What I love about travel is the unexpected.
I am writing from St. Petersburg, during the time of the White Nights, where the sun sets at midnight. It is beautiful here. The city is full of canals, cosmopolitain food, and kind people. There were two roller blading guys moving down the sidewalk and through the crowds today at NHL speed – and with NHL strength and skill. I smiled with pleasure. The cab driver sped me to my hotel yesterday at 100 kph – on city streets – and stopped for crosswalks. I was amused, and noted that I will not rent a car here. I don’t jay walk. I find a cross walk and wait for the light.
Those of you who do not travel for a living – that was a warm up for a small story.
For this trip I booked a lovely hotel close to the Hermitage – the small private kind that I like best – and allowed myself a few days to rest and enjoy the city before my meetings.
The cab driver dropped me off jet lagged (+9 hours) and I happily tumbled out with my bags at the reassuring logo of the hotel. Then I was puzzled.
Instead of a door, I found a buzzer and a gate.
Well, the only thing to do with a buzzer is to push it. So I did. There was a noise, so I push/pulled on the gate. It opened. I went through. I did not find a hotel. I found this:
and then I found this:
If you look very closely above the graffiti, you will find the signs for two hotels. Go to the right they advise. So I did.
Then I found a door with another buzzer. I will tell you now that you are seeing Tolstoy’s courtyard. You do not have to believe me. I am probably confused, because I definitely do not speak Russian…but the hotel binder definitely says Tolstoy…!
When I went inside, the lobby left even me a bit speechless.
It took a few deep breaths (this is not a James Bond movie…this is not a James Bond movie…I am NOT in a James Bond movie!) to figure out that I should go up the stairs to the next landing. Sure enough, I found a third buzzer there, and that final buzzer opened Aladdin’s cave.
The hotel is lovely. They make us crepes for breakfast, and leave out cookies for bedtime tea. It is spotless, very very quiet, and the rooms are modern and spacious. I am delighted. They are very patient with my English, which is good, because my Russian is really really non-existent!
The beauty of this tiny adventure – and why I had to share it with my arm chair followers – is that it reminded me to trust and to stay curious and calm. Things are not always what they appear to be – they are frequently hiding something delightful…just waiting to be discovered…