If you’ve been following my travel stories at TheLabel.in, you’ve already seen this. If you haven’t, read on.
Tamil Nadu’s East Coast Road runs from Chennai to Tuticorin, slicing through Puducherry. One of southern India’s most scenic routes, it is stippled with beaches, heritage sites and national parks. South of Puducherry it degrades into a tamarind-shaded strip of macadam flanked by picturesque countryside. Steeped in history, the lore of this land dates back to Pallava and Chola eras, as well as more recent centuries when Dutch, French, Danish, Portuguese and British powers warred over it. To experience heritage in flavours both colonial and ethnic, punctuate your road trip with a night or three at these quaint hotels.
Hotel de L’Orient, Puducherry
Much is spoken of the French-ness of Puducherry (née Pondicherry). There is an ineffable air of parlez-vous about the street names and colonial buildings, but many visitors come away feeling cheated by what the brochures promise. Unless, perhaps, they seal their experience at Neemrana’s Hotel de L’Orient on Rue Romain Rolland. Thoughtfully restored architecture, handpicked furnishings and delectable cuisine at its courtyard restaurant bring back to life this monumental building, which would otherwise have gone to ruin or been left to languish in an afterlife of garishness—a fate worse than death.
La Maison Tamoule, Puducherry
Experience the opposite effect at La Maison Tamoule (literally, the Tamil House). Situated on a restored street in the heart of the Tamil town, it is styled after an aristocratic manor with custom-designed Athangudi tiles, antique rosewood furniture and stained-glass windows reminiscent of the mansions of Chettinad. Carte Blanche, the in-house restaurant, serves tantalising Tamil Creole cuisine and is a destination in its own right.
Bungalow on the Beach, Tranquebar
The tiny Danish settlement of Tranquebar hugs a sun-kissed beach just off the East Coast Road. Restoration has transformed this colonial township into a treasure chest of memory. Neemrana’s Bungalow On The Beach, overlooking the majestic 17th-century Fort Dansborg, couldn’t have asked for a better location. Each room, named for a Danish ship, has an individual character, and the balcony offers an extraordinary sea view. The in-house restaurant serves fresh seafood dishes.
Gate House, Tranquebar
Landsporten is the arched gate of the walled Danish township built in 1792. Right beside it, and taking after its name, is the Gate House. This restored Tamil aristocratic residence transformed into one of Neemrana’s signature un-hotels is replete with four-poster beds, wooden pillars, stairways and an elegant inner courtyard.
Now, how about that road trip?
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