We had a packed itinerary today which our taskmaster, Shagzil, ensured - with his usual good humour and cajoling - we followed.
First, the Amber Fort, constructed between 1592 and around the mid-1600s. We encountered several snake charmers around the Fort. If they play their haunting melodies for too long, the cobras rise right out of their baskets and bolt for freedom. Fortunately, the charmers are prepared and grasp a fleeing tail with practised ease.
We rode elephants up to the Fort! I purchased a photo of myself and Bob from DC, my date for the elephant experience, but have no facilities for scanning it and uploading it here. We sat sideways on a platform on top of the elephant, and since we here heading uphill and I was up front, I had to fight to keep from landing in Bob's lap. Bob was very good natured about the whole thing. :) I enjoyed the camel ride more, perhaps because we faced forward. WARNING: if you watch the video, you may want to take anti-motion sickness actions first.
The Amber Fort is huge and amazing, but by now I have seen so many huge and amazing forts that they are starting to blur in my mind. What is interesting is that almost every major monument or fort we have visited (not counting the Abaneri stepwell) was constructed between the mid-1500s and the mid-1600s.
I asked our local guide, Mr. Gupta, why we don't see 18th century forts/tombs. He didn't really answer my question but did say there was another burst of monument building after the English arrived in the early 1800s.
We toured the City Palace, home of the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur, with Oprah Winfrey ... that is, Oprah was there at the same time we were, and one of our group even took a picture of her.
I didn't see her though. She's here to tape a talk show, and to take part in the literary festival currently happening in Jaipur. Our lunch in the City Palace Cafe was pedestrian - a sign that I have sampled enough Indian food to distinguish between good and great.
Tomorrow we leave the north and travel to the south, to Mysore by way of Bangalore. I am expecting quite a difference. It will be interesting to find out if I am right.
Today dawned clear and cool, and soon warmed up to a temperature my tour-mates and I expected when we signed up for this tour. To a person we are now all warm, the first time since our arrival in India. What wimps we are! Okay, I can understand the folks from Florida, Texas and California complaining about the cold, but the people from Boston, Chicago, DC ... and Vancouver??