Again we got up at the crack of dawn but I forgot to ask for a breakfast box to go. We were really tired and cranky from the night before after having to sit for 3 hours in the airport waiting for our flight back to Delhi. We had hoped for an early and relaxing dinner. We had to arrange for our bags to be picked up that we had left at the previous hotel figuring we would get them on the way back from the airport. Didn't happen that way and we didn't get to bed till after 11:00. We had to pack everything up and we had a 5:30 a.m. pickup to take the train to Agra where we would be met by our guide and car. At least the weather was nice.
Not a bad train ride.. a bit over 2 hours and our guide was waiting for us. Sunil was really good! First stop was a good hotel so we could use the facilities. I guess I forgot to mention bathrooms... in many places they were just holes in the ground... I have run into this before so it wasn't a shock but I am not as young as I used to be and not as flexible. ( if I recall correctly, the top of the Arc D'Triumph in Paris had one of these ).I passed these up. Some with toilets were also not the cleanest, but I run into that problem here in the U.S. as well. We managed.
Our first stop of the day was the Taj Mahal. I don't care how many pictures you have seen, they don't come close to doing it justice. Besides being drop dead gorgeous, it is also massive in size. It is very deceiving unless you see it in person. The setting is beautiful.
|Gateway into Taj Mahal complex|
|Main entrance to Taj|
|Inlay with semiprecious stones|
Our next stop was one of the local marble cooperatives where we were shown a demonstration on how they created the beautiful inlay work we had seen. It is a very tedious and exacting skill. Lunch in one of the good hotels was delicious... Uh Oh, I was really getting use to and liking Indian food! I never thought that would happen.
|small piece we bought|
Our next stop was Agra Fort. Most of it is off limits as it is being used by the Indian Army. It is no small complex. Shah Jahan spared nothing when he expanded the fort area. The Palace is built of the same white marble as the Taj. The red is the sandstone. The details of the inlays are exquisite and said to be done by the same artisans who did the Taj Mahal. It sits across the river from the Taj Mahal. In his later years, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his third son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in the Palace in what is referred to as the Jasmine Tower. He died 8 years later in his daughters arms looking across the river at the Taj. He was buried next to his beloved wife.
|Fatehpur Sikri entrance|
As I had mentioned in previous posts, our guides were very tuned into my interests. Sunil was no different. He took us to a place that did Zardozi embroidery. This is a 3 dimensional technique where the artist builds up layers and layers of stitches and then adds gorgeous colored silk threads, gold and silver threads, and gemstones to produce very rich and intricate pieces. It has the look of trapunto but it is not. This art form was patronized by the Mughal emperors but because of the price of gold these days has become very expensive. You can see this type of work on evening bags, saris, and wall art. I forgot to take pictures! The pieces were beautiful, but not my style.
Since the beginning of our trip, I wanted to buy a pair of earrings that were Indian in flavor but not big. Most of the places we looked were either geared for tourists or just did not have what I was looking for..... and I didn't want to haggle. Gold is expensive these days and I did not want to spend another fortune on something I didn't really need. Sunil is engaged to be married in February and he took me to his mother's jeweler who was nice enough to stay open a bit later for us. Most jewelry in India is custom made.... you buy the weight of gold you want and then you design the pieces which are made from it. We walk in and first thing we see is a guard sitting with a shotgun in the vestibule! We had seen this in other places but they were large stores that catered to more mass market. I really did know what I was looking for and unlucky for Ned, I found a lovely pair of earrings that were well within the budget I had set. It was a nice way to top off a fantastic last day in India.
I asked Sunil lots of questions about Indian weddings and customs and he was more than willing to answer my questions. His is an arranged marriage as are most Hindu marriages, however, both the prospective bride and groom had to agree. I suspect this is not the case in the outlying villages. I wish them both a lot of luck.
He dropped us off at the train station for our trip back to Delhi where we were picked up by the local representative and taken to the airport for our trip home. If you haven't figured it out yet, we loved India and had a fantastic trip! I intend to go back.
Next posts will be of the textiles we bought. Some won't be till the end of the month because we bought some as gifts and I would like there to be some surprises.
I know many of you have been following our trip and I thank you for taking the time out to read the posts, and a special thank you to those who have left comments and written privately to me. I really have enjoyed writing this up. I have never kept a journal before so this is a way for me to have something besides pictures.