Mick’s 64th birthday is today. It made me think about all the times we’ve celebrated his birthday on tour. There have been many…even last year we were in Paris celebrating it. But today we will just be traveling…. and there is a proper party planned for the day after our show in St. Petersburg. We made ourselves ready for the travel after our wake up routine. It’s about a two hour flight and there is a two hour time change…losing time. The travel and flight went by quickly…however, the customs and immigration took some time after we landed. We finally cleared through some time after 8pm and loaded up in the bus to take us to the Astoria hotel. All of us enjoy seeing the new places, and our faces were glued to the windows on the way to the city, taking in the scenery. Rose Lane and I remarked on how strong all the architecture we viewed was. Very sturdy buildings, but with a sense of elegance. The streets were generously wide, and we crossed several beautiful bridges over rivers and canals as we came closer into the city.
We had read some about the city in preparation, and Rose Lane was even reading a book on Catherine the Great.
Here we are very far north….and the sun doesn’t set until very late…around 11pm or a little past…and not for long, getting light quite early in the morning. So you could see very clearly as we drove in, and when we arrived at the Astoria a little after 9 it was still very light. I had called our friend Tom Conner, who was coming in from his house in France with his girlfriend Laura and a couple of their friends….but didn’t get him and left a message. I had thought we might have dinner with them, but they had obviously made some other plans and had already gone out. Another good friend of ours, Ronnie Finestone, who works for the Andrew Marc fashion company (makers of fine leather goods…..I wore an AM jacket in my Vanity Fair photo shoot for their “Green” Issue), and his daughter Kat were coming….but I knew we wouldn’t see them until at least tomorrow. There were others coming that we had helped arrange tickets. So after getting to the Astoria we went to our room to drop off our bags and settle for a moment and try to decide on what to do for dinner. We always get a sheet with restaurant information on it, and studied it a bit….but not knowing anything about the locations of the restaurants and not really wanting to go out far, we went down to check with the concierge and see about options. Downstairs we ran into Dillip Doshi, a good friend that is originally from India, now living in London. Dillip was a famous “slow bowler” in the game of Cricket many years ago…and is good friends with the band…especially Mick and Charlie, who he has known for over 30 years. Dillip was largely responsible for us doing shows in India a couple of tours ago and is a very nice guy. We always enjoy seeing him…he usually makes at least three or four shows a tour. We spoke for a while and then we ran into Darryl, Lisa and our mutual friend “Doc” Weltler and his wife Renate. Doc is a Dr. in Austria, and is a long time friend of Darryl’s. He is sponsoring one of my solo shows after this tour…in a town outside of Vienna. We had seen him recently in Budapest, and he had brought Renate with him here to see another show. They invited us to join them for dinner in the hotel restaurant called Davido’s, and we gratefully accepted. We had a fun time together….and a very nice meal. Of course being in Russia we had to try the caviar…which was divine…and I ordered sea bream, also excellent. The conversations that passed between us were lively and full of anticipation about this new city for us…. none of us have ever been here before. Over our protests, Doc picked up the check. He claimed that since it was his and Renate’s anniversary that the “party” was on him. We thanked him and left the restaurant, headed to the bar. There we ran into Tom Connor and his group. Of course Laura, his lovely and sweet girlfriend…. and two folks who were friends of his from Boston…. Patrick and Ann. They had been out to dinner and were just returning. We talked to them for a bit, trying to sort out some plans for us to get together. However, they had quite a lot of things planned out and it sounded like we may not be able to fit in anything more than the time at the show together. They had plans the next night to go to the Opera, and had some outings that were leaving earlier in the day than we wanted to deal with. But none of us fretted about it, being grateful to have any time at all together. It was getting late, and Rosie and I decided to go up to our room and bid all pleasant dreams.
The next day we stayed in the bed late…. I never fare too well trying to sleep when there is a good bit of light coming in our room…and being here where at this time of year there is little darkness during the night, and given the fact that our curtains were just slightly less heavy than I would have liked, I had woken up several times. But I did manage enough sleep to not be too tired, The phone woke us up around 11:30, and it was Dillip calling to see if we were interested in going out with him for a while. We accepted the offer, agreeing to meet him down in the lobby in an hour or so and got up. After downing some coffee and showering ourselves awake, we went down to meet him. He had arranged a car and driver…and being a vegetarian had found a veggie restaurant for us to go to. So we loaded up and met our driver…. a heavy set fellow named Valori, who spoke at least some English…and made our way to a place where we had a nice late lunch.
After that we asked Valori to take us around the city a bit, just to get a feel for it and orient ourselves. He pointed out some of the more important buildings and monuments as we drove, using his broken English to try to tell us what they were. Eventually he took us to the Palace Square, where our stage was being set up just next to the beautiful and majestic Hermitage. We got out of the car and walked around the huge square, marveling at the sight of our stage being erected in the middle of this amazing place. This is going to be a very special and unique show, for sure! We saw many of our crewmembers, waving to them and giving them the “thumbs up” as we walked around. We also marveled at the Hermitage…. also known as the Winter Palace…and it made us excited about our trip to go inside on Sunday.
After a while Valori drove us a short distance to the Church Of The Spilled Blood (also known as the Church of the Resurrection), a beautiful Mosque and one of the famous places in the city. We bought tickets and went inside, awestruck by the beauty of the mosaic tile art in the interior. Oddly enough we saw Mick and L’Wren there. We could see him trying to hide from the crowd, having a large cap pulled down over his head… and decided not to go speak to him as we didn’t want to draw attention to them. But we did give him a nod and a smile and he did the same back to us. Back in the car we drove through the streets some more, but didn’t stop at any other sights, eventually making our way back to the hotel. We thanked Dillip for letting us tag along and went to our room for some down time.
I had been able to contact Ronnie Finestone, and we made plans to have dinner together. He called me to say he had arranged for a place and gave us directions. It was not all that far from the hotel, and when the time came later on we walked to the Stroganoff House as per his instructions. Wow, were we in for a treat! This beautiful place has been restored and made into a five star restaurant. Ronnie met us outside and walked us in to the bar where Kat was already sitting. We gave her a hug and sat down…. Ronnie had already ordered some Champaign for us. There was a trio playing quietly in a corner…a violinist, pianist and guitarist. They were playing some nice classical music, and we enjoyed the relaxed and refined atmosphere as we sipped the champagne and talked. Finally we got up and walked around the place to check it out. It is relatively small, and at the time we were the only ones there. We saw a beautiful large room that was all set up for what looked like about 20 or so guests…and found out it was for Ronnie Wood and company. Ronnie, Mick and Keith all had quite a lot of family with them, and obviously Ronnie had found out about this place and had made reservations. There were portraits of the Stroganoff family on the walls, and all the furniture and other accouterments in the restaurant were of fine make and character. We were led to our own private dining room…, which was an amazing setting. At one end of our very large and beautiful dining table (which could have easily accommodated 12 or so, but was set for just the four of us) was a large throne of a chair…and I couldn’t help but park myself there at least for a moment. Ronnie insisted that I stay there for the meal, and after some protesting I gave in and made myself comfortable. We could tell that we were in for quite a treat.
Our headwaiter, a nice young gentleman named Vladimir, placed on little silver holders an array of printed placards in front of us, which were our menus. He also gave us a large leather-bound wine list, which Ronnie pushed over to me. As we soaked in the elegant setting, I opened the wine list to find some of the most amazing (and very expensive!) wines I’ve seen offered in a long time. Lafitte Rothschild’s of vintage years were among the list…several of them costing well over a thousand Euros each…. one was over three thousand! I joked to Ronnie that we should try a case of it. I managed to find a bottle of Chablis and a bottle of Cabernet that were much more reasonable and Vladimir went to fetch them while we mulled over the menus. The four of us had a wonderful time talking and dined in what was the most unique and elegant meal that Rose Lane and I have had so far on the tour. My sea bream was amazing, and Ronnie and Rose Lane couldn’t resist ordering the beef and venison Stroganoff respectively. I think Kat had the same fish that I did. Vladimir and his staff took good care of us throughout the evening.
Not long after we first sat down the Wood family and those accompanying them came in. Rose Lane was sitting facing their room and waved to them as they arrived and took their places. After our meal we walked in to say hello to them…all talking about how amazing this place and the meal was.
Vladimir asked us if we’d like a little tour of the place, and of course we took him up on the offer. He showed us the Stroganoff family portraits, explaining who was who and giving us some history. He told us that one of the ways they made their fortune was in the salt business…way back in their day quite a lot of the food was preserved with salt, and the Stroganoffs had a lock on the market. He also took us down to the wine cellar…and showed us a couple of secret rooms that were behind walls with wine racks. They were revealed as he opened the entire rack of wine…the first into a sitting room with a couple of sofas and some puffy chairs as well as other furniture inside. Another secret room was a bedroom, nicely appointed. He told us that these rooms could be rented…for a thousand Euros per night. By then the Wood family had finished their meal and had joined us…and we all had fun gawking at the place.
Ronnie and Kat walked with us back to our hotel (they were staying at a different place, the Grand Hotel) and we went to the bar, ordering some Armeganac for after dinner drinks and talked about the fun we’d just had and the fun that was to come in the days ahead before we said goodnight to each other.
In the morning we checked our newsletter and saw that there would be a party after the show for Keith’s daughter Alex, who was turning 21. That sounded like fun. While we drank our java and got our day going, I went online and did emails and checked the weather back home, hoping to hear of some rain. It looked like we may have gotten some and I sent and email to Mike back home to inquire. However, he later replied that it had gone around us and we’d missed it. Too bad, as I know we could use some…he said it had been three weeks since any fell. Skoots Lyndon had sent me some more pictures of the progress of our renovation, and it looked like they were doing well. Both fireplaces and chimneys were finished and they were starting on a roof over our Great Room. After a time I went to the gym for exercise while Rose Lane did her computer work. It was raining off and on all day…. and I couldn’t help but think of our crew having to deal with that. Soon it was time for me to go to the gig…. I went down early so I could do some demos of a couple of songs in my dressing room for the guys that will be playing with me on my German shows. Most of the songs I was able to get to them via previous recordings, but there were two that there were no versions of that I needed to do for them. It was a bit difficult, as there was quite a lot of noise and distraction with the crew still setting up and people coming in and out of the tent rooms that were our digs for the day. But I managed to get some crude but usable versions of them down on my little digital recorder and made MP3s out of them that I could email to the guys. I made it to the Rattlesnake after that to eat something and then made up the set list, anticipating what Mick would want to do and giving him a few choices in places.
This will probably be the last show where we’ll stick to the “greatest hits” standard set, and I look forward to mixing it up at least some in the next few cities.
With all that behind me I went back to the RI to see our guests. I spent as much time as I could with them, making the rounds and doing the social duties. Keith wanted to have a little warm up of playing in his room, so we all gathered there where we ran over “Little T & A”. His daughter Alex had requested it for her birthday, and he wanted to oblige. That went fine and we also ran over “She’s So Cold” which I had put in and that we haven’t done in a few shows…with Bernard doing the vocal duties. After that I made one last visit to the Rattlesnake for final visits with our friends. The rain had continued to come and go, but seemed to be slacking up more as time came closer for us to hit the stage.
When we did finally go on…to about 40,000 in the audience…. there was a beautiful rainbow off to the right side of the stage, to my left.
It made for an amazing site to look out and see all the people in the Square, the Hermitage to our right, and the rainbow arching over the The General Staff building and the Alexander Column in front of us. Although there were some heavy clouds above, luckily the rain held off throughout our set.
I have to say that I believe it was one of the best shows of the tour so far….and certainly the setting made it one of the most memorable. It was light for most of the performance….dimming ever so slightly up until the last three or so songs when it finally went into nightfall. I believe this show will live in the memories off all that were there….I know I’ll never forget it!
After taking our bows and being hustled back to the Astoria, Rose Lane and I made ready to go to Alex’s party. There was transportation leaving just past midnight going to a club called “Decadence”, no doubt appropriately named. We were amongst the first to leave, and while our driver got lost a bit on the way, we finally arrived close to 1am. The club was downstairs and all had been neatly set up…. tables, a couple of huge buffet offerings of fine caviar, hors d’oeuvres, fruit and of course a couple of bars. Oddly the bars only offered vodka or champagne…I started with the latter and graduated to the former, careful not to overdo it! There was music playing as we came in..surprisingly at a reasonable volume. I have to admit that we hate going to these places with loud and intrusive dance music being pumped at “volume 11”…especially after playing a show. Rose Lane and I enjoyed some caviar and the other offerings, settling down at a table after a time. It wasn’t long before we were joined by Chris Jagger, Mick’s brother. He and his wife Carrie sat with us a little while before going off to another table further back. Chris had injured his knee somehow recently and was walking with a cane, obviously in some discomfort. Still, we had a nice chat before they changed tables. Other guests were arriving and the party began to flow. We made rounds speaking to many folks. My old pal Matt Clifford was there, and we had a nice time together with him for a bit, Keith and all the family arrived taking seats at a table that had been reserved for them, and in due course the affair was in full swing.
Jane Rose whispered to us that there was some “entertainment” planned. We couldn’t guess what it could be….but didn’t have to wait long to find out. Soon about 20 or so men paraded in to some traditional Russian music, all dressed in bright red and black Cossack garb and (including the big black furry hats) carrying swords…and one carrying a small golden colored wooden cannon. They proceeded to line up, singing and dancing, clapping their hands to the music. The dancing progressed to athletic proportions….with them jumping over their swords, doing the fast spins and low leg kicks that is typical Russian. It all went on quite a while, getting wilder and wilder by the minute….and was so much fun to watch. They were all quite good….but especially the fellow that looked to be the leader….a short guy with a large mustache that really danced well Eventually they got Alex into the act, and she seemed to be loving the challenge….we all certainly loved watching this wacky and wonderful scene. The grand finale was when they shot off the cannon with a big “pow!” and gray smoke billowed out. Entertaining it certainly was, and we all got caught up in the celebration and the moment…everyone clapping and laughing at it all. Great fun!
Not long after the Cossacks paraded back out we went to say happy birthday to Alex and paraded out ourselves, exhausted but with big smiles on our faces. What a day!
Party, party, party! Tonight is the party for Mick that L’Wren has arranged. Whew, gotta get my “party chops” up! But before that, we are meeting up with several members of our group to go to the Hermitage. Shelley Lazar had arranged a tour for us, and those of us that signed on met downstairs at 12:30 to go. Supposedly there were some 40 or so that had said they would go, but when it came time to meet, it turned out to only be less than half of that. No matter, we were all happy to be able to go, and got on a nice big bus for the short ride there. We were escorted inside and then split up into three groups with English speaking guides for each. Rose Lane and I were with our tour Doctor, Brad Connor, and his wife Sharon and son David.
Our guide was a very knowledgeable lady named Irene, and she led us to the first room, explaining the history of the building (or rather buildings…there were several as through they years it has been expanded) and giving details about the amazing collection of art, furniture, and other collectables throughout. We were awestruck with all of it…and of course there was way too much to try and see it all in the short hour and a half that we had to spend there. We had hoped to see the section that housed the jewels…but unfortunately it wasn’t part of our tour.
There were several standouts…. the collection of Matisse, Monet and other Impressionist painters…but also other Masters such as Goya, Reubens, Velázquez and many more…and two Leonardo da Vinci Madonna paintings. There was an amazing special clock that is difficult to describe…but is made up of several gold animal statuary figures…the largest being a peacock, but also including a rooster, an owl, a squirrel and other figures…. we were told that when it chimes on the hour that the figures move…the peacock spreading his feathers and moving his head and the cock crowing the hour. The whole thing stood about six feet tall or so and even though it was shut off not allowing us to see it chime, it was just awesome to behold. My World Book offered this synopsis of the Hermitage and the city of St. Petersburg:
Hermitage is a famous art museum that stands in the center of St. Petersburg, Russia. The complex of buildings forms the largest museum in Russia. Part of the collection is housed in the former Winter Palace, once the home of the czars of Russia and a building important in Russian history.
The official name of the museum is the State Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage extends about 1/2 mile (0.8 kilometer) along the banks of the Neva River. The museum has almost 400 rooms, with about 3 million works of art from different civilizations, historical periods, countries, and peoples. The Hermitage is internationally known for its collection of European old master paintings. It also has outstanding collections of classical antiquities as well as wide-ranging collections of Russian art and the art of the Far East.
Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli designed the exterior of the Winter Palace in the late Baroque style of the 1700’s. The palace was built between 1754 and 1762 on a site where several earlier palaces had stood. The interior was designed during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, primarily in the Classical style.
Czar Peter III became the first resident of the Winter Palace. After overthrowing the czar in 1762, Empress Catherine the Great lived there until her death in 1796. Catherine founded the art collection when she imported about 225 paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists in 1764 to decorate rooms in the palace. Catherine had a long, narrow building, called the Little Hermitage, built along the west side of the Winter Palace from 1764 to 1767. The building soon housed much of the imperial art collection. From the mid-1700’s to the mid-1800’s, several more buildings were added to the palace complex.
During the October Revolution of 1917, the Hermitage was the headquarters of the provisional Russian government. Between 1917 and 1922, the Winter Palace and the other Hermitage buildings were converted into a state museum.
Saint Petersburg (pop. 4,695,400), formerly Leningrad, is Russia’s second largest city. Only Moscow, the capital, has more people. St. Petersburg is a major Russian port and one of the world’s leading industrial and cultural centers. The city lays in northwestern Russia, at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea.
St. Petersburg was the first Russian city built in imitation of western European cities. Its magnificent palaces, handsome public buildings, and wide public squares resemble those of such cities as London, Paris, and Vienna. In the early 1800’s, a commission that included noted Italian architect Carlo Rossi established a design for the center of the city that includes a series of squares.
The city has had three names. Czar Peter I (the Great) founded it in 1703 as St. Petersburg. After Russia went to war against Germany in 1914, at the start of World War I, the name was changed to Petrograd. The country’s officials chose this name, which means Peter’s City in Russian, to get rid of the German ending burg. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed under the leadership of Russia. In 1924, the Soviet Union’s Communist government renamed the city in honor of V. I. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Communist Party. In 1991–as Communist influence in the Soviet Union declined–the people of the city voted in a nonbinding referendum to restore the name St. Petersburg. In September 1991, the Soviet government officially approved the name change. In December 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, and Russia became an independent nation.
The city lies on a marshy lowland where the Neva River empties into the Gulf of Finland, at about 60° north latitude. Because of its far northern location, St. Petersburg has very short periods of daylight in winter. For about three weeks in June, it has “white nights,” during which the sky is never completely dark.
The center of St. Petersburg is on the southern bank of the Neva. This area includes the main business district and most of St. Petersburg’s famous buildings. Many fine examples of baroque and neoclassical architecture have been preserved in the area, and few modern structures have been built there. The city has about 900 small rivers and canals and about 400 bridges.
The historic Winter Palace, which was completed in 1762 and is now part of the State Hermitage Museum, stands in the center of the city. The palace was the winter home of the czars. The General Staff Building, designed by Rossi and completed in 1829, stands across Palace Square from the Winter Palace. Several blocks away is the Cathedral of St. Isaac of Dalmatia, whose massive golden dome dominates St. Petersburg’s skyline. The Peter and Paul Fortress, begun in 1703, is the oldest building in St. Petersburg. Many Russian czars are buried in a cathedral at the fortress.
The center of St. Petersburg is surrounded by old residential areas that have stone or brick apartment buildings. Near the outskirts of the city are thousands of modern concrete apartment buildings. The western section of St. Petersburg is the chief industrial district of the city.
Several luxurious palaces built in the 1700’s still stand in three suburbs of St. Petersburg–Pavlovsk, Petrodvorets, and Pushkin. These palaces, famed for their architectural excellence, were summer homes of the czars. Today, they are popular resorts and tourist attractions.
Education and cultural life. Over 40 institutions of higher learning are in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg University, with about 20,000 students, is one of Russia’s largest universities. The Conservatory of Music, established in 1862, is the nation’s oldest music school. Its graduates include such famous composers as Sergei Prokofiev, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. The Choreographic School trained such famous ballet dancers as Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, and Anna Pavlova.
St. Petersburg is the home of many fine museums and theaters. The Hermitage, the largest museum in Russia, is known throughout the world for its masterpieces. It exhibits outstanding collections of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture; Islamic art; and Baroque, Renaissance, and French impressionist paintings. The Russian Museum has a large collection of Russian art. The Kirov Theater presents ballet and opera. Dramatic productions are offered by several theaters, including the Gorki Academic Theater, the Pushkin Theater, and the Young Spectators’ Theater.
The city has an important place in Russian literature. A number of famous Russian authors have used St. Petersburg as a background for many of their works. These writers include Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Andrey Bely.
The people. Most St. Petersburgers are members of the Russian nationality, or ethnic, group. Jews and Ukrainians are the city’s largest minority groups.
Few St. Petersburgers own automobiles, but the city has an efficient public transportation system of buses, streetcars, and subway and commuter trains. The city has such problems as air pollution and overcrowding. But it has far less crime than many cities of similar size.
Economy. St. Petersburg has been a major shipbuilding center since the early 1700’s. During the 1800’s, it became an important manufacturer of machine tools. Today, the production of machinery makes up about 40 per cent of the city’s industry. Other important products include chemicals, electrical equipment, textiles, nuclear reactors, and timber.
St. Petersburg’s industry and location make it an important trade and distribution center. The city has an excellent port and is served by 12 railroads.
History. Peter the Great founded the city as St. Petersburg in 1703. He had visited Western Europe and wanted to bring Western culture and technology to Russia. He made St. Petersburg his “window to the West,” a showcase for his efforts to westernize Russian life. Western architects played an important role in the city’s construction. In 1712, Peter moved the nation’s capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The new capital soon became the intellectual and social center of the Russian Empire. By 1800, over 220,000 people lived in the city.
The city played an important part in many major events in Russian history. In 1825, an unsuccessful uprising against Czar Nicholas I took place there. In 1881, a group of Russian revolutionaries assassinated Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg. Early in 1905, troops of Czar Nicholas II killed or wounded hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in front of the Winter Palace. This Bloody Sunday slaughter led to the Revolution of 1905.
The city’s name was changed to Petrograd in 1914. Riots and strikes occurred there during the Revolution of 1917, which ended czarist rule in the country. Late that year, Bolshevik (Communist) forces seized the city and formed a new government, headed by Lenin. The Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow in 1918. In 1922, Russia and three other republics united to form the Soviet Union. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad upon Lenin’s death in 1924.
In 1934, a Communist Party leader named Sergey Kirov was assassinated in Leningrad. His murder touched off the Great Purge, during which the government’s secret police killed or imprisoned millions of people. During World War II (1939-1945), Leningrad was a major target of Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. The Germans laid siege to the city from September 1941 to January 1944. Historians estimate that about 1.7 million Soviet people may have died in and around Leningrad, most of them from starvation, during the siege of nearly 900 days. The city was badly damaged by the attack, but it did not fall.
A large number of the city’s historic structures were rebuilt after World War II. The city also carried out construction projects to overcome a severe housing shortage. Large numbers of apartment buildings were constructed to meet the needs of the city’s growing population. In 1966, city officials adopted a long-range program aimed at achieving a better distribution of housing, office buildings, and parks.
In the late 1980’s the Communist Party’s tight control of the Soviet Union began to break up. As a result of elections held in 1990, non-Communists won control of Leningrad’s government. In August 1991, conservative Communist officials attempted to take over the Soviet national government. More than 130,000 people turned out in Leningrad to demonstrate their opposition to the coup. The coup failed within days, unleashing anti-Communist sentiments throughout the nation. In September 1991, the city’s Communist name of Leningrad was changed back to the original St. Petersburg. In December 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved. Russia and other former Soviet republics became independent nations.
After enjoying the guided tour, we decided we’d stay and look around on our own for a while. But before continuing, we wanted to get a bite to eat as we hadn’t eaten anything since we’d awakened and were starving. The cafes there didn’t offer much, but we took a sandwich and some chips and went to sit down, finding a table in the back of one of the rooms in the cafe area. As we were finishing up, we saw Charlie, Tony King and Erik Hausch ordering coffee. They sat with us and told us they were going to see the Impressionist exhibit and invited us to tag along, which we did. When we got there, we ran into Ronnie and his entire crowd. He was running around taking pictures of his favorite paintings, and we all had a laugh that we had run into each other doing the same thing on a day off.
Rosie and I tried to get into the section with the jewels, but it was closed, so we headed back to the hotel, walking along the Neva River and enjoying the scenery along the way.
Back at the hotel we took some down time, reading and taking a short nap. The notice about Mick’s party said that we were all to meet downstairs at 9:15 to be taken to a “secret location at the appointed time we went down to meet everyone…this was to be a very private affair for just our entourage and family members…no guests. Finally we did load up, and we found ourselves in a van with among others, Kent Smith, our trumpet player. We talked as we drove towards the undisclosed location…and Kent said he had walked around the area we were in the previous day. As we got closer, he commented that there was a famous place nearby where Rasputin had met his fate…called the Yusupov House and that he had walked by it and noticed it looked like something was being set up. Indeed, that’s exactly where we were headed. We pulled up to the front and entered the place, which has been totally restored and is one of the most elegant and amazing houses of it’s kind in the city. As we walked up the beautiful marble stairs, Mick and L’Wren were greeting everyone…. and some of the staff that was there directed us to walk around the halls so that we could see some of the restored rooms. Truly beautifully appointed, mostly in all original furniture, it was very impressive. We all relaxed and marveled at the fine house we were in, enjoying each other’s company. We spied a nice looking gentleman dressed in a purple suit that we didn’t recognize…and soon he came up to us and introduced himself. He was the famous lyricist Tim Rice. He was as nice as he could be and seemed to know a good bit of my work, which was more than flattering considering his amazing career. Among other great songs and projects, he did all the lyrics for the songs of the Lion King, with Elton John doing the music. We had a very nice conversation and he told us about some of the new projects he was working on. I also ran in to Tom, a well-known poet and playwright that I had met last year in Porto, Portugal during our tour. We had hit it off and had a good conversation back then. He is also a friend of Mick’s, and it was great to see him here and to talk a while. Later gymnasts, ballerinas and traditional Russian Folk Musicians entertained us and there was dancing in the courtyard
. Rose Lane and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole affair, but chose to leave after an hour or so. It really was quite a party, and hats off to L’Wren and all involved in planning and executing it! Mick was certainly feted in regal style.
Notes on the Yusupov Palace:
The Yusupov Palace, a unique historical landmark of federal importance showcasing architectural trends from the 18th through 20th centuries, has been rightfully acclaimed as the “encyclopedia” of St. Petersburg aristocratic interior design.
The history of the palace and surrounding estate dates back to the epoch of Peter the Great, who founded St. Petersburg as his brave new Russian capital. The palace and estate took nearly 200 years to acquire its present shape with contributions from the best architectural talent of the time: J.-B. Vallain de la Motte, A.M. Mikhailov 2nd, B. Simone, H. Monigetti, W. Kennel, A. Stepanov, A, Vaitens, and A. Beloborodov.
Five generations of Russia’s elite aristocratic dynasty, the Yusupovs, owned the palace between 1830 and 1917. Many of Russia and St. Petersburg’s historical highlights were associated with the Yusupov family nest on the Moika.
The palace went down in Russian history as the place where the mysterious monk Grigory Rasputin was assassinated, a Siberian peasant who became the spiritual mentor and friend of Nicholas II and the Royal Family in the early 20th century. The tragedy took place the night of December 17, 1916 in the private annex of the young Prince Felix Yusupov, now housing a historical exhibit recreating the assassination scene.
In 1925, the Yusupov Palace was handed over to the city’s pedagogical intelligentsia. The palace still serves as a Palace of Culture for Educators, which in the 1990s was reinvented as a diversified historical and cultural center promoting museum activities, theater performances, music concerts, cultural and educational events.
The Yusupov Palace is one of the few aristocratic mansions still in existence in St. Petersburg that have retained both their bold facade suites, and their less glamorous premises: an art gallery, private mini-theater, and luxurious private chambers of the Yusupovs, where the warmth and charm of their erstwhile owners still glows.
The palace’s magnificent interior decorations, restored through the hard work of St. Petersburg’s best restoration artists, welcome Russian and international fans of history, art, music and theater.
For more info and pictures, go to: http://www.yusupov-palace.ru
Our last chance to see some of St. Petersburg…. but being a Monday, most of the museums were closed. So after the usual morning routine we went out to find something to eat. In the lobby we ran into Lori McGoran, who said she had just come from a nice meal at an Italian restaurant not far away. She said it was just past an Indian restaurant called Tandoor. That sparked a desire for both of us for Indian food, and we made our way there. We love those flavors, and it had been a while since we’d tasted them, so that’s where we went. It was a nice lunch and we savored the spicy tastes of the basmati rice, chicken masala and crispy fish. After that we walked back towards the hotel, and decided to venture into the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, just across from the Astoria.
We had seen it every day in it’s beautiful majesty, and had not gone over to explore it, and this was a good opportunity to do so. It is an absolutely extraordinary place….and we took a good many pictures as we wandered through the inside of the Cathedral. After that we decided to make the climb up to the balcony…some 200 or so steps. It was a bit crowded, but worth the effort as the view of the city from up there is really something to behold. Those ventures took up a good couple of hours, and we went back to the room to rest up a bit, both of us feeling a bit tired.
We rested up some and tapped on the computer a little before making plans for dinner. Ronnie had told us about a fish restaurant they had gone to and we decided to try that….so I made us a reservation through the concierge for Triton at 9. We eventually got out of the room and went to the hotel bar for a cocktail before heading over. It was a very interesting place…with aquariums scattered throughout the restaurant. As you walk in, there is one under your feet in the reception area, and the walls have them in intervals all around. There is even aquariums in the tanks of the toilets in the bathrooms!
We were led to our seats, but immediately were a little uncomfortable as there were a couple of smokers sitting near us and we were forced to breath in their cigarette and cigar smoke, which was not pleasant. Plus, one of them, a guy sitting right next to us, had his cell phone on and it kept ringing without him answering it. So we eventually hailed down our waiter and requested a different table. The waiter was very accommodating and led us into a different room where there was no one else occupying space…so we had it to ourselves. We were served a very good meal there, and the service was superb. The Chablis Grand Cru made a palatable accompaniment. This would be our last dinner in St. Petersburg, and we enjoyed lingering in the private setting for a while before going back to the hotel where we went to our room to start packing up our bags for the morning collection.