Photo Diary: Agra

There are those places that we all dream of visiting. One's the you must visit and experience for yourself, and Agra is one of them. The main reason why visitors come to Agra is to visit the timeless monument to love and one for the bucket list, the Taj Mahal.

agra visual diary india travel guide_18.jpg

Photo Diary

Agra

It's the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi. Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.

Truth be told, the city has little else to recommend it making it a place for an over night stay before moving on to your next destination. You can also opt for a one day excursion from Delhi to Agra. Keep in mind that due to the very high number of tourists, Agra is a breeding ground for touts and people looking to separate you from your money. 

Getting into Agra from Delhi is a quick train or bus ride, and an experience to be had.

agra visual diary india travel guide_1.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_2.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_3.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_4.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_7.jpg

The Agra Fort

The Agra Fort, built by rulers of the Mughal empire, is a sight to behold. It's sandstone walls and white marble interior will hold you in awe. But before you go, be sure to find your way to the back of the Fort and catch the view of it's sister monument, the Taj Mahal off in the distance.

agra visual diary india travel guide_6.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_9.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_11.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_14.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_19.jpg

Taj Mahal

One for the bucketlist. Despite the hype, it’s every bit as good as you’ve heard. I know everyone takes this picture but when you capture it with your own eyes, it because something magical and a memory that will last a lifetime!

agra visual diary india travel guide_17.jpg
agra visual diary india travel guide_18.jpg

Photo Diary: New Delhi

It hasn’t been long since returning back from my trip to India. It was a place I had always wanted to visit, particularly for the food and to gawk over the Taj Mahal. And, so I did. My journey to India was a solo journey, seeking an emotional closure of what has been one of the hardest years, but also to explore and find the world around me. My first stop: New Delhi.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_34.jpg

Photo Diary

New Delhi

New Delhi showcases India’s unique gift to modernize at a rapid pace without casting aside its cultural, historical, and spiritual identity. The capital city is a vast metropolis, with diverse neighborhoods that reflect different ethnicities, heritages, and movement. New Delhi, the government district of Delhi, is the administrative heart of India and an embodiment of the zeitgeist of this vast, diverse nation. Among the modern skyscrapers, award-winning restaurants, garden parks, and energetic markets, a series of remarkable monuments provide silent reminders of India’s legacy.

Delhi is such a multicultural society that each religious and ethnic demographic celebrates its own festivals. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in October/November with a profusion of lamps, fireworks, and anything that sparkles. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is a Hindu celebration at the end of the winter season. Bonfires are lit to signify devotion to Lord Vishnu, the God of Preservation, and people gather to throw colored powder and water at each other. Many children make a game out of throwing dust on foreigners—even hiding in trees to sprinkle handfuls of red, green, blue, and gold powder on the heads of unsuspecting tourists.


new delhi visual diary india travel guide_38.jpg

Delhi is also home to an extraordinary collection of museums and cultural monuments. The National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum displays tribal and rural art and artifacts. With over 35,000 pieces ranging from textiles to clay, space is a welcoming community of artisans and art lovers. Each month, approximately 50 craftspeople from across the country are invited to reside on the property and demonstrate their talents. Don't miss the Village Complex, an exhibition that displays village life from varying regions in India. Akshardham, located across the Yamuna River in Noida, is an elaborate Swaminarayan temple complex that features an IMAX theater, musical fountains, sunken gardens, and the Mandir: a temple with over 20,000 statues of India's religious personalities. Be sure to experience the 12-minute boat ride that highlights more than 10,000 decades of India's heritage, including inventions, discoveries, and the world's first university, Takshashila.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_35.jpg

Old Delhi

Old Delhi is a culinary, architectural, and historical adventure. Start at the Red Fort, a sandstone fortress that covers nearly 255 acres. Consider returning in the evening when the fort comes alive with a sound-and-light show that recreates 5,000 years of India's history.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_29.jpg
new delhi visual diary india travel guide_27.jpg

Next, continue to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, which was commissioned by Shah Jahan. The same emperor who built the iconic Taj Mahal. Step outside the gates and enter Chandni Chowk, which is touted as the oldest and busiest street market in Delhi. Chandni Chowk entertains an exciting mix of shops that specialize in goods such as silk, silver, crafts, spices, and leather products.

Find celebrated restaurants, food stands, and sweet shops including the original Haldiram’s, Bikaner Sweet Shop, Ghantewala Halwai, and Meghraj and Sons. The street also houses many different religious shrines that represent a genuine cultural harmony: Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir and Bird Sanctuary, Sikh Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Central Baptist Church, and Gauri Shankar Hindu Temple. You'll also find old past private residences snuggled between a labyrinth of small streets and neighborhoods around Chandni Chowk.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_22.jpg

The Food Scene

Delhi has a lively food scene including award-winning restaurants, streetside stands, and comfort food.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_21.jpg

Veg & Non Veg

Restaurants typically drop into two categories: veg (vegetarian) and non-veg. Remember that cows are sacred in India, so beef is tricky to find, and when found, it's water buffalo, not cow.

new delhi visual diary india travel guide_19.jpg
new delhi visual diary india travel guide_9.jpg

Follow along on @valeriefidan for more bits and bites of food, life and travel.

Insiders Guide to Los Angeles

Three days in Los Angeles is just enough time to see all sides of this sprawling city, especially if you plan your days geographically. A hike is a great way to start the day before exploring the boutique shopping, the plethora of healthy eating options, and enjoying some beach time. A cultural day of museums, galleries and landmarks will highlight the city's center. Head west and wander the beach, boardwalk, and bustling streets will fill day three. And, no matter what time of the year you visit, Summertime weather is in store. 

Having grown up in California, I love to stay on top of what new fitness-eating-health crazes are sweeping the West Coast. Taking time to make a wellness weekend out of LA was just what I needed this winter. 

Insiders Guide to Los Angeles letsregale.com.png
Insiders Guide to LA_21.jpg
Insiders Guide to LA_17.jpg

My recent trip to LA was short but filled with plenty of fun with plenty to share in this guide of the places that make So Cal feel familiar and quintessentially LA -- of health and wellness, sunshine and kombucha, a healthy dose of meditation, yoga, and yummy eats paired with organic cocktails – it’s LA. It's also a place that was on the agave bandwagon well before it was trending. 

By virtue of being in Los Angeles, the access to fresh produce and vibrant flavors make it a no-brainer to eat clean and alkaline, and to fill your belly with the meals that make you look and feel fantastic. Plus, when it’s bikini season virtually ten months out of the year, you’re sure to find some added inspiration to take care of your body. Above all of that, the way of life in LA is all about taking care of your mind and spirit just as much as your body.

Ready to for another adventure this time by the way of LA? Here is my guide to a healthy LA of favorite eats, hikes, libations, and California love:


Eat Well

The Butcher's Daughter lives up to the hype! The Butcher's Daughter is a plant-based restaurant, cafe, juice bar and “vegetable slaughterhouse." Don't worry I was thrown off by the name as well. It's a place were fruits and vegetables are treated as a butcher would meat: We chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into healthy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. 

I was pretty darn excited to eat Cafe Gratitude. Years ago there was a Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco that was a favorite. It closed down abruptly, leaving patrons longing for this plant-based cafe. Obviously, this would be on my list of places. Cafe Gratitude is a rite of passage if you're in California. The concept and theory behind the restaurant translate into every aspect: the food, the presentation of the food, the ambiance, and the kind waiters. It's very refreshing to have something like this in today's world and the question of the day is very cute. The care for ingredients, the body, and the environment are staples in why this place does so well. The food was pretty good-expensive but that's what comes with all sourced ingredients made by the house. 

Insiders Guide to LA_46.JPG
cafe gratitude insiders guide to la

Moon Juice, a small little shop in Venice with a serious menu of juice options; all with a list of how they help aid and stimulate your system. I first found out about Moon Juice from postings my friend Shayla Quinn had posted about on Instagram. I had to visit especially because of my new found adaptogen craze. I got a couple juices and nut mylks, all filled with adaptogens, to go and they were all delicious. If you're looking for some clean healthful fluids while heading to quirky Venice Beach, Moon Juice is definitely worth the stop!

There is no shortage of cold pressed juices and smoothie shops in LA. But, of course, a stop at Pressed Juicery is a must. And if you want to 'shroom it up (not in the magical mushroom way) there is Four Sigmatic Shroom Room in Venice. Learn and taste the various adaptogenic mushroom and how they can help elevate your health. Fonuts is a baked and steamed, never fried donut shop that will leave you wanting more and more!

Insiders Guide to LA_26.JPG
Insiders Guide to LA_7.jpg
moon juice insiders guide to LA travel guide

Real Food Daily is the original vegan restaurant in LA – with two locations, and a menu as varied and inviting as it is healthy (think Mexican-inspired vegan tacos, seasonal platters, and delicious cashew cheesecake that’s heavenly). I always crave their “real food meal” which is a perfectly balanced plate of pickled veggies, garlicky greens, beans, grains, and a dressing of your choosing. I love the lime cilantro one, and literally order this to take on the plane before every flight!

A Mexican restaurant which also happens to be vegan and owned by the same people who have Gratitude Cafe, and another San Francisco fave of mine is Gracias Madre. I was surprised to find on in LA as well. The food is delicious and the space is just beautiful – a great spot for drinks, as well as for margaritas laden with agave and fresh fruits.

La Scala  is a Beverly Hills institution, and when I’m home there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t have their chopped salad with turkey. It’s beyond simple – shredded lettuce, shredded turkey, garbanzo beans, and I add cucumbers and tomatoes. This salad is one of those mysteries in life to me – I can try as I might to recreate it at home, but La Scala does something magical to this thing. It’s worth a stop – and great for star sighting as well.

M Cafe offers macrobiotic meals served up daily. Their breakfast burrito in a brown rice wrap is craveable, and their salad selections and miso salmon are equally delicious. I go here for a casual meal or for takeout. The last time I was there I saw Alicia Silverstone. Healthy foodies always find the right spots.

The holy grail of health food stores, Erewhon, how could one not stop here? Whether you are grocery shopping, grabbing a meal to go or sitting at the elixir bar, you will find every product you need that makes eating healthy so easy. Biodynamic wines, house made kombucha, collard green wraps are just the beginning. It’s awesome!

Just hands down my favorite sushi in LA is Sushi Park. Sit at the sushi bar and order omakase. It’s in a strip mall as most good LA sushi spots are, and they have a sign that says “No California rolls.” Don’t come here if you’re looking for cream cheese in your hand roll – it’s just beautiful, clean, fresh sushi... they way it should be.


Insiders Guide to LA_14.jpg
Insiders Guide to LA_1.jpg
Insiders Guide to LA_13.jpg

Be Well

My favorite workout in LA is Pilates Platinum. There are four locations and they are all just as great for a full body toning experience with great music and awesome instructors. There’s a reason Alessandra Ambrosio comes here to keep her Victoria Secret model figure in shape – the energy is great, the music is awesome, and most importantly – it works. Speedplay, LIT Method, Lagree Fitness, and Playlist Yoga are other places that are worth paying a visit to. 

LA is filled with great hiking trails. My favorite being Los Liones where you can trail run and see a stunning view of Santa Monica, Malibu, and on a clear day all the way out to Catalina Island. I can’t do this list without including Runyon Canyon. My relationship with this hiking trail is love/hate. There are about four different routes at various levels, dogs run free, and the views are beautiful (you can see all of downtown LA and Hollywood). The hate part is that on weekends it can get crowded and there is endless Hollywood talk of auditions and projects that are greenlit. If that’s entertaining to you, or if you just tune it out, you’ll be tapping into a quintessential LA hike.

Vedic Meditation with Light Watkins is a place you must visit! I was introduced to Light through my good friend a while back. Light is one of those people whose energy is palpable the moment you meet him – transcendent, calming, therapeutic. He teaches seminars or privates for those seeking enlightenment. It makes the daunting process of meditation so simple. It’s changed my life.

 Just an hour outside of LA is the Deepak Chopra's The Chopra Center, a center offering classes, seminars for self improvement and a spa as well (where you can get an amazing Ayurvedic massage).

The most perfectly curated shop for all natural products is The Detox Market. Be it beauty products and candles, lovely gifts and chemical free nail polishes. (Plus it’s next door to Beverly Hills juice where you can go to one of the OG places for fresh pressed juice. Can’t beat a classic).