To India, with love from Lorraine Kelly
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Who would have thought that Lorraine Kelly, constant companion on our TV screens, might be really keen on India, however she simply adores it.
It’s certainly a hugely different place to Glasgow, where she grew up, however on visiting Mumbai she was really taken with India and has returned to watch the tigers and travel to the Coorg Mountains.
Lorraine says that the more she visits India, the better it gets. This year’s trip had much to match as she visited Delhi, Agra and the tiny country of Nepal.
Her recent visit started in New Delhi, a fairly western, quite new city. One of its most well- loved attractions is the museum and memorial area at Raj Ghat celebrating the life of Ghandi, who led the Indian Nationalism Movement. The India Gate, designed by Lutyens and added to over the years, is a sombre, dignified reminder of all the soldiers from the sub-continent who died in the World Wars. Lorraine visited both and would recommend them as providing great insights into India’s history.
In total contrast, the modern retail mall at Connaught Place offered great eating opportunities, and surprise, surprise, the chance to do some shopping!
Old Delhi is just that, an old city with all that you might imagine in the way of hustle, bustle and a traditional way of life. Lorraine said it was even ‘busier, spicier and quite overwhelming at times’, than she had expected, with wayside sellers and markets offering almost everything under the sun.
‘Street traders will hassle you here’, she commented. Although when you’re courteous and clear ‘they’ll tend to leave you alone after a while’. And that’s just as well for Lorraine as by her own admission she’s ‘useless at haggling’ and nearly always pays the asking price in the end, much to absolutely everyone’s surprise! It simply doesn’t happen like that normally.
The 500 year old and very beautiful Hamayun’s Tomb is in Old Delhi. It’s a fine example of royal mausolea within a paradise garden. As it’s a religious site, ‘off came our shoes and we had to cover our head and shoulders’ Lorraine reported. It is a really good idea for women to have a scarf available to cover their head as this is the cultural norm at many sights here.
The Taj Mahal at Agra is on most Indian tours. It really is a testament to the love that Shah Jahan had for his precious wife, Mumtaz Mahal and took more than 20 years to build. Husbands, take note! When Lorraine visited, she was breath taken, 'The Taj really does wow you, at times it seems as if (it) floats in mid-air and it really does feel otherworldly, even when surrounded by tourists.’
From her perfectly placed hotel room, Lorraine was truly in luck as she enjoyed a spectacular view, and said ‘There surely can’t be many better things in this life than watching the sun go down while you’re sipping gin and tonic from a hotel balcony directly overlooking the incredible Taj Mahal.’
Leaving this iconic monument and taking a quick plane ride to Kathmandu in Nepal, the land of the gods awaited Lorraine. The land where Buddha was born, the home of the Gurkhas and the country in which climbers face the test of Mount Everest.
The city of Kathmandu cannot fail to astonish even the most blasé traveller. It’s a place where ‘There’s something magical around every corner in Kathmandu, be it one of the monkeys who live in the temple, a monk spinning his prayer wheel …’ Lorraine reported.
Religion cannot be escaped here, a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism, it is everywhere in Nepal and none more present than in the ‘living goddess’, the Kumari Devi, a teenage girl who Lorraine caught sight of for a brief moment, with her elaborate costume and highly painted face. As the mother of a teenager, she thought the girl would likely be ‘something of a spoiled madam after a life lived as a deity’. It’s a long way from her own daughter’s life!
This is a region full of astounding things to see and marvel at: the ancient temple of Swayambhunath which stands looking down on Kathmandu, with the Buddha’s eye depicted on a stupa. Both Patan, which has ‘absolutely jaw-dropping buildings’ and Bhaktapur, almost totally unchanged since medieval times, are amazing places to visit to gain an insight into Nepal’s extraordinary history and culture.
Perhaps the most exciting and unique experience to be had in Nepal is a plane ride to Everest, first thing in the morning. This has to be a truly wonderful way to take photos of the summit and be awe inspired by the Himalayas. You’ll certainly have tales to tell at the breakfast table after your flight!
Every visit to India and the sub-continent leave Lorraine wanting time to explore further, ‘We just need to try and negotiate the 5 lifetimes needed to do the countries justice now’.
She certainly isn’t the first nor will be the last to fall under India’s magical spell, it is a place unlike any other.
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