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Commonwealth Games athletes take in Taj Mahal

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Athletes unwind at the Taj Mahal

By Sonali Shah
BBC Sport reporter in Delhi

Of all the people I thought may one day take me to the Taj Mahal, I never thought it would be a bunch of athletes.

But with the Games drawing to a close and the competition already over for some, a special train has being laid on - the Taj Commonwealth Express - and I went along for the ride.

It felt like the ultimate school trip - athletes who have spent the past week being shuttled between the village and their venue finally getting the chance to get out of Delhi and see some culture.

These guys have never been on a train - some of them never even seen a train

Rwanda cycling coach Jock Boyer

The train was full of athletes from all corners of the Commonwealth.

Sitting near us was Jonathan 'Jock' Boyer - the first American to participate in the Tour de France.

These days all his energy goes into Team Rwanda, the African nation's first every cycling team.

Never mind seeing one of the seven wonders of the world - Boyers told me just getting on India's most popular mode of transport has been an adventure for some of his team.

''India is exciting for them, very different from home," he said.

"These guys have never been on a train - some of them never even seen a train.

"Abraham [Ruhumuriza] was terrified getting on and was wondering why it was going backwards.''

For those of us more used to train travel, the most adventurous part of the two-and-a-half-hour journey from Delhi's Safdarjung Station to Agra, was being served tea in a real china cup and saucer.

There were quite a few English archers on the trip, celebrating their success.

Nicky Hunt was still getting over her victories in the compound individual and team competitions.

Carry, fiancee Payne and fellow swimmer Burnett
There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I was going to stay until the closing ceremony

Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne

''I keep waking up and the first thing I do is look at my two medals and make sure they're still there.

Danielle Brown - the first Paralympian to win a Commonwealth medal for England in an able-bodied event - was looking forward to seeing India's most iconic image.

I was a little surprised to bump into Keri-Anne Payne, as most of England's swimmers had rushed home after competing.

But she told me: ''There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I was going to stay until the closing ceremony.''

The Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is known as see the most extravagant monument ever built for love.

So perhaps it is no surprise Payne took the chance to see it with her swimmer fiancé David Carry.

Payne said: ''You could totally see the love the emperor had for his wife. It was amazing and I'm so glad I went to see it''

Agra had been temporarily shut down in readiness for our arrival. From the station, we were driven through the city in a motorcade of buses, with local traffic held behind barriers until we had passed.

Then came the moment we had all been waiting for - our first glimpse of the mighty Taj Mahal.

There was a calming silence as we soaked in the beauty of the magnificent building.

But I was soon distracted by an Australian couple posing for the cameras. It was Jared and Claire Tallent - the Mr and Mrs of the 20km walk - being snapped with their medals in front of the mausoleum.

Once everyone had taken as many photos as possible in an hour, it was time for the obligatory part of any sightseeing trip - shopping!

Dozens of handicraft stalls, drummers and folk dancers greeted us nearby. Danielle Brown was quick off the mark, testing out the bartering skills she picked up in China to buy some gifts for her family.

Others were still getting over seeing the Taj.

Carry told me: ''It was stunning, stunning setting. It's just made this whole Commonwealth Games extra special.

"That's the great part of the Commonwealth Games: it's not just a sporting event it's a whole cultural event. I'm absolutely thrilled to have been able to come out here."

England's archers gather at the Taj Mahal
England's archers gather at the Taj Mahal



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