Back home with all my shoes, no small feat accomplishment considering how many times we slipped them off on our journey.
There’s something liberating, inexplicably comforting - even primal- to bare one’s soles in India. With feet on the ground, boldly exposed, we kicked off our shoes right and left, out of respect while visiting mosques, temples, tombs, sacred caves. We removed our dusty shoes - please - in shops selling carpets and pashminas -- and of course, in the homes of friends ... noting the cool relief of spotless, gleaming yellow stone floors.
Ah, the touch and feel of India. Incredible India.
|Details from Fatehpur Sikri, UNESCO World Heritage Site on the road from Agra to Jaipur. Palace-city of the Mughals (1571-1585) built of red sandstone, the buildings are an breathtaking fusion of influences: Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture.|
The land of sacred ground and sacred cows, ancient stone cities, silks, tapestries, and knotted wool, dirt floors and gleaming marble palace halls.
The tour books call it the Golden Triangle: from Delhi (India’s capital city) to Agra, (home to the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World) we travel to Jaipur, the “Pink City” capital of the state of Rajasthan.
|Guardian elephants at the City Palace, Jaipur|
|In the City Palace Courtyard stand the giant silver urns commissioned by Madho Singh II to carry holy water from the Ganga on a trip to England.|
|Outdoor seating in the gardens of "our palace" - the Rambagh Palace Hotel.|
|Our dear friend and host, PKR in thought at breakfast,|
|Rambagh Palace hospitality|
|Hawa Mahal (built in 1799) a Jaipur landmark. Below: shops on the street. . . |
note the shoes at far right
|Clipping carpets. Rugs, textiles and antiques for sale in Jaipur.|
|Tours on caparisoned elephants, Amber Fort, Jaipur|
|Kitty, at Amber Palace|
From the "Pink City," it was 6 hours by dusty road. . .on to the Blue City: Jodhpur. With its sprawl of indigo-painted houses (to deflect the heat from ancient sandstone walls) Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan. Spectacular views atop the glorious Meherangarh Fort, the Sun Fort built on a rocky cliff in 1458.
From Jodhpur and a night at the Unmaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, another road trip. Six hours to Jaisalmer, with a oasis-in-the-Thar-desert rest stop at the Manvar Resort. A perfect setting for a Kingfisher beer.
Fifth city visit in seven days . . . Jaisalmer, "Golden City" isolated in the far western Thar Desert. Its days of caravans loaded with silks and spices that inspired its foundation in 1156 . . . long gone. But the vibrance of life in its bazaars... still there.
Day 7. . . Friday December 30, 2011, in the winding streets of the Manak Chowk - the main marketplace outside the fort gate. New word for the day: havelis, the mansions of Jaisalmer's wealthy merchants - built in the mid 18th and 19th centuries: poetry in sandstone. Friday night: an camel excursion into the desert at dusk. Saturday, a Air Spice flight to Udaipur, for New Year's at the the Lake Palace. . . more shoes to kick off.
To be continued.