So, we sit. The Self family sit on the hotel balcony overlooking the sea. Each chair is positioned precisely to minimise eye contact with any other member of the family, but granting splendid views of each other’s (tanned) backs. What are we doing? Why, reading, naturally! An old French novel of epic confusion, The Time Traveler’s [sic] Wife, some Dan Brown, an issue of Nature and Finity. I’ll leave you to decide who was which, naturally.
Two French holiday-makers stroll past. Looking at us, one concludes to the other “well, they are English” in an obvious attempt to explain such eccentricity. Not, obviously, in English. But as it happens, it’s not so impossible to find non-English speaking English, and my parents happen to belong to such a niche. So there.
I felt like correcting them – “British, actually”. But I didn’t. The weather’s lovely, though.
(Apologies for the writing style, but we have honestly all been reading a lot.)
It’s high time to blog about my holiday in Russia, I think! Most of you will only be interested in the pictures, of course which are now live in the gallery, so go check ’em out.
And now a short(ish – I’ll try my best) diary of some of my holiday highlights and the occasional not-so-highlight:
Flew to Moscow, and was highly amused and a little worried by the applause when the plane landed safely. Arrived at our ginormous hotel – with 25 floors and space for 3000 guests – and discovered for the first and not the last time that Russian food is not known for its glamour.
City tour of Moscow! Though it rained a lot, and was cold, we still saw lots of cool things like Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the outside of Lenin’s tomb. Mum bought socks for her poor wet feet.
We toured the Metro system – and yes, I do mean toured – because it’s incredibly artistic and beautiful in some of the stations, filled with socialist paintings of the happy happy Soviet workers in their happy happy (former) country. The Metro itself is brilliantly functional by the way – trains are advertised as coming every 3 minutes but in practice it seems even quicker, putting London rather to shame. Later we braved the fortress of the Kremlin.
Visited a monastery out of town, and saw a monk on a mobile. In the bus on the way, our guide told us about life in the Soviet union, and the day she became friends with a girl whose grandfather had been in the Politburo and had enjoyed an equal life slightly more equal than her equal life. We also learnt that after the collapse of the USSR you could purchase the flat you’d been living in for a minimal amount, but lost most of your money. That night we saw a Russian show and then caught the overnight train to St. Petersburg which was very exciting, and I’m now demanding that Virgin add little two-person cabins with beds to their routes immediately.
Arrived in St. Petersburg, toured the slightly more European city (though Moscow was already very ‘Western’), checked into the new hotel and grabbed a bite to eat. I had a hamburger. It was delicious. Toward the end of the day, however, the cost-benefit analysis of eating a delicious hamburger became clear as I started to feel ill, culminating in a bit of a bad night and…
Thursday (AKA ‘Bad Day’)
I stayed in my room all day on my own with food poisoning and a headache. If I was forced at gunpoint to rate the days in order, I’m pretty sure this would be fairly low down.
Happiness and smiles people – today made up for the bad day! We visited a palace with stunning rooms, gardens and fountains, where (hilariously) a two-man band decided to play the British national anthem followed by Greensleeves for us as we got off the bus. On our return mother and I were sitting around in the hotel lobby having a drink when we suddenly decided to head for the Hermitage. This is an amazing art collection, bursting to the seams with Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Leonardo da Vinci… basically everyone, ever. Whilst mum’s tour on Thursday had only covered a tiny portion of it, today we had under an hour to run through room after room of French impressionist painting which was slightly funny in its own right.
Surely, Saturday might occupy some high position in the gallery of crazy days. Waking up at 3.30 in the morning UK time, we flew home into Heathrow. Dad met us at the airport and drove us home where our road had chosen today to hold a street party, so everything was alive with children, food and flags. I only had a few hours to bask in this novelty of community before re-packing and setting off for Lucy’s 18th birthday gathering (happy birthday for today!), bumping into Rishal and Manoj on the way to the Tube station. So, Russia -> London -> Birmingham in one day of travelling! Lovely evening though and it was great to see certain people again after too long.
Phew! OK, if you’re still reading, bear with me because I’m almost done. I’m now at my aunt’s house for three days whilst she’s away and builders are in, which is a nice foreshadowing of living alone at uni I guess. Which is… less than two weeks away now! Wow! I’ve just managed to join Facebook in preparation, so come and and add me as your friend and we’ll bake some Facebook cakes together or something, yeah?
(Oh, and I almost forgot… I saw Knocked Up on Sunday. Good!)
Hellos! We’re back. Back to sunnier-than-thou weather, which is a bit strange. I know you’re only here for the (now traditional?) set of gorgeous photos so let’s just get straight to that, shall we?