After talking with the front desk this morning about hiring a driver for the day…we realized their prices were so expensive so walked outside to find our own ride. Sitting right outside the gates of the hotel were a couple of tuk-tuks who agreed to a much more reasonable price. Our first stop was to find some food and we had read about a restaurant called, Pinch of Spice (www.pinchofspice.in ).
We ordered 3 dishes and plenty of naan, they were so delicious and layered with spice…not necessarily hot just layers of flavor. We really enjoyed the dal makhani, a creamy dip made with black lentil beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, butter, cream and many spices (not exactly a fat-free dish) which we dipped the naan in. The naan is just so good…for those that skip the bread basket at dinner…it would really be next to impossible to skip the naan. It is cooked in a special oven…a deep hole with charcoal and then once baked to perfection is either served plain or smothered with garlic and butter and even stuffed with goodness. After we ate, they brought out a small bowl of tiny little pastel green pieces with a spoon. We each scooped out some into our hand and put them in our mouth. It tasted like a candied anise seed, their version of an after dinner mint.
After lunch, the tuk-tuk drove us to the Agra Fort…one of the main attractions in the city. The walled city sits on 94 acres and the walls surrounding it are seventy feet high. We walked through one of the four gates and purchased our headsets for a self-guided tour. The walls were made of red sandstone but once we walked through the gate, we saw there were many buildings. Some were palaces and some were mosques and made of both red-sandstone or of pure marble with intricate carvings inlaid in the stone. The Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan who had the Taj Mahal built was actually kept as prisoner in the Red Fort by his son. One of the marble balconies inside the fortress had a spectacular view of the Taj Mahal and between the various buildings were many gardens. It was fun to view the Taj from so far away knowing we will be walking through it tomorrow!
We took our time walking around the complex and listening to its history on our headphones. There were a bunch of monkeys running around inside as well which looked a little bit unhealthy in comparison to the Thai Monkeys. These we had heard are very aggressive and carry diseases. We kept a bit of distance but had fun watching them as they scouted the tourists for food or water…obviously desperate. We continued walking and admired the architecture, it was beautiful with influence both from Islamic and Persian cultures. After spending a couple hours walking the grounds, we walked back towards the exit. We stopped along the way to watch a few more of the monkeys climbing the trees and fighting over scraps of food. Back outside the gate, our tuk-tuk driver was patiently waiting for us…he had refused any kind of pay up to this point…he said we would figure it out at the end of the day which was very trusting of him.
We were ready to go back to our hotel and find some dinner but our driver kept trying to push us towards stopping at one of the “factories” making and selling local goods. We have figured it out by this point…all the drivers try to push you towards specific places to buy these goods because they get a small commission on anything purchased. That means the store itself increases the price to factor in the “finder’s fee”. So…even if you are interested in what is being sold, try to find one of the stores on your own…your price will be better.
Our tuk-tuk driver was really pushing us to go to one of his stores and we tried saying no many times but he still took us to one of the craft stores and told us we didn’t need to buy anything…we agreed to go in for one minute but really we weren’t in the mood to wheel and deal. We looked around for a minute and then got back on the tuk-tuk. We told him we wanted to go to the hotel and again he took us to another store selling jewelry. We were aggravated at how pushy he was being but since it was jewelry and India is known for its gems, we agreed to look inside. The guy who made the jewelry was there and started sharing with us knowledge in regards to the black star gemstone which is local to Agra. It is a solid black stone but when under the light has a bright white star which is very beautiful. We didn’t know anything about these gems yet…so probably should not have made a purchase, but a simple ring with a small black-star stone set in it was fairly cheap so we purchased it. It is also the stone which was used for decoration on the Taj Mahal which we thought was special.
After our jewelry stop, we insisted the driver take us straight back which he did. We had picked up a bottle of wine on the way to our place, so Giff and I ordered some roon-service and settled in for the evening.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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One Reply to “Day 339 of 400: Agra Fort – Agra, India”
Some really artistic photos in this post. So I’m all caught up on your travels and ready for some Taj Majal love. More please! 🙂