Autumn style, sugar coated

The calendar is a funny thing, it cannot be trusted! Take September for example. While the weather is staying baking hot in Dubai, Australians are cheering the beginning of Spring and somewhere in Siberia kids are building their first snowman. So, where on Earth do I go to show off my new cashmere coat? I decided to head to Eastern Europe for some serious sugar coated autumn style. Salut, St. Petersburg!

Secret: Read about my summer adventures in SPB here and here.

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Peterhof, St. Petersburg

It’s true, the autumn’s here! I feel its presence in cooler breeze and shorter days… September sky is getting heavier allowing the weather to rapidly switch from fatally gothic to dreamy rococo. Autumn is here to charm with the ever-changing palette of colours and forever steal our memories of sweet summer days… With no time to lose, I encourage you to assist me in embracing the change of season with the sounds of l’Autunno by Vivaldi accompanied by a skinny flute of sparkling rose. Let’s savor this moment as every day is unlike any other. Follow my ten steps to glam up!

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On the streets of St. Petersburg

1. Allure. There is nothing more stylish than a great hair or… a complete lack of it. Scented with long lasting perfume (I love Dior Addict on a windy September afternoon), your flirty locks lure attention, making you truly unforgettable. Go for it!

Secret: I use Fountain Cosmetics moisture hair mask for extra softness and shine. Available here.

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Rooftop bar, W Hotel with the view on Admiralty building, Saint Petersburg

2. Red lipstick. Forget about pink, orange or purple. Forget about lighter or darker shades. Power play the upcoming autumn melancholy with a beauty statement. Red will make you irresistible in any circumstances and in any weather. Think red!

Secret: Red lips by Feral Cosmetics, semi-matt Envy. Available here.

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Feral instinct

3. Lace it. There is no bad weather! Whether it’s sunny or rainy, dry or muddy put your comfort first because heels are killers (in every context). Get a pair of funky laced sneakers and be a big city girl who values independency and time. Own that walk!

Secret: I love shoe hunting at Farfetch for their all-time discounts.

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg

4. Fashion forward. Splash your outfit with a little colour. Play with a scarf, long necklace or umbrella (your choice) or use your fantasy and creativity to enhance the “every day in a coat” look. Experiment with your individuality and you’ll never look back.

Secret: I love scarfs by the upcoming designer Kris Jane. Available here.

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Nevsky avenue, St. Petersburg

5. Trench that trend. They say elegance is attitude, but a classy trench coat on a rare sunny day will be as impressive. Plus it may save you from an unexpected rain and annoying paparazzi by softly camouflaging you in the 19th century architecture. A good trench coat gently wraps around your curves, hiding some of your secrets and keeping open what is needed to be seen. Add shady shades for a super cool spy look.

Secret: I’m wearing trench coat by Elementy Simple wear . Available here.

6. Candy it up. The fun of wearing layers is an opportunity to sneak in a fancy piece and shine it at the right moment. There is always that special dress that reminds you of sunshine, summer secret affairs or an exotic vacation. Be the eye candy, get noticed. You are awesome!

Secret: I’m wearing “Pink pearls for my girl” silk dress. Available here.

7. Polish it. For the rainy day at the museum (I ended up strolling through a spectacular art collection at Hermitage) opt for a “good-girl” look with focus on beige tones and natural fabrics. Play the cliche element of your outfit right and every photo you take can easily be a page from a glossy magazine.

Secret: I love Ruelala.com for style inspiration.

8. Warm coat. Never underestimate tricky autumn weather and invest in a comfy, yet warm cashmere coat. Apart from saving you from sneezing, it has all the opportunity to turn into a timeless and favorite forever piece. Choose a flirty cut and pay attention to the fabric. It has to be either cashmere, wool or a mix of those two. No compromises!

Secret: Aritzia offers awesome selection of coats (especially when they are on sale). Contact Canadian customer care for worldwide delivery.

9. Heavy military coat. Military design is as hot as ever. A heavy maxi coat tailored to compliment your curves or tiny waist is a must for those special nights out to the ballet or daytime downtown walking sprees. The best part – you can wear whatever underneath, including a naughty bodysuit, this coat will keep your warm!

Secret: A tiny purse with metallic details will add a little sparkle. I love DVF handbags (keep an eye for price cuts), not to mention her statement coats. Available here. 

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10. Stockings. This one is quite simple. Say no to nudes and instead welcome opaques with microfibre in brown, grey, black or maybe cosmic red. When the weather behaves show up in fishnet tights in all unimaginable shades.

That’s it! You’re ready.

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Imperial weekend

When you think you’ve seen it all – visit Saint Petersburg and fall in love. It’s a city of many secrets, built with enthusiasm and passion (Window to Europe). It’s the capital of White Nights (from May to July) and elegant bridges (342+) inspired by the architecture of Venice, Amsterdam and Versailles (c’est vrai!). Its historical center has lived through the Romanovs, the Revolution, Bolsheviks, Stalin’s terror, a second world war seige and the fall of the USSR. But! Strolling down the Nevsky you could barely tell, St.Petersburg is as Imperial as ever.

There is more. While a trip to St. Petersburg will appeal to your heart and soul, it’s also a bargain. With the local currency (ruble) at its lowest rate for years, dinner at a posh restaurant feels like a family meal at a diner. Sounds awesome, right? Note these 5 important safety rules prior to traveling  (I tried and tested them all):

  1. Money and passport – inquire at the hotel for a reliable money exchange provider. Pick pocket alert: leave your passport in the hotel room locker and carry a photocopy instead. Keep a hand on your wallet in crowded places and on the Nevsky.
  2. Carry a hotel business card with their address and phone number for emergencies.
  3. Download Uber and use it as it’s the safest way to travel the city. Figuring out local public transportation may take some time and there is none to waste. Don’t take random cabs on streets.
  4. Purchase tickets for sightseeing in advance (queues are endless and a waiting is a spirit killer).
  5. Download offline Google maps (you’ll thank me many many times!).

Well, now that you are packed with wisdom, let’s plan and explore!

The State Hermitage museum (a must-see!)

Open from 10:30am to 6pm, except Mondays and on Wednesdays from 10:30am to 9pm.

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Hermitage is one of the oldest and largest museums of art, craft and culture in the world. Founded by Catherine the Great, today it consists of Small Hermitage, The Great Old Hermitage, The New Hermitage, The Winter Palace (all 4 are inner connected), The Hermitage Theatre, The General Staff Building, The Menshikov’s palace, Peter’s Cabin, Porcelain Museum and The Storage center. Uffff… they say it takes 15 years to review the whole collection if one spends more than 1 minute admiring every piece (plus travel time and lunch breaks as art watching always makes me hungry).

I advise to purchase 2-days ticket online (soft copy is enough) which allow you to skip a massively annoying line and to sneak through a special entrance, otherwise the wait is loooooong.

 

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Start at the Main Hermitage Complex at the Palace Square (don’t miss the “Gold Drawing Room” in the Winter Palace), break for lunch and cross the Palace Square to continue at the General Staff Building where a mind-blowing collection of Impressionists, Cubism and works by Picasso are displayed. In the evening head out for a ballet at the Hermitage Theatre. While there, search for signs of ruins of Peter the Great’s former Winter Palace integrated into a new structure.

On the second day, visit Menshikov’s Palace, Pieter’s Cabin and the museum of Imperial Porcelain Art. Beware, this itinerary will require some serious fitness preparation, but if you are a determined art enthusiast you won’t curse me. Bring your camera to memorize all that your eyes couldn’t snap.

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Open from 10:30am to 6pm and then from 6pm to 10:30pm. Wednesday is a day off. Online tickets

St. Isaac’s Cathedral took 40 years to build (1818-1858) but once complete, it became  one of the most impressive landmarks in the city and a symbol of Imperial Russia. The cost of construction was as fantastic at 1 mil in gold rubles. St. Isaac’s dome is plated with pure gold and rises 105 m high. The structure rests on 10,000 tree trunks, and the building features 112 granite columns and accommodates around 14,000 visitors. Its interiors are lavishly decorated with mosaics, sculptures and icons. Walk up the colonnade (300 steps only) to enjoy a magnificent view of the city and to stay fit. Photography is permitted.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Open from 10:30am to 6pm and then from 6pm to 10:30pm. Closed on Wednesdays. Online tickets .

The Church of Spilled Blood (above) is a rare example of patriarch Russia architectural style with its mosaics, onion domes, bright paint and gold. From first glance, you’ll notice how closely it resembles the 16th century St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow (below). Do you agree?

The Church of Spilled Blood was commissioned to forever mark the place where Tsar Alexander the Second was fatally wounded in a terrorist attack. Funded mostly on royal money and donations from private investors, it took more than 20 years to build in the 19th century and around 30 years to restore in 20th century. Its picturesque exteriors and interiors are in great contrast with the neoclassical, monochromatic surroundings, giving an impression of deep nostalgia for the old, pre-Peter the Great Russia.

The Mariinsky Theatre

It’s as posh and Imperial as it gets. Built in neoclassical style, the theatre’s facades are monumental, sharp and aristocratically chilled. This impression changes as its interior decor turns into a sheer delight. Once in, you’ll notice yourself a part of a multicultural beau monde eager to be amazed. Just a few minutes into a performance you’ll see a change in the eyes and faces of people around you. A grumpy looking grey-haired man in a tuxedo will vigorously clap, exclaiming “Bravo, bravo!”, and a northern beauty with slightly cold features will gently smile through tears. It was here that famous prima-ballerina Anna Pavlova, at the age of 8, chose her destiny after watching “The Sleeping Beauty” for the first time in her life. And it was here where she danced her debut.

Book tickets for opera or ballet in advance as they are highly desirable and it’s very common to spot theatre-lovers desperately inquiring for an extra ticket at the entrance, just minutes away from performances.

P.S. I arrived in Saint Petersburg at the beginning of July. It was unusually cold, gloomy and rainy. The same evening, I realized that couldn’t imagine my life without memories from this beautiful at every angle city. Yes, it’s moody, with dark sides and puzzling, but with every uncovered mystery, with every discovered place or piece, a hunger for more and more develops.

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Window to Europe

In Moscow, June 1672, a Tzar was born with a vision. He was unusually tall, bright, clean shaven, non-religious and kept his eyes to the West.

He dared to challenge traditions, domestic structure and the modus operandi of Medieval Russia, advancing it to be the new powerful kid on the block. He led a massive cultural revolution by cutting beards, opening math and engineering schools, encouraging youth to travel abroad, forcing French fashion on his court, and introducing potatoes (ha!) to Russian cuisine. He moved New Year’s day from September to January 1st and adopted the German custom of decorating Christmas trees. Believe it or not, he was also the father of Russian ballet. Sound like a lot? Well, he could also twist and roll silver plates and assemble anything ranging from kid’s chairs to real warships. He topped it all when in 1703 he chose the site and laid the foundation stone for the new capital of New Russia, Saint Petersburg, which he believed was and forever would be the”window to Europe”. Long Live Peter the Great!

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St. Petersburg in 1720 by J. Homann

The legend says that when Tzar Peter and his entourage scouted islands in the Neva river delta for a perfect location (or a fancy sunset view), an eagle appeared right above them and that’s how it started. Well, superstition runs deep in Russian DNA 🙂

Modern St. Petersburg consists of 101 islands, it’s the largest, youngest European city with the most number of bridges and a confident promise to amaze. Today follow me on a tour of Peter’s city…

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We’ll start across the Neva river and the Winter Palace on Zayachay (Hare) Island at Peter and Paul Fortress. It was built as a bastion to counterattack Swedes, but soon turned into the “Russian Bastille”, where prince Alexey (Peter’s son) conspired against reforms and was interrogated and imprisoned. While still fresh and eager, climb up the Bell Tower, the second tallest local structure to discover its tragic past (a victim of several fires caused by lightining) and a panoramic view from 42m platform. Then enter the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the eternal home of Romanov family, and the oldest church in the city. It was built in stunning early Baroque style, greatly influenced by Western Europe. Its interiors were decorated with golden ornaments, icons and bible-themed paintings. On the way out, look up to spot the famous angel weather-vane on the golden spire.

Continue your walk along the walls of Peter and Paul Fortress, take panoramic photos of the historical center on the other side of Neva river and then turn to Petrovskaya embarkment to visit the first residential house, a little cottage built for Peter himself in record 3 days, Cabin of the Peter the Great. Protected from the harsh weather by the pavilion, it was originally assembled in traditional Russian log cabin style (izba) with large windows and a high roof. Interestingly, its exteriors were painted to imitate a brick pattern as Tzar was building a city of stone on a limited budget.  The interiors were simple, practical and decorated with essentials only.

Photo credit St. Petersburg’s card

Our next stop is the opposite of practical. It was one of the fist luxuries, proudly designed for the eyes and soul by the Tzar himself and with his active involvement (he loved to be a part of all his projects). So cross the Troitskiy (Trinity) bridge to take a romantic stroll down the alleys in the Summer Garden. Yes, it was laid out as an entertainment park filled with early 18th century urban luxury trends – strict geometric principales, trimmed trees, swans, rare plants, sparkling fountains and marble statues. The river that supplied water to feed its fountains was eventually called Fontanka. Through its history, the Summer Garden has witnessed secret rendez-vous, powerful celebrities, assassination attempt, love scandals and impressive fireworks to end imperial ball. Sadly, most of the marble statues (except one) were replaced with copies during the latest restoration. Keep an eye for the Peace and Victory statue, it’s the only original left.

Now it’s time for “I spy with my little eye”. Turn around and find another golden spire with a weather vane in the form of a little ship shining high in the sky (or use Google maps). It’s the Admiralty tower strategically located on the Neva River in close proximity of Peter and Paul fortresses canons, so it could be easily destroyed if overtaken by enemies. The Admiralty at first was functioning as a shipyard to build the new Russian Baltic fleet and to support Peter’s Imperial ambitions (produced 262 warships).  Peter himself was seen over there working hard as a craftsman on docks. Today the Admiralty is one of most recognizable symbols of the city and a starting point of 3 main avenues. One of them is Nevsky prospect.

It’s impossible to visit St. Petersburg and miss the Nevsky’s. It’s a happening place, the hub of entertainment and nightlife, one of the best-known streets in Russia and a history itself. Around 2 million people walk up and down it every day (pickpockets too, beware!). Nevsky is lined with fancy shops, restaurants and the most impressive buildings in St. Petersburg, including Kazan Cathedral, Singer House, the Passage Mall and Anichkov Bridge across Fontanka River. Stop over here for a water adventure that will take you on a tour of bridges and water canals to discover St. Petersburg from a different angle.

Our next stop is Menshikov’s Palace located right in front of the Admiralty. It was built for a childhood friend of Peter the Great, his supporter and later the first governor, Aleksander Menshikov (not of noble origin but promoted to Duke by the Tzar). Being the first stone residential building in the city and a magnificent structure featuring a rare mix of Baroque style with traditional Russian architecture, the palace was often used for official receptions, balls and carnivals. Rich interiors were decorated with silk, gold, Dutch tiles and marble. The legend says that many of the guest were frightened to step on unusual looking 3D parquet designed by Peter himself and kept their feet up while seated.

If it happened that the eagle responsible for Tzar’s decision flew through time, this is how amazed it would be by the beauty of this eternal city (watch the aerial video)

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Photo and video credit: TimeLab Pro

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