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Have you ever visited Tharangampadi

Though it’s not a bad thing as it brings down the soaring temperatures.

While is definitely best enjoyed in the cooler seasons, it doesn’t get too cold, so come prepared.

Besides the sunscreen, also come armed with a French dictionary you never know when it comes in handy.

It was after all a French colony till nearly 1956. And as a testimony to that, you’ll find a lot of Tamil speaking denizens, fluently switching to French without batting an eyelid something that seems really strange until you get used to the incongruity of it all.

is what most of us refer to it as, but it got a new name, Puducherry,
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The town is also separated into two sections by a canal and was designed based on the French grid pattern, with sectors and perpendicular streets. So you have the French Quarter (Ville Blanche) and the Indian quarter (Ville Noir).

Many streets are dotted with large bungalows (some of them now falling into ruins), with doorways fringed with multi colored bougainvillea,
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The cobbled roads give the whole town a rather European look and feel though on a recent visit, I found it looking a little worse for wear. Piles of garbage here and there,
cards against humanity cards, graffiti and broken pavements are now destroying the charm of the once tidy town.

has become an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourists as devotees of Sri Aurobindo (Indian nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, yogi and guru) throng the Ashram, established here around 1926. Go prepared for the massive crowds.

Also, take a walk during the evening, down Gou Avenue, the main sea facing road of Pondi which is chock a block with adults, kids of all sizes and ages, vendors, performers and locals. The only saving grace is that they close off the road to vehicles including bicycles.

The French affair continues with the Alliance Francaise de Pondichery is located at one end of Goubert Avenue in a lovely old building, the Maison Bellocq, with arches, and a cosy garden cafe. I was severely tempted to go and join one of the classes but realized that I possibly wouldn’t be able to go beyond the and va in , everyone makes a stop at Auroville. My suggestion would be to do some research before jumping to conclusions about Auroville, as it doesn’t seem very clear to someone visiting for the first time.

It’s not really a sightseeing destination, except for the Matri Mandir, which to my knowledge can only be seen from a distance. It’s more of an ‘experience’.

I usually spend a few days here soaking in the peace and quiet. If you don’t have the luxury of time, the other way is to head to the Visitor’s Center, peek around the exhibits, watch a video on how Auroville was established and pick up some handicrafts at the local shops in the complex.

is quite renowned for its handmade products include paper, clothes and ceramics.

Quite a few ceramic artists call their home.

The town is home to Golden Bridge Pottery, which is known as one of the pioneers of the ceramic culture today. It might take some effort to actually visit these potteries and studios (unless you know them personally), but if you want to pick up some as mementos and gifts, you can shop at the Visitor’s Center the Casablanca shopping center in town.

Eating out can be a hit and miss in .

So it works if you ask around for recommendations and have your list ready,
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If you walk into any restaurant, you might be in for a disappointment.

A well known option is Rendezvous, known for its steaks and you can dine in the garden under the stars on a pleasant night.

I discovered a rather off beat and tiny cafe called New Banana Cafe on Cazy street, which serves the most fresh vegetables, baked dishes and galettes. Else, you can try more upscale restaurants like the Le Dupleix, Light House at the Promenade and the Carte Blanche at the L’Orient, which serves Creole cuisine.

There are walking tours conducted by INTACH, which are a great way of discovering the town.

Rent a cycle from the main market for very reasonable prices if you want to travel the local way. The sea is not too far away either, but I must warn you that it’s usually quite crowded unless you go towards some of the more lesser frequented beaches a little further up north. Auroville has its own private stretch of beach, but it’s usually inaccessible unless you’re staying at one of the Auroville guest houses (also not a bad idea if you’re looking at a longer stretch of more than 4 5 days).

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