Summer of Wanderlust – India Inspired Look Book

To describe India in a few words is like trying to put the universe in a box. It just can’t be done.  To do it justice, one must visit and immerse themselves in the cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and colors. It’s brilliant and jarring, chaotic and magical.  In my two visits I have only scratched the surface of its mystery.

These looks are inspired by many of the pieces of jewelry and clothing I have purchased when traveling to India and also by the easy, comfortable way I would dress when I am there.  Light layers, exotic prints and bold colors are the heart of Indian design and they are the center of this look book!

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{Pants/Michael Kors via Macy’s, Top/Sandals/Ross, Necklace/Handmade by me, Bracelet/Santee Alley, Bag/I bought in Jodhpur, India}

India

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{Pants/Necklaces/Bangles/I bought in India, Shoes/Ross, Blouses/Thrifted, Ring/Thrifty Upenyu on Etsy}

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{Dress/Single Dress Plus, Top/The Plus Bus Boutique, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Ring/Target, Earrings/Vintage}

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India Skirt

{Skirt/Necklace/Bought in India, Blouse/Shoes/Thrifted, Ring/Earrings/Santee Alley}

India Skirt 2

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Friday Fly Away – Ranakpur Jain Temple

Today I want to take you somewhere I have actually laid foot.  On the drive from Jodhpur to Udaipur we traversed a beautiful green, tree filled, winding mountain road. Along this drive we made an unplanned stopped at the majestic Ranakpur Jain Temple.

Nestled in the embrace of nature, the temple is the most ornate and grand temple of the Jain religion in all of India. The interior houses 1400 carved marble columns, of which no two are the same. Walking through the temple is like getting lost in a glowing maze of details that stop you in your tracks with every step.  The perimeter of the temple houses various Gods in small niches, to which Jain visitors say prayers and give thanks.

If you ever find yourself in these same mountains, do stop and take in the magic of this sacred space.

Photo Credit: abmiller99 on Flickr
Photo Credit: abmiller99 on Flickr
Photo credit: livingalifeinflower.tumbler.com
Photo credit: livingalifeinflower.tumbler.com
Photo Credit: Pinterest
Photo Credit: Pinterest
Photo credit: jimzuckerman.com
Photo credit: jimzuckerman.com
Photo credit: Pinterest
Photo credit: Pinterest

Join the Journey with IAMSHEGLOBAL

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If you know a bit about me, you’ll know that after finishing interior design school and working various jobs, I found myself working for a tour operator, designing safaris to Africa. I was able to travel abroad quite a bit for the 5 years I worked there but I had this itch, a feeling I couldn’t shake, a knowing, that I was meant to be my own boss and pave my own road.  After much contemplation, almost to the point of being paralyzing, I quit my regular paycheck, my regular schedule and my regular cubicle for a life all my design.

That was seven years ago, this month to be exact, that I made the choice to follow my dreams.  No road map in hand, no instructions to follow, just my drive, my vision, a very supportive husband, trial and errors, lots of workshops, reading, learning, traveling, dreaming big, bumps along the way and a burning desire that kept me motivated all this time. All of it has brought me to this moment where I combine my 15 years of personal and professional travel experience with my attention to detail, sense of wonder, love of the unique and desire to share the beauty and magic of this amazing world with you.

Today, I am launching my inaugural global, arts and culture based shopping journeys to Thailand, South Africa, Morocco and India. I have spent months designing every detail of the itineraries and I will personal guide the trips to ensure you create the most amazing memories.  I have chosen to keep these groups small, no more than 12 passengers and each journey will focus on the arts and culture of the country we are visiting with direct experiences with local artists, musicians, chefs, craftsmen, wine makers, painters. I believe the art and culture is the soul of a country and I have created these journeys so that we can travel and connect on a more personal level with that soul.

This is the blossoming of my dream and whether you take flight with me to far off lands, gain insight from my blog posts or get inspired by my social media, my only hope is that you “Join the Journey”. ~ Sheena

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Photo credit: April Bellotti Photography

What I Bought In Hyderabad

Hyderabad is known as a tech city in India because many companies are headquartered or have huge call centers there.   From an outsider’s perspective it is not a place I thought to visit but we added it to our itinerary to visit friends of my traveling companion and boy, am I glad we did!  With a willing local as our guide and expert driver we did some of our best shopping in this modern city.

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I will start by saying that Hyderabad had the most congested traffic I experienced in India and that is saying a lot because traffic is a circus in most Indian cities.   That being said, I highly recommend using an experienced driver that knows the city’s ins and outs. It will save you hours and lots of headaches. There is no way we could have crammed what we did into one day without the help of a local.

Standard traffic. A chaotic masterpiece.
Standard traffic. A chaotic masterpiece.

We first headed to Lepakshi Handicraft Emporium, a government run shop that highlights arts and crafts from different regions in India, all under one roof. They have about 20 locations in India, including one in Delhi. They offer wood carvings, jewelry, leather, textiles, art and much more. While there is no haggling like you’d find in the street markets, you can’t beat the large variety of items at reasonable prices.  It is a great place to pick up souvenirs, without pressure to buy, in air conditioning and you can use a credit card.

LaPakshi Handicrafts Emporium
LaPakshi Handicrafts Emporium
Handmade wooden toys for kids.
Handmade wooden toys for kids.
Leather coin purses & piggy banks.
Leather coin purses and piggy banks.
Miniature Hindu Gods.
Miniature Hindu Gods.

I bought a delicate multi-strand necklace, floral ring and dangle earrings. Softer and more dainty than I normally wear but I was drawn to them.  I think the earrings have a cool Art Deco vibe to them.

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I also brought home this hand painted Ganesha lamp, which has found a happy home in my Indian inspired bedroom.

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I also fell in love with these carved wooden musicians.  They had them in different sizes, playing different traditional instruments and I had three that I loved.  Again, I was told I could find them elsewhere so I didn’t buy them and did not see anything like them anywhere else we went.  An ongoing travel theme for me is Non-buyers remorse.  I have to learn to pull the trigger on items I fall in love with so they don’t get left in country when I don’t find them anywhere else.

While Hyderabad has been heavily developed with industry in the last 20 years, the heart of the city is still steeped in history and tradition.  We headed to Charminar, the four sided, quintessential landmark that lets you know you are in the city center.  This monument marks the city’s commercial center and the surrounding streets are jam packed with shopping opportunities.

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The view from at the top of Charminar, looking down at the bustling market.

We did brave the steep, claustrophobic stairs to the top of Charminar and were rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the city.  Once we thankfully made it to the bottom and made it out of Charminar, we traversed traffic on foot to the Lad Bazaar.  This street is lined with bangle and jewelry shops.  Hyderabad is known as the “Pearl City” and you can find all types of pearl jewelry here as well.

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All of these photos of bangles are from the shop we bought all our bangles and pearls from. Sangam Bangles & Jewellers, 21-2-274, Lad Bazar, Charminar, Hyderabad. They were helpful, not pushy and gave us a great deal.

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We spent the good part of an hour, trying on virtually every bangle they had to make our selections to take home.  The bangles here are better quality than the Lakh bangles I bought in Jaipur.  They are all reinforced with metal and fancier.  Hyderabad is a mecca for Indian formal and bridal wear and the Lad Bazaar is where you find your sparkly bangles to finish your glam look.

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The bangles here are ornate and not really for everyday wear, but that didn’t keep me from buying way too many!!! What can I say, sparkles mesmerize a gal!  These are the bangles I ended up adding to my wardrobe.  Don’t know where I’ll wear them all, but I am confident an occasion will arise at some point!

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I had heard that Hyderabad was also known for perfume oils, so I was on the search.  I still use oils I bought in Egypt years ago and I love to pick up unique oils and scents in different countries that I can’t find at home.   With locals pointing the way, we continued the dance through traffic, to this hole in the wall perfume shop, Purandas Motilal.  It’s not visible from the street, so you’ll have to ask where it is.  The address is 22-6-65 Gulzar Houz, Charminar, Hyderabad 2.  It’s worth hunting down.  They have a good variety of lovely scents at extremely reasonable prices.  I bought scents that would remind me of India, a Jasmine/Sandalwood blend and a unique wild flower, as well as lemon for my diffuser at home.

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So I had picked up obscene amounts of jewelry, some perfume and what else could be on a woman’s shopping list?  Shoes, of course!!  Handmade leather shoes and slippers are another one of Hyderabad’s specialties. Lucky me!

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We took the car and as we headed out of the city center, along Nayapul Road, there are stalls after stalls selling these fabulous, embellished shoes.  There are so many colors, designs and styles to choose from. Just don’t fall too in love with a pair as it may be the only one.  I found the best plan of action was to tell them my size and the style I liked and they brought out a variety for me to choose from, all from this magical tiny door that went to some hidden stock room.

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These are the three pairs I bought.  Along with my friend and our guide that needed a new pair of shoes, we bargained down the per pair price by buying quite a few pairs at once.  Keep in mind there is a stall, on either side, that is ready to sell you shoes if you can’t a negotiate a price that you like.  Lots of the same item in one place puts the bargaining power in your favor.

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Fell in love with the unique design of these sandals
Fell in love with the unique design of these sandals
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Even the inside is decorated!

Sheena’s Sidenotes:

  • You have to eat the world-famous Hyderabadi Biryani while you are in town.  I recommend Paradise Biryani for this delicious rice dish!
  • Feel out each shopping situation for haggling.  The government shops (the prices were set) and the perfume shop (the prices were so reasonable) weren’t places to bargain on price but we went toe to toe in the bangle shop and shoe stall. Remember to be respectful, haggling is not about insulting, it’s a dance that varies by culture, where both parties should leave with feeling good.  You should make a new friend with each successful bargain!
  • Take a relaxing dip in the pool after a long day of shopping adventures!
Hyderabadi Biryani at Paradise Biryani
Hyderabadi Biryani at Paradise Biryani
Infinity pool on the 10th floor of the Trident Hotel.
Infinity pool on the 10th floor of the Trident Hotel.

 

 

Harem Time

It was funny explaining to my 13-year-old niece that Papa (her grandpa and my dad) used to rock Hammer (Harem) pants back in the day.  They used to sell them on the corner, 3 for $10.  Though I did my dance thing to M.C. Hammer’s jams, I did not have the confidence or fashion prowess to wear the pants.  Fast forward 20 years and here I am with my version of the Hammer, harem pant.  I’ve come a long way and so have these pants I picked up in India!

 

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{Pants/Bangles/Bought in India, Blouse/Necklace/Macy’s, Headwrap/Ross, Ring/From Turkey, Shoes/Lola Shoetique}

What I Bought In Jaipur

Jaipur, named the Pink City, for the salmon hued outer wall of the old city,  is by far my favorite city in India.  The old city center is a shopper’s haven, filled with streets lined with shops brimming with handmade delights.  Head straight to “Badi Chaupar”, one of the central shopping streets. It’s a good point from which to branch out and discover the small side streets.

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Jaipur is known for its jewelry.  It is the hub for cutting raw stones, like emeralds and sapphires and setting them in beautiful, intricate designs.  I was able to see this process first hand, which made me appreciate the work that goes into each piece of jewelry.  You can easily find a wide variety of modern and traditional Indian settings.  These shops are usually located away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, allowing for an air-conditioned, calm shopping environment.  These shops take credit cards and some bargaining can be done but reserve your intense bargaining skills for the shopkeepers in the market.

Raw, uncut gemstones
Raw, uncut gemstones
Cut stone in a temporary setting, ready for polishing.
Cut stone in a temporary setting, ready for polishing.

Handmade Lakh bangles made from tree resin and decorated with rhinestones are produced locally as well.  Bangle shops are one of my favorite places to visit in India.  There are endless color combinations and designs to choose from.  Traditionally, they are sold in sets of 4 or 8 pieces, though I tended to buy larger sets, enthralled by the sheer amount of variety available.  “Maniharon-Ka-Rasta” is a street in Jaipur with multiple bangles shops.  I recommend going there during the day as we ended up there around 8pm and many of the shops were already closed.

The material used to make Lakh bangles allows it to be heated and stretched, which can be done in the shops, if you need a bigger size.  I have a lot Lakh jewelry pieces (necklaces, earrings and bracelets) and I must share that the bangles are the most delicate of all my pieces.  They are fragile and can break quite easily.  I would not discourage you from buying them but I did purchase many other bangles in India (metal bases with decoration, rather than the Lakh) and they are much more durable.

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Bangles being heated and stretched.
Bangles being heated and stretched.
These are the bangles I bought. The top row are all Lakh bangles and the others are metal bangles I bought in Hyderabad.
These are the bangles I bought. The top row are all Lakh bangles and the others are metal bangles I bought in Hyderabad.

The variety of handcrafted items continues in Jaipur’s textile shops.  There are a vast array of closet sized shops selling clothing, leather slippers, scarves and textiles, all of varying degree of quality.  The shops on the street are bustling, with shopkeepers trying to lure you into their shops with a bargain.  I did buy some lightweight harem pants in various colors and patterns to wear while I was there, in the extreme heat of India.  I was able to negotiate a better deal by buying a dozen pairs at a time.  That may seem like a lot but they made great gifts for folks back home.

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I am all for a game of haggling, but when the heat is oppressive and you just want slow down a bit, I recommend visiting one the larger stores, off of the main drag, where you can shop a bit more peacefully.  We visited a wonderful shop, Krishna Textiles, that I would highly recommend going to (located at Opp. Golimer Sadan, Near Hotel Glitz, Sitaram Puri, Amer Road).  I am only sharing this place based on my personal experience, not because I was asked to.  I really appreciated the owner, Manu and how he treated us when we visited.  There is no pressure at all to buy.  You can browse at the massive variety of items they have from bedding to pajamas to silk scarves to bags to tunics, without being bothered or hassled.  They eliminate haggling by providing you a reasonable price at the start.  If you are interested in something in particular, they will assist you and show you a variety of options until find you what you are looking for.

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Block printed table linens
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Hand dyed silk scarves
Manu, the owner on the right, showing buyers some of the wall hangings
Manu, the owner on the right, showing buyers some of the wall hangings

You can also view the block printing technique being done by hand, in their studio in front of the shop.  This technique uses vegetable and natural dyes, hand stamped with wooden block stamps, in a layered pattern on cotton or silk.  You can purchase items displaying this technique in the shop as well as bolts of fabric if you want to make something with it when you get home.

Natural dyes used in block printing
Natural dyes used in block printing
Each pattern on the textile uses a different stamp, applied in a layered pattern.
Each pattern on the textile uses a different stamp, applied in a layered pattern.
This finished piece could be a table covering or scarf.
This finished piece could be a table covering or scarf.

Jaipur is also known for “Blue Pottery”, bold white and cobalt blue handcrafted dishes, tableware and accessories.  I did not get to visit one of the shops selling the blue pottery but it gives me something new to check out when I return.

Jaipur is one of the best cities to get your shop on!  If you get the chance to visit, I would love to know what treasures you find!

This is what shopping delirium looks like. I was checked out, chillin' (why, yes, I'll wear that turban) while my friend was still fiercely bargaining!
This is what shopping delirium looks like. I was checked out, chillin’ (why, yes, I’ll wear that turban) while my friend was still fiercely bargaining!

Sheena’s Sidenotes

  • Definitely get henna done in the city.  I got both hands, front and back done for around $14, in about 15 minutes.
  • Make sure you visit the Amber Fort.  The mirrored Winter Palace is breathtaking.  There are many forts in India and this is one of my favorites.
  • Grab a samosa at L&B, the oldest snack shop in Jaipur, in business for the last few hundred years.
  • If you can, stay at Rambagh Palace. With 120 peacocks on the property, it is a dream and one of my all time favorite hotels in the world
Henna I had done in Jaipur
Henna I had done in Jaipur
The ceiling of the Winter Palace at Amber Fort. The light of one candle would reflect in all the mirrors, replicating a starry sky.
The ceiling of the Winter Palace at Amber Fort. The light of one candle would reflect in all the mirrors, replicating a starry sky.
Amber Fort
Amber Fort

Indian Citrine

When you’re in India, in the middle of Summer and your dripping in sweat and you’d much rather be wearing no clothes at all, you look for the lightest, breeziest pants you can find and these were it!  I picked up a slew of these super comfy pants on the streets of Jaipur (tomorrow’s post will provide all the deets, so stay tuned) and this is my take on styling one of the pairs, with a twist of California cool.

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{Pants/Bought In India, T-shirt/JCP, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Short Necklace/Bought in China, Beaded Bangle/Claire’s, Blue Horn Bangle/Bought in India, Long Necklace & Earrings/IAMSHEGLOBAL}

What I Bought In Delhi

Since I hadn’t visited in eight years, touching down in Delhi for the second time was like arriving in a foreign land. Opening the curtains in our hotel room the next morning, set high atop the city, looking out over lush treetops, I felt the familiarity of the city wash over me and I headed out to reacquaint myself.

Delhi is a mecca for shopping, offering a variety of locations from traditional malls to small handicraft shops to bustling outdoor markets. I visited a variety of these and the local markets are by far my favorite.  Who travels to the other side of the globe to go to the mall?

Chandni Chowk, a local market in the heart of Delhi, across from the Red Fort, is a labyrinth made of narrow passageways, lined with tiny shops selling party supplies, beads, garlands and intricate trims. You can take a rickshaw ride into the market, which most tourists do, but on foot you’ll be able to maneuver a lot better.

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On the outskirts you can also find local clothing stalls and vendors cooking up fragrant meals. I picked up some old, very unique coins from a vendor selling them on the sidewalk. It wasn’t something I was looking for but I thought they would be interesting to make jewelry out of.

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Chandni Chowk is a chaotic, dusty whirlwind for the senses. If you are a crafter or seamstress I highly recommend visiting to pick up the very unique trims they sell. Don’t go too early in the morning as most stalls open mid morning. If this isn’t your thing, I would steer clear and head to some of the other local markets where you’ll find more variety of items and have a bit more breathing room to shop comfortably.

Dilli Haat, located on Aurobindo Marg, is a market that specializes in local handicrafts. The stalls here and the layout remind me of a flea market in the U.S. There is a nominal entrance fee as well as stalls selling refreshments inside. This is a clean, organized market offering clothing, jewelry, leather goods, brass sculptures, paper mache items, local paintings and authentic Pashmina shawls from Kashmir.

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They had a good variety of items to choose from, but overall I thought the pricing was a bit high and many of the stalls are selling similar items, which gets a bit monotonous.

I bought a bunch of small items that were priced very reasonably in one of the indoor shops right near the entrance to the market. They had a great variety of gift items, such as paper mache jewelry boxes, mirrored key chains, journals and jute coin purses. I was happy to pick up some hand painted ornaments to add to my travel inspired Christmas tree. I also picked up some thread bangles which I have been wearing often since I returned.

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Janpath Market was by far my favorite shopping spot in Delhi. Under the cover of big trees and among the breeze, you can take your pick of items from textiles, linens, beaded handbags, costume jewelry of all kinds, scarves and loads more. There are small shops/stalls lining the streets as well as sellers with their wares set up along the sidewalk. The variety is wonderful here and you have the bargaining gods in your favor as the sellers need to be competitive to keep you from buying the same item from the vendor next to them.

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I fell under a spell in a jewelry shop that sold costume, tribal and traditional Kundan Indian jewelry. I was in my shopping groove and found loads of fun and eclectic jewelry pieces for great prices while my friend was mesmerized by all the scarves and did her own damage in another shop. The streets are brimming with vendors selling one of kind handbags, clutches and bedspreads made of saris and covered in detailed beading and mirror work. There is a lot to choose from but it never feels overwhelming.

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This is my favorite purchase from my entire trip! Don't know where I'll wear it but had to have it!
This is my favorite purchase from my entire trip! Don’t know where I’ll wear it but had to have it!

 

I know that I have only scratched the surface of the shopping scene in Delhi but with each visit I learn something new and it’s a never-ending reason to return!

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Textiles at Janpath Market

Sheena’s Side Notes:

– If you love something, buy it! I made the mistake of thinking I could find certain items in other cities for less and ended up without a few clutches and hand painted bangles that I loved, because I didn’t find them anywhere else. I’m still dreaming of those items!!

– Take a combination of cash and credit cards. Some shops will take cards and you have recourse with your card if you have a problem, but most vendors deal in cash. I took U.S. currency and converted as needed. I found most merchants would change money for me, based on the daily exchange rate in the local paper, which was always better than the rate at the hotel.

– Bargain hard!! India is a country where haggling is expected, especially with the vendors on the street. Don’t show you love something (we used code when talking about what we liked), though I am pretty sure they figured it out! Every situation is different and you have to use your instinct when deciding what you want to pay. Some sellers will act insulted or mad with what you are offering, but I learned this is often part of the haggling dance.  So, dance away!

Friday Fly Away – Qutb Minar Complex

Built in 1193, to announce the advent of the Muslim sultans in Delhi, this complex houses various buildings and structures depicting Hindu gods alongside flowing Arabic scripture.  The details of the structures and decorative designs are breathtaking.  Strolling through the archways and laying eyes upon the Qutb Minar (India’s highest single tower) will leave you in awe.  I love how history and art are often encapsulated in architecture. I am always honored to stand in the presence of these pieces of the past.

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A perfectly framed view of the Qutb Minar through the archway.

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Detail on the tower.

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All photos in the post were taken by me.

Friday Fly Away – Agra

In life there are places and monuments that you hear stories about and you can’t wait to visit them someday.  When you actually get there some of them fall flat for you, not living up to the childhood vision you had, but others simply take your breath away and leave you mesmerized.  The Taj Mahal in Agra, India is one of those places for me.  I had always wanted to see it in person and from the moment I stepped through the entrance, the Taj entranced me, pulling me closer with its milky glow.

There are so many things to love about the Taj Mahal.  The expansive grounds, the reflection pool, the intricate inlaid floral designs made from malachite and lapis, the beautifully scrolled arabic on the building, the views, the crisp white marble, but most of all, its greatest lure lies in the deep love story of a king who loved his queen so utterly that he built this magnificent monument in her honor.  Their love is expressed in the details, the labor, the vision and the creation of this sacred place.  It is a monument built from love, for love and it glows with that essence.

We spent almost 2 hours at the Taj Mahal and I did not want to leave.  I couldn’t soak up enough of its splendor.  As we departed I kept glancing back at its beauty, in hopes of permanently imprinting its presence in my mind.  I could stay in the Taj’s company for days and not tire of my new beautiful friend.  I hope that we have the fortune of meeting again soon.  With love, until we meet again next Friday.

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"Don't mind me. I think I'll stay here for a while."
“Don’t mind me. I think I’ll stay here for a while.”