Peterhof, The Three Piglets and The Georgian Restaurant
Once again, Pasha – who is really growing on me and Margaret by now – is patiently waiting for us outside of our hotel. Today we’re going to Peterhof – Peter the Great’s summer palace some 100km out of Petersburg. Pasha drives us and talks quietly. Tanya translates selectively. Neil and I have our cameras pointed at the roadside. Pasha takes us on little detours in the country – some really scenic and picturesque places, telling us about various people and politicians who visited here. Tanya and Pasha tell us – ‘Our president Putin is from St Petersburg’.
Peterhof is indescribable. We pay to get into the gardens alone; going into all the different buildings within this massive 18th century estate weighed with gold, would cost more money. It takes us the entire morning just to walk from the central fountain to a small fishing cottage (one of many mansions here) and back. It’s a hot day and it all feels exceptionally healthy (despite the omnipresence of hordes of tourists).
By the time we finish our walk we are all starving. But Pasha has another gastronomic surprise up his sleeve for us. He takes us to a village called Pushkin and to an unimposing looking Russian restaurant called The Three Piglets. Compared to the splendour of Peterhof, it feels very cold and dark in this relatively kitschy place (its windows are actually completely covered up). Again – the food is glorious and we heap a lot of praise upon Pasha who is actually sitting with us at the table for the first time. He’s got his glasses off, revealing beautiful blue eyes and quite a shy attitude. He’s sipping orange juice, and I guess correctly that he’s a Virgo. Led by Tanya we’re trying to persuade him to set up a business selling tours of authentic St Petersburgian restaurants. He nods endearingly, smiling and not saying very much in return.
Then he takes us back in his ‘troika’ (I’ve just realised that his car plate - T901KA - actually reads 'troika'!) to our hotel where we collapse into our respective siestas.
Tanya has booked us into a Georgian Restaurant – recommended to her by her son who is the editor of Moscow’s Time Out. I’ve arranged for my friend George Rodostheonous to meet us there too (despite the fact we’re staying at the same six-bedroom guesthouse, this is the first time we actually get together properly as he has finally given his paper at the theatre conference!). Deterred by the prices at the restaurant (and the fact that we are not quite hungry yet) we decide to have drinks first at a neighbouring bar where we also wait for Tanya’s contact to bring us passes for the Hermitage. We sit at a table outside the bar. There is a Gypsy girl parading past us on a horse and asking for money. The horse shits from time to time and we decide to stay mean. Then we spot another Georgian Restaurant directly opposite us which turns out to be very good. We end up being the last to leave the restaurant having had a really good time; and by the time we come out, it is raining.