Red Lotus hotel in Pondicherry offers a heritage escape for young professionals and backpackers
I WALK past Hidesign’s flagship store on Nehru Street, looking forward to spending a lazy Sunday morning over breakfast with entrepreneurs Daniela Nora Brillinger-Sloman and Christian Brillinger. I arrive at the 50-year-old building on Canteen Street, refurbished by my hosts and converted into a colourful, modern 10-room boutique guest house. The Red Lotus has recently opened its Vietnamese-inspired red doors to the world after a hiatus of 40 years! Spread over two floors with an open air rooftop breakfast cafe and balcony walkway overlooking the busy Nehru Street, Red Lotus is at once the charming old world India and its bustling modernity fused into one. American-Croatian Chris and Italian-English Daniela have been coming to India to fulfill their dreams for over 20 years now. While Daniela’s parents were followers of Maharishi Yogi and would often visit Delhi, Chris began his tryst with India after meeting Daniela and falling in love with both her and India, over a holiday. After they got married, he looked after the first Ayurvedic hospital in the West, run by Daniela’s family in Baden Baden, Germany (who had the likes of Deepak Chopra on their board, at one time). In 2008, the couple and their children moved to Pondicherry.
In the picture
Originally a lodge owned by textile merchants, the building’s architecture still retains Vietnamese influences such as the red doors with golden ornaments. “It is a very unique building in Pondicherry history, and difficult to build in this style. One can try and replicate old buildings at far higher costs, but they will still not have the soul and energy of the era,” says Chris, a builder by profession. The restoration took them a year and Daniela, an interior designer, planned a different look for each of the 10 rooms that were launched this January. Choose from the royal red Cherry blossom, fresh green Zen, some Bollywood kitsch of colours, Royal Enfield biker heaven or the peaceful Tibet room among others. “I wanted to create themed rooms, and invite the guest to choose a vacation experience. On the first floor, all the rooms have an Asian-Oriental-Zen feel, while the second floor is more lush and colourful,” shares Daniela. Hand-painted by herself and Auroville’s artists, the rooms feature illustrations, bamboo furniture and quotes on walls to leave you with something to mull over the holiday. The rooms have already seen interesting visitors like Mary Morgan, the wife of Dr Benjamin Spock who has written the seminal book on child rearing and also inspired the name of a character in Star Trek. Daniela recalls how another British couple thoroughly enjoyed their trip to the nearby village during the Koovagam transgender festival.
Coffee and conversation
“We are for young Indians. We are part of the new India that wants to travel, to explore and grow,” insists Chris. With only 30 per cent foreign tourists checking in, they have narrowed in on the right target audience—young professionals, backpackers and honeymooners who want to make budget weekend trips or romantic getaways to a heritage-meets-exotic holiday town. “All of it is affordable and with the personal attention you only get when you stay with friends,” adds Daniela, as we chat over a delicious breakfast of homemade cheese, watermelon, pineapple and cashew apple jams, Auroville bread, black coffee and homemade cake. Come August, the guest house will open their roof top lounge and restaurant that will serve breakfast all day. The evenings will include light music, a variety of coffees, juices, tapas, salads and more. “It’ll be a place to have a good time for young people with good food and good company, and the sea breeze,” Chris promises.
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