Namaste! Welcome to India. This journey begins in Chennai, formerly Madras and the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639. While it is hot and busy, the city is considered to be orderly and efficient by Indian standards. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have these for your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu, a state recognized for its distinct and delicious cuisine. Characterized by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, the food of Tamil Nadu also has a number of regional variants, many of which you will taste during this Real Food Adventure. It is believed that the English word curry is derived from the Tamil word 'kari'. After the welcome meeting, get an introduction to the flavors of Tamil Nadu with a traditional meal served on a banana leaf. Accompanied by rice, the meal typically consists of sambar (a lentil-based vegetable stew), banana, beeda (a combination of betel leave and betel nut), and a glass of juice or lassi. The meal is finished with paayasam (a sweet pudding) for dessert.
This morning you will leave the city behind and drive along the scenic East Coast Road (approximately 2 hours) to the fishing town of Mamallapuram, home to sprawling, relaxed beaches. Visit the 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) and watch locals pay their respects to the deity Shiva. Head to the shore to see the fishing fleet at work, and follow that up with a delicious home-cooked seafood lunch with a fisherman's family. In the afternoon continue by private transfer to Pondicherry (approximately 3 hours). The united territories of Pondicherry (now Pondicherry) are unmistakeably and charmingly French, complete with a Hotel de Ville, French consulate and police who wear red "kepis" hats and belts. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You'll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping. Take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. The evening is free for your own exploration. Perhaps try out one of the city's French-infused restaurants.
Start your morning with coffee and French toast at a branch of the iconic Indian Coffee House, made famous by the book Life of Pi. You can find Indian Coffee Houses all over India (there are nearly 400 branches) and they have been run by cooperatives since the late 1950's. During the 1960s and 70s they became hangouts for literary and intellectual circles. After breakfast, join a local cook for a tour of Goubert market, learning about the building blocks of Tamil Nadu cuisine. Armed with your ingredients, take a cooking class to discover how these flavors combine to make some classic regional dishes. Learn to prepare the iconic sambar, as well as other 'Pondy' favourites: policha meen (fish baked in banana leaves), katirikaiy chutney (aubergine chutney) and erral urukaiy (prawn pickle). Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, perhaps visiting the Museum or Joan of Arc statue, trying a yoga class, relaxing on the beach, or admiring the Franco-Tamil architecture of the charming city centre.
Rise early for a long drive south to Kanadukathan (approximately 7 hours), famous for its unique architecture and salt trade. Along the way stop for a delicious vegetarian thali at one of many roadside dhabas. This is a selection of dishes that combine all six different flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy) for a perfectly balanced meal. Arrive in Kandukathan by mid afternoon. Settle in at your accommodation, an impressive mansion built in 1902 by prosperous merchants who used construction materials, decorative items and furnishings imported from East Asian countries and Europe. Relax, go for a swim in the swimming pool, then get ready for a real treat – a masterclass in Chettinad cuisine. Chettinad cuisine is distinct to the Chettiars, a successful trading community who built a reputation for ‘eating like kings’. This regional cuisine in revered throughout India and is well regarded for its liberal use of spice, replacing chilli with pepper to impart a subtle heat to dishes. Chettinad cuisine also incorporates seafood, chicken and lamb, although Chettiars do not eat beef and pork. In the mansion kitchens, learn to prepare famous Chettinad dishes including the signature chicken drumstick curry accompanied by mint chutnie, and follow it with a sumptuous feast.
After breakfast, take a turn around the mystical city of Karaikudi. No visit is complete without a inspecting the famous architecture of the local houses. Then transfer to Madurai (approximately 2-3 hours), arriving by early afternoon. Crammed full of bazaars, temples, small industries, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colorful and lively best. Madurai is Tamil Nadu's second largest town and ancient capital, with a recorded history that dates back to third-century BC. It has a fascinating story and your guide will help you understand it on a walking tour. The city is recognized as the centre of Dravidian culture, with its main attraction the famous Shree Meenaksh Temple in the heart of the old town. Its many gopurams (temple towers) are covered with profusions of multi-colored images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. You’ll visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors that lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed. Madurai also has its own distinct food culture. Keep your eye out for egg parotta (parotta minced with eggs), paruthipal (a dish made of cottonseeds) and karidosai (dosa with mutton stuffing). The evening is free for your own exploration.
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We assure you of our best services and a magnificent experience all time and look forward to host you brilliantly. Please feel free to contact me on undersigned for any further details and assistance
Mr. Madhu N Raj
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