Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Longest Day of the Year

 I would make a terrible princess.  I was born several centuries too late, so it's a moot point, but I can trace my ancestry to Edward III, and from him basically to most of the royal families in Europe, so I'm calling it a near miss.  I could have been a princess, and I would have done a shitty job of it.  I can pull off poise when I want to, and occasionally I can manage diplomacy (veeeeery occasionally), but I'm stubborn as hell and over the years I've come up with a shortage of fucks.  Don't like my cleavage?  Think it's horrible that I would invite my newly graduated students who have been slaving away for me several months to lunch in my apartment???  Sorry, I'm all out of fucks to give...I used them up on things that matter.  Like doing my damn job, or women's rights.

However, I DO have a taste for some of the finer things in life.  Good food, music, art, traveling...I could do with a princess' income, or her digs.  So I braved the swarms of tourists to visit the Winter Palace yesterday.
The Winter Palace (officially the Hermitage, but I'm a wannabe princess today, not an art teacher) was the home of the Russian emperors and their family.  Since 1917, it's been a museum, and although it did undergo some..."renovations"...during Soviet rule, it's been restored for the most part.  Some of the rooms were absolutely breathtaking.  I think the library was my favorite, although the smoking room made me regret my lifestyle for a while - there are times when (perhaps) I want a house, so maybe I could dress it up with all the treasures I've collected during my years abroad.  Orientalist-style smoking room?  Bitch, please - you should see my belly dance studio.
Okay, so I lied about not being an art teacher today.  The building itself was ostentatious, but the art collection was killer, too.  Look at this - it's a freaking room of Rubens!  Every painting in the room was by Rubens, with the exception of a few by his school.  When I went to the Louvre, they had a roomful of Rubens as well, ones that Marie de Medici commissioned for her husband, the king of France (which one?  I don't care.  Look it up yourself if you care that much).  When I saw those paintings, I may have cursed Marie a bit...why couldn't she have told Rubens to throw a few naked men in there for good measure?  This room of Rubens answered that question for me.  The central figure in the painting on the right?  That's not one of Rubens' trademark voluptuous women; it's Bacchus.  And voluptuous just doesn't look that great on a man.
I'm a little ashamed, but I didn't see the whole Hermitage.  I should be able to spend more than three hours in a palace/art museum, but my feet were swollen with museumitis, and the crowds - egad, the crowds!  There were just too damn many people there (for the record, if you're going to do this, I think afternoon is better...there was no pushy-shovey line to get in when I left around 2, and at least some of the tourists were on their way out by then.  Definitely buy your ticket in advance if you go in the morning).  I did some more wandery around-ish stuff, including hitting Starbucks and going to pick up my tickets for the ballet that night.  Extra super special performances at the Mariinsky Theater are part of the White Nights lineup and since I LOVE the ballet I had to go.  Well, I say I love the ballet.  I've been re-evaluating that statement since last night.  I think what I actually love is passionate dancing and men with nice muscles wearing tights.  The dancers last night were spectacular, and I liked the stage design and the costumes, but Jewels (the show I watched) was a little meh.  I actually had to work to keep myself awake (admittedly I was a little jetlagged, but still), and I found myself thinking about how much more I would enjoy it if they were all belly dancers, so I guess you shouldn't be surprised that I left at the second intermission.
Part of the reason why I left was the fact that it was Scarlet Sails night.  Initially I heard that Scarlet Sails - which is a St. Petersburg thing - took place in May, but when I started walking around town I saw signage for it that said it was taking place last night, so I was SUPER excited.  I walked along the Neva embankment under the twilit sky, and got to Palace bridge around 10 o'clock.  I actually wanted to go further up the river, but the police had blocked the street, so I found a place as close to the side of the bridge as I could and waited.  And waited.  And because I'd been on my feet ALL DAY, they hurt, so I found a place to sit down and pulled out my Nook.  Which wasn't working.  Somehow, between getting to the ballet and sitting down on the bridge, my e-reader had unregistered itself, right where Harry Dresden was about to confront the ENTIRE White Court of vampires.  WHAT THE HECK, NOOK???  So I sat and waited some more, albeit with less patience than I would if I were reading.  At which point it started raining.  It was chilly - did I mention the fact that I was wearing sandals and a skirt?  That factors into this fiasco, thanks to the ballet - so I put on my hoodie, but finally around 11:30 I was fed up and said, "##%# this *&$@@!, you *@&!" and left the bridge.  But my night was far from over.  Thanks to the barricades, I couldn't head back to Irina's the way I had been going (which involved a lot of walking but I didn't think I'd be able to get a taxi) and because I was cold and wet and alone and my feet hurt when I finally DID come across a taxi on the other side of St. Isaac's, I let him talk me into paying about $20 to take me home.  And it was the best $20 I've spent yet.

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