After breakfast in the garden courtyard at Café de Flore (Maison Colombani, 37 Rue Dumas; 91-413/222-5868), head over the canal to the traditional Indian side of town, a district once known as Ville Noir. Vysial Street, which earned UNESCO recognition in 2008 for its restoration efforts, is a well-preserved stretch of old Tamil courtyard houses featuring thinnais (sitting platforms), teak-pillared verandas, and exquisitely carved doors. A few blocks north is Maison Perumal (44 Perumal Koil St.; 91-413/222-7519), a 10-room hotel that inhabits a lovingly restored Chettiar mansion with rust-red stone floors and stained-glass windows. Stay for lunch: the kitchen’s organic appams (a sort of crispy crepe) and grilled seafood are superb.
Work off those calories with a spot of shopping. Kalki (134 Mission St.; 91-413/233-9166) stocks incense, candles, hand-painted silks, and accessories, while stylish stationery awaits at the Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory (50 S.V. Patel Salai; 91-413/233-4763), an offshoot of the famed Sri Aurobindo Ashram in nearby Auroville. The Cluny Embroidery Centre (46 Rue Romain Rolland) sells finely embroidered table linen; just up the street, La Maison Rose (8 Rue Romain Rolland; 91-413/421-0806) is a heritage villa with three boutiques under its roof: Domus for home decor, Oh La la! for looks by French fashion designer Agathe Lazaro, and Amethyst for its bijou handcrafted jewelry.
For something different, head eight kilometers down Cuddalore Road to Chunnambar, where diversions include backwater boat tours, dolphin-watching, or trips to Paradise Beach, a giant sandbar stretched across the mouth of the Chunnambar River. Back in Pondy, end the day at The Promenade hotel’s rooftop restaurant, Lighthouse (23 Goubert Ave; 91-413/222-7750), where you’ll be perfectly positioned to watch the night roll across the Bay of Bengal.
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2013 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Pondy’s Top Picks”)