Moscow - Cultural weekend with the kids by Caroline Legrand.
My girlfriend Svetlana took it upon herself to organise this year's cultural trip (our second edition) and as a Russian citizen with a Russian base she invited us all to stay in Moscow. I am beside myself as I am 1/4 Russian and have never visited. My beloved babushka was too scared to go back and I have been dying to go to the motherland ever since I was a little girl. So here is the Russian odyssey...
Thursday: Packing for Russia...well, the whole snowstorm thing simply means more luggage and more stuff...arghhh! I like to pack light and this is just not going to happen, is it? First thing on my agenda: get the snow/ski stuff from my storage (luckily next to my apartment building). For the boys I take: Sorel boots, ski suits, warm fleeces, ski jackets, hats, gloves, ski socks...yep, I am off to Siberia (almost) so got to be smart. I have to remind myself at times that it is not me carrying the luggage but the airplane...phew. As for me, there is no way I am walking around Moscow in my ski suit! Niet Niet Niet...only my beloved Castor hide boots (from the 60s and given to me years ago), my Anya Hindmarch fur coat and matching hat. Voila, warm, stylish and will go with day and evening outfits.
As we are arriving at 3am local time on Thursday, it only leaves us two nights there so packing is really easy: the Saint Laurent sexy dress will now find its way to Moscow for the Bolshoi night (the most jet setting piece this season it has fitted in perfectly in Gstaad, New York and now will be vowing the Russian soil...thank you Hedi) with the Alexander Wang boots. For Friday evening, I am packing my cool lace print Stella McCartney silk trousers with a Balenciaga sweater (scooped at the back making it both edgy and sexy) and my Stella McCartney booties. I love Stella, and to me she epitomizes the London woman/look perfectly.
Black skinny jeans, grey skinny jeans...it’s variation on the same theme really and I go for comfort and matchy matchy looks...
The luggage is ready and my perfectionist side looks at all of the bags in the hallway and wonders if there is anyway I can leave stuff behind - it seems too much for a 3 day weekend. But then again, a friendly voice in my head tells me “don't worry, it’s not you carrying the luggage, it’s the plane”...and off we go!
Airport: Checking in is surprisingly easy and smooth with all the boys. Sadly a girlfriend has problems with her visa which is missing in her passport and isn't able to travel with us. She is determined and is off to the Russian tourist visa office to go get the damn thing. They messed up and they owe her. Anyway, I wouldn't want to mess with her so they are in trouble and will make sure she leaves London as soon as possible!
I’m actually looking forward to the 4 hour flight to Moscow which gives me time to catch up on reading. My girlfriend’s book "Luv it" (by Zena Prawl) has just come out and I can't wait to be one of the first one to read it.
She is a shaman/healer and specialises in children....
3am: Privet Moscow! It’s only 11pm London time but 3am in Moscow when we land so we are all tired but equally so excited about being in Moscow! It is always the most amazing feeling to arrive in a new country and new city, isn't it? At least it is for me. I am a true Sagittarius and travelling is the one thing I would never be able to give up in life...
Friday: 10:30am wake up call. Tight schedule today so we need to get going. We start with a fabulous breakfast at Cafe Mania (Tchaikovsky Cultural Center, Kudrinskaya pl.) of traditional Russian pancakes and caviar....da da da, bring on the caviar!
It’s pretty obvious this is not going to be a weekend where we eat light...it is pancake week in Russia and caviar weekend for us! Cafe Mania is liked by oligarchs, artists and others alike...the cappuccino is delicious; everyone's food is yummy. I am impressed I must admit...the boys are in heaven, I mean pancake week???
Sadly the snow starts to fall harder and the wind starts to pick up too...I look at my girlfriend Leyla and ask her if it’s me or this looks like a blizzard?? Luckily we are all dressed warmly and appropriately for the blizzard...but my fingers start to freeze which means the temperature is starting to drop well below zero...uh oh...
The Kremlin is huge! Our guide tells us all about its past, the Napoleon story where the little man thought it would be easy to conquer Moscow only to realise Moscow isn't Paris and resort to flee the town with his tail between his legs (kind of...) and famished. I love having guides when we go to new cities, it saves time and you learn all the interesting facts!
After the K, we go to the T, i.e. the Treasury...oh dear, now I have seen many jewels in my short life (eh eh) but these are just absolutely amazing. We barely dare look at them though as we are surrounded by many bodyguards who look like James Bond baddies....they look mean! Not a smile and ready to break our necks if we put our eyes too close to the glass windows which hide the goodies...I try to work my charm on one but no way I can get him to crack a smile (maybe he doesn't like my Castor boots?). The designs are so unusual and very cool really. But the most surprising thing is that our boys all knew about the sizes and colours of the stones! And you want to know why? Because of Minecraft! Yes, they are actually learning interesting facts while playing computer games, this leaves us quite flabbergasted!
After the T, we walk down to the many Cathedrals surrounding the Kremlin. My favorite one is the Dormition Cathedral…it was where Russia's most important events used to take place and it is simply breathtaking.
Late lunch at Beef Bar. Boys are done and only care about the snowball fight they have been promised. Enter the snowsuits!
Evening: Our hosts Svetlana and Artem take us to Cafe Pushkin.
We have a huge table for all of us and the table is literally covered with food: pancakes, caviar, sausage rolls (Russian style), Salade A La Russe, assorted pickles, pelmenis (Russian raviolis), rack of lambs, fish....you name it!
I stick to my pancakes and caviar as I eat mostly vegetarian...I am in heaven.
The hosts start to toast, and after champagne, we get vodkas, then wine...yep, my 3-month alcohol detox has truly found its death in Moscow!
Saturday: Up early again. Whilst the kids go to the park for yet another snowball fight, the ladies go shopping. Svetlana decides to take us to her favourite (and best) fur shops in Moscow. We do some sightseeing in the process and then land in the fur mecca.
OMG. The furs are beautiful, and I am struck by how cool some of the pieces are.
They are designer-esque pieces at ridiculous prices: £1000 for an amazing fox fur cape I have my eyes on (the eyes want it but my Coutts banker tells me to close the eyes and walk away... which I do) £2500 for a stunning white mink coat…
I keep the business cards, styles and prices all on record...for the next trip! Kimberly does buy a gorgeous sheared Mink coat and matching hat and is literally flying out of the store.
Everyone walks around in amazing furs in Moscow. And unlike us, very few wear snow boots when walking around. I guess they are so used to it and they just throw their boots at the end of the season? I am surprised at how sophisticated the Muscovites are. Pretty handsome folks and well dressed...we are all in stitches as we pass by a poster promoting Kevin Costner's upcoming concert...too funny!
After our little shopping trip we head for lunch with the boys and Svetlana has booked something fun and traditional for them, a restaurant called Expedecia (Pevchesky lane, 6).
It specialises in everything from the Russian Arctic. Besides the restaurant, Expedecia sponsors a cross-country race from Vladivostok to Murmansk. I am glued to the movie they are showing of the said race and cannot believe the landscape and scenery on show! I am blown away and would love love love to do a trip there (Cactus’ in Russia? Grand Canyon like scenery? ) On the menu we order smoked Reindeer with salted black milk mushrooms, frozen sushi fish, Kamchatka salmon caviar with sour cream, Elk meat grilled, with cep mushrooms fried in sour cream, cabbages, potatoes with sauce from rock cranberries and cloudberries. And after reading the Anastasia books, I am in heaven as I get to taste the famous Cedar oil...it’s delicious. (Putin goes there regularly by the way).
After lunch the boys go to the circus while we go to get our hair done (I manage to explain to my non-English speaking hairdresser that I don't want pineapple hair at the front...how he understood that is a mystery but he did).
We head out for our night at the Bolshoi to watch "Sleeping Beauty". The girls are so excited. We all dress up fabulously for it.
We arrive at our box, which is simply, the best box in the house! Kimberly shrieks with delight at the opening act and even has a little tear coming down her cheek.
Now, to me, that is what life is about. Enjoying special moments, letting your emotions be seen and never pretend to be too cool for school and blasé about life and its moments. Watching these beautiful ladies around me in this beautiful surrounding, I know I am truly blessed. The ballet is simply a feast for the eyes. The costumes are magnificent, the dancers are perfection on earth, Tchaikovsky's music is just magical...
I watch the Russian crowd enjoying their national treasure. There are a lot of young children in the public and I feel the urge to start taking my own sons too.
After the ballet we head to the Bolshoi restaurant (Petrovka ulitsa 3/6) which is owned by Arkady Novikov (London's Novikov). The food is delicious, the decor is fabulous. We toast to our wonderful day and evening at the Bolshoi.
Sunday: its Jake's 10th birthday! Leyla and I get up early to go see the Red Square as the others have all seen it already. We walk briskly from the apartment to the square, a mere 15mn walk. It’s early on Sunday and as we walk the streets of Moscow, church bells are playing.
So serene, so magical. I am falling in love with Moscow. The square is vast, and mostly red brick buildings...hence why it is called the Red Square.
We all head for brunch to celebrate Jake's birthday. Our hosts have organised a magician and a mad scientist to entertain the boys. Boys get to eat pizzas and chocolate pizzas!
I finish the weekend the way I started it....with pancakes and caviar! Ahahha.
4pm: We fly back to London, with wonderful memories of a truly amazing weekend. We packed it all in, and can't wait to come back for more. From Russia with love xx