30 November 2011

The Taj Trip - Part III

After we left the Taj Mahal we headed straight for Agra Fort.


Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either.


Huge red sandstone structures were all the rage back in the fifteen hundreds and this one was imposing and impressive!

This fort was built and occupied by Shah Jahan  (who built the Taj Mahal) and his beloved wife (who the Taj Mahal was built for) and family. But it was more than a royal residence… it also housed the military and thousands of other people. It was pretty much it’s own city back in the day, from what I understand.


After we crossed the moat and the drawbridge (truly), we walked up this long ramp. When attacked (it happened), they’d roll big boulders down the ramp towards the enemy and pour hot water and oil down those slots you see on the walls.

Is this from the computer game Age of Empires or something?

Nope. It was real life, many many years ago.


This was part of the royal residence. Gorgeous. The columned building on the right was Shaj Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s bedroom.


The room was open air with no doors.  They say they preferred curtains over doors.


Can’t you just see this space filled with richly colored curtains, bed coverings and pillows?

I can. My imagination filled in all the decor and it must have been beautiful if it’s anything like what I imagined.


If you need some inspiration to picture the gorgeous Indian vibrancy of color, just look at these gorgeous ladies who were touring the same day as us.


Here’s another pretty lady. But at this point in time she decided she was a puppy instead of a girlie.

“Vuff vuff” she said to me as she crawled up the step.

Then I smothered her in kisses, I think. Or if I didn’t, I should have, cause she’s just too darn cute.


The kiddos had a great time exploring.


And I’d be lying if I said we didn’t spend much of our time chasing them!



Our tour guide shared lots of details and facts with us about this fort. I was fascinated, in case you can’t tell by this long (and probably boring-to-you) post. I could read a whole book about the place and what life was like there five hundred years ago…


Aaaanyway. This is the part of the palace that Shaj Jahan  lived when he was in house arrest for many years at the end of his life.  His second son killed three of his brothers and locked up his father so that he could rule.

I’d say he was overcome by a bit of greed and a hunger for power. So sad.


But the house arrest accommodations weren’t too shabby. It was gorgeous.


The kids strained to see the rooms. He wasn’t actually barred in there back in the day, they only had it blocked off from tourists like ourselves.


This was the view from the balcony of the house arrest-quarters. Even though his wife had died decades ago, they say Shah Jahan gazed on the Taj Mahal daily from this distance and wept.

Poor guy. He really missed her. She must have been incredible.


We explored further, into more public areas of the fort.


This plaza is where they’d gather to hear the Emperor speak.


The tour concluded as we walked back down the oil/water/boulder ramp. I exited with a great curiosity about life at this fort that I never even knew existed before that day.

I like traveling. It does funny things to ya like sparking great curiosity in unknown Indian forts.

And we weren’t yet done for the day…

29 November 2011

The Taj Trip–Part II

After our train arrived in Agra, we were immediately assaulted (slight exaggeration) by a guy offering a taxi for the day.  We glanced at our party of eight, half of them under the age of five, and decided that a car and driver for the day might be a fabulous idea.

We followed him through a maze of cars and taxis.  Then we did some price checking and decided we were not really overpaying. We hired him, packed ourselves in and took off. There was much debate and head bobbling about what our first stop should be. We soon decided and continued on our (sloooooow) way.


We were dropped off at the entrance and walked past this row of rickshaws,


and past this string of camels,


through a throng of people,


into this tiny gauntlet of a line and then finally through the security.  They LOVE their security here in India. And that might be the understatement of the year.


This was the first fabulous building we set eyes on. As we passed through the arch, we got our first glimpse (look closely)…


Pardon me. Whose life am I living?


I took this photo with my very own camera. Wait, really?

I was there.



We ambled closer to the Taj amongst the crowds while I listened to an audio guide tell me the story of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Emperor designed this mausoleum in honor of his favorite wife after she died at age 38 giving birth to their 14th (14th?) child. They say he went into a year of isolated grieving for one year after her death and re-emerged with grey hair and a bent back.

Mumtaz Mahal was known not only for her deeply passionate and dedicated marriage with the Emperor, but also for her kindness and generosity towards the poor during her life. She was famous for her beauty, grace and compassion and even long after her death, these grounds were used to bring aid to the poor and destitute.


We drew closer and the building got bigger


and bigger.


We had to remove the kiddos shoes and cover ours with these little booties before we could go up the steps.


Once up, we saw this guest house. Think they have any vacancies?


Mike and Sweet N were dragging behind a bit.


Know why?  Because once this girlie’s shoes were off she became obsessed with picking fuzz off the bottom of her socks.  She wanted to do this constantly. Silly girl.


We stepped inside, but pictures were forbidden. We gazed up into the dome and into the center of the hall where the bodies of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz are laid, facing west, toward Mecca.


I never thought I’d see the Taj Mahal. But I’m oh-so-glad I did. It’s breathtaking. This entire post is a futile attempt, really, to express the story and magnificence of this tomb. My amateur photos and simple words cannot do justice…

28 November 2011

The Taj Trip–Part I

At 4:40am our alarm clock went off.  The day of our rather ambitious day-trip had arrived. We were headed from New Delhi to Agra, a couple hundred kilometers away.


The train would depart at 6:15am and our group of four adults and four kids had to be on it. Trains in India have to be booked far in advance, so there would be no way to ‘just catch the next one’ if we missed the one we booked. Oh, the pressure!


We made good time getting out the door to the taxi waiting for us downstairs. We found our train at the station quickly and were in our seats right at 6am. Time to spare!


I realize that it looks like my son has his mouth on the window. Yuck yuck yuck. But I don’t’ think he really did. I think he was just making faces. At least he better have been just making faces.


We got settled, the train ambled forward and H decided to read the paper.


And this was delivered! I had no idea there would be such great hospitality on an Indian train.  “Meals on Wheels”, how appropriate! I’d wondered how I’d get my morning coffee on the go…




Then they brought breakfast too. I didn’t feel like the early morning at the very beginning of a long day-trip in India would be a good time to try this interesting looking local food.  But I did eat the brown bread, butter and jam.


After a little snoozing, we arrived at our destination.  We made it to Agra. First stop? The Taj Mahal!!

Stay tuned…

27 November 2011

India Gate



One afternoon last week we headed out to see the India Gate.  Think Arc De Triomph in Paris. Think Washington Memorial in D.C.

As we were headed out, Katrina read an email from a friend with a link to this article (click for link), talking about how New Delhi is more polluted than Beijing. This article (and many other similar ones online) had the photo above with the article as an example of the thick pollutiony smog.  Yup! It’s India Gate! Just where we were headed… greeeeeeat. But what can you do? You certainly can’t keep four kids in the house all day cause the air outside is dirty… cause you’d be dead faster from cabin fever than you’d be deaf from breathing the air outside. Seriously.  So off went!


It’s a bit disappointing how dirty it is. This is India’s National Monument, built to commemorate the 90,000 who lost their lives fighting for the Indian Empire.Yet the place is overrun with trash and dogs and other yuckiness. It’s sad.


Can you see the sun eclipsed by the smog over on the right side above the trees? *Cough cough sputter sputter*


Entrepreneurs abounded on the grounds around the gate.  We weren’t really in the market for anything, but that wasn’t for lack of people trying to sell stuff!



This guy cracked me up.  You probably can’t see what he has in his briefcase so I’ll tell ya… it’s a Spiro-Graph. Remember those from back in the day? But this guy didn’t yell “Spiro-Graph!” as we walked by. He yelled “India-Graph!!”

Ha.  Really hitting up the tourist market, eh? Gotta respect his marketing strategies. Kinda.

So funny.




Lots for sale. You get it.


Here we are. Hi!


On the grounds there is also this huge Children’s Park with a map that looks similar to some stuff I did when I was in design school fourteen thousand years ago…


But wait. Before you play please read the signs first and kindly follow the instructions below.

Oops… guess we broke the rules cause we had 1 year olds on the revolving see-saw and apparently that is only for children from 8 to 11 years.


No harm done!


Kids have gotta have fun!


The little white chillins are quite the attraction all to themselves. No age limitation on who can gawk at them.


Can’t blame ‘em. Perty darn cute even with her “Mama I don’t wanna smile” face.


This slide freaked me out at first.  I was sure my children would come off the end of it with less than ten fingers each. It was supposed to be four ages 4 to 8.


Or not-yet two year olds. Whatever… it was the kiddos favorite thing!


Whoa. Check out that awesome outfit. Wonder where I can get Sweet N one of those jackets?


Think Disney approved this Mickey Mouse ride?


This other playground had a scary tall slide and many hazards. Use caution people. Use some serious caution.


Bye bye Delhi Gate and park! Time to go home and take a shower. Any ideas on how to de-tox one’s lungs? :)