Wedding #72: Mariko & Suneel

My first Indian wedding! It’s been a long long long time since I photographed these two and their engagement photos. Looking at that original post, I wrote how I was sad to see them go back to Toronto - but then shortly thereafter Mariko informed me that she wanted me to photograph her wedding so that made me very happy! 

This wedding definitely stood out over most others! Over the past year and a half we’ve been in touch long-distance going over wedding planning details and how to best schedule everything. It was in fact an 16 hour wedding photography day for me and the team! 

Everything seemed to double: Preparation shots x 2, family photos x 2, bridal portraits x 2! There was an Indian version and a ‘Western’ version for everything except for the reception- and it was all so beautiful.

Now I am truly sad that I won’t get to work with these two anymore! But I guess I should never say never.

Crown Palace

We have just returned from our morning trip to the Taj Mahal. Our guide told us that Taj means crown and Mahal translates as palace, and without having seen too many palaces, there is no doubt that this is the crown jewel of all palaces.

We left the hotel at 6am as we were told it is best seen at sunrise or sunset. We didn’t quite make it in time for the exact sunrise, but we got a pretty spectacular view. Quite worth being awake at 4.30am!

We will be heading to the Red Fort in about 10 minutes so once we’ve accumulated some more photo’s you will all see a bombardment of spectacular snaps (most of which you will have seen before, but they serve to prove that we were actually there!)

Phir milenge!

Agra India Travel Guide

Agra is a city in the N Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, around 200 km from the Indian capital city of Delhi. It is the home of the Taj Mahal (Crown Palace), one of the most famous architectural monuments in the world, and two other UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri are nearby.

The city has little outisde of these 3 sites and is generally visited as part of long day trips from tourist base areas in India. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and travellers are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, mosque, temple or palace.

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Internal Refurbishment of Apartment 1A, Kensington Palace (£3.4 million)

The Official Residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lies within a part of Kensington Palace designed by Sir Christopher Wren, to form a grand route to the King’s Staircase from the Porte Cochere that is now the entrance to Apartment 1. Last refurbished more than 50 years ago, in 1962-63, to create the Official Residence for Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, the building was occupied by Historic Royal Palaces as offices from 2002 until the autumn of 2012. In 2013, work commenced on the refurbishment of the building for permanent and long-term occupation by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Kensington Palace is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and therefore every element of the refurbishment had to be agreed with English Heritage. From January 2013, extensive asbestos contamination was removed, allowing refurbishment to start in April 2013. The apartment was uninhabitable as a residence at this time and was in a state of some disrepair. It has since been completely re-serviced, with new heating, hot and cold water services, electrical services and simple redecoration. Work was largely completed within a period of six months. The cost of internal refurbishment does not include all carpets, curtains and furnishings, which are paid for privately.


The Sovereign Grant and Sovereign Grant Reserve Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14

Sovereign Grants are paid annually to the Monarch from the publically-owned Crown Estate profits. Sovereign Grant Reserves are whatever is unused by the Monarch, hence held in a reserve fund to let it accrue interest.. This is essentially the means by which the British Monarchy is paid for.  The royals are housed in Crown estate properties, paying rents subsidized by the Sovereign Grants— the “Grace and Favour” system does not apply anymore to the royals–instead, the royals pay very low rents, because of being subsidized by the SGs. The Sovereign Grant also covers official travel expenses (trips taken on behalf of the Sovereign) and general maintenance of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. More about this is on a page I’m putting together about the royal finances and how they work. 


By Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shriek’d, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

Popes, kings, presidents and now tourists enjoy Rome palace

ROME (AP) — Popes and royals resided there in glorious splendor. An emperor dreamed in vain of doing so, too. Nowadays presidents live there.

The Quirinal Palace, crowning one of Rome’s ancient hills, is a storied gem whose architectural marvels, elegant gardens and fascinating history— four conclaves to elect pontiffs were held there in the 19th century — have been much ignored by tourists. It’s not their fault. Until recently, only a small portion was open to the public, and not very frequently.

But President Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional law expert from Sicily who was elected as Italy’s head of state this year and is the Quirinal’s current resident, thinks the palace should also be the “home” of all Italians.

Starting in late June, tourists have been able to do what eluded Napoleon: step foot inside and stroll through sumptuous salons where popes sought to dazzle ambassadors and, later, where kings and queens entertained royalty in opulent fashion.

The longer of two tours takes in the impressive royal housewares collection, thousands of exquisitely crafted porcelain and other tableware, including a set for a train trip taken on a royal honeymoon. The Grand Ballroom’s chandeliers are so dazzling they could qualify for a tour in themselves.

Sometimes, visitors run into the president.

Standing ramrod straight as visitors pass through palace portals are the Corazzieri, the Quirinal’s rough equivalent of the Swiss Guards. These towering guards with plumed helmets are more than ceremonial. Members of the paramilitary Carabinieri force, Corazzieri are an elite corps whose job is to protect the president. Their skills can include horsemanship, sharpshooting, rock-climbing, martial arts and explosives expertise.

The Quirinal Hill gives a straight-line view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica across town. The palace was built, starting in the late 16th century, on the grounds of what had been the villa and vineyards of a cardinal. The pontiffs were hardly the first to appreciate choice real estate. Temples to the ancient Roman gods were erected on the hill in the fourth century B.C., including one to the goddess of health. The hill provided relief from the mugginess of the lower lying city.

Popes commissioned architects and artists to construct and adorn the palace, and by the end of the 16th century, it had become the summer residence of popes. No severe or silent retreat was this: In the gardens, Pope Clement VIII had constructed the monumental and musical Fountain of the Organ.

One of these papal commissions was the Pauline Chapel, whose gilded stucco decorated ceiling is sublime.

But it was tough finding artists to decorate a chapel seen as a rival to the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, whose ceiling was frescoed by Michelangelo.

Artists “didn’t want to accept what amounted to a challenge of Michelangelo,” says Quirinal Palace staff art historian Louis Godart.

Paul V had commissioned the chapel’s construction in 1615 to give the Quirinal a chapel with the same dimensions of the Sistine chapel, so seating arrangements for papal ceremonies could stay unchanged from Vatican City to the Rome palazzo.

Also worth risking a stiff neck for are the mirrored ceilings of the Napoleonic Apartments. Napoleon’s troops occupied Rome in 1809, captured Pope Pius VII and deported him to France. Napoleon intended for himself and his family to sojourn in the palace when he came to Rome. But he never did. Suffering great military losses, Napoleon’s fortunes nosedived, along with his dream of living in the Quirinal.

Pius VII returned. But a few decades later, the popes were evicted for good. With the unification of Italy and the demise of once powerful papal states, the royals took up residence, with the Savoy family quick to replace some of the more austere papal touches with rococo twists.

The long tour includes a carriage collection, with smaller models for royal tots, including one in Louis XVI style.

Italians voted in a referendum following World War II to be done with the monarchy and in favor of a republic. Starting in 1948, presidents began working, and, many of them, also living in the palace.


If You Go…

QUIRINAL PALACE: Rome. Tours daily in English, French or Italian except Mondays and Thursdays. Closed in August and during Christmas holidays. The 80-minute tour is free except for 1.50 euro booking charge. Mandatory reservations must be made five days in advance either on , by phone at 011-39-06-39-96-7557 or in person at Via del Quirinale 30. The 80-minute tour is free, except for mandatory 1.50 euro booking charge. The 2 ½ hour tour costs 10 euros, including booking charge, and adds the gardens, carriage collection and royal dinnerware collection to the itinerary.


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