TRAVEL TALES

Young Chang

Christine and Ted Leventhal's trip to India late last summer left them

with photos of a beautiful country and memories of some not-so-beautiful

realities.

Christine Leventhal calls India a place of contradictions, especially

considering that areas of extreme wealth are often bordered by spots of

extreme poverty. She coins the city of Hyderabad "the Silicone Valley of

India," with all its technology.

Yet nearby, she could see construction sites where crewmen lifted

every boulder by hand.

"I would walk into a a shop -- a jewelry shop -- and outside there

would be children begging for food," Leventhal, 59, said.

The Newport Beach couple visited India for almost two weeks before

dropping by France for 10 days on their way home. They took the Golden

Triangle tour through the cities of Jaipur, Delhi and Agra, filling their

days with visits to temples, mosques and other landmarks.

The Taj Mahal was one one Leventhal's most memorable visits. She was

surprised to learn that a more modern building, which at first covered

her view of the sacred temple, led into the Taj Mahal.

"It's one of the most perfect architecturally structured buildings I

have ever seen," Leventhal said. "You can see a pink cast, a blue cast,

the marble is indigenous. It's not porous like Italian marble. So

beautiful to see."

Another colorful event was visiting the forts and palaces in Jaipur.

"It's called the pink city because everything is painted pink,"

Leventhal said. "The materials that they used had a pink cast to it."

Peacocks roamed the grounds and the mood was peaceful, the couple

said.

The deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri, a red sandstone city near Agra

built by a great Mughal emperor, offered a view to an earlier time.

"It is almost perfectly preserved," Christine Leventhal said.

And wherever they went, the Leventhals were driven. Until arriving in

India, the couple didn't really understand why everyone cautioned them

about driving themselves.

"You could put a hair in between the vehicles there," said Ted

Leventhal, an executive vice president for an insurance corporation.

People crowded the streets.

"You just see so many people sleeping on the streets, sidewalks,

whatever," Christine Leventhal said.

She was saddened throughout her stay by children who would chase after

her car and ask for money.

The couple's arrival in France offered a very opposite sort of

respite, as the route started in the beach town of Cannes and ended in

Paris after visits through Antibes and Nice. They had breakfast with

Christian Francois, the mayor of Newport Beach's sister city Antibes.

They spent the afternoons relaxing, as the touring had been completed on

a previous trip.

"It was one of those three and a half weeks that couldn't have gone

any better," Christine Leventhal said.

* Have you, or someone you know, gone on an interesting vacation

recently? Tell us your adventures. Drop us a line to Travel Tales, 330 W.

Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; e-mail young.chang@latimes.com; or fax to

(949) 646-4170.

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