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Escursions in Pondicherry

Arikamedu : A historical site, 4-km south of Pondichery, which revealed local trade with Romans as early as 2nd century BC, some even believe Roman settlements existed. Wine seems to have been a major import as excavated amphora jars suggest. In return, textiles, precious stones and shell-jewellery left these shores. Moreover, one will still be able to find the amazing ruins of an 18th century French Jesuit Mission House here. It was abandoned in 1783.

Chunnambar : Like to Swim, row a boat, or simply watch the sunrise and picnic at the beach, or go trekking, or feel comfortable on a tree house? Then Chunnambar is the right place, and to reach Chunnambar in Ariankuppam, which is just 7-km from Pondicherry (commonly known as Pondy), one has to go to Cuddalore. Any bus plying from Pondy to Cuddalore will take one near this spectacular backwater front. A campfire enthusiast's favourite haunt.

Ousteri Lake : Pedal your way to the enchanting Ousteri Lake. A centuries-old, man-made water body, which the French made good use of, connecting it to a system of canals. Verdant crops make it a scenic location. In addition, the lake serves as a bird sanctuary, sheltering an incredible range of aquatic species.

From Pondicherry

Mahabalipuram : Nesting along the Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) was a 7th century port of the Pallava kings. The cave temples here were carved out of a granite hill mostly between the 5th and 8th centuries. Besides, one will also find the famous Shore Temple to the east and the Chariot temples to the south.

Pitchavaram : One can choose one's picnic spot within thousands of acres of lush mangrove forests. A number of backwater canals criss-cross the area forming several islands.

Kancheepuram : A temple town with a history dating back to 23 centuries, Kancheepuram is called "The City of Thousand temples". The Ekambareswaran temple said to be the largest Shiva temple has a 1,000-pillared hall and one of the tallest 'Gopurams' of 185m in South India. Today, the town is perhaps more widely known for its lovely silks.

Tiruvannamalai : The Arunachaleswara temple, a renowned Shiva temple, is situated at the foot of a hill here. The ashram of Sri Ramana Maharishi is only 3-km from this temple.

Chidambaram : The Nataraja temple located at the centre of the town, sprawls over an area of 40 acres. With the roof of the Sanctum Sanctorum covered with gold plates. The presiding deity is represented by air and is known as "Akaasa Linga".

Karaikal : On the coastal Bay of Bengal close to Tanjore of Tamil Nadu is Karaikal - earlier it was part of the Tanjore district. It came under the French East India rule in 1738. The area of Karaikal is 160-sq-km with a population of 119,978. The Catholic Church "Our Lady of Angels" was built in 1740 and underwent repair and renovation in 1828, but still reminds the past. Though not a popular tourist destination, there are some spots to visit like Hindu temples of Lord Shiva and Goddess Ammeiyar. The beach is 1-km away and regular buses ply from Kumbhakonam to Karaikal.

Mahe : And on the west coast to the north of Kozhikode in Kerala there is a hilly town. Mahe shaded by coconut trees. The area is only 9-sq-km, population 28,401. The nature and climate is alike kerala, went under the rule of French in 1721.

Yanam : Yanam was earlier situated in Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. French took hold of it in 1731. The area is 30-sq-km with population strength of 11,627. ricouleur or tricolour (red, white and blue flag) but the veterans must be getting on!

From Karaikal

Velankanni : The healing powers associated with the Basilica of Our Lady of Health here, draws pilgrims from all religions and faiths.

Kumbakonam : Kumabakonam is famous for the 'Sarangapani', the 'Kubereshwara', the 'Nageswara' and the 'Ramaswami' temples. The 'Mahamagam' congregation takes place over here once in 12 years.

Tharangambadi : Also known as Tranquebar, this former Danish settlement, contains the fairy tale-like remains of a 400-year-old fort on the seashore.

Poompuhar : On confluence of River Cauvery with the Bay of Bengal, lies this ancient historic port city of the Chola Dynasty also known as "Ksveripoompattinam".

Nagore : The Hazrat Meeran Sultan Sayed Shahabdul Hameed Dargah attracts devout Muslims from far and wide.

Thanjavur : Thanjavur rose to glory as a centre of learning and culture during the Chola reign between the 10th and the 14th centuries. This place is renowned for its 11th century Brihadeswara temple, the finest of its kind in South India. Moreover, the Fort Serfoji Museum over here holds the richest collection of Chola bronzes.

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