Pondicherry has a lot of accommodation options and having visited many times I have managed to experience a few of them.
The Aurobindo Ashram, one of the biggest landlords in the French Quarter has a number of well-located reasonable priced guest houses.
However to stay there you need to get past the formidable “Gatekeepers”, Dictator-like creatures who will stop nothing short of waterboarding to interrogate you on why you wish to stay there. Many times I have been refused a room or told the guesthouse is full despite a rack of room keys visible behind the reception counter, as the “gatekeeper” didn’t like the colour of my t-shirt or I had forgotten to brush my teeth that morning. On one occasion, when leaving my family in the car while enquiring about the availability of rooms, I was told to bring everyone from the car and parade them in front of the reception for inspection. A friend, who had forgotten his car registration number while signing in, was accused of stealing his car!
Once you are in, you have a long list of rules to comply with including a 10pm curfew, and woe betide anyone who fails to observe the rules!
It is worth running the gauntlet though as the rooms are spotlessly clean, well maintained, very cheap and well located often with sea views.
On this trip though, courage having deserted me, I stayed in the excellent private guesthouse L’Escale.
L’Escale is a boutique guesthouse of only 7 rooms just one street back from the sea. Run by expat couple Nicholas and Patricia, the rooms are clean, reasonably priced and the hotel has a wonderful roof terrace where I spent many an evening enjoying the cool sea breezes coming off the Bay of Bengal.
The owner Nicholas is very helpful, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and an impeccable taste in restaurants (his top 5 list matching mine coincidentally). He was fully booked on the day we arrived so he arranged for alternative accommodation for us at another guesthouse for one night and even handled all the payments for us. I would definitely stay here again.
I have also stayed at the Promenade which is right on the beach road opposite the Gandhi Statue. Great service and location and a really good breakfast buffet (4 plates of bacon and eggs being essential to kick start my day) but the rooms are quite tired now and there are better priced options around.
Villa Shanti has lovely rooms and great food (as I mentioned here) but is more on the pricey side.
I would also like to stay at La Closerie one time. I caught glimpses of a candle lit courtyard from my balcony at L’Escale and one day knocked on the door. La Closerie is a beautifully restored Villa with stunning interiors and even has a small plunge pool in the garden. Staying here would be more like being a guest in a wealthy person’s home!