[Note: I was reviewing my notes, and discovered I had skipped our last day in St. Petersburg - sorry for time warp!]
Today started early : Alarm at 7:30 AM for bus departure at 9 to take us for our Hermitage tour.
Mom agreed to use a wheelchair reluctantly but very glad of it by the time the two hour tour was over . We had access to the elevators instead of the stairs, got preferential deference from the 30-odd Japanese tourists who were grouped on our bus – they were charmed by my Shibuya jacket and my three sentences of Japanese. They beckoned us to the front of the crowd for each of the picture stops, insisted we get ahead in the loo for access to the handicapped stall – It is good to be a dowager. I got all the privileges as the designated pusher.
I didn’t have my camera at the Hermitage, but Duke Zoran – entertainer on the cruise ship – took many pix, including the Return of the Prodigal Son, which was one of my favorites also (parental love, sibling rivaly). Other faves: Raphael’s amazing ceiling frescoes of God creating the Heavens and the Earth (so sweeping and dynamic – conveys a real sense of the Power that created all we know), Titian’s “Danae” (an orgasm in progress – makes Rembrandt’s painting of the same subject a few rooms later look positively prudish) – and a bunch of Pisarro’s and Picasso’s that we had to zoom by as our time was running out.
The Monet’s and Degas’s were B level, the Gauguins were more interesting to me than those at the Louvre. It was all a bit overwhelming – especially in the context of the incredibly ornate, marble-columned, gilt chandeliered, parquetry-floored Winter Palace and Hermitage rooms. Oh yeah, there were some da Vinci’s and Fra Lippo Lippi – just more than you could stop to take in.
Back at the boat, we had our first served lunch rather than the buffet – delicious salad, beautifully served – irresistible desserts. Back in our spacious suite, Mom napped while I struggled to send a simple email – it seems Hotmail is technically challenged in exotic locales.
So I vented my frustration with a brisk walk along the English Embankment. Oh, how good it felt to walk at rated speed after several days of accommodating Mom’s tentative pace! I stormed along, found my tension easing, and was able to come up with some alternative communication strategies (Facebook! Mom’s gmail account!).
The Engllish Embankment where we were docked was easy distance from St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the big civic park which also houses the iconic statue of Peter the Great commissioned by Catherine. I saw children somersaulting in the park, saw an intrepid 5-year-old scaling the Thunderstone and then sliding down as if it were playground equipment. (It does have potential as a slide – see photo from rear above.) There were brides and grooms canoodling in the grass for photographers and relatives; I used my odd rubles in the W.C.; I struck up some conversations… a fine liberation!
5:00: Lifeboat drill. An example of “First tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them”. We lined up in our orange life vests at our muster stations and received our safety instructions (if you see someone fall overboard, throw a life preserver and holler “Man overboard!” If you see a fire, push the red fire alarm button nearest you and holler “Fire!”)
6PM – we launch from the dock. Slowly, slowly, we edge away from the pier, turn end for end, sail out past the mothballed submarine, the tall ship used for training Russian naval cadets, the container port. We can see rain sweeping up over St. Petersburg behind us, but we are just ahead of it. West to Finland!
Dinner at “Il Terrazo” – the Terrace café reconfigured as a semi-luxe Italian restaurant. there were some glitches with the menu, but what we ended up with was just what Mom wanted (spaghetti with meat sauce- most basic and authenic) ; we both enjoyed the eggplant wrapped around fresh tomato and cheese; my “osso bucco” was really veal shank, not ox tail, but it was ok. And that will end our “gourmet” dinners for the cruise – the really swank restaurant was booked to overflow the afternoon of the first day, so we don’t have to deal with it.
We are skimming along the Bay of Finland under clearing skies at 9:20 PM – seems like 6PM at home. Mom is wrapped in a terry robe under a comforter and about to be gone; I am enjoying my journal but not thinking about stretching to anything more serious – I guess this is vacation.