June 12, 2010

Exploring St. Thomas Mount

I play a tourist guide when relatives and friends pass through this city. And there is one tour that I promise them for obvious reasons.

A church tour.

This tour starts at the Cathedral in San Thome, touches the Annai Velankanni Church in Besant Nagar and the church atop the ‘little mount’ in Saidapet and ends at Saint Thomas Mount.

Recently, my friends suggested that they would have time for just one destination and since they were to take a flight out, I suggested Saint Thomas Mount.

I did not take them directly up the hill to the church. Rather we decided to explore the area at the foothill.

St. Thomas Mount was a cantonment of the British. It began in a small way and expanded over years to include the areas of Meenambakkam and Pallavaram.

Today, a Catonment Board runs the administration of this region of our city. Little of the heritage of the 18th century survives, but a walk around the foothills of the mount is rewarding, especially if you do it on a Sunday morning.

Barracks, offices, an ancient Garrison church, the polo ground, garages, stables, parade grounds . . . this area has a lot to offer the interested traveller.

The walk up the hill - you may choose the pathway of steep steps or the metal road - is a nice experience. And at the summit, the tour of the small heritage church and the splendid views of the city are a reward for time well spent.

An ideal way to maximise the fun element of this trip is to include a picnic brunch/lunch, partaken on the top of this mount. Sandwiches, juice, fruits and cakes!

There are many neighbourhoods on the fringes of our city which are attractive picnic destinations.

Some are dominated by temples, some retain architectural classics, others treasure the relics of the British, a few retain the village that the area once was and a few others are home for trees, birds and butterflies.

If you have been to some exciting destinations in or around our city, do let me know.

And if you haven’t had a picnic for some time, plan one now.

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