The boat was just about to cast off and leave so we quickly paid for our tickets and joined about twenty fellow passengers on the open deck at the rear. Some of them were wrapped in complimentary blankets and Kim asked for a couple but I thought this was rather unnecessary as it was pleasantly warm sitting in the golden glow of the sunshine in the shelter of the adjacent buildings.
The boat set off and chugged slowly along the canal beneath the towering walls of St Saviors and then turned into the labyrinth of waterways that intersect the city streets. The route took us along canals lined with handsome pastel coloured buildings but we were unable to identify anything because the running commentary was all in impenetrable Russian. After a few minutes we entered the Winter Canal which runs between the Hermitage and the Little Hermitage and then it left the narrow canals and the shelter of the buildings and headed out onto the River Neva. It turns out that there were two different cruises, one that stayed exclusively on the canal network and a second that did a few canals and a lot of river and we had chosen the second!
Whilst it was still sunny it was immediately a lot cooler as the breeze off the Baltic was running down this channel and over the cold water and suddenly we started to shiver. Kim used the blanket but I turned the offer down and one or two of the less hardy passengers on board abandoned the open deck for the warmth of the covered cabin.
The boat travelled south with the breeze behind us and we passed the Hermitage, the Bronze Horseman and the Admiralty Building and then turned around to return the way that we had come – into the wind! Now it really did turn cold – Kim didn’t offer me the blanket a second time but quickly scooped it up and added it to the first around her shoulders, more passengers ran for cover and I just sat and tried to look tough.
I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem because I estimated that it would only take a few minutes to get back to the canals and out of the wind but it hadn’t occurred to me that the boat might swing out into the centre of the river again so that we could a close up view of the other side but this is exactly what happened and we stayed right there in the open channel.
After getting a view of the riverside elevation of the Peter and Paul Fortress the boat followed a canal around the back but it was still open on either side so there was still no shelter from the wind which by now I was beginning to find a bit uncomfortable.
At the end of the canal we were back on the river and it seemed to take forever to cross the three hundred metres or so to the other side and get back to the sheltered canal network. By the time we got there, except for a couple of other people we were all alone on the top deck but as it started to warm up people began to return from the cabin so that they could enjoy the final views and ten minutes later or so we were back at the starting point.
Kim was in a hurry to leave the boat by this time so she threw off the blankets and hurried me across the gang plank back onto dry land.
It was early evening now and time to return to the hotel so we made our way to the Metro and took the short trip back. As we approached the main doors of the hotel Kim suddenly stopped dead, looked me up and down and asked where the bag that I was carrying was. Ooops! It seemed that in the hurry to get off the boat it had been covered by the blankets and being unaccustomed to carrying a bag I had simply forgotten it.
I casually passed it off – “Oh well, never mind, it was only a cheap bag and all that was in it was a bottle of water and our umbrellas”. “And my mobile phone!” wailed Kim and I could tell by the look on her face that this was all my fault which I suppose technically it was because I had responsibility for the bag and I hadn’t put the phone in the safety deposit box that morning as I should have done. Double Oooops!!
We needed to get the phone cancelled but this proved difficult because first of all we had to find a telephone number to report it then my phone refused to make outgoing calls and we couldn’t use the hotel phone until we left a credit card swipe and there was a massive queue of people at hotel reception which meant that this was going to take forever.
Then I hit on a brilliant solution and contacted someone with great experience in these matters. My daughter has lost more mobile phones than anyone would think possible including one that fell of a pedalo into the sea in Santorini and one that went down a lavatory pan so I was sure that she would know what to do and sure enough within fifteen minutes she sent a text to confirm that it was done.
This didn’t cheer Kim up quite as much as I had hoped and so after dinner while she sulked in the room I set off back into the city to see if it could be found. Kim said that this was a completely pointless thing to do as someone would be sure to have stolen it and phoned all their mates around the World before we’d cancelled it but as it was my fault I decided to go through with the plan however hopeless.
I took the mini-bus and the metro and even at ten o’clock at night the boats were still running so even though I wasn’t terribly optimistic I went down to the office and enquired. No, nothing had been handed in the staff explained but if I waited ten minutes the boat we had been on would be coming back and they would see if it was on board. Eventually it arrived, a man disappeared inside the cabin and to my surprise and elation came back with the bag complete with all its contents.
I couldn’t wait to get back as quickly as I could with the good news and to invite her to reassess her faith in human nature and I skipped along Nevski Prospekt, ran down the escalators, urged the Metro and the mini-bus to go faster and cursed the hotel lift for being so slow before getting back to the room to return the lost phone and to save my skin!
Kim was happy and a crisis had been averted so we celebrated in the hotel bar where we spent the rest of the evening with some of our fellow travellers listening to a hotel lounge bar live band running through a catalogue of classics and drinking beer and wine regardless of the cost.
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