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Taj Mahal

Even though India is high on my list of places to visit and the Taj Mahal is at the tippy top of the list, it’s doubtful I’ll be there anytime soon. John (my husband), on the other hand, spent the month of May on a school trip to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. I’ve been living vicariously through his stories and photos. And bonus, he’s agreed to share his travels here on Displaced Beachbums as a guest blogger ~ we’ll need a few posts to cover the three-week trip. Hope you enjoy reading about his adventures as much as I have. All photos taken by John.

We woke up early to catch the two-hour train ride from Delhi to Agra. The train ride was our first full day in India and we were bombarded by the cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. Having just come from London, the 42°C (107°F) temperatures were oppressive. The most striking aspect of the journal was the people ~ everywhere! Sleeping on the sidewalks, crowding on the trains. Sadly, many children begging.

India Train Station

Agra Train Station, India

India Tuk Tuks

Tuk-Tuks at the Agra Train Station

Entrance Gate to Taj mahal

Entrance gate to the Taj Mahal.

We took a coach from the Agra Train station to a parking area not far from the Taj Mahal. Because they just cleaned the Taj Mahal complex, gasoline/diesel vehicles are not allowed due to the pollution. Only battery-powered vehicles are allowed (think giant golf cart). The Taj Mahal complex is massive ~ not just the one white building. The buildings surrounding the Taj Mahal are made of red sandstone. 

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal was built as a memorial to the third wife of Shah Jahan. Her name was Muntaz Mahal and she died giving birth to their 14th child. The entire complex was completed in 1653. As you get closer to the building, the details become more apparent. You can go inside the building but you must take off your shoes or wear booties over your shoes. This is to protect the beautiful white marble floors.

Tower near The Taj Mahal

Upon closer inspection, the minarets appear to be leaning slightly. This was actually incorporated into the design because the area is earthquake prone. The designers built leaning 5° outward so if they fall, they will fall away from the main building. The minarets are strictly decorative.

Taj Mahal

A view of the Taj Mahal from the entranceway. Not sure why there was so much digging going on ~ new sod perhaps.

Taj Mahal Entrance

Entrance gate from the inside.

After two hours or so at the Taj Mahal, we headed over to the Agra Fort which is about 2 miles away. During the 16th century, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire. In 1565, the huge red Agra Fort was built. It was built as a military structure but Shah Jahan changed it to a palace in the 17th century.

India View of Taj Mahal from Red Fort

In 1658, The Shah’s son Aurangzeb seized power and imprisoned his father in Agra Fort where he could look out of his window to see his beloved Taj Mahal. He died eight years later and was buried inside the Taj Mahal beside his wife.
View of Taj Mahal from Agra Fort, India

Taj Mahal as seen from Agra Fort

India The Red Fort

Entrance into Agra Fort ~ there’s a moat but currently no water is in it.

Monkey at Agra Fort India

To my surprise, the entrance to the Agra Fort is guarded by a few monkeys (look closely). The monkeys didn’t bother anyone and it certainly added to the ambiance of the fort.

Gardens at Agra Fort

Beautiful Gardens inside Agra Fort

Gardens at Agra Fort

It was Sunday and there were a lot of local India families visiting the grounds.

What better way to start off a tour of South Asia then a visit to the famous Taj Mahal. It certainly set the tone for the trip…

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With both John and Logan on their own travel adventures, a friend and I decided to catch the Eurostar train to Paris and Versailles for a day trip. Paris is a little over two hours from London so it makes for an easy to get there day trip. I visited Paris once before in 2004 and enjoyed seeing the familiar sights again. We decided to go with a fully escorted tour thinking it would save us the trouble of having to deal with purchasing tickets for Eiffel Tower and Versailles nor deal with transportation. In hindsight, I’m not sure it was worth it since we got stuck in severe traffic jams several times throughout the day (train and metro would have been so much quicker) which cut-in to the time we had to enjoy Paris. Ah, well…live and learn.

The Eurostar left London at 7:00am and we were in Paris at 10:15am. France is one hour ahead. It was my first time on the Eurostar and I was impressed. It was clean, on time and there was a decent selection of food/drinks.

Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower:

Looking up the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Looking up the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Inside the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Inside the Eiffel Tower, Paris

The Eiffel Tower was built by French engineer Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle ). It was built to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution as well as demonstrate France’s technological advances in the Industrial Age. The construction took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days and the result is a very impressive technical and architectural achievement. Although the panoramic views from the 2nd floor are wonderful, I also love looking up into the inside of the tower from the ground level.  Originally the Tower was built to last only 20 years but when the first radio transmissions were sent from the top of the tower, it became a permanent structure. Even for the people who opposed keeping it (many considered it an eyesore), the practical uses of the Tower outweighed the insult to the Frenchmen’s sense of aesthetics.  Good thing for Paris since each year, almost seven million visitors make the trek to the Eiffel Tower.

View of the Seine River, Paris, France

View of the Seine River, Paris, France

View from 2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower

View from 2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower

View of the gardens from the Eiffel Tower

View of the gardens from the Eiffel Tower

Another view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower

Another view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower

Statue dedicated to Gustave Eiffel, Paris

Statue dedicated to Gustave Eiffel, Paris

On my last visit to Paris, I was able to see the tower lit up at night but it stays light too late into the evening for us to see it this time.

A few sights from around Paris:

Statue in Paris

Statue in Paris

Paris, France

Paris, France

Balcony Smoke Break, Paris France

Balcony Smoke Break, Paris France

3,300 year old Obelisk of Luxor, Place du Concorde

3,300 year old Obelisk of Luxor, Place du Concorde

Music Academy in Paris

Music Academy in Paris

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Champs Elysee, Paris, France

Champs Elysee, Paris, France

After touring the Eiffel Tower and a quick bite to eat, it was time to journey to the Palace of Versailles but more about that in the next post…

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