My visit to both these cities this June was fantastic. London continues to prepare for the 2012 Olympics with road works and infrastructure repairs to the city. The London Underground, however, will never be prepared. It is far too expensive and not nearly accessible enough. For example, going into the tube station at Victoria to get to the Circle and District lines is a nightmare. The buses, if your schedule is flexible, are quite good. Thankfully, I did not have to drive a car around the city.
St. Petersburg promotes their “White Nights”, that period in June where there is daylight for nearly twenty-two hours. I remember my mother extolling the value of late light on a walk in Edinburgh in June of 1962. That was nothing compared to the light in St. Petersburg. Furthermore, St. Petersburg is a light city with light or colored classical buildings which invest the city with a beauty and seriousness that few other cities match.
The Russians that I met, mostly dealers, were generally a happy group. However, the two guides that took me to various palaces were extremely serious. This gravitas must be a hangover from either the very difficult past and/or the Communist government which I don’t think anyone would have accused of having a sense of humor. The dealers belied this description, but they were the only ones I met who did.
I attended the Masterpiece Fair in London. Started by a group of dealers to replace the now defunct Grosvenor House show, it is an attempt to bring a Maastricht type fair to London in late June and early July. Success will be measured in sales not just with a few dealers but with many dealers. It is certainly a great looking fair. I also saw Mumford and Sons, a group of musicians who seem to meld Celtic, Gospel, folk, rock and a touch of jazz. Their songs are compelling. The crowd loved them and so did I.