Saturday, October 30, 2010

Party Bus

The 30 seater party bus comes with a stripper pole in the back. The 15 seater has leather couches in a semi circle around the stripper pole. It's cheaper to rent the bus, in either case, with the stripper because there's a fewer hour minimum for rental.

At this point you're asking for the punchline. But instead, here are some photos (to come). And the backstory....

We were going on a tour of the Baltika Brewery. Russia has a no-tolerance policy on drunk driving, and the public transit option takes 90 minutes from door to door, if all goes well. In researching how to get us to and from the brewery, our friend discovered the Party Bus. Here's the third party synopsis of his conversation with the bus rental people.

Friend: I'd like the bus without stripper. We don't need it for 4 hours though, can you get a better rate?
Company Rep: Well, if you rent the bus with the stripper, there's only a 2 hour minimum for rental so it's cheaper.
F: I don't want the stripper.
CR: But it's cheaper... How about you rent the bus with stripper, but we don't send the stripper along.
F: No, I don't want to risk the stripper accidentally showing up.
CR: But it's cheaper!
F: NO STRIPPER.

In the end, he got the "stripper" rate without the presence of the stripper. A good thing, because everyone's first comment upon entering the bus was "Where's the 'tansey pole'"?

More rules and regulations of the Party Bus include no opening alcoholic beverages while on the bus (you have to open the bottles outside, then get back on the bus to drink); no standing on top of the bus; no throwing things from the bus ... you get the picture.

This experience totally deserves its own posting, but the Baltika Brewery tour itself deserves its own shout out, which is forthcoming. As are the photos.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marchelli's

Friends of ours have a standing date night every week. I am both impressed and amazed. I try to keep in mind they only have one child but still .... for months I have been promising myself that Terry and I will go out more. We finally picked a night and decided to make this a routine event - not every week, but at least every other.

We knew the sitter was coming in a few hours, and we had no idea where to go. Terry makes a strange request - Italian food (we never go out for Italian), and further surprise - it sounded good to me. There's a place just down Vossitanya a few blocks so we decide to try it out. It's next door to a new Czech brewpub looking place so that was our backup.

First, the drinks. I had a glass of the midrange Montepulciano. It was very mediocre. Drinkable, but it had me wondering what the house wine was like. Terry got the home brew, which turned out to be almost a wheat beer. I really liked it and offered to trade but he liked the wine even less.

Starters: I had the Caesar salad with warm chicken (there was no plain Caesar options) and Terry had vegetables with Feta. Turns out he was the big winner on that course. My salad was oozing with too much dressing and the dressing had way too much anchovy in it. It was fine, to be honest, but nothing to love. The pesto drizzled over the chicken was nice but the chicken itself was tasteless, which was strange given that it was so moist. Terry's salad was so fresh and refreshing. The dressing was light and just the right amount, it was basically a Greek salad with really good ingredients. Yum!

Main: I wasn't too hungry so I got the smoked tomato soup. Delicious! We tried to figure out how it got the smoky taste which was strong but more in the finish than the first taste. I have to imagine they smoked tomatoes then cooked and pureed them into soup. Terry got a spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and salami. I didn't taste but he wasn't impressed.

Dessert: T stayed simple with ice cream and cappuccino. Turns out he's definitely the overall winner for tonight. I figured the desserts are all outsourced so there's a decent chance the apple strudel is tasty. Wrong! The pastry was heavy and soft and the fruit tasted lemony. It did come with cinnamon ice cream, which was tasty. In a city where a cheap blini takeout place serves loose leaf tea, I don't know what higher end places see in Althaus brand. The jasmine tea was worse than the stuff I got $3 for 100 bags in Chinatown.

Final verdict: If we actually want to go out for Italian food, we'll definitely be back. The standout dishes were good enough to warrant trying other dishes to find a full winner meal for each of us, and the location can't be beat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gotta love the Jews

My kids have waayyyy too many toys. It's ridiculous. We hide half of them and rotate every month or two because all at once they are overwhelming. So, because Hanukkah is 8 days of giftgiving madness, I asked my mom to substitute some of the toys with donations in the kids' names. She said fine, but she wanted Jewish charities. Fair enough.

In the spirit of getting the shopping done early, mom made the donations last month. We received in our Thursday mail run the nice notifications that a donation had been made in the names of our kids. The envelope also included .... drumroll please ....
Thank you notes and envelopes for A & Z to send back to mom to thank her for making the donations.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photos of Tsarskoye Selo

Sorry for the delay.  I have been fighting  a cold so I am going to bed earlier then usual.  This has slowed down the editing process.  Anyway here are that photos from Tsarskoye Selo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hurricanes are in Town

On Monday the Carolina Hurricanes were in town to play the St Petersburg SKA in an exhibition game. Lynne tried to put together an outing to game for the consulate. Unfortunately by the time we went to purchase the tickets there were only 7 seats left and none of them together. The CG was able to get some tickets from the NHL people on the ground. So, a bunch of Consulate people went to the game in the end. I would like to thank the NHL for helping us out with the tickets. All in all the game was really fun. The Ska ended up winning 5-3. It was interesting watching the Hurricanes play on the larger ice and with international rules. Also North American hockey is just tougher. Most of the hitting and all the fights were won by the Hurricanes.

One strange thing about the arena is that you cannot drink in the stands. During intermission everyone piles out to the concourse to get drinks and food. Then quickly drinks and heads back to the stands. It is very odd that you can drink almost everywhere in the city but not in the hockey arena’s stands. Last observations is that during the lineup announcement all the Hurricane players came out and perfectly lined up along the blue in nice orderly fashion. While the Ska players came out some lined on the blue line some skated around behind the blue line. They were very laissez faire about the whole thing. After being here for so long it reminded me a lot of Russian society. It is orderly but only so orderly.

Weekend Excursions

Heather and Diana are in town to enjoy the sights of St Petersburg. They have been going gangbusters to see as much as possible. On Saturday Lynne and I went with them to Tarskoye Selo. Of course we went in Catherine’s Palace and saw the Amber room. Pictures will follow as soon as I get a little down time. The key word the grounds and the palace is Ostentatious. My god, talk about over the top. The grounds are lovely but still a bit showy for my taste.

On Sunday Heather, Diana and I went to Peterhof. Again photos will follow in the near future. Very similar in style to most of the major St Petersburg palaces. The bonus on this palace is we happened to get lucky and follow an English tour guide around the palace. My Russian translation of the signs was a bit lacking. The overall best part was time of year. It was early enough that the fountains were still running, but with winter fast approaching the trees were starting to turn colors. It really was lovely with the changing colors. Hopefully soon enough there will be photos up.

one more reason i love Russia

The other night we went to a hockey game, it was approx. 10 km away from our house. I had to go late and meet everyone there, and I had planned to drive. As I was leaving the house Terry called to say traffic was awful and parking was sparse so I may want to take the metro. @#$%$%

The closest metro is a 10 minute walk away. I had no tokens so I had to wait in a rush hour type line for a token (the machine was broken). There was a huge backlog of people getting onto the escalator. BUT ...

the reason the line was so long getting onto the escalator was that everyone who was only standing (not walking) down stayed on the right side. Mind you, Petersburg has the deepest subway in the world so these escalators go a long, long way down. Seriously, NOT ONE PERSON was standing on the left side. I walked down the entire way. Take that, D.C. You suck!

With the walk, the line to get the token, and having to change trains to a different line, it was 40 minutes from my door to walking through security at the arena. I am so in love with Petersburg!

Monday, October 4, 2010

hockey

 
Carolina Hurricanes playing the Petersburg SKA tonight. Fun game. Two
players got a time out for 'fisticuffs.' that word is not used often
enough by far.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Visitors

The end of our hosting season ends with my sister in law and a family friend who brilliantly ditched the husbands and kids and came to see us and Petersburg. The excitement of arrival was marred by the absence of one of their bags :( and although it arrived to the country the next day, we didn't get our hands on it until the day after. That's a long time to wear the same outfit!

These ladies don't seem to need much in the way of food or sleep, they are an inspiration to a newer mother like me. In 3 days they have seen Catherine's Palace, Peterhof, the Hermitage, Church on Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral, a folkshow and ballet at Mariinsky. They have metro'd, bussed, cabbed, Hydrofoiled, and ridden in our car. And of course walked.

Terry or I joined them for most of these excursions. Photos will be put up when they are ready, but trust me, the fall colors are fabulous and touristing is so much nicer with fewer people and no oppressive heat.