Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Taj Mahal

I will interrupt the living of life at Maison Cou Rouge temporarily to blog about the last few days of the trip. Life here has been crazy over the past week, but more on that later.
I spent the last full day on the ship off of her, traveling with a tour to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. As my mom put it "you can't come all this way and not see it." Who am I to say no?

So off we went at the early hour of 7 am with a hair-raising hour-long bus ride to the Mumbai airport- there is nothing in the world to compare to Mumbai traffic....but imagine Rome's busiest traffic circles filled with Italian drivers, throw in cars the size of Smart-cars, vintage Moscow, add the pedestrians from mid-town Manhattan, and mix well with a herd of cattle, and you begin to get the picture.

A two-hour flight later, and we arrived at the Agra airport-well, we had to use the military landing strip as we were in a 737. It has the longest runway in those parts. Sorry, no pics-they weren't allowed.

Agra is real India. Back woods India. Dirt streets and beggars. Cows and hawkers. Saw a camel pulling a surrey...

Cucumber vendors

political supporters riding ON TOP of a van

cows in the road

the gate of the Taj

and finally the Taj Mahal itself.

Shah Jihan built it for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. (He needed to build her something special after 14 pregnancies...but I digress...)

The most amazing thing about the Taj is that it isn't's shades of grey, ivory, palest pink and white

Mother of pearl would describe it best. The marble is almost alive with color changes. It takes one's breath away it is so beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice. It truly is the most beautiful building ever built.

After the Taj, we ate lunch- we seemed to be eating all day- then went to the
Red Fort,

which was Shah Jihan's palace and then his prison when his son (nice guy) overthrew his government and locked him up. The last five years of the Shah's life, the view from his confinement was this

he could see his beloved's mausoleum, but couldn't visit. He is buried next to her.

We then saw a demonstration of marble inlay, which is all done by hand.

Ate once again--or rather twice-once on land, once in the air...and got back to the ship at 1am.

It was a day to remember.