Who are these guys spreadeagled over a car, asks the gal? Sure makes a difference from the usual pictures of hotel limos, but sorry, this car is not just any old limo. It is a Porsche Panamera, just like the one that can pick you up from St Petersburg airport and whisk you to W St Petersburg.
Just heard, incidentally, that St Petersburg is working on a 25-year management contract for the airport with Fraport, operators of Frankfurt airport. This should speed things up.
(The same source says to avoid having to get the cumbersome visa required by many nationalities to enter Russia, come in by ferry, from Estonia, Finland or Sweden, and you can stay in Russia for 72 hours without a visa.) Anyway, I am here, with a visa, and staying at W St Petersburg.
The ever-thoughtful GM Peter Katusak-Huzsvar has done a deal with Taschen and it seems all their books are scattered around somewhere or other.
There is also another mega book, published by Delius Klasing. This is called Porsche Panamera and one of Frank Orel’s brilliant photos is – well this, enthusiasts over the car bonnet.
We were looking at the book as we lunched in the bar, up at its café counter. Alain Ducasse’s MiX restaurant, with its three slightly-different eating venues, was superb at dinner and breakfast but we wanted something fast.
A club sandwich sensibly came as four individual sandwiches, crusts off and held with decorative toothpicks. A Greek salad came with Russian bread – how international can one get? The Italian La Cimbali coffee machine prides itself on being best for Italian lifestyle…
As we sat at lunch we looked across at what will be Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St Petersburg (journalists are not going to like that name, it takes up so many precious ‘words’!). The hotel is now set for opening, says its ultra-tall GM, Martin Rhomberg, on October 15th, 2012.
The bedrooms are mostly ready, as is the splendid Winter Garden conservatory in the glassed-over central courtyard. The problem is utilities, sticking pipes through four-feet walls that go back to 1824, when it was built as the Lion Palace.
Rhomberg coducted a lightning after lunch tour. The main entrance has been restored to its original glory – you sweep up 38 ten-foot wide marble stairs from the main hall, the walls filled with cartouches of war exploits and, overhead, enough 18-carat gold-leaf highlighting to keep even that king of bling P-Diddy happy.
Loved the Pan-Asian restaurant, a SPIN design with hundreds of baseball-bat shaped lights hanging down. The 183 bedrooms are cool (they are designed by Cheryl Rowley, who has used palest duck egg blue for walls, and perfectly blended champagne-hued sheets with matching real leather headboards).
The Presidential Suite is going to wow everyone, from P-Diddy to Putin. It has a 2,000kg bathtub sculpted from one block of flecked marble, and an outside terrace, with original 40-ft columns, that gives views soaring over Alexandrovsky Gardens opposite.
Oh yes, the luxury hotel will have a four-floor wellness block, and a smoking bar, the Alexander – named after the assassinated Tsar Alexander II, he of the gardens opposite – that has walls completely formed of heavily knotted walnut veneer and a two-way real-log working fireplace.