India, India, India…where to begin?
I really had no idea what to expect when I arrived early Friday morning in Delhi. We arrived just before the sun rose and were in the car on the way to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is) as the sun rose. I barely slept on the plane so that made for a rough morning. After making it through all the airport junk we found our driver and drove through Delhi on the way to Agra.
Because I had no idea what to expect, I was definitely not prepared for the level of poverty that I saw on the drive to agra (which was like 3.5 hours on a “highway” where people drove on the “wrong” side of the road (english) and even then drove on the actual wrong side of the road and honked every 3 seconds (not exaggerating) on a road that had huge potholes…it made it hard to sleep). There was garbage everywhere and people just stopping to urinate on the sides of the road. In Agra itself there were tarps strung up like tents on the sides of the road and lots of people crammed into small spaces. I took a lot of pictures because I don’t think that the sight is ever something I will fully be able to explain.
The whole concept of lanes and “right of way” seems lost on the country of India and most definitely in Agra where people crossed the street at all times as did cars in every single direction. We eventually made it to our hotel in one piece. Our hotel was REALLY nice and a crazy good deal. It had one of the best spas in all of india and I got a Himalayan clay wrap (it was SOOOO nice).
For lunch, we had Indian food in the hotel which was really good and we ate in typical Indian style with no utensils. The food was delicious. After lunch we went to the “Mini Taj” and the “Agra Fort” where I again took loads of photos. The colors of the women’s saris stood out to me the most. The most vibrant colors were used and they were so pretty.
For Dinner, we went to the nicest hotel in Agra where we had managed to get a reservation for dinner despite the fact that they do not normally do reservations for guests not staying in the hotel. A lot of new security features are now in place across India after the Mumbai attacks, and gate security and limited reservations at hotels are just a couple of the new measures. Dinner was delicious yet again as I had curried quail and even ate green bell peppers (i’m hoping to hear gasps of shock from some of you, but it is in fact TRUE!).
After dinner, we were all still feeling very tired from the traveling and knew that the next day would be long, so we went right to bed.
Then the next morning we got up early and went to the Taj at daybreak, but one of the guys that we came with was late so we missed the very early light. The Taj was cool because it was built so long ago, but there were so many people and I wasn’t overly impressed. It was a little bit of a let-down.
After that we headed back to delhi (which took 5.5 hours because of heinous traffic on the way back) and after getting to delhi walked around near the parliament building and india gate. Delhi was a lot nicer. it was much cleaner and the roads were more European (boulevards and open parks). We also did a bit of shopping, where I fell in love with a (say it with me) home store…surprise, surprise. It’s called Good Earth and the site is goodearthindia.com. I am still trying to figure out if and how I can get items shipped to the US.
We stayed at the Le Meridian in Delhi since we are all avid Starwood point collectors, and as such we stayed in a nice suite which was a bonus. We enjoyed drinks in the Royal Club lounge and then had a GREAT dinner at a restaurant that has only been open for 3 weeks, so we got lots of amuse bouche samples and chats from the staff. We all had the tasting menu, so we left dinner very satisfied (at midnight). yum yum yum.
However, we then spent the next day sick, but it wasn’t from dinner. We think it was from the juice at breakfast the day before. Bummer. I was the least sick, so I went with one of the guys to the Lodhi Gardens. It was so pretty. Very much like Central Park in that there’s lots of trails, but also lots of trees and open spaces. But in addition, there were several old monuments and groups doing yoga. We were going to do yoga, but the illness put a damper on that. Later in the day we also went to the Modern Art Museum where I picked up an exhibit poster (again, surprise surprise).
We capped off the day by getting bumped up business class which was really nice. And I spent the ride back drinking Veuve for free and watching some editted movies (I’m convinced I missed some key parts of Quantum of Solace).
Hopefully I’ll have the photos posted to Shutterfly soon!