More French than the French... in India

Away from the touristy Ville Blanche, Puducherry is much more like a bustling Indian town

A classic book’s mention of Pondicherry, the former French colony in India, prompted Len Williams, a writer with several UK papers and former Poitiers student, to see if it still felt ‘French’ after all this time

It Is a warm evening and I watch a handful of older gentlemen playing pétanque in the grounds of Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges.

They will head home for a glass of pastis later, while I visit a local restaurant and order onion soup to start, followed by steak-frites and a glass of red.

A quintessentially French scene –except for the location. I’m on the Bay of Bengal in the Indian city of Puducherry (still widely known as Pondicherry or, affectionately, Pondy).

I’ve been intrigued by the city since first reading about it in Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi, later filmed by Ang Lee and partially shot here. 

It is in the southern state of Tamil Nadu but, at first sight and if you squint a bit, you could almost be somewhere in the south of France.

The east-facing seafront boulevard Avenue Goubert is closed to traffic in the evenings and in the mornings a couple of cafés serve croissants, ...

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