It’s been a while since I added a new state to my collection, but earlier this month a conference took me to Cleveland so that ticks Ohio off the list. Unluckily for Tom he didn’t make it out there (although he got to go to Santa Monica instead so there’s no need to feel sorry for him), which means that he is now trailing two states behind…!
Back in Delhi at the end of our Golden Triangle tour, my thoughts were focussed on the conference – it was, after all, the alleged purpose of the trip! However, we knew we had at least a day free at the end, and top of my list was a walking tour of Old Delhi. (I would have been perfectly happy to do this on our own, but the brief glimpse of Chandni Chowk from the cycle rickshaw had convinced me we’d get lost within moments, so it seemed like it would simpler, as well as more informative, to join a guided group!)
February 11th was our single day in Jaipur, and we really made the most of it, although in a future trip I’d like to spend a lot more time exploring Rajastan. Our guide, Seema, met us bright and early and we drove through the old city for a glimpse of the Wind Palace on the way out to Amer fort.
Most of February 10th was allocated for the drive from Agra to Jaipur, visiting Fatehpur Sikri and the Abhaneri step well en route – a good 5 hours of drive time, plus stops. But at least we were fortunate enough to be travelling in the reasonably spacious comfort of an air-conditioned car…
Other than the undeniable beauty of the Taj Mahal, Agra was the least interesting stop on our tour – apart from the Taj itself, the rest of the city isn’t much to look at, and although the Red Fort had some attractive elements too, it’s the only place we visited which I wouldn’t bother to go back to.
All that notwithstanding, sunrise at the Taj Mahal was absolutely worth the trip!
After a couple of wonderfully hectic (or should that be hectically wonderful?!) days in Kathmandu, we flew back to India. Next on the itinerary: Varanasi, or Banaras as it is called by most of the Indians we spoke to.
In describing my experience of Varanasi to people, the word I keep coming back to is “magical”. There was just something about being in a place which is so ancient and so meaningful to so many people, even despite the lunatic traffic and incessant noise.
When we were planning the itinerary for the trip, our travel agent initially came back with a schedule which looked good, but contained quite a few instances of “half day to explore on your own”. Now, I’m all in favour of self-motivated explorations, but it seemed like there was space to condense things somewhat and insert an additional destination. Various Indian options were discussed but the prospect of adding another country won the day, so Kathmandu was duly selected
“There’s a cow. Right there. In the middle of the road.” I knew, of course, that this was something to be expected, but it was quite something else to actually see it for myself, let alone on the drive from Delhi airport to the first hotel of the trip. This turned out to be an excellent beginning – our entire time in India was filled with contrasts and colours, constant noise, ceaseless movement, and I loved it! (And, now we’re home again, Manhattan is feeling remarkably dull and quiet, which is something I never thought I’d say…!)
Our Christmas visit to England took us up to Northumberland for a few days, a part of the country which I’ve previously only passed through on the train. It was bright and cold, and we saw a lot of castles in a short amount of time!