Yesterday, short sleeve weather. Today rain. Tomorrow snow. Wow, just like home. Wore my rain boots and carried my chucks in a bag, which worked a treat. My good deed for the day was telling a woman, who hesitated at the cloak room over whether to check her fleece-lined hoodie or not, to leave it or she’d cook like a Sunday roast. Hear me now, thank me later. She left it.
Going for the early Italian rooms today. En route I paused to examine this mosaic table embellished with tiny, precise fragments of semi-precious stone.
These chips of stone are so very small that even standing there in good light, I had to look at the close-up photo on my iPhone and use zoom to see the fine lines of the joinery.
Crowds of tourists, specifically the huge tour groups, pushed past me like 18 wheelers blowing past a Smart Car. Here’s a tip; If you want to see the marvelous Peacock clock in peace, go after 6pm on a Wednesday or Friday night. It’s an awesome experience. Of course, if you like seething crowds and a noise level like a thousand monkeys chattering on crack, be my guest.
Left the raucous peacock room and entered this calm and lovely space.
Wandered past incomparable religious works by Italian masters, which still didn’t prepare me for the glory that is the Loggia.
It brought tears to my eyes. I can’t find the words to do the moment justice. It’s so exceptionally beautiful and complex, yet by some miracle, as crammed with visual riches as it is, it doesn’t feel fussy. How is that even possible? There are Genesis stories overhead and on every side the walls are ornamented with flora and fauna, the bounty of this world rendered with a loving eye for each detail. Even his rat is charming.
I was that tourist, the one humbly asking strangers to photograph me. But you know, even a scowling Russian man, who irritably growled, “No English,” when I approached him, changed as soon as he saw the iPhone in my hand. He smiled and nodded. Apparently the iPhone is a universal language and an instant bridge between cultures. I’m awed by its power.
Later, still reeling from the glory of Raphael’s vision, I stumbled down to the café to eat my contraband croissant. On the way, I walked though a dark red room lined with enormous paintings of hunting dogs bringing down bears and leopards, and tables laden with vegetables and game. I hastened back after my break and discovered there were, huzzah, two benches to choose from. I sketched a table draped with a peacock and rabbit, the dog underneath growling at a hissing cat.
I felt fully in my skin. This is why I came. I don’t know how this will shape my future art but I know it fed my soul.
When I finally put down my pencil some hours and several sketches later, I looked out a window to see snow falling. Big, fat cinematic flakes. I grinned like a madwoman and babbled my new Russian word Sneg! to every guard I passed on my way out.
Walked through the heavy, wet snow, well protected by my umbrella and plenty warm enough for the ten minute hike to Fruktovaya Lavka. Devoured an excellent risotto, with chicken liver and grilled vegetables, and my favorite raspberry tart. Took my first surge-rated Uber. The exchange is so favorable that even doubled, Uber pop was around six bucks.
My iPhone rang at 1am, unknown caller. I changed my voice mail message to ‘I’m in Russia. Text is good and email is better, but if you want me to call you back, leave a message.’