kirstenalana kirstenalana

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Kirsten Alana  I make a living from #photography. I make a life through conscious storytelling that I hope prompts you to want to #travel & know more of the world!

I hate to resort to cliché but I’ve been so busy shooting video footage and making sure my mum is happy that I haven’t been able to do the same kind of research I do on other trips to bring you captions that are interesting and, hopefully, enlightening. Nor have I been able to keep up with Stories. But I will catch up!! So much goodness to share. So instead here’s a photo of part of the superb view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe taken just this morning. Along with it, the sentiment that Aubrey Hepburn’s character really had it right when she said with a sort of sigh in the movie ‘Sabrina’, “Paris is always a good idea.” I’d add to that, but especially when the weather is full on summer in April without the crowds and you get to treat your mum to the kind of trip she usually only dreams of....

The project I mentioned that’s given my mother and I the opportunity to travel to Paris together is for @airfrance. It’s been so fun to celebrate an early Mother’s Day with her since Paris is in full Spring bloom and temperatures are in the high 70s F / high 20s C. So warm!! However, I’m not only about the destination. Flying in Business is something I become extraordinarily grateful for when it’s an overnight flight and I won’t have very long on the ground. I was so thankful to #AirFrance for seating my mother & I in Business Class on our JFK to ORY flight on a Boeing 777-200. It has 180 degree lie-flat seats, and a 1-2-1 seat layout which means everyone has aisle access! That’s my favorite configuration for Business! We started out with a delicious light meal in the Terminal 1 Lounge with a Joseph Perrier champagne and rose champagne that was so delectable it made my mother a believer in champagne (which led to a good laugh because I hadn’t even realized my mother didn’t love champagne 😳). Moving to the plane we decided not to go to sleep right away, instead enjoying the @clarinsofficial products in the amenity kit (my mother used to work for Clarins), the on-board meal and a movie before we finally sank into a deep sleep on our 180 degree lie-flat seats. It allowed us to arrive well rested and ready to sightsee immediately after we checked in to @saintjamesparis. The only downside of it all, if there needs to be one (which why does there?!) is that I think AirFrance has set the bar so high for mother/daughter trips....I’ll never be able to meet or exceed it. I dare you to give it a try the next time you need to treat your parent 😉 #franceisintheair #sponsoredtrip

So excited to be back in my favorite city in the world A N D able to treat my mum to an early Mother’s Day mini break because of a work opportunity. [More on that in my next post!] No matter how many countries I travel to and no matter how many cities I visit, Paris still has the largest part of my heart. It’s almost unexplainable how or why I love this city as much as I do. But ever since we landed, I’ve been walking around with a ridiculous grin on my face, basking in the full sun and 22-26 C temperatures, without a coat. (Mum and I even sat down in the Tuileries and just enjoyed the beautiful weather. Here she is already sharing her experience with her friends back home! She could do my job for me! *lol*) I’ve actually never been to Paris when it was this nice and when it wasn’t scheduled to rain at all. So this is a blessing not just for my mum but for me as well. I’m ever so grateful for travel opportunities like this and I hope that always comes across, not just today but every time I share a trip with you. 💚 #parisjetaime

Our last excursion with @coxandkingsusa, guided by @yogiagra, ended in one last rickshaw ride deep into the heart of ‘The Blue City’ of Jodhpur. We were invited into a home and allowed to climb to the roof so we could overlook the tetris-like arrangement of buildings that make up [what I can only assume is] the oldest part of the city. Before that moment occurred, we experienced a leisurely stroll through the streets as the neighborhood was still waking up. With fewer people around, the details stood out like mini billboards advertising the personalities of those living within. Some homes were made of smooth walls decorated only with blue, pink or white paint. Some facades featured elaborate paintings of deities & architectural elements that stood out in stark contrast to the less-decorated homes. I watched the man in the first image read the newspaper on his stoop for a long time, completely oblivious to our cameras or maybe just politely ignoring us, not unlike someone might here in my home city of New York or on a balcony in another city. Another woman in a red sari kept playing hide and seek with us. First she was in a doorway, then an upstairs window. By the time we made it to the rooftop that view, as great as it was, couldn’t hold a candle to the fascinating stories playing out at street-level. I wanted to stay all day to watch the city unfurl its layers, going from sleepy to bustling, and back again. After more than a week in India, I’d fallen completely in love & I didn’t want to return to the USA. It’s been strange to be home now, so devoid of stimulation. But I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to reflect on this journey with @tajhotels et #coxandkingsusa and the chance to share it with all of you! I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and stories! ✨ Namaste 🙏🏼

We woke up before the sun and departed @umaidbhawanpalace for our last day of touring with @coxandkingsusa while it was still dark. My body was so tired but my mind was excited to see Jodhpur from above with our guide @yogiagra. A friend of his had also shown up with a French expat and we all left from a parking lot between Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada. We walked uphill while the first light of a hazy dawn began to illuminate our path. There were cactus and flowers I’d never seen before strewn among the rocks but I was too excited to stop, almost running to get to the summit where I’d be able to see the city laid out below our vantage point all the way to Umaid Bhawan. From far away, it’s easy to mistake it for the Taj Mahal. But as the fiery orb of the sun finally made its appearance, bathing everything in soft, pink light and eventually getting strong enough to cause shadows, revealing a light blue sky - it was the duality of Jaswant Thada and Mehrangarh that I was drawn to over and over. They seem to stand over the city along with the hill we summited, keeping watch; guardians against some unknown foe. Like I explained a few posts back, the fort is one of the largest in India and was first built in the 1400’s. From where I took this photo, it’s hard to appreciate the detail. But Jaswant Thada, the ornate white structure, is a monument which steals the show. Made of white marble, it was built in 1899 to honor the father of Maharaja Sardar Singh, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. The mausoleum seemed to be lit from within once light peeked above the horizon and it’s because it is made of such thin, intricately carved sheets of marble that they react to illumination differently than thicker marble would. I could have stayed for hours continuing to witness the quality of light as it changed, and relishing in the rare quiet solitude of that spot, but we had one more stop to make down in the Blue City that we were looking out at... 💙 #coxandkingsusa #sponsoredtrip #sonyalpha

Before I fully move on from India stories, I wanted to share our Jodhpur adventures with @coxandkingsusa. The first portrait was taken during our tour of the spice and vegetable market in town. We had just gotten out of our rickshaws, walked a short distance and turned the corner into the market from a street that almost felt deserted there was so little happening — and after we turned the corner, the difference could not have been more pronounced; it was an immediate deep dive into sensory overload and an immersion into organized chaos. And yet, this gentleman and his vegetable stall caught my eye right away. I don’t know if it was the vibrancy of the green, which along with blue is one of my two favorite colors, or if it was the intensity of his gaze. But he saw me see him, I immediately communicated that I wanted to take his picture, he said yes and I did. After I showed him the photo, the brightest smile lit up his face and he seemed so happy. I don’t know his name but I will always remember the way his face lit up toward the end of our interaction. Afterward we all found ourselves absorbed into the market’s ebbs and flows and only a few other instances to take someone’s photo occurred before we went back to the hotel. I’ve included them here; the last of which, the man with the bags of flowers, resulted in my being gifted a rose more fragrant than any other I’ve ever encountered anywhere in the world. I even packed it in my luggage going home and though the rose crumbled in transit, the smell of it is still on the scarf I wrapped it in. It’s embedded in that fabric just like the smiles of the people we met in India are forever imprinted on my heart and in my mind. Thank you for this tour #coxandkingsusa 🙏🏼 #hostedtravel #sponsoredtrip #IncredibleIndia #PortraitsOfIndia

A last post from @umaidbhawanpalace with @tajhotels because it really is about time I start to wrap up my collection of India photos and move on to the next stories. It’s hard to let go! So of course I couldn’t do so with just one photo. Swipe right for ten moments from this Art Deco masterpiece, hotel and palace in Jodhpur. Rajasthan really surprised me during this trip, officially becoming my favorite part of India that I already want to return to see more of as soon as I can. And a huge part of that love was cemented with our stay at Umaid Bhawan. From the first night on the roof at sunset, to the way every meal was worthy of a Michelin star to the outdoor and indoor pools to the incredible spa to the view from my room (which is the first photo in this series), to the smile on the faces of everyone we met, to the afternoon tea and the bazaar that was set up for us in the courtyard one day and on and on and on... It was all the things that princess dreams are made of when we women are little girls. And so much more. It was easy to see in just the first few hours why this property has been chosen more than once as the best hotel in the world and I can’t wait to have time to share an entire blog post with you because a few Instagram posts just aren’t enough to do it justice. #tajness #treasuredbytajtraveler #hostedstay

And before I let go of India, next up I’ll share a few photos from a market tour of Jodhpur and the city at sunrise as seen from above...

Taking a cue from @alice_gao by sharing this pool moment from our recent hosted stay at @umaidbhawanpalace with @tajhotels. Since another snowstorm is headed toward NYC, and Spring doesn’t seem to be arriving soon enough, I’m hanging on to India “latergrams” as long as I can! Earlier today, Alice posted a photo I shot for her at this pool. It was such an honor to watch her in action as a model in front of the camera because she’s as talented in that capacity as she is making and taking photos. And this pool, one of two at the palace - the other is indoors, is definitely somewhere I’d rather be right now. When Alice and I were doing our photo shoot here, we experienced again the incredible level of service that all Taj Hotel guests are treated to. Not only the assistance of staff but the delivery of a beautiful picnic basket with chilled watermelon, bottles of water, cold towels, a bento box of snacks and a mojito for each of us. I’ve had little treats poolside at resorts before but this was next level. One Taj employee explained it to me thus, “every guest is royalty while they’re here with us.” I also heard locals say that in general in India, all guests are like god or ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. It’s stuck with me because I believe that if we all looked at visitors and guests with such kindness and openness, perhaps the world would be a better place.

So you can see why mentally I’m back here!! And not sitting in a cold apartment with windows that look at other walls, working at a computer 24/7 editing for what seems like forever... 😉 What’s on tap for your weekend?

#tajness #treasuredbytajtraveler #tajhotels #umaidbhawanpalace #umaidbhawan

From the minute we walked through these doors at @umaidbhawanpalace, I knew I was going to like our third and final @tajhotels property from our #tajness mini tour of India. I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to our arrival because I wanted to be surprised but I had heard that it’s been chosen numerous times in the past and even as recent as last year as the ‘Best Hotel in the World.’ Still I think @cntraveler said it best with their review. I can’t disagree with a word, “Even the most jaded jaws drop on arrival at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, the imposing royal residence turned luxury hotel in the northern Indian city of Jodhpur. Ironically, a 1920 famine across Rajasthan motivated then Maharaja Umaid Singhji to build his Art Deco aid project, creating work for three thousand people, among them descendants of the Taj Mahal carvers who chiseled the exquisite yellow sandstone façade here. Today, the royal family lives in one wing while guests pretend to the throne along endless marble corridors and in the expansive gardens clipped to perfection by a staff of 25. Take a worthwhile detour to the on-site museum, filled with photos and memorabilia cataloguing the bejeweled lives of Jodhpur’s elite. Since 1972 the palace has operated as a heritage hotel but only with the arrival of the Taj Group in 2005 does service come close to matching the awesome setting. All 64 sizable rooms are equipped with WiFi and round the clock butler service.” It’s that level of service that distinguishes this tour of Taj properties from any other hotel-focused trip I’ve ever done and I was pleased to find it was a thread that ran through the fabric of all three stays. I also loved that the heritage of this property includes having given work to people who were so in need of it at the time. Because while the idea of a palace can seem very outdated in today’s world, anything that does some good while also adding beauty to the world, ends up being good in my book. Umaid Bhawan is also still a residence of the royal family of Jodhpur who I hear still do a lot of good in the city or for the city’s residents. ❤️ #treasuredbytajtraveler #sponsoredtrip #umaidbhawanpalace

Thank you all so much for the incredible response to my last three posts from Jaipur! I don’t feel the rest of what I captured in the city can really compare to those images so I’m moving on to Jodhpur. This was our last & final stop on our mini tour of India with @tajhotels where again @coxandkingsusa handled our tours and excursions. It was during our tour of Mehrangarh Fort that I took the first photo in this series of a man guarding one of the rooms you can look in but cannot walk into. I’m sharing more than my usual amount of portraits from this trip because to me, it’s the people that make India truly special. 😉 We actually had a pretty hilarious and heart-warming interaction with him that you’d never guess at when you see his almost stern face. So swipe right to see a video with him & @twheat. It showed me that anywhere in the world, despite language barriers, you can almost always communicate with people when you choose to lead with a smile. Then I’ve included three more images from inside the fort that could not crop to @instagram size without losing something from the photo. Not my usual style but I just really wanted to share them. I hope you enjoy!

Mehrangarh is one of the largest forts in India and has stunning views of the ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur from almost every vantage point since it’s 410 feet above the city. Construction began in the 1400’s by Rao Jodha and continued with his descendants over 500 years. Most of what is visitable today dates to the 17th century, and the time of Maharaja Ajit Singh. Rudyard Kipling once said it was, “a palace that might have been built by Titans and colored by the morning sun.” If you’re into geology, you might be interested to know that the fort sits on a Malani Igneous Suite Contact that has been declared a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India. It’s easier to see the significance of that from further away and I’ll be sharing a photo that illustrates that a little better in the next few days. 🇮🇳 #coxandkingsusa #mehrangarhfort #jodhpur #hostedtravel

A few posts back I talked about our visit to City Palace in Jaipur with @coxandkingsusa. It has been the home of the royal family of Jaipur since 1732 and while they still live in the palace now, they don’t occupy all the rooms. Nor do they function as rulers in the same sense they once did but they do maintain the palace, not the government. It’s a fascinating fusion of Rajput & Mughal architecture. During our tour, which included access to the special rooms not available on the standard ticket, we visited the tower containing this room and it was one level up that I took the photo overlooking the city. Such a great view! Yet it was hard to not keep coming back to this room since every time I did I noticed something new. The scale and detail are incredible. I had to get @ananewyork to pose for me so you could see how low the ceiling is and yet it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. Somehow it feels like you’re inside a blue cloud filled with light and bursting with story. What was this room? Why are there four anchored rings in the ceiling? Why is it so low?! One story I read online suggests that the room was used to enjoy the monsoon rains. It’s called either Chhavi Nivas or Sukh Niwas (I read competing stories online). Just above it, a room called Shobha Nivas, looks like someone’s Chopard necklace was taken apart to be made into wallpaper x 100,000,000 — almost dripping with gilded gold and glass work that mimics gemstones. There’s also Rang Mandir which is covered in tiny mirrors, each outlined in gold gilt as well. All of it gives the impression that the Maharajas of old had a wealth which defies modern understanding. Not even at Versailles or other palaces in Europe have I seen the things I’ve seen in India! And in short, these extra rooms are worth the extra price of admission!! Thank you #coxandkingsusa 🙏🏼💙 #IncredibleIndia #citypalacejaipur #sponsoredtrip #jaipurrajasthan

Thank you all for the amazing reaction to yesterday’s post. If you like blue, there’s another rockin moment coming your way tomorrow! But first, I spotted this woman during our tour of Amer Fort with @coxandkingsusa. She was sweeping in the courtyard that lies in front of Ganesh Pol, perhaps the most famous gate inside the fort. When I saw her wander over to a series of repeating archways and columns that overlooks the city on the end of the courtyard to continue sweeping, when I saw the way her yellow sari seemed to glow like liquid gold in the sunlight, I knew that was my shot of the day. I had the help of our guide Yogesh who communicated with her so that she’d know I wanted her to pause in the light just long enough for me to take this photo. It’s not the same perhaps as taking a photo off the cuff, completely without the aid of any interaction with the subject. And I doubt I’d win any awards with this one. But now I forever have a record of the way she looked when she first stepped into the light and everything seemed to still while she became like a beacon brighter than the sun. If you pinch and zoom this photo you can see her face is as beautiful as her sari is bright. And since I couldn’t decide what crop I liked better, you can see both when you swipe right.

Construction of the fort was started by Raja Man Singh in 1592 and completed in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh. It is a mix of Hindu and Muslim styles, mostly made from red sandstone & marble. Technically it’s a palace and a fort from what I can tell via research. Sprawling over four levels, there’s a lot to see and it could take you all day if you’re so inclined. But my favorite part was Sheesh Mahal. The literal meaning of which is ‘mirrored’. It’s an open air hall that is covered from top to wall to ceiling with mirrored tiles that catch the light, sparkling like dew drops on grass in the morning! ✨ #coxandkingsusa #sponsoredtrip #sonyportraits #sonya7ii #incredibleindia #portraitsofindia #amerfortjaipur #amberfort

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