St. Petersburg, I

Dear friends and family, and future friends,

Uneventful 3 hour flight from London to St. Petersburg. We were met by Nikolai, a guide who had been set up for us by a friend of Inez and Andrew, Linda Predovsky. Linda, with much help from Inez, had done so much work putting the trip together, I don't know how we can ever thank her. Nikolai helped us get sim cards for my phone (which we had unblocked). We were going to go right into St. P., but clearing customs and getting our bags took so long, and traffic can be so congested in and around St. P., that we decided to wait a couple hours for Andrew, Inez, Paula and Sammy. When they arrived, it almost seemed like a miracle: little cells coming together in the same spot after traveling vast distances.

We dropped our bags at our modest, but perfectly fine apartment. It has a great location, a block and a half from the Hermitage Museum. We then drove onward to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on Vasielevsky Island where the rest of the travelers are staying. Some photos below of our beautiful walk back to our apartment.

This part of St. Petersburg, along the Neva River, reminds me of Stockholm. Maybe Stockholm in need of a paint job. A beautiful day and refreshingly brisk after the excessive heat of New York and Southern France.

Why St. Petersburg, you may ask? A beautiful city, surely, but it's a bit of a distance. Our good friends, Inez Storer and Andrew Romanoff invited us to go along with them. They are both artists, and Andrew is a Romanoff and 2013 is the 400th Anniversary of the Romanoff dynasty. St. Petersburg is the city built by Peter the Great, one of Andrew's ancestors.

When Inez and Andrew invited us, we were just preparing to go on our last trip to London for Chuck Close's show at the White Cube. We tossed the idea around a bit, could we take off so much time again, so quickly? Don said, "You know, Era, it's the opportunity of a lifetime." I said, "It's the opportunity of several lifetimes." And it was decided. Fortunately, we have a great staff at Magnolia who are filling in competently and cheerfully.

These are the White Nights in St. Petersburg, when it stays light almost all night. Note the long shadows on the above shot. It may be 10 o'clock at night.

This is the group of traveling companions, minus Sammy Zelcer, who is taking the photo. L to R, unidentified young man in lovely green t shirt, Era, Andrew Romanoff, Paula Kirkeby (a powerhouse in the SF Bay Area art world for many years and a good friend of Inez and Andrew), Inez Storer and Don. Photo taken in the Church of the Spilled Blood.

And another photo with Sammy.

The Church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory by his son, Alexander III. There are definite highs and lows to being a tsar.

Approaching the Church of the Spilled Blood; the spires rising above the trees like some incredible Russian fairytale.

The Church in all its glory and hallucinogenic splendor.

I loved the wrought iron fence surrounding the church. 

Perhaps the inside is even more of a mind blow. It's completely covered in mosaic.

The quality is amazing.

A composite pano Don put together.

To borrow from Ian Fleming (and Chuck Close),

From Russia with Love,

Era and Don