15 November 2012

Marvelous Merriment in Minneapolis, Minnesota

After the sometimes grim photos from our trip to India, it's time for some pictures of a sweet grandchild!

In October Kent and I flew to Minnesota to help Sophia Lee celebrate her first birthday.  I was able to stay for five days, but Kent could only be there for the weekend.
There are lots of pictures of Sophia's actual birthday party on Adri's blog, so I'll just put in pictures from our other activities.  In the pictures below, Kent and I are keeping an eye on Sophia as she eats her birthday cake.

In the picture below Sophia is "helping" her mom make the cute cake toppers for the cupcakes.
 We took a Sunday afternoon walk to the playground so Sophia could have a change of scenery.
 As is typical of most babies, Sophia LOVES to swing.
 Such an adorable girl. . . .
 with very kissable cheeks!!
 Sophia practicing her walking skills with Grandma and Grandpa.
 I couldn't decide which of these photos of Adri and Sophia I liked better, so I put them both in!  The autumn colors were at their peak in Minneapolis.

 Sophia in her new high chair, with her foot on the tray.  Hmmmm, reminds me of her mama--
Adri was a little confused on what the tray of the high chair was for, too!!  (picture taken in 1989)
Since Russ is attending the University of Minnesota, we posed for some pictures on the campus.

01 November 2012

Incredible India-- Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal

More adventures in travelling through India--did I mention we spent a lot of time on the bus?  Here are more scenes from our bus window as we traveled to the city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.

 We saw the scene below LOTS--women in their colorful saris carrying large loads on their heads--and I kept trying to get a good picture as the bus went by.
The men in India were dressed in regular pants and shirts, but almost all the women we saw wore the saris, even if they were out working in the fields.  We think the woman in the picture below was cutting the grass by hand.
I mentioned in the previous post about livestock in the streets making it impossible to drive fast.  Below is another example.  Can you see the burro casually standing in the middle of the road where our bus is about to drive?
 This was our first view of Fatehpur Sikri, a royal city built in the early 1500's, but abandoned by the year 1585 because of lack of access to water.  It's been sitting empty ever since; I don't know when it became a tourist attraction.
 It had many lovely architectural features.

The Indian family below were also touring the empty city, and the oldest girl was especially pretty in her native outfit.

We finally got to the highlight of our trip, the Taj Mahal, on our last full day in India.
 We saw our first view of the top of the Taj Mahal (with a bonus rainbow!) from our hotel window in Agra.
The Taj Mahal has been on our bucket list for 30 years, so it was very exciting to finally see it.
 Of course there were professional photographers on hand to take our picture for us and sell us the photo.
 The inlaid marble work is stunning when it's seen up close.  We were able to go inside, but no photographs were allowed inside the tomb.

 I'm putting this picture in to show the crowds of tourists, which were 90% Indian.  It's good to know they appreciate their "wonder of the world".  This was the first places in India where people wanted to have their picture taken with us because they'd never seen white people before!
This was what it looked like after we left the Taj Mahal and tried to get on our bus. 
We were usually surrounded by vendors trying to sell us things, and they especially gathered around the American tourist buses.  Can you spot Kent and David Andrews braving the crowds?
And we left India as we came, with another day on the road in our tourist bus to return to Delhi Airport.  

All of the following pictures were taken from the window of our bus.  Every day we tried to sit near the front so we could get a good view out the window of the bus.   
 No child safety seats in the auto rickshaw this family was riding in!
 This picture is in here not only because of the people loaded in the truck, but because of the sign on the back that says "blow horn".  Most trucks had those words on the back, and believe me, there was LOTS and LOTS of horn blowing in India!  I think our bus driver honked his horn every minute or so; almost like an automatic response that he wasn't conscious of doing.
More men riding on top of a city bus.  Do you think they had to pay full price for a ticket?
Yes, India was a study in contrasts.  There were many stunningly beautiful historic buildings which were amazing to see, but every day life for the average India person was anything but beautiful. 

We're glad we went to India to see the Taj Mahal and to have a better understanding of what life is like for the 1.2 billion people who live there.  

29 October 2012

Incredible India-- Jaipur

One thing the tour itinerary didn't make clear was that it would take EIGHT hours to travel 150 miles between the cities we were visiting.  The traffic, livestock and people walking along the side of the road, and poor road conditions made it impossible to drive fast. 

We started our day in Jaipur with a photo stop at the so-called "Palace of the Winds", which was built in 1799. The original intention of the series of over 950 lattice windows was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen.
Next we headed out of town to visit the Amber Fort, built in the 1590's.
The fort is built on the top of a hill, and the mode of transportation to go up to the fort is via elephant.
I'm pretty positive this was our first time riding an elephant.
It was a scenic ride, with a lake and some rolling hills to look at.
These gardens were out in the middle of the lake.

The fort was more like a palace on the inner court, with some of the most lovely inlaid mosaic designs I've ever seen.  It reminded Kent and me of the Alhambra Palace we saw in Granada, Spain many years ago.

We didn't take a picture of it, but the way down from the fort was via jeep.  This snake charmer was set up outside the tourist buses to perform for the tourists.
This elephant was just plodding along the road as the bus headed back out to the main road.  We also saw camels, donkeys and horse carts on the roads as we traveled from city to city.
We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, and these cows were just leisurely standing in the middle of the road outside of the restaurant.  Kent couldn't resist getting his picture taken with them.
This was a common sight--men sleeping on their bicycle rickshaws.
Some of the colorful vegetables for sale along the street in the city.
That evening Kent went on an optional tour to a Hindu Temple,

 while I went shopping with the Andrews at a mall about a mile from our hotel.  We walked to get to the mall, but decided to take an auto rickshaw to get back to the hotel.
I'll admit I hadn't heard of the Amber fort before we signed up for this tour, but the interior palace was one of the loveliest buildings I've seen in all our travels throughout Europe and Asia. The pictures from our puny point-and-click camera don't do it justice at all.