Fatehpur Sikri and Peharsar

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Maybe it wasn't just the hot day yesterday that had me resting on the marble floor of the Taj. By the late afternoon I had a fever and felt so blah that I skipped dinner and went straight to bed. This morning I'm run-down, but the fever's gone.

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One of the courtyards at Fatehpur Sikri

Visiting Fatehpur Sikri cheered me up. The Emperor Akbar built this city. It took twelve years and was to be the center of his new religion. He had three wives - one Hindu, one Muslim and one Christian - and all three are commemorated in the architectural details, including some remarkable botanical carvings. Unfortunately, due to politics and drought, the city was abandoned after only four years. But I peopled it with my imagination. It was spectacular.

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Sam likes the carvings, too.

After our visit we had lunch at Hotel Ajay Palace (everything is a palace here, even the most modest of hotels). It was quite a simple place, and like everywhere in India not 100% spic and span. Ajay's elderly father, JP, presided over the dark black lemon pickles, which he makes himself. Lunch was delicious. Homemade curd, a thali full of wonderful curries with condiments of super-spicy green chilis and a chili tomato sauce. I loved Ajay's cooking and hope to return someday for another lunch.

Too soon we were back in the car heading towards a tiny village called Peharsar and the Chandra Mahal Haveli, a charming old merchant's house renovated into a hotel. It has courtyards, gardens, thick walls with niches carved into them and bright stained glass in the windows. By the time we arrived, though, Tod was feverish so I put him to bed while the rest of us enjoyed a cooking demo and snack. Sam took notes and I paid close attention, so I should be able to reproduce the dry potato curry they made for us.

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The Indian spice box

Tod rallied enough before dinner to come sit with us in the garden. We had fried spinach leaves, chicken kofta, dry cooked eggplant with a sweet seasoning and a different potato curry. Shortly after dinner, we made it an early night and went off to bed in our purple painted room.

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