India – Jaipur

jaipur-wind-palaceJaipur is known as the pink city – because in 1876 the city was painted pink to honour the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), in 1876. Why? Simply because pink is a welcoming colour; and many of the buildings remain this way today.jaipur-baby-monkey Jaipur-fabric Jaipur-rubies-in-the-roughjaipur-limes Jaipur-flowers

In Jaipur we visited the most gorgeous lotus inspired cinema to watch a Bollywood film, indulged in more than our daily quota of lassis; and visited a gem shop. I am no longer one for indulging in shopping, even at the best of times, so I sat outside with our auto drivers, where they all teased me  for having an old fashioned Lonely Planet.

jaipur-lassijaipur-scarvesjaipur-basket-store

It was one of my favourite places we visited – really modern, colourful and friendly… As evidenced by the fact on the way back from dinner somewhere, I was allowed to drive an auto rickshaw! What trust, and a life goal accomplished. Meanwhile Shell was freaking out in the backseat.


From Jaipur we also took a trip to the Amber Fort (pronounced with a silent b) which was quite thrilling to me for obvious reasons. jaipur-amber-VIEWjaipur-amber-fortjaipur-amber-palace

Elephants lumbering up the steps, sweltering heat, gorgeous gardens laid out like a elaborate rug design, and famed for a hall of mirrors… It was fabulous. Here’s a video of a song called Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya – a scene from the classic film, Mughal-E-Azam – filmed at the Amber Fort in the sixties:

India – Tordi Garh

Tordi Garh is in rural Rajasthan, a few hours bumpy drive from Jaipur. It’s a restful sort place, in the foothills with an excitable little boxer dog guarding a handful of chickens and some  horses in the stable yard. We stayed in this fantastic palace – with stained glass windows and beautiful tiles.tordi-palaceTordi

One of the highlights of the visit was a Jeep safari to the organic farms outside the village, home to an ancient step-well and climbing a sand-dune for chai and biscuits.

tordi-jeepAbove: one if our most excellent rides; and below: the sheep having I’d call a classic ‘New Zealand moment’.tordi-sheepTordi ChilliesThis is an ancient step-well, with a few fresh faced- goats standing guard. Step wells are ancient water stores – they’re one of the most beautiful discoveries I made on my trip.
tordi-step-well tordi-sunset tordi-gah

The view from the top of the sand-dune, and the chai and biscuits we enjoyed while jackals howled around us… Sadly I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t see them in the distance, but my fellow travellers assured me they were there skulking about!


A few other moments from around the village – including the world’s most beautiful cow?

tordi-daisy-cowtordi-piglet tordi-temple-roof

 

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India – Agra

Taj Mahal - Agra

No trip to India would be complete without a pilgrimage Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan’s, tribute to love, the Taj Mahal.

We arrived after another fitful night’s sleep courtesy of the slow overnight train from Varanasi. The group was woken up early by Bhanu, our leader, to make sure we didn’t miss our stop, but every half hour we didn’t seem to be any further along the line. This meant my companions and I turned to a desperate (mostly me) mission to find a steaming thimble of chai or coffee and get something restorative down our throats. No dice. We  stopped at one station for around 20 minutes and every time I leaped out onto the platform, I seemed to miss the wallah by a carriage length.

Nescofe

Not to despair. I had packed a travel kettle (and thus proving I truly am ready to become a British citizen in the near future) and had stashed some emergency instant coffee sachets in my wallet. Between us, Shell and I managed to perilously boil a jug of water and make a nerve-soothing brew in our tiny travel cups. While the kettle was completely useless the rest of the trip – I thought I might boil water and refill my bottle in an eco-friendly manner, but that doesn’t work when you’re sculling nine litres of water a day – I did have this win to my name.

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We were only in Aghra for a day, so we had to make it count. First up, Agra’s 16th century Red Fort, which was built to enclose the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It was an unexpected architectural treat, and according to our guide, we only saw 25% of the estate.

agrea-red-fort-roof

agra-red-fort


The Taj is situated in Agra, city sitting on a large bend in the holy Yamuna River. The train sweeps in from the east, crossing through dusty land, when suddenly, you get a glimpse of this most majestic building in the middle of the landscape. I honestly couldn’t do it justice, so turn to the incredible Steve McCurry for his perspective.

Agra - Looking Back

The above is a shot of what you see if you’re standing on the raised platform, looking back across the gardens.

Agra - Taj Mahal

And close up… I honestly thought it had been a bit over-hyped – a la the Diana seat, which had a scrum of people around it – but it was breathtaking – especially at sunset.

Agra is also notable for being the place where I was weed upon by an obnoxious monkey, but we shall not delve further into one of the most embarrassing moments of my life!

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Let me hear your body talk, your body talk
Let me hear your body talk

And my favourite Instagram account of the moment – @paleyphoto from Matthieu Paley. I am lapping up all of his road trip photos – driving around India with two kids in a van, inspiring.

 

India – Varanasi

Last weekend I returned from just over two weeks in beautiful North India – what a magical, dusty, awe inspiring time. I met my cousin Shell in Delhi – almost the halfway point between our homes  – her flying in from New Zealand, and me flying from England. We chose to make life a bit easier and maximise opportunities with the limited time we were there, and took a tour with responsible travel operators, Intrepid. This was book-ended with a few days in Delhi either side!

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To get to Varanasi, we took an overnight train from Delhi. It was an interesting affair, with chai wallas calling up and down the carriages and my cousin (I’ll let you take this one on the chin, Shell) getting into a little war of dirty looks with one of our cabin-mates. A great experience nonetheless – I loved the fresh sheets, packaged in paper printed with the train timetable; and drawing the curtains to watch farmers and families get to work at dawn as we rolled towards Varanasi.

Varanasi - Assi Ghat varanasi-boat-buildingvaranasi-washingVaranasi sits on the river Ganges/Ganga, and is considered spiritual capital of India. Birth, life, death. It all happens here on the riverbank. Nothing stops, it just keeps going as it has done for thousands of years. It made me feel so small, with my ‘hectic lifestyle’, the pressing concerns of London life, and of course, the relentless worry about how well some Facebook posts are doing… Interestingly, Varanasi is the place where my phone decided to implode, perhaps due to the heat and dust, leaving me incommunicado from the world for the next two weeks.
Varanasi Ganges Space invaderVaranasi - big stepsOne of the many street dogs I met in India. This puppy and its two siblings were almost irresistible – I was very tempted to scoop them up (plus mama) and take them all home. varanasi-cycle-rickshaw varanasi-heroOne of the many utilitarian ‘Hero’ brand bicycles I saw on my journey. Note the double tube on the frame. This is intended for carrying heavy loads – such as milk pails in the morning, or gas cylinders, which are hooked on the frame.varanasi-cowvaranasi-thaliDelicious ‘special’ thali for ₹300. Plus free air conditioning – bonus! It was around 42°C each day we were there. Somehow it was survivable – perhaps because there was none of the overwhelming humidity that some cities have (I’m looking at you, Auckland). More photos from Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and the village of Tordi to come… Namaste.

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Photoshop skills to pay the bills

Pitfield Cafe FlowersLike many people of a certain age, my experience with Photoshop began with a little experimentation here and there, correcting the blemishes of ones fifteen year old face, and cropping my parents out of pictures where I looked REALLY GOOD. Since then, I’ve never really bothered with any formal training, despite the fact I use the programme every day at work. This of course has pros, such as helping me develop a mindset of experimentation, and cons, like not knowing many time-saving hot keys.

Enter Adobe Knowhow. They have produced a 100% free Photoshop course designed for the total beginner. It promises that ‘you will learn Adobe Photoshop CC from the ground up, with no prior experience required’.

Over thirteen hours of bite-sized lessons, you’ll learn to create and manage colour in an image, use layers and work with filters. You’ll also get a resoundingly good overview of all the little tools and options available to you in the work space. I really recommend it for anyone who is starting from scratch, or has just been playing around by themselves for years… Within the first few lessons I learned how to make all my windows the same zoom % – which is a total game-changer!

Plus at the end you’ll get a little badge of achievement which you can use on your LinkedIn profile, or simply list the course on your resume. Sounds like an excellent deal to me.

Let’s get digital

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  • Photography meets digital strategy – a really lovely piece on why it matters to crop.
  • Google is building YouTube Connect, a livestreaming app to take on Periscope.
  • Facebook’s video metrics have been enhanced to give marketers insights into viewer performance on a day-by-day basis. It now measures: minutes viewed, views,  number of 10-second views.
  • Google is finally redesigning its biggest cash cow: AdWords.
  • Instagram is coaching advertisers to approach it exactly the same way they do Facebook: “Agencies have been getting new insights from Instagram about how best to use the platform in light of two major changes: It is integrated with Facebook’s automated ad technology, and it plans to use an algorithm that curates content for users. The new Instagram strategy should mimic what they do on Facebook. “We’ve seen the Instagram pitch to clients twice now in the last month. It is basically the Facebook pitch: Everything should be promoted, and there’s no point in doing organic,” a source said.” [DigiDay]
  • Nice idea from Sonic in the US – instagram inspired shakes – designed and sold through Instagram at Coachella.Sonic Square Shakes

by Amber Parkin