There is a groundhog in the garden of our house in Boston … today is his day – or rather it’s a reverse groundhog which sounds like an expression for something a frightfully clever figure skater performs. St Petersburg Moscovsky Station, Sapsan Train heading for Moscow at stupid o’clock in the morning.
Seated one behind the other with more room per person than the tourist buses were allocated at Peterhof we settle for the ride back. ‘Dear Passengers, welcome aboard our Sapsan train’ utters the announcer. I play with the seat, take a cursory look at our fellow travellers and a last look at St Petersburg as we pull out of the station. The stewardess comes around with a trolley and I, armed with my new Russian directness (this is often, and they are aware of it, mistaken for rudeness by non-Russians and takes a little getting used to) say emphatically ‘Omelette’ (it’s the same word in both languages but I adopt my best rich rolled Russian accent) … she is so taken aback (I told you this was a reverse Groundhog Day) that she ignores the trays she has been dishing out to everyone else and fishes in the bottom cupboard, producing my breakfast. Later I ask Two Brains what he had – the same as the outbound journey. I, on the other hand have omelettes garnished with tomato and red peppers with green beans and sliced chicken. I rather fear I got the Captains breakfast. I enjoyed it all (the vegetable salad, the yoghurt, the wheaten roll, the omelettes and the poppy seed strudel to fill that last little crevice) and fully stuffed settle to sleep til we arrive in Moscow. We take the long route back to Tverskaya on the circle line to photograph the rest of the stations. Moscow seems quiet today so it was a good day to get those missing pictures which I will share with you later in the week in a post dedicated to scratching the surface of these dazzlers.
We settle back in our hotel and a late lunch off Red Square where we are greeted like long lost family by the lovely folks in our favourite cafe. The wind has followed us from St Petersburg so we only take a short stroll around the square, noting that the preparations for May 9th are complete.
We then throw caution to the wind and go into Gum (say Goom) – a shopping Mall. Of course it is the biggest and most ostentatious shopping centre I have ever seen and I actually don’t like shopping. Both husband and I favour the well tested ‘know exactly what you are looking for and dive in, dive out’ approach. So in a sense this was hell. I had been keen to find the source of the bizarre footwear favoured by the average up-town Russian girl and here they were, all around me shouting ‘buy me …’ – I am deaf and clearly a dull version of the girl I once was in my achingly trendy youth.
My footwear for this trip has consisted, as it ever does, of practical leather biker boots and virtually antique Converse trainers. The latter, actually have had admiring looks from the shoe savvy girls in the street for being clearly vintage and probably worth a fair bit in the right shop – most of my wardrobe is vintage not because I search it out but because I wear the same things for years and years. I remain the girl who is actually rather scared of high-end shop assistants so we contented ourselves with browsing the windows, marvelling at the bridges and trees and fountains and congratulating ourselves that we had had Coulibiac (the delicious salmon and parsely pie) and salad plus tea for under 10 euros in our modest diner as opposed to cupcake and tea here for three times that. Chaque un a son gout or is that a son Gum?
PS: We also took some photos with our Cantal sticker to go on their FaceBook page … Cantal Tourisme run a fun competition based on taking snaps when travelling holding their logo to raise awareness. The fun part is the thousand euro prize …. actually for us the fun part was the irony of juxtaposing our scantily populated departement with its natural beauty against what has to be the most un-natural environment you could possibly imagine ….