap out of the screen. Pondi (as it is affectionately known here) is "the Indian Cote d'Azur", a haven of French style and refinement separated from Boomtown India. When we arrived into this charming seafront town, the boulevards were brimming with people riding bicycles or strolling its treelined sidewalks, as if an elegant French country town had been transported to the Bay of Bengal. Which of course is more or less what had happened. In 1850, the British had secured their grip on India. They allowed the retreating French to remain in Pondi and to this day its French quarter section is as tranquil and shaded as they had been in the 19th century. But for sure the spiritual heart of Pondi is its ashram and it's distinctive light-grey buildings all around town house its schools, libraries, shops and restaurants. Its main building one of silent contemplation where its two founders were laid to rest. Our short stay has us wanting more and we are already counting the days until we return with our first All-Women's Unleashed Southern India Private Journey in January of 2014.

French Quarter in Pondicherry

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