A first visit to Pondicherry this Christmas time - the former French coastal enclave a few hours drive south of Chennai, which still seeks to preserve a touch of the Gallic.
In the centre of town, there is a smattering of French colonial architecture, both public and residential - and along with the street signs, the police uniforms, and the ubiquitous French tourists, it has a hint of the Mediterranean about it.
There's an imposing French church just off the sea front - a French war memorial, a tribute to the dead of the First World War - and until a few weeks ago a 'Hotel de Ville', a grand building facing the sea which collapsed at the end of November in heavy rains and is so badly damaged it's difficult to see how this Mairie will be rebuilt.
Much of the town centre is given over to the Sri Aurobindo ashram and associated buildings, and just outside Pondi is Auroville, an international new age settlement, the point of which escapes me.
More enthralling, to my mind and in the view of most of the locals, is the Bay of Bengal, and the fine sea front embankment which is a great promenading stretch - and with an outdoor cafe to add to the merriment. There's no beach here, alas, but the sea has a certain majesty.
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