Catherine’s Palace and the ballet

I feel like I live an auspicious life and I’m not sure how that happened. I must have been a very good person in a previous time. Or maybe I’m just always in the right place at the right time. Anyway, minutes after I posted my last blog, I was walking back to the hotel when one of the trip leaders, Steve Blairme, waved me down and asked if I wanted to go to the Swan Lake Ballet at the Hermitage Theater. The ballet is an option Lindblad provides for their guests, but they have to sign up beforehand and pay $150. I thought about going when I first arrived, but was hesitant because of the price. Still, I asked, but was told that the show was sold out, so the problem was solved. Or so I thought. Apparently a guest had gotten a business conference call and couldn’t make the performance and I was the first one Steve saw after he found out. He offered me the ticket and told me to get on the bus. No time to change, no time to eat, but I was going to see Swan Lake! For free! I felt rather uncomfortable, though, because I had on faded jeans and a sweater while everyone else was dressed to the nines. But I got over it pretty quick.

The performance itself was beautiful. The Hermitage Theater is an intimate setting and no matter where you sat you were guaranteed a good view. The show lasted about 2 1/2 hours with two brief intermissions, but it seemed a lot shorter. By the time we returned to the hotel at 11, though, I was ready for bed!

Since that was the ending to my first full day in St. Petersburg, let me go back to the beginning. I woke up at 7 and dragged myself out of the depths of my down covers to the biggest, most elaborate and expansive breakfast buffet I have ever seen. The first table was laden with fruits, yogurts, kefir, smoothies, granola, nuts, dried fruit, and milks (rice milk includes!). I filled my bowl with fruit and cereal and looked for a place to sit. Needing a glass of water, though, I returned to the dining room and weaved my way through the spread. There was a table with cold cuts, salad veggies, olives, and capers. A station to make your own crepes and countless glass jars filled with jams, berries, and sauces to fill them with. The hot buffet included every kind of egg you could imagine, beans, vegetables, oatmeal, and breakfast meats. There was a bread station with homemade loaves and pastries, little balls of butter and six different kinds of honey. Pitchers filled with fresh juices were tucked in the corner as well as two types of bottled mineral water and sparkling water. A selection of about 15 different loose leaf teas were on display beside a silver hot water urn. I was slightly overwhelmed.

After breakfast we boarded the busses and drove about an hour out of the city to Catherine’s Palace, also known as Pushkin’s for the famous poet and author who resided there. The palace is magnificent and enormous! We entered the grounds via a wide open plaza that offered a majestic view of the expansive edifice stretching out before, and above, us. The palace has been beautifully restored and we spent the morning walking through the ornately decorated rooms and snapping photos of crystal chandeliers. In a typically royal fashion, the chambers were dripping in gold leaf, intricately carved moulding, and red velvet. After touring the interior palace we moved outside and took a stroll around the grounds. Roman sculptures, flower gardens, and hedged bushes caught our attention and we stopped at a small chapel to hear a group of traditional Russian vocalists serenade us in the acoustically domed interior.

Back on the busses, we stopped for lunch at a small fortress (complete with a drawbridge) where we dined in fresh bread, pickles, borscht (of course), lots of meat (typical Russian fare I’m afraid), and vodka. Graciously they made me and several other vegetarians a delicious plate of roasted vegetables, rice, and salad. During our meal we were entertained by Russian singers and musicians in traditional dress. It was great!

After lunch we were transported back to the Grand Hotel Europe and had the afternoon to relax or explore the city on own. I took a quick nap, then headed out for a walk. When I returned I was greeted by Steve and a free ticket and off I went to the theater!






One Response

  1. So glad you are writing another blog so we can all be envious, once again of your auspicious life! Look forward to more amazing pictures and experiences as you reap the benefits of being a guest on this Linblad expedition! Love you!

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