Sunday, 27 February 2011

Day 2 and 3 - the Mariinsky Theatre


The Mariinsky is certainly a wonderful theatre and without doubt this was the best production of a ballet I have ever seen.

A seat at the opera

A seat at the ballet


The best seat in the house

The ballet was the most beautiful event and definitely no falling asleep.

Students all dressed up and looking lovely.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Off to London for the day

Well no St Petersburg post today I'm afraid, hopefully I'll post tomorrow. Today I'm off to London to see Alex and my sister, Jane, who'll be in London doing some research or going to, or giving a lecture; she's always busy.

I think I'll be spending quite a while in a hospital somewhere as Alex has to have a blood test. She went earlier in the week for one but the doctors say she doesn't have any veins, hence a visit to hospital for them to suck some out!

But I do know that later we will be going to the excellent Wholefoods Market on Kensington High Street. It's absolutely gigantic, filling a lot of what was Barkers Department store, and packed with everything you could want; both healthy and not so healthy. They have brownies to die for, the largest and most tempting array of salads I've ever seen and if you love cheese then rather than a cheese board there's a cheese room!


Thursday, 24 February 2011

A beautiful city - Churches, continued

On our way to St Isaac's we crossed a bridge which provided Mark with a photo opportunity. But poor Gayle had so much trouble trying to smile while looking at the camera as the sun was just too bright. Not much like a British winter!

St Isaac's Cathedral

St Isaac's dominates St Isaac's Square but Gayle and I did nearly become distracted by the very lovely looking Hotel Astoria which obviously had a beautiful restaurant, gorgeous for tea and cakes I'm sure. However we didn't feel that Ivan would be so understanding about our weakness so we stayed strong and continued with the planned itinerary. How saintly we felt!

  Rotonda Lounge
"In the cosy Rotonda Lounge, exquisite desserts, snacks and hot and cold beverages are served. During afternoon tea from 3 pm to 7.30 pm, guests can taste rich Russian blini pancakes and a chocolate fountain accompanied with a selection of fresh fruit. There are magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the St Isaac’s Square in the Rotonda Lounge".

But back to St Isaac's and another magnificent church to photograph and admire. I opted not to climb the stairs for the roof top views of the city which were apparently spectacular, but also showed the hugh, industrial chimneys surrounding the city.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A beautiful city - Churches, day 2

The day began with a hot shower, thermals, breakfast and a student meeting. It was definitely going to be a busy Friday as we had to fit in visits to 3 of the most notable churches in St Petersburg and a trip to the opera at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Kazan Cathedral

The scale of this church is breathtaking.

It is a very austere building from the outside, built to resemble St Peter's in Rome, and yet inside it is beautiful and calm, filled with hugh pink granite columns.

Photo taken inside the cathedral from

We were amazingly lucky as the church had only a few visitors, but to one side a small mass was taking place which we could stand and watch. The singing of the choir and the priests was beautiful and filled the vast space. However this was no static service; the congregation consisted of a handful of women who stood and moved with the priests as they went from altar, to table with drink being poured by women from a large teapot like vessel, back to altar, over to bow and cross themselves and kiss a holy relic and back to one of the altars again.
For a while a group of us sat in quiet contemplation of this beautiful building, but beware don't cross your legs or one of the women who wander around making sure we behave ourselves will tsk you and make you uncross them. I read later that it is considered rude to cross your legs on a bus (and to blow your nose noisily) so perhaps it is rude everywhere in Russia.

Church of the Resurrection of Christ 'On Spilled Blood'

Built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was mortally wounded it was used during the Soviet period as a warehouse and suffered damage in the second world war. It reopened in 1997 after almost 30 years of restoration. This is the truly jigsaw worthy image of a Russian church. It was absolutely mind blowing in the decoration of it.

Not the traditional view, but the view from across the busy road outside the Kazan Cathedral

The exterior is so impressively opulent after the severity of the Kazan Cathedral and this was the type of building I'd been looking forward to seeing. I thought this was impressive enough, but when you open the door and go inside the beauty and colour is awe inspiring. Every possible surface of the walls and ceilings are covered in mosaics of golds and other rich colours. I had to keep reminding myself that everything was mosaiced, the detail made you believe you were looking at paintings.




Proof that students came too. Loving the foot ware.

The donations boxes in the churches always seem to need emptying, and notes look much more generous than coins, but some of these notes are only worth about 35p 

To be continued ........

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A beautiful city - Arrival, day 1

Well here I am all rested after a night back in my own bed. No 9am meeting this morning, just a leisurely start to the day for me.

We arrived in St Petersburg last Thursday at around lunchtime, but it was late afternoon by the time we reached out hotel and boy was it cold. We knew it would be, but there's no way you can imagine it until you are standing about waiting for a bus, but more of that later.

Our journey into the city was pretty much as you expect, not the prettiest sights although we did pass the very large and impressive Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad
Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, St. Petersburg, Russia

Sculptures next to the stairs leading up to the monument

However the only photo I took from the coach window was for some reason of a random building which I can't identify, but I still like in a very industrial way.

Our hotel was palatial compared to the New York accommodation for the last art trip I went on and I think we were all extremely grateful for this, especially as it meant students could stay in in the evenings if they wanted to instead of freezing in the minus 20 degree (and lower) temperatures.

Not a road, a frozen canal, but beautiful sunshine too

Mark and Ivan in tourist mode

Friday, 11 February 2011

The excitement begins

With the purchase today of my guide book, the collection of my money from the post office and only 5 days to go, the prospect of our trip to St Petersburg has suddenly become very real.

Every since I was a little girl (goodness I must have a good memory) there have been 2 places I wanted to visit: Mexico and Russia. I remember being so jealous one Christmas when I received a book of Tales from Japan (which was an absolutely beautifully illustrated book) but my sister got Tales from Russia!

So I have to say thank you to Ivan for letting me be one of the teachers who goes on the Art trip this year, although I'm not looking forward to the 5am start on Thursday morning.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Belated Happy New Year

I just don't know where the time has gone this year, I seem to have been busy every weekend which is my usual time for blogging. Anyway things I've done with my weekends this year include:
Going to London (a lot) - which is great fun.
Seeing Hamlet at The National Theatre - haven't been to the theatre to see a proper play for ages, so a good cultural start to the year.
Staying overnight in a hotel in Notting Hill - very nice.
Seeing Alex loads and managing to keep up to date with her work which is looking fabulous and brilliant.
Going to The Barbican to see 'The Irrepressibles' and 'Gaby Young and Other Animals' - mmm Irrepressibles weren't as good as at Latitude.
Getting to The Barbican to see Future Beauty, 30 years of Japanese Fashion - I'd intended to see it on 3 other visits to London and been side tracked each time. It was well worth the wait, although Alex finds Japanese design such a challenge as it's the polar opposite to her love of designing to accentuate the female curve.
Ikea - busy as ever, meatballs, no catalogues, buying things you didn't know you wanted, more blue bags because you forgot to take your own to carry away your purchases, 35p ice cream cones! Oh I love it.
Brilliant Biba sale bargains - it's funny how when things are cheap you can still end up spending a lot of money because you buy more of them.
A trip to Basingstoke purely to photograph the Triumph shop for Alex's new project shop report  - hmmm about 6 photos taken and then a lot of shopping!
Afternoon tea at Libertys - why were Alex and I the only people in the restaurant who finished every crumb of food on the cake stand?
But my favourite - The Electric Cinema for 'The Kings Speech'. Is seeing a Colin Firth film there becoming a habit? Last year we saw 'A Single Man'. I loved the film, but  the experience of the Electric Cinema is very special.
Well there won't be any more weekend trips for a while - I was supposed to be saving my money, not doing a very good job so far.