We are here. In St Petersburg, that is.
I know, no sooner have I finished rabbiting on about Switzerland and all of that, and here we are, just a couple of weeks later in somewhere totally different.
Life, eh? (Good, innit? )
The glorious sunset was captured as we arrived at LHR last night. With a flight leaving at 9.20am this morning, we chose to stay overnight at the Sofitel, expecting to meet Edward and Amy there sometime mid-evening. But the hours wore on and it was almost midnight by the time they appeared, feeling slightly discombobulated by a succession of transport hiccups along the way. Never mind. We were all together and all was well!
Because this was Edward’s belated birthday jolly, organised in January for a supposedly quieter time, even if the quieter times only really exist in our imagination.
A flight time of nearly four hours, together with a time difference of another two and it was mid afternoon when we arrived, in spite of that early morning start. Never mind. The sun was shining and we were happy!
I’d arranged a transfer from our hotel, not wanting to spend valuable time fiddling about with taxis and the like, so in minutes we were speeding down the motorway into the city.
Our travelling companions lost no time at all settling into the fine surroundings. We quickly sorted ourselves out and decided to get out there and enjoy what was left of a beautiful Spring afternoon.
I mean, look at that sky!
We weren’t going very far – just across the road in fact, because we thought we’d begin gently and take a look around St Isaacs Cathedral first.
Now, it’s not long since we were here, is it? Just last September, in fact. But we had loved what we saw and we couldn’t wait to share it with Edward and Amy.
I think they were similarly bowled over.
Of course, he was there watching, still.
And I did my best not to take all the same photographs again, trying to look at things slightly differently and to notice small details which may have escaped me previously. But actually, it didn’t matter at all. It was simply amazing to just be here, to sit and wonder at the magnificence of it all and to enjoy the whole experience.
So that’s what I did.
When we were all ready to move on, we walked down towards the river, heading towards the large statue of Peter the Great, past a most impressive building with the name in gold letters above the arch. I find it so frustrating to not be able to read the names of places, but at least the bright spark amongst us recognised a word which resembled “bibliothek” in there somewhere, so we assumed it includes some kind of library. ( I googled it later, and yes, it does)
I loved the view of the street through the archway.
The main thing we’ve noticed so far has been how grey everything is. Until the sun came out this afternoon, there was a dreary look to the city with not a blade of grass or green leaf in sight. This patch of parkland looks threadbare and brown, but the sunshine and clear blue sky brought everything to life and the whole city twinkled in the light.
Actually the sun made it hard to take a decent photo of this, the Bronze Horseman.
But looking the other way, it was difficult to stop taking them! Cities on water have that special something, don’t they?
High above the Admiralty building, the flag flies at half mast following the incident on the Metro earlier in the week.
We continue along the river front to the Hermitage. No time for a visit now, but it’s good to get our bearings and work out what is where, and especially good to wander independently without a guide too.
The four of us stood for a while, counting our blessings and feeling very thankful to be here.
We resisted the temptation to ride in a horse drawn carriage – or is it a pumpkin?
Because by now, we were feeling peckish. Elena, the concierge at our hotel had recommended Gogol, a Russian restaurant serving traditional fare, so that’s where we headed next. It was 7pm by now, anyway.
Was this his hat and coat hanging in the hall?
The menu came in the form of a book, with chapters for each course.
It made for quite entertaining reading, even before the food arrived.
Yes, of course he tried that. No, not the tongues, but the lard!
We’ll remember Gogol for the bell on each table though. “Please ring the bell when you have decided what you’d like”.
Somehow, though, it didn’t seem right to ring the bell for attention, even if the moment we did so, our waitress would come running (or maybe, because that’s what happened?) Suffice to say, we had a super meal, the beef stroganoff was delicious, as was the smoked salmon, the Siberian white fish and everything else we ordered.
Returning to our hotel in somewhat lower temperatures than when we’d set out, St Isaac’s was looking rather lovely in the mist.
We are so pleased to be here and feel that, whatever the weather chooses to do tomorrow, we will always remember a sparkling afternoon in the city!