Pondicherry – or ‘Pondy’, as it almost universally known – is an atmospheric coastal town with bags of charm. Found around 2-3 hours’ south from Chennai, this former French enclave has a relaxed air (compared to most Indian urban hubs), and is an intriguing mix of Gallic and Tamil influences. French rule persisted here until 1954, the most obvious legacy of which remains in the cobbled streets and semi-dilapidated mansions of the French Quarter. Here one finds a plethora of boutiques and shops, charming cafes, and a selection of attractive and tastefully-restored boutique hotels. The European influences continue in the local cuisine – it’s not often one finds good quality beef and cheese in the Subcontinent! - with French and Italian touches added to local restaurant menus, and good quality coffee found throughout. In recent years Pondy has gained international recognition due to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in neighbouring Auroville: yoga and meditation is a key focus here, and now increasingly so in many hotels and guesthouses across the area.