Fascinating India Reopens Better Than Ever
India started reopening its hotels, resorts, temples,
and tourist attractions on June 8th, with enhanced hygiene measures and protocols in place. I can’t think of a better antidote to an extended home stay than a trip to fascinating India with its potpourri of colors, flavors and aromas. Travel Scope India, Specialist Tour Operators/DMC for India have the taste level and expertise to plan the ultimate remarkable journey, which I experienced firsthand. This includes arranging finely curated experiences, individually designed itineraries, insider access, expert guides and drivers, premier hotels, culinary offerings, domestic flights and VIP transfers – all organized by consummate professionals who are leading experts in their fields. www.travelscopeindia.com
Pondicherry With Its Fabulous French Flair
The Academy Award-winning film Life of Pi was shot in Pondicherry, the hero’s hometown, with the backdrop of its gorgeous French quarter. Tucked away on the Bay of Bengal on India’s southeastern coast, Pondy is a unique mix of French colonial style and vibrant Indian culture.
My excellent guide Prasanth, a Pondy native, gave me an impressive insider tour of this enchanting and delightfully walkable city. I love meandering the French Quarter; its tree lined walkways dotted with pastel hued colonial mansions, Parisian style cafes, art galleries, theaters and fashionable boutiques.
A grand canal separates the city into the French and Indian Tamil quarters with distinctly different architectural styles. It’s hard not to be captivated by the lively, walled Grand Bazaar chock full of bananas, produce, spices and flowers. Don’t miss Manakula Vinayagar, a colorful Hindu shrine where you can offer a coin to Lakshmi the temple elephant and she will bless your head with her trunk.
Early evening, the action is at the seafront promenade full of Pondicherrians out for a stroll. A gigantic statue of Gandhi occupies center-stage on the esplanade and just beyond, Le Café, a 24-hour eatery, offers splendid views of the Bay of Bengal.
The handsome colonial style Palais de Mahé Hotel in the French Quarter charms with its mango facade and banistered balcony lined with potted palms. The elegant period furniture, soaring ceilings, scenic verandahs, white pillars and arches adorning daffodil yellow walls, courtyard pool and superb rooftop restaurant are what Pondicherry stays are all about. www.cghearth.com
An Archaeological Marvel
Halfway along the 3 1/2 hour drive to Chennai on picturesque East Coast Road, I stopped at the magnificent Mahabalipuram Monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a private tour of the wondrous complex of stone temples, carvings, caves and bas reliefs, dating back to the 7th and 8th century.
Chennai, capital of India’s tropical south, in addition to having one of the world’s largest beaches, boasts many impressive gems. The luxurious 5-star seafront Leela Palace Chennai, part of the esteemed Indian brand, with its opulent interiors, striking decorative accents, glam rooftop pool plus sumptuous rooms and suites is the top hotel in the area and a great base to explore the city.
With a storyteller guide provided by Travel Scope India, I toured the city and learned about Chennai’s rich heritage; visited the house of a priest; marveled at age old peacock colored Kapaleeswarar Temple in the Mylapore district with its elaborately carved entrance gate; wandered bustling Pondy Bazaar and more.
Returning to the Leela Palace, a pampering massage at the superb spa followed by an unrivaled feast of Indian specialties at Jamavar, their outstanding fine dining restaurant – topped off an unforgettable day.
How To Get There
In addition to spacious seats that turn into comfortable lie flat beds in Business Class, excellent food, stellar entertainment, top amenities, superb service and the ultra luxe 3 room suite, The Residence with Travel Concierge and in-flight Butler on its A380s, Etihad Airways has seamless connections through Abu Dhabi to Chennai, and other cities in India. The carrier will be using enhanced protocols for hygiene and safety for guests with wellness ambassadors on flights. www.etihad.com
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