Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Saturday, 11 June 2016

On a rainy day in Moscow

In any European city there is always a gallery or museum to keep you entertained on a rainy day.  In Moscow you take the metro.  Forget the dirty or graffiti ridden metros in other cities - Moscow's stations are subterranean cathedrals of art, architecture and extravagance.



The metro system began under Stalin in the early 1930s and today runs 330+ kms of line.  The escalators are some of the longest I've been on - the deepest station is 74m underground.

What? No graffiti? No advertising?
London engineers were consulted and although Soviet workers provided the labour, the main engineering designs and construction plans were done by English specialists. Ultimately paranoia ensued, and the secret police arrested and tried several British engineers on charges of espionage (as they had such extensive knowledge of Moscow's layout) and deported them in 1933. Clearly the Russians forgot to ask how to position graffiti and tatty posters and advertisements as the Moscow metro is in pristine condition.

Once you've sorted out the Cyrillic alphabet, it's relatively easy to find your way around. However if you need to transfer to another line the station will have a different name, which can be confusing.  For the small investment of 100 roubles (about $2:00) we had a morning's entertainment getting on and off trains and gasping in astonishment as each hallway is more beautiful than the last. Extensive use of marble, high ceilings and lighting lend a palatial ambience.
You'd think you were in a palace not a metro station

Colourful murals feature widely


Monday, 6 June 2016

A night at the opera - almost.

  I was on the edge of my seat.   I had to be or I couldn't see.

Before leaving home I'd bought (on line from the Bolshoi website) ballet tickets for the Bolshoi Heritage theatre performance of Ivan the Terrible.  Dressed in our finest - well the finest you take when travelling - we arrive to find our tickets are for The opera  Don Pasquale (who?) in the new theatre. Aaarrrggghhhhhhh.  

Luckily God invented ticket touts. It was 10,000 roubles ($NZ200 ish) for two tickets. We'll take them, but only after I check with the doorman they are legitimate. They are. But no prizes for guessing they aren't the best seats in the house. Who needs to see the right hand part of the stage anyway?

One of these tickets is for the opera and one is for the ballet.
Completely lacking Russian language skills, I fail to spot the problem when I receive the top ticket by email. The bottom is the tout sold 'legitimate' ticket which, for some unknown reason, we got at the price printed on the ticket.
The theatre itself is not as breathtaking as expected. I've seen more glitz in Chinese restaurants. Bolshoi means big and I was expecting something, well, big.  And grand. And spectacularly ornate. It's smaller than I expected, but tall and steep with a narrow floor area.  This makes the seating more of a semi oval then a semi circle around the stage. 
Not so fancy 

We are seated at the third of seven upper levels, right next to the (unoccupied) Royal box. In other theatres the VIP box is positioned so Great and the Good are seen and can rattle their jewels at the proles; here it is positioned for the best view of the stage.  Our two seats are right against it, meaning the seat closest has an imperfect view. 

My imperfect view

I spend the first half leaning on the hunter-gatherer so I can see the right hand side of the stage. We change at half time after a refreshing glass of local fizz in the 7th floor bar.  Really, we have way better seats than those on higher levels close to the stage. 

The ballet was totally beautiful and the technique looked, to me at least, flawless. The story is Ivan's life - from becoming Tsar, marrying Anastasia, going to war, finding Anastasia poisoned by his enemies, wreaking bloody revenge and committing suicide. Your basic boy meets girl really. 

The troupe comprised 50 plus dancers, and some scenes  had 30 to 40 on stage at once. The pas de deux with Ivan and Anastasia were things of beauty, especially when they were, as the synopsis put it, enjoying mutual happiness. 

It was such a fabulous performance I  would've paid double to see it. 
Oh that's right - I did.