About an hour out of Delhi on the way to Agra, we stopped at a roadside attraction where the kids could see and ride exotic animals. It consisted of one elephant, one camel, one horse, and a guy with two monkeys on leashes, one of which was wearing a frilly dress. (For eight years, I've refused to take my kids to the circus, so hopefully God will cut me some slack and forgive me for patronizing this place. ) The kids, needless to say, were thrilled to ride the elephant and the camel. And yes, I rode the elephant too. For 150 rupees ($3) the man had his monkeys perform a show for us. It was the story of a man trying to win back his wife after they have a fight. Oy.
The bathroom there was interesting. They had two stalls: one Indian style and one European style. Eurpean style is your basic flush toilet. Indian style is more like a porcelain, oval shaped bowl set into the floor. Instead of toilet paper, there is a bucket of water with a small plastic pitcher inside. You (and by "you" I mean "not me") squat and then use the water with your hand to rinse yourself clean.
Just outside of Agra, we stopped at a McDonald's. I had warned the kids that just because it was McDonald's didn't mean they would like the food. They both chose chicken sandwiches which ended up being spicy and covered in sauce. I had a veggie burger whichwas pretty good and the fries tasted just like the ones we were used to. Had enough bathroom info yet? Because here's some more. In the bathroom at McDonald's, there was a girl whose job it was to wipe the toilet seat between each use.
We got to Agra around 4:30 and went right to Ritu's grandfathe's house. We met up with a bunch of relatives and I expect my children will have permanent dents on their faces from all the cheek-pinching. The kids were beat, so we checked into this hotel to put them to bed, and I stayed with them while Ritu went with his family to dinner at his uncle's house.
We slept pretty well that night, but were all awake around 4:15 AM. We got slowly up and dressed and at 6 AM went for breakfast. I'm seeing now that the benefit of staying at a hotel is that the kids are at least getting one meal in the morning to anchor them for the rest of the day. The hotel is chock-full of tourists from all over the world and there is a pretty good selection of kid-friendly food. My children seem to be some of the very few here at the hotel and we get a lot of smiles from the middle-aged tourists.
After breakfast we took some time to explore the hotel grounds. There are acres of gardens, interspersed with fountains and other water features. I don't know what came over David, but he demanded we take his picture in front of each and every fountain. We wandered some more and found a hedge maze and a playground. It's obvious to me that one purpose of the grounds is to insulate the guests from the surrounding city. The playground was near the edge of the property so we could hear the sounds of traffic, music, street vendors and even the Muslim call to prayer.
As for pictures, I've taken a ton so far and I'm trying to get them uploaded to Flickr. Not sure how soon I can link to them. Let me post this then see if I can add some here.