Next Up: Agra

Why go to Agra? Because it is the location of one of the world’s most famous structures, the Taj Mahal. I won’t go into its history except to say it was built between 1632 and 1648 to honor the deceased second wife of Shah Jahan. This woman bore 14 children in 19 years and died giving birth to the 14th. I have to say that made her worthy of her husband’s devotion.

We arrived at the site shortly after 6 AM and already there were throngs of people.

At first glimpse of the magnificent building, guess what happened? Everyone stopped to take a photo creating a crush of humanity.

It is difficult not to have an omigosh moment as something so historically familiar becomes a reality. The white marble glistens despite the haze that appears to be perpetual in India.

Looking at the details of the Taj Mahal, one cannot help but marvel at the skills of laborers who worked with tools barely more sophisticated than hammer and chisel.

It always amazes me how often precious materials are used to create intricate designs in ancient construction. Here the beautiful exterior inlay designs are created with onyx, jade and jasper.

Just as stunning as the Taj Mahal are the buildings surrounding it.

The differing material and style create a lovely contrast.

From the Taj Mahal we ventured to the Red Fort which in some ways was even more dramatic.

Built over an eight year period the century before, it ultimately became a place of imprisonment for Shah Jahan as he lost power. It was irritating to learn he was placed there by one of his sons which goes to show that family loyalty is not always a priority!

There were multiple architectural influences here adding to the fort’s interest. They ranged from Arabic

to those more associated with Indian design.

One of the things that makes visits to sites like these is having a good guide. Ours was that and more as he shared information with knowledge and enthusiasm. He was open to questions about subjects having to do with culture, the answers to which go a long way to help understand place.

Next Up: Varanasi

Varanasi….where to begin? It is the oldest living city in the world, dating back some 6,000 years. The population is approximately 70% Hindu, 20% Muslim and 10% Christian. With only 3.5 million people it is smaller than Dehli but just as crowded and noisy.

Our guide said that a visit to Varanasi is to see the life and boy were we right in the middle of it moving along with the crowd and trying to avoid being run over!

A common sight was cows wandering freely

or finding a resting place on a narrow street. Cows are sacred to Hindus, and we learned that killing one can have dire results. While it is not necessary to own a cow, it is important to provide it food as that may bring a blessing from Krishna that ensures good karma. According to Hindu philosophy, karma is very important as it determines how one is remembered.

As luck would have it, we were in Varanasi during Chhath, a women’s festival, which made our visit quite memorable.

At nightfall scores of people lined the banks of the Ganges to enjoy fireworks, music and performance.

Next morning was the last day of the festival, and the scene was quite different. Women had been standing in the water since 3 AM and would remain until sunrise.

Again there were huge crowds, but they were much more subdued than the night before.

Then, when the sun rose a little after 6, the air filled with women’s prayers to the sun god asking for good luck and long life for sons.

Prayers finished, many of the women went into the water to bathe, and it was touching to see their joyful faces.

Taking this all in from the vantage point of a river boat was very moving to say the least, and it felt a little irreverent to be recording with my camera.

Varanasi is known as the city for burning. While some people were paying tribute to the sun god, others were saying good by to a loved one. Some four hours after cremation began ashes were gathered and sprinkled in the holy river. Observing was indeed sobering.

By the time my friends and I processed all that we’d witnessed along the Ganges our emotions were drained. More than that I cannot say.

First Stop: Dehli

17,000,000….that’s a lot of people in India’s capital city. The noise and the crowds can be a bit overwhelming unless you open your eyes and pay attention to all the surrounding action. Then Dehli becomes quite fascinating as you take in the life on the streets.
Now travel can be a little scary as tuk tuks, cars, bicycles and foot traffic all vie for space.
Trying to capture it all is near impossible, but let me share with you some of what defined Dehli for me. People doing what they do holds such fascination whether they’re working the market,
moving goods from one place to another with sheer manpower,
sitting quietly catching up on the day’s news
or visiting a mosque for prayer.
All these energies combine to paint a picture of life in a new and unfamiliar place.
Of course, India is noted for its textiles, and those who work in the shops are only to anxious to show everything they have. As piece after piece is unfolded, it’s impossible to walk away without buying something if only to reward the patience of the person who must then refold it all and likely go through the process again and again.
If you know nothing else about India, you’re likely familiar with the name Mahatma Ghandi and his commitment to empowering the poor in his country.
His efforts led to his assassination and he is remembered in Dehli, where he was cremated, by a permanent memorial which made me think of the eternal flame honoring President Kennedy. Judging from the number of people who reverently circled the memorial, Ghandi is still revered.
In the days when India was under the British flag, a very plumb assignment for an English nobleman was to be named viceroy. The viceroy’s home in Dehli was a 340 room which today serves as home to India’s president. Needless to say, it must take quite a staff to manage such a place.
Starting an India adventure in Dehli is a quick introduction to a country of more than a billion people, and it will be interesting to see how it compares with the other areas of our journey. I hope you will enjoy the vicarious experience and that we will all learn from the experience.

Bucket List Adventure

My bucket list isn’t long, but at the top for some time has been India. I am fascinated by its colors and textures to say nothing about the textiles and architecture. As if that’s not enough, there’s the food which I expect to be even better than Trader Joe’s Indian entrees!
Now the downside of India being on my bucket list is that it’s not on the hubby’s. That being said, I’m lucky to have girlfriends who have great spirits of adventure and whose spouses don’t always share their wanderlust. Four of us experienced Vietnam and Cambodia together and were dubbed the Traveling Sisterhood by Jeanne who writes Collage of Life. We plus several others who are joining the fun are off to make memories in India which will last a lifetime.
Our travel for Vietnam and now India is organized by another Jean who lives in Australia and specializes in travel for women. Take a look here at what she has coming up. Coincidentally, I learned of her through the other Jeanne which shows how blog friends can open doors for one another. I have to say Jean is a real find. She is wonderful to work with and does her utmost to make travel dreams come true. She is meeting us in Dehli, and I am very excited to become better acquainted with a woman who already seems like a friend.
There’s a long trip ahead before the adventure begins, and I’m hoping to sleep through most of it! During the next couple of weeks, if internet allows, I will share India with you and hope you will come along and enjoy the journey.

One Last Time

As you may know, I spend roughly half the year in Rockport, Maine, and half in Houston. This is the time of year when we start thinking about the return to Texas, and this is done with some regret. It is always hard to leave friends with whom we enjoy so many good summer times. This week we have shared meals, a last one at our house so I could use up whatever edibles were left.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASetting the table is always the first thing that happens when folks are coming for dinner. Ordinarily that is the easy part, but this one had me going in all different directions. I wanted to use the pumpkins and gourds that have been part of every table for the last month. To change them up a bit, they were worked in around a piece gotten some years ago from TJ Maxx.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was the easy part. For some reason I couldn’t decide where to go from there. I tried this and that and finally decided to let the centerpiece be the star of this last table.
Playing off the colors in the runner, black plates were used on brown placemats. That’s pretty subtle for me!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there, I added the harlequin patterned plates that are favorites.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor whatever reason, they just didn’t strike me right so it was back to the cabinet for more black. Additional color would have to come from the salad that would be served on them.
I liked the coppery tone of the flatware with the darker ones, but having it lay alongside the plate didn’t satisfy me. Are you beginning to feel my struggle?
Ultimately, copper and silver were combined and after several arrangements contained in a napkin.

There’s nothing left to do but add a mix of stemware
pa194660.jpgand sweet little cordials for the remainder of the puffball soup that had been in the freezer.

After so many tries, it was time to walk away and be satisfied with the result.
pa194675.jpgConsidering the changes, it’s a good thing I started early preparing the table otherwise dinner may never have happened. Later in the day the sun hit just right on the pumpkins and gourds, and I knew it had been the right decision to let them be the star. Now if I can just figure out how to get them to Houston…….


i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Tablescape Thursday

Last Flight

Exploring the Moosehead Lake region, we spied a sign pointing down a dirt road to a B 52 Memorial. We couldn’t imagine what that would be, but there was only one way to find out and that was to take the road.
It was a bumpy, dusty ride made tolerable by magnificent fall color .
In the distance were mountains, one of which we commented resembled an elephant. We later learned that it was called Elephant Mountain and was part of what we were about to experience.

Seven miles or so down the road, we arrived at the site to be welcomed by a sign giving indication we were going to experience something we’d not expected.

Before we’d walked too far, we saw what was the first of many airplane parts.

Needless to say that was sobering.

Debris was scattered throughout a heavily wooded area which made us wonder how and when such an obviously devastating accident had occurred.

As we continued further into the area, we became more solemn as even larger remains littered the forest.

At last, we came to the place where some questions were answered. We were surprised that anyone could have survived such a tragic crash and wondered how the survivors were rescued in such an isolated area.

When we returned to the inn later in the day, the first thing we did was research the event. It occurred January 1963 on a routine exercise that you can learn more about here. What was astonishing is that the two survivors withstood -30 degree temperatures in a snowy terrain for hours before being rescued. With today’s sophisticated location equipment they would have been found much sooner.

Needless to say, we were very moved by what we saw and appreciative of the effort to honor the men whose lives were lost.

I so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Sunday Wanderings

Me: Hey, we’re running out of time for a last adventure before we go back to Houston.

Hubby: So what do you have in mind?

Me: Hmmm, how about a couple of days at Moosehead Lake?

Hubby: OK, if you can find us a place to stay.

That proved to be a challenge, but luckily Blair Hill Inn had one room available.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was beautifully appointed

with spectacular views of the lake and mountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, what’s special about the Moosehead Lake region? It is all about the outdoors-fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hunting, hiking-in a pristine environment.

Speaking of hiking, the Appalachian Trail runs through the region and ends at nearby Mount Katadin.

It’s not likely I’ll ever do the entire 2100 mile trek, but I have a bit of it under my belt!

For campers, the area has several state parks with ample campsites.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome folks had seasonal touches which made “roughing” it seem rather homey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike most of Maine, the population is sparse, and Kotadjo states it best!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s said that moose outnumber humans 3:1, but we saw nary a one. Only a lone deer crossed our path.

When we got to Kotajdo, it was about lunch time and there wasn’t much on the road ahead of us. That meant stopping here where an enterprising soul provided staples for hunters and fishermen and served a few sandwiches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. We were the only people there whose dress gave us away as visitors. When our Texas license plate was noted, there was some surprise we weren’t driving a pickup!

The Moosehead Lake region is unspoiled, and every effort is made to keep it that way. Whenever there is a proposal to increase development be it residential or wind farms, it meets strong resistance.

While that may not seem like progress, it is one of the reasons Maine is one of this country’s gifts when it comes to natural beauty.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Dishing It and Digging It