Sunday, 5 October 2014

In Moscow...

It was an early start. Nothing worse. A morning flight. Not good as it meant I had to be at the airport two hours before take-off, so let's say I had to be there by 0900hrs. That meant a taxi arriving to pick me up at 0730hrs. Worse still, I had shirts, unpressed and drying on a radiator and various gadgets charging in different parts of the house: digital camera in the living room; computer in the conservatory; iphone in the hall. Fortunately, my passport was in a folder along with all my necessary travel documents. Either way it meant little time, not only to say goodbye to my wife but to have breakfast. A cup of tea would have to do until I reached Heathrow Terminal Five where I later discovered that Wagamama offered an English Breakfast menu.
Healthy brekkie at Wagamama, Heathrow T5.

I ordered tea, which arrived in a glass cup, and granola – very nicely presented with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, star fruit, kiwi and natural yoghurt. I could have opted for something unhealthy, but decided to stick to my guns and keep the old weight down. I'll admit, however, that I was kind of banking on some 'airline food', you know the rap: foil container full of chicken, mashed potatoes and diced carrot, a dash of gravy; a dessert and a rock hard bread roll that, for some reason, I always just accept. But no, lunch consisted of nothing more than a chicken Caesar sandwich and a mini KitKat (and when I asked for another mini KitKat I was told that portion control dictated that one meal comes with one mini KitKat, but she'd see what she could do). She did bugger all so I was champing at the bit by the time I reached the hotel and was, therefore, elated when I discovered that the restaurant, the BBCafé – which was not owned by the hotel but an integral part of it – was open until midnight and was quite busy when I arrived around 9pm.

My rather dingy hotel room – not so much the room's fault, but the lighting – gave me cause not to expect much from the restaurant, but I was to be pleasantly surprised. Fortunately, I'd purchased a copy of the Observer at Heathrow airport and now I waltzed into the restaurant, Observer under arm and looking forward to an evening of simply reading various articles by the paper's learned correspondents (of which there are many).
Russian beer – very pleasant.

Siberian Bird-Cherry pie – surprisingly nice.
The restaurant looked incredibly promising: night lights (or tea lights) or perhaps even 'candles' adorned every table and there was a cosy feel to the place. I could have sat in the main restaurant area, but opted instead for what might be a conservatory of sorts (I'll get a better idea in the morning as the BBCafé also serves the hotel guests their breakfast). I was offered an English menu, the waiters and waitresses were not only pleasant but efficient (no fretful waiting around wondering if I'd be served) and the food was good too. I opted for minestrone soup followed by a selection of grilled fish, a glass of red wine (a surprisingly small glass, but I'd ordered a Russian beer too so I wasn't complaining). For dessert I chose a Siberian Bird-Cherry cake, a thin layer of chocolate covering a kind of moussey, cheesecakey layer on a cakey base – that's the best way to describe it. There were three ornate dollops of raspberry sauce and a delicate tubular lattice work of chocolate resting on the edge of the rectangular glass dish.

All-in-all absolutely perfect and just what I needed. When I arrived at the airport after a fairly pleasant flight (I had an aisle seat - 27D) I searched around for a taxi and soon found myself racing down the motorway towards the city centre – I think I'll be getting the train back. But it was dark and even as we reached the centre of town where one could clearly see the colourful minarets of what I assumed were some of Moscow's must-see buildings, it was gone 7pm and I'd have to postpone any sightseeing I had planned for the daylight hours.
Blurred Moscow from a speeding taxi...

When I left the airport, the motorway into town was flanked on both sides by dense forests, but this eventually thinned out and gave way to blocks of flats and petrol stations and all the things you'd expect to see from a car window as you edged ever closer to the city centre: coaches, lorries, cars, bus stops, supermarkets, flats, you name it – Moscow was like anywhere else in the world, the only thing undecipherable for me was the Russian language. While I could make out distances, ie '500m' there was no way I could understand the road signs or the billboard advertising, although, earlier, back at the airport, all the signs had English translations and that's how I found the desk to order a taxi into town

The hotel room was better than I was making out earlier. In fact, as I mentioned, it was not so much the room but the lighting that gave the place a gloomy appearance. Reading in bed would be painful as there were no bedside lamps, but unlike my hotel in Germany the other week, there was a wardrobe and it had 'normal' hangers, not the irritating thief-proof variety that simply prove that a hotel doesn't trust its guests. This hotel did trust its guests and there was further evidence of this – the minibar. It was full! Most hotels in the UK have the little fridge, but its either locked or empty. I rarely use minibars so its all academic and besides, there's one of those office mineral water dispensers down the corridor, but can I bothered in the middle of the night to leave the room, walk along the corridor and pour myself a glass of water? No. I've got a minibar!

There's also a Samsung television and BBC World is on channel 24. Talking of the BBC, British Airways' High Life magazine was carrying another John Simpson column, this time on New Guinea or, more importantly, travel books. Not as interesting as past columns so once again I felt thankful for my copy of the Observer, not forgetting The Moth, a compilation of '50 extraordinary true stories' except that, while mildly interesting, I wouldn't go as far as to say they were 'extraordinary'.

The hotel room's wallpaper was a little ornate, shall we say, and there was an almost gypsy-like chintz to the soft fittings. The curtains and the bedspreads and cushions had glittery gold 'tassles'. There was woodblock flooring – nothing gypsy-like about that – and a shower but no bathtub. 

It's now gone 11pm here in Moscow but only gone 8pm back at home in the UK, but either way that means I need to hit the sack as I've got an early start in the morning.


No comments:

Post a Comment