Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 7 (Neva River Cruise)

Wow, so I just typed a bunch of stuff on Part 8 and then realized that Part 7 hadn't been published yet!  Oops.  Guess it's going to be a two-fer today.

After the ride on the St. Petersburg metro, we met up with some other tour groups and did a cruise on the Neva River.  It was too cold to really want to spend a lot of time out on the deck taking pictures, though, so mostly Lee and I stayed inside the boat.  Lee did brave the cold for a little bit to take some pictures.


There's part of the Hermitage.  Seriously huge.


I think that red tower-y thing is a lighthouse?


There's the Peter and Paul Fortress; we visited it later on in our tour.


Boat...


Another boat...man, my commentary is fascinating.


Another building along the canal and sadly I have no idea what it is.


Lee tried very hard to get a riverside shot of the Church of the Spilled Blood, but there was always something in front of it.

Ok, keep scrolling down for Part 8!

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 8 (Yusupov Palace)

I actually wrote the text in this post *before* Part 7, not realizing that it hadn't been published yet.  Oops.  But here it is anyway.

We get our household goods tomorrow, yay!  I can't decide what I'm most excited to get.  The bed?  The couch?  All my crafty supplies?  It's a toss-up.  Here's hoping our stuff is all in good shape when we see it tomorrow.

But for tonight, let's go back to St. Petersburg.  Today's post is all about Yusupov Palace, which was the home of the Yusupov family, who were kind of like the Russian equivalent of the Rockefellers.  I think the Russians are a bit more free with the term "palace"; this place was a very large and grand house, but certainly not on a level with Versailles or the Catherine Palace.  But it was still probably larger than all the houses I've lived in put together : )


These two were the last Yusupovs to live in the palace before the Russian Revolution made being an aristocrat a seriously dangerous business.  However, more famous than any of the Yusupovs is one of their guests:  Grigori Rasputin.  Yeah, that guy!  Yusupov Palace is where Rasputin's murderers conspired to do the deed.


Three of the co-conspirators waited upstairs while Rasputin was being entertained in the basement and presumably poisoned.


The conspirators got nervous that Rasputin wasn't expiring fast enough, so Felix Yusupov panicked and brought down a revolver and shot him.  He was also clubbed, maybe stabbed, and then thrown into the frozen river, and since then a legend has sprung up about how the conspirators tried to kill him six ways from Sunday but that in the end he drowned.  However it happened, Rasputin was murdered, and this is where it happened.

The rest of the palace is much less murderous.


Quite the chandelier and staircase.


And there's another light fixture for you, this one I think in Irina Yusupov's bedroom.  Irina was Tsar Nicholas II's only niece.


And there's her whole bedroom, which is at least as big as all of the bedrooms in my house put together.


Let no surface go unadorned!  The ceiling.


Fancy furniture...


I want a harp!  Actually I think it would be cool to learn how to play the harp.  Then I could be just like Amy Farrah Fowler.


Unfortunately I've forgotten what part of the house this is exactly.


'Nother ceiling.


And there is the very posh theater inside the house.  And nowhere in this post are there pictures of Lee or me to prove we were actually there.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 6 (Metro Ride & Miscellany)

I figure if I don't get a move on, I won't get through the Baltic cruise pictures before the end of the year, so I've got another post ready for today.  I think this one's gonna be a little light though...it's some miscellaneous photos from the start of the day on our second day in St. Petersburg, and in all the moving chaos I'm not sure where my trusty lil travel notebook is, so...well, the pictures are going to have to speak for themselves, that's all.  And I think they might be out of order.


It's a church...with onion domes!


The first thing we did that morning was head to the subway, our guide was insistent that we ride the subway though I'm not really sure why.  I think he did mention that St. Petersburg has the most deeply underground subway system in the world though (it goes under the Neva River, so maybe the Neva is deeper than the Thames and the Seine?  Because Paris and London have subway systems going under a river too).  It did seem to take a LOT of stairs and escalators going down to get to the platform.  So we rode the subway one stop, then got back on our van.  Anyway, the two subway stations that we saw were a.) very clean and b.) decorated with some pretty fancy mosaics, like that one.


Lee and my dad play this game online called World of Tanks and if you click on that picture to see it larger, you can see that we found the world headquarters for the game.


There's another church...that I don't remember the name of...but I like the blue domes!


Ok, maybe the photos are out of order because I did all the ones from the big camera first and these are from the smaller camera, but here's another subway mosaic.  Lots of the ones I saw depicted characters from Greco-Roman mythology.


Like Poseidon (Neptune) here.  I have another Scarlet Quince cross stitch pattern that depicts Neptune and his horses coming in on a wave in the sea; maybe one of these days I'll get to that one : )


Yeah so I totally don't remember what this is.  Sorry.


I think it's another church.  We had a bit of time before our next item on the itinerary so the tour guide squeezed in a quick visit to a couple of things where we could take pictures outside.  It was COLD and a bit drizzly though.


This is a statue of a famous Russian writer, but I can't remember who.  Seems like it wasn't Dostoevsky or one of those ones that Westerners would recognize, but a dude who's famous in Russia.


And that's it for today!  Next one will be better, promise.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 5 (Catherine Palace)

Hi Mom!!!  I've been neglecting the blog lately...but I've been going through stuff that's been in storage for 7 years, deciding what's really still worth keeping.  And also procrastinating, because after a while going through all that stuff just gets kind of boring.

But enough of that, let's go back to St. Petersburg.  More accurately, let's go to Tsarskoye Selo, 15 miles away from St. Petersburg, for a visit to the Catherine Palace, the summer home of the tsars.


The Russians love their gold, man.


The first Catherine palace was built by Catherine I, but it's been torn down and redone numerous times and is now most associated with Catherine the Great (she was #2) which is funny since she didn't particularly like it that much.  But it looks pretty spectacular now, and that's just the front gate.


Proof that I was there!  I like the blue color on the walls.  Did I tell you already why a lot of the buildings in SP have brightly colored facades?  The climate is too harsh for things like the marble that's so popular in Italy, so they did this instead.  I like it; gives SP a different vibe than other European cities (and yes, SP is and was always meant to be a European city).


Ominous skies.  We did get sprinkled on.


All that trim that's painted mustard used to be gilded; Catherine was a bit horrified at the expense of it (and she thought it was tacky) so she had it taken off.


Hey look, it's got my initial on it!  Think that means it's mine?  Teehee.


So just inside the door is a beautiful staircase (pic later I think) and this area used to have a lot of Oriental decor, so this is part of the original decor that was kept after it was renovated.  One of the times it was renovated, because there were several.


Let no surface go undecorated, not even the ceilings!


This is Lee's beautiful artsy shot for the day, and you can see the staircase in the background.


Check out the ballroom.  Covered in gold, natch.


That, my friends, is the most awesomest looking ceramic heater in the history of ever.  I kind of want one.  I have no idea where I would put it, but I kinda totally love it.


So you can see a bit more of the decor...they actually had those big ceramic heaters in quite a few of the rooms.  And I think that this was one of those places that has the really thick walls because inside the walls are servants' passages so they can get from place to place without being seen.  They probably doubled as clandestine make-out spots.


Another pretty photo from Lee : )


So somehow paintings of dead animals in the dining room are supposed to make you hungrier?  I think not.  (Look at the rabbit in the painting to the right.)


So the interior of the Catherine Palace had to be completely redone after World War II because the Germans looted and vandalized it on their retreat from the siege of Leningrad (which is what St. Petersburg was called at the time...for a while it was Petrograd, too).  Lucky for the Russians, they had a good collection of photographs of the interiors from before the war so they were able to recreate a lot of the original splendor.  That included the famous Amber Room, which we were not allowed to photograph; part of the restoration of the Amber Room was financed by donations from Germany to say sorry for that whole looting thing.


Love the woodwork on the floor in here!


Heyyy there's the staircase again.


We didn't see much of the gardens at Tsarskoye Selo; it was kind of drizzly.



Catherine Palace selfie!  And that's all she wrote for today.  We got our unaccompanied baggage today, which included some stamping supplies, so I'm going to go hug and love on them and organize them and maybe if I'm lucky I'll even make something.  Ta-ta!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Word Crimes :)

Mom, this one's for you!  Mom wrote me an email about Weird Al Yankovic's new album, coincidentally right after Lee had looked it up and we listened to the whole thing on YouTube.  So Mom, for your viewing pleasure, check out "Word Crimes".


IT'S LIKE HE KNOWS ME.  Grammar sticklers unite!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What's shakin'?

Howdy, folks!  As expected, it's been some crazy times since we left England :)  On our last evening in London, we decided to finally go eat at the Hard Rock Cafe.


The London Hard Rock is the very first Hard Rock.  Technically we ate in front of it since we had a table under that awning to the left, but Lee says it's CLOSE ENOUGH  ; )  We both ate waaaaayyyyyy too much (including dessert!) so after that we spent about an hour sitting in Hyde Park lamenting the fact that we ate waaaayyyy too much food.  Then we did this.


Paddle boats on the lake!  That was fun.  Gorgeous weather for our last day in London, we had a good time.  Except for the overeating part...probably could have done without that.  So anyway, Lee and I had told both our families that we were coming to Texas on July 5, but we were LYING.  My mom's birthday was on the second, so we got in that afternoon to surprise her.


We had a super tight connection at Houston, so this is us being really really relieved that we made it on the second plane because we seriously thought we wouldn't.  And to the 3 dozen or so people who kindly let us cut in the line to go through security so we could make that connection, a thousand times thank you!  Because then this.


We didn't get any good pics from right when my parents saw us come in the door at the Mexican Inn, but here's my selfie with Mom.  She kept looking at me and just laughing all through dinner.  Dad said he'd had a fleeting thought that Lee and I might show up to Mom's birthday dinner, but then he thought nah, how would they know we're at Mexican Inn?  Because the A-Team was in on it the whole time, that's how ; )  Never did it occur to Dad that all four of us would be liars!


On the 4th of July, we went to the A-Team's new house for a little get-together, so there's my parental units and their adopted grandson Logan.  And also the awesome '50s-diner-ish black and white floor.  The blue room behind Mom is the laundry room, and the A-Team plans to paint bubbles on the wall in there, which I think will be pretty cool.

And then on July 5, this happened:


New car new car newcarnewcarnewcar!  Dad, Lee, me, and my new 2013 Ford Escape, Penny Lane.  We had to drive down to Houston to get her but she's awesome : )  Now we just need a car for Lee, because so far he's driven Penny more than I have.


Got to meet up with my high school buddy Chris for dinner at Tony's!  Misty couldn't make it that night due to having to bomb her house for fleas unexpectedly, but then...


Chris and I drove over to Dallas to meet up with Misty a couple days later.  I don't think I've laughed that much in a long time : )  Love those two!


So Adam and Adrienne both went out of town right before Lee and I were leaving, so for one night only we had five dogs at my parents' house.  There's Sadie and Vader in the back, and then the A-Team's dogs Dingo and Cleo next to Dad's dog Ginger in the front (G just *would not* look at the camera).  I kinda want to steal Dingo, he's hilarious. I'm soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy to be reunited with Sadie and Vader!  I missed their little furry faces for two months.  Ok, so it was nice to have a break from vacuuming, but it's worth all the vacuuming in the world to be back together with them now.


Dad wanted to go out to a hibachi restaurant for his birthday, so here he is with all three of his daughters : )

On the 19th, Lee and I drove to Alabama with his parents (who kindly towed a trailer for us) and the first things I unpacked in our new house were these guys:


Meet Consuela and Carlos.  Are they not totally AWESOME?!  (If you don't think they're awesome, you're probably on the wrong blog.)  My mom painted these at her great-aunt's ceramics studio a few years before I was born, and for having moved all over the place and then been relegated to the garage for who knows how long, they're in pretty good shape.  Carlos has a couple of small chips, but Consuela looks pretty good.  I noticed them sitting on a shelf in the garage, covered in dust, and I kinda pointed them out to Dad, and he asked if I liked them, and I said yes, and he asked if I wanted to take them, and Lee tried to give me eye mail and I said yes anyway : )  I do lots of things that Lee thinks is weird, but he just doesn't get why I love Carlos and Consuela.  I'm not sure either, though I do remember them from my childhood, but I just think they're awesome.  I did promise him that once we get all our stuff, I can put Carlos and Consuela in my craft room where he doesn't have to look at them.

So now all we need is to get all our stuff here from storage and from England!  It'll be nice to sleep on a real bed rather than an air mattress with a slow leak in it, bleargh.  And we've eaten at Panera twice in the last two days, because reasons.  Sadly the Sonic here doesn't have chicken strip wraps (what the heck?!) but maybe we can start a petition or something...

Oh yeah.  We got Internet at the new house yesterday and haven't gotten a whole lot accomplished since then, but that's because we're catching up all at once on all that Internet time-wasting we *would* have been doing normally for the last week or two.  Teehee.

Cheers, peeps!