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Hotel De L' Orient, Pondicherry



History

In the course of many recce visits to Pondicherry in search of old structures, Francis Wacziarg and Aman Nath came across the house on 17 Rue Romain Rolland. It had been occupied since 1952 by the Department of Education. During the days of the French, the building was called the ‘Instruction Publique’ – the board still sits above the entrance door. The Department was about to vacate the building as it had been declared unsafe.






The house was formally acquired in October 1998 and when the restoration started, a few ceilings and arches had to be rebuilt to their original style as they indeed were about to collapse. Rue Romain Rolland is in the heart of Pondicherry and was earlier called Rue des Capucins after a monastery that once existed off the street. (A church by the same name was commissioned in 1707).






The history of Pondicherry is closely associated with the trade that developed in the 17th century. Founded in 1664, the Compagnie des Indes Oientales – the French answer to the East India Company – was given the rights to trade with India by Louis XIV, King of France. The first settlement, a ‘factory’, was Surat, followed by the ‘loges’ of Tellichery and Calicut on the Malabar coast.




























The ‘comptoir’ of Pondicherry was to become the ‘flagship’ of French presence in India from 1675. A port was constructed, and by 1691, the population touched 20,000. Dupleix, the Governor from 1742 to 1756, ushered in an era of prosperity for Pondicherry but also of wars that led to the eventual destruction of the city in 1761. Thereafter, the town was to change hands several times, between the Dutch and the British, but always for short periods and the French remained at the main influence till 1954.




The mansion which houses the Hotel de l’Orient dates back to the late 1760’s when Pondicherry was rebuilt. In the course of restoration a hand-written inscription “H. RUDIER 1809” was found in the room named ‘Masulipatam’, thus indicating that the house was inhabited by a French family at the time. French occupation continued for the next two centuries, and the mansion was bought from the Sinnas family who had acquired it in 1952.


The aim of the restoration process was to recreate the 18th century aura. Wherever possible, the old Chettinad plaster was retained; the red oxide flooring was repaired in parts but not replaced. The bathrooms had to be modernized and an interesting finish on the walls was experimented with – a mix of white cement that gave the walls a shiny patina which went with the restored look.



Many of the wooden beams had to be changed as the original ones had been eaten by termites. The paint on the ceilings was left untouched. The wooden planks on the high doors and windows with shutters, louvers and caned panels were retained or replaced by new panels made of old wood.












The rooms – now all air-conditioned – have been named after former French possessions: Masulipatam, Surate, Calicut, Gingy, Balassore, Cassimbazar, all names of ‘loges’ and ‘factories’. The suites have been named after the better known French areas: Mahe, Yanaon, Chandernagor, Karikal. In each room an object symbolizes the region in which the French-occupied town was in. The courtyard, in the centre of the property, links the street with the dining room and serves as a stage for cultural performances too.


Rooms

Hotel de l’Orient has 14 Rooms and 2 Deluxe Suites.

Mahe Deluxe Suite: Named after one of the “French Comptoirs” in Kerala, Mahe is the grandest suite on the ground floor. It has a high and large four-poster bed, a sitting area with a day bed, period artefacts and engravings from those marine centuries when French sailors set out for Pondicherry. The bathroom has a tub.

Chandernagore Deluxe Suite: This room takes its name from the former French territory in Bengal. A large suite at the end of the gallery upstairs has two queen size brass beds, a sitting area with a day bed and art pieces to revive and re-live the past. The bathroom has a tub.








Karikal Room: Named after a former “French Comptoir” in Tamil Nadu, south of Pondicherry. The most prestigious room with its own terrace overlooking the courtyard. It has a very high king-size bed accessed by three steps(!), a planter’s chair and a few Tanjore paintings.










Calicut Room:Calicut is a pleasant nice room with two single beds on the ground floor, just off the courtyard. The art is related to the 3 religions of Pondy: The Christian, Hindu and Muslim. The bathroom is large and has a tub.












Yanaon Room: Named after a former French colony in Andhra Pradesh, Yanaon is a grand room on the first floor, just off the gallery. The four-poster double bed sits between two windows. A planter’s chair by the window makes for a comfortable place to read. The bathroom is spacious and well ventilated.



Arcot Room: Arcot is a very quiet room with its own tiny courtyard. The four-poster bed and the antique furniture give the room a very cosy atmosphere.
















Nellore Room: A quiet room with two four-poster beds. Ideal for those who want to be as secluded and far from the road noise, after a day’s excursion on the busy Indian streets.















Balassore Room: A charming spacious room with an antique golden arch found in an antique shop in Tanjore. Two single beds and a planter’s chair, a large bathroom with a tub make for a comfortable stay with windows overlooking the courtyard.







Cassimbazar Deluxe Suite: An interesting room, off the first floor gallery, with two single four-poster beds. The bathroom, incorporated in the room, makes the room very informal and intimate, for a couple or two close friends.



Madurai Room: A cozy and quiet room on the top floor of the hotel. Its two single four-poster beds and comfortable antique furniture gives it a nice and peaceful atmosphere.













Cannanore Room: A fairly narrow room with a double bed but it has its own terrace over the courtyard making it an all time favourite. The blue floor in the room and the bathroom gives it a different appeal.












Goretty Room: A room in the annexe, just a two minutes’ walk from the main building. Spacious and well furnished, it is ideal for those who want to be out of – yet near – the hotel and closer to the beach road.












Gingy Room: Maybe the quaintest room of the hotel! Tiny but highly habitable! The favourite of our young clients as getting to it by a quaint staircase is as much a trek as to get to Gingy Fort, from which the room takes its name!












Seringapatam Room: On the first floor of the annexe, just a two minutes’ walk from the main building. Nicely furnished with 2 single four-poster beds. It has its own balcony from where you can catch a glance of the sea! For those seeking independence from the hotel!








Masulipatam Room: A room by the entrance and the reception. The grand brass bed from Karikal, the lovely antique furniture, the original Chettinad plaster on the walls and the bathroom incorporated in the room all make for a comfortable stay for those who do not want to climb stairs.







Surate Room: A room near the entrance and the reception, ideal for those who don’t want to climb stairs. The charming double four-poster bed, the furniture from a village in Kerala, the walls with the original Chettinad plaster, and a bathroom incorporated in the room, all contribute to creating an informal and intimate ambience.









Tariff


Rooms                                                     Type                              Beds                     Rate
                                                                A/C                            Honeymoon
Mahe                                               Deluxe Suite                     1 Double                 Rs 7,000/-
Chandernagore                               Deluxe Suite                     2 Single                  Rs 7,000/-
Karikal                                            Grand Room                      1 Double                 Rs 7,000/-
Calicut                                            Room                                 2 Single                  Rs 5,500/-
Yanaon                                           Grand Room                      1 Double                 Rs 5,500/-
Balassore                                      Room                                  2 Single                  Rs 5,500/-
Cannanore                                    Room                                 1 Double                 Rs 5,500/-
Arcot                                             Room                                 1 Double                  Rs 4,000/-
Cassimbazar                                 Room                                  2 Single                  Rs 4,000/-
Nellore                                          Room                                  2 Single                  Rs 3,500/-
Madurai                                        Room                                   2 Single                  Rs 3,500/-
Surate                                          Room                                   1 Double                Rs 4,000/-
Masulipatam                                 Room                                   1 Double                Rs 4,000/-
Gingy                                            Room                                   2 Single                 Rs 3,500/-
Goretty                                        Annexe Room                       2 Single                 Rs 3,500/-
Seringapatam                              Annexe Room                      2 Single                  Rs 3,500/-


Accomodation

Off-season discount: 20% on all rooms from 1st May to 30th June.

Food & Beverage

Breakfast complimentary, Lunch & Dinner à la carte (between Rs. 450/- & Rs. 500). Breakfast for Non Resident guest Rs. 350/- + tax Bar facilities are available for residents only. Personal liquor is not permitted.

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