I had always wanted to stay in a Neemrana property at their “non–hotel Hotels”. The very charming and picturesque heritage Hotel de L ’Orient, where we stayed during a recent trip to Pondicherry, is in actuality a converted colonial mansion by the Neemrana group.
Its 18th century façade with huge white windows, tall and wide antique doors, yellow walls crowned with shades of red and pink bougainvillea, bi-cycles parked outside give it all a very Mediterranean feel. On reading its history, I got to know Hotel de L ’Orient, dates back to the late 1760’s. Situated in White town at the heart of the French quarters, it is a walking distance from the promenade and other specialty and fine dining establishments.
As we entered, we were welcomed by a well lit courtyard with a really old neem tree lit with blue lights. It’s shadows dappled the courtyard adding to the magic. The patio lined white columns, red oxide floors, collections of 18th and 19th century engravings and lithographs that framed the walls soon transport you to an age of grace and leisure ; Also showcasing a laidback aesthetic and the unostentatious style for which the Neemrana Group of hotels is famous for.
We also found an art gallery housed inside! Interesting paintings of various artists were showcased as we climbed the well preserved wooden staircase and were shown to our rooms with names from the era gone by – ‘Mahe’, ‘Chandernagore’ and ‘Karaikal’ are the suites and ‘Masulipatam’, ‘Surate’, ‘Calicut’, ‘Gingy’, ‘Balasore’ and ‘Cassimbazar’, the other rooms. Mine was ‘Yanoan’.
The Hotel de L ’Orient has 16 rooms, all decorated differently but carrying the same theme. A lot of planning has gone into melding the 18th century grandeur while ensuring that modern necessities are taken care of. A very rare example of thoughtful, historical restoration. A few of their rooms have well appointed balconies.
Once in my room, I marveled at the high-raftered ceiling and the antique wooden theme they had going on in every nook and cranny. A four poster French colonial bed, lamps, engravings, tables and consoles added to the mystique . I glanced around and on a table saw a vintage wooden trunk. It was held open by a small wooden baton. I took a peek and to my delight found all the makings of tea there! A cup of chamomile tea in hand, I relaxed on the restored planters chair. Looking around, I saw the room was dotted with rugs. I later found these were restored hand knotted pile carpets made in the 1650’s called Savonnerie. I walked up to the very high windows with teak shutters and opened them. I could see the beautiful courtyard of the sisters of Cluny, on the opposite side from my street-facing-first-floor-room. It was all very lovely!
Their specialty courtyard restaurant “Carte Blanche”, specializes in creole cuisine, where local Tamil spices infused with French ingredients from carefully collected recipes of old Pondicherrian families, gave our palates a thrill.
Also attached to the hotel is the Neemrana shop – a small gift outlet overflowing with handicrafts, candles, lifestyle products, souvenirs and other collectibles. If you are staying at the hotel, the Neemrana shop is easily accessible from within the hotel, well after the shop timings.
While soaking in the magic of vanished ages the at the Hotel de L’Orient, I knew why Pondicherry with its history and its Tamil-French heritage (among other things) makes it one of my favorite getaways. The fact that the place is just a 6 hour drive from Bangalore also adds to the appeal, I guess! 🙂