Wednesday, 28 August 2013

India Part III: Aurangabad

some textsome text some text Part three and we're pretty much on the home leg now. After a knackering and confusing set of train and bus journeys we found ourselves in Aurangabad, the springboard city to get to Ellora and Ajanta (keep your eyes out for my next India post). This was a strange city that had obviously been hit by the development boom in one big swoop and was a strange combination of pure materialism superimposed over the top of the bones of a fairly basic Indian town. The streets were lined with scores of clothes shops and bookshops selling pretty much uniquely textbooks, an indicator of the emphasis placed on education as a means of furthering oneself in the world, yet the streets were barely tarmacked and I had to learn to be a very assertive pedestrian in order to battle my way through the usual Indian barrage of auto-rickshaws, motorbikes and the occasional car.
Mumbai, Goa, Aurangabad As there was no chance of us getting up North to see the real Taj Mahal, we went to see its younger, slightly uglier cousin Bibi-qa-Maqbara, otherwise known as the 'Poor Man's Taj'. Slightly ill-proportioned, it was started in white marble but as funds ran out it was finished in plaster from about two meters up onwards. It was still pretty magnificent, though, and huge lattice doors of solid marble shone light onto the tomb within which was covered in coins, notes and entrance ticket stubs.
We also visited the Panchakki, a 17th century water mill where you can peer in and see the stone still being turned by the water. More excitingly, though, the pool into which the water flows is teeming with fish. I watched an Indian family with small children crumbling sesame balls into the water causing the fish to frenzy. They saw me watching and gave me one of the balls to throw into the water and we shared a peaceful little moment all throwing sesame crumbs into the water to see the surface break and bubble as fish piled over each other to gobble up the crumbs. Towering over the pool was also the biggest Banyan tree that I saw in India, reputedly 600 years old and as wide as a small van. Amazing. some text some text

Hopefully I'll see you back here in a few days time for the last instalment!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Evening blackberries.

some textsome text Blackberry season is upon us and, although I was planning on making some blackberry cordial to sweeten up the winter months, i happened across these juicy beauties and ended up cramming the vast majority of them into my mouth, a reward to myself for repotting my struggling little cactus cutting. Anyway, perhaps there may be more blackberry-ing to come, the hedgerows are certainly heavy with them this year.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

India Part II: Badami

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Well, here we are, the second instalment of our Indian odyssey. We've moved on from Hampi to Badami, a couple of long bus rides away after spending most of the day waiting for a bus that most people seemed not to think existed. Eventually, after asking the driver of every bus that pulled up over a two and a half hour period, we made it. We ended up in a weirdly deserted ex-government hotel, the only place in town serving beer and so a spot attracting groups of Indian men drinking late into the night. Map of Chalukya rule I was fairly happy to leave. However, we did visit the nearby rock cut cave temples, the first of our trip! Badami is nestled into a ravine between two red rocky outcrops into which caves and temples were cut and carved by the Chalukyas of Badami who ruled the orange shaded area on the map between 540AD and 757AD. Badami is the red dot. The caves themselves are dark, broken up by non-structural pillars, echoing an earlier wooden temple building tradition carried through into stone. Outside, the red rock soaks up the sun, even on the fairly cloudy day that we were there, and my orange salwar kameez and hair began to blend in with the rocks. Below the elevated caves spans the manmade Agastya lake, tiers of steps disappearing into it draped with expanses of colourful cloth left to dry in the sun by the women, knee deep in the lake washing clothes. To ring out the water they would slap the cloth against the rock of the steps and the noise of the wet fabric against the stone rang all the way round the curved cliff faces, amplified and echoed back over the blue water.
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More to come and I'm hoping try out a dosa recipe, my favourite dish from India and perhaps some wadas, a traditional breakfast dish that we ate on the trains. Keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Bay leaves and nectarines.

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Our windowsill is looking very colourful with these bowls of drying bay leaves and nectarines, a feast for the eyes. Bowls courtesy of Frances Marr, as ever.

Friday, 16 August 2013

India Part I: Hampi

some text Hot off the press, as promised, here are some of my photos from the first place that we stayed, Hampi, the incredible ruined city of the Vijayanagara empire who ruled almost the entirety of South India between 1336 and 1565. The area is littered with opulent temples, political demonstrations of power and wealth as well as of devotion to the gods. A pretty magical and unforgettable place. Oh and the coconut and banana juices were excellent, too.

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some text One of my favourite things about the trip was ordering thalis, trays of food that included rice, chapatis, a few little steel ramekins of curry and some lime pickle. They were always slightly different from one another, though, and unfailingly tasty. And this one came on a banana leaf! Food was, of course, one of the hightlights of the trip for me and hopefully in some of the next few India instalments I will be bringing you recipes for some of the food that we enjoyed the most.

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More coming soon!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Travels and thistles

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Well hello, radio silence is over and I am back from my trip to - drumroll please - INDIA! Alun and I scooted off for a month to see some of the Hindu temples and rock-cut caves that I have been studying. I got home this morning and am feeling pretty sleepy but happy to be back and I wanted to share these lovely little bright blue thistles that are attracting all the bees in the garden at the moment. Hopefully I will be getting some of my pictures processed and printed soon and can share some of them on here. Watch this space.