St. Petersburg has been the hotbed of Francophilia in Russia since the reforms brought by Peter the Great. In the 18th century, French became the most commonly spoken language among the local upper class. French architects created masterpieces that shaped the image of the city: a perfect proof of it is Monferran’s St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the brightest star of every fridge magnet, and a postcard view of St. Petersburg. Although St. Petersburg has become much more multicultural since then, despair not: with a little bit of imagination and knowledge of the right locations it’s not even a problem to recreate a day of being French (or at least try to do it)!
Today is not for buzzing alarm clocks, tight schedules, and multitasking. It’s all about taking your time. The French are famous for joie de vivre – the joy of life – a slow and steady attitude to enjoying simple pleasures. As a result, this rule applies to every aspect of being: here, eating should be mindful, conversations – long and meaningful, walks – leisurely. This approach goes hand in hand with self-care: only when you are not in a rush, can you finally stop for a second and listen to yourself to learn what you want and what you need. So from the very morning of this French day, try to adopt a leisurely pace: lie in bed a little bit longer if needed, or spend an hour picking the perfect outfit.
Savor a croissant
Сliché or not, but having a crispy (but soft inside) buttery croissant and a cup of milky coffee for breakfast would make a perfect French-style morning. There’re plenty of ways to eat this delicious pastry, and I’m sure you’re free to invent one more, but if you stick to traditions, the best recipe is to dunk it into your drink! And don’t be afraid to tear it to pieces with your bare hands – it’s a fight only one can survive. Have your breakfast anywhere you like: make it cozy and simple in your kitchen, or venture out for something more luxurious and head to a cafe. The best samples with fillings for any taste, as well as a truly French atmosphere and interiors, are claimed to be found in Ôpetit, Du Nord 1834, and Garçon.
Wander around the city
The sun is probably shining and the trees are of different shades of auburn. It’s high time to go for a walk! In France, getting 10,000 steps is more a routine than a challenge, partly because of the relaxed lifestyle and partly thanks to local infrastructure – cities there are famous for convenient pedestrian areas. Keeping in mind the aforementioned concept, why not set off without a particular purpose and see what the streets reveal. Enjoy architecture, nature, and let the city guide you to places you’ve never been. Look around to see the surrounding beauty and enjoy the moment! If you’re walking on your own, here’s also a great playlist to catch the vibe.
Here are also some locations and buildings made for the French or by the French, that you may like to stroll past on your way:
Enjoy the art
Like Paris, St. Petersburg is steeped in art of all kinds. But if you’re looking for something France-related, head straight to the Hermitage. It houses one of the most complete collections of French art of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: a dozen rooms showing the history of painting and sculpture of those times – from Manet to Picasso. Among others – the works of Monet, Van Gogh, and the masterpieces of Matisse such as Dance and Music. This became possible thanks to the collections of Morozov and Shchukin, Russian patrons of art. Try to catch the emotions of the pictures and don’t lose track of time – it’s hard to embrace it all at once!
Shop at your local market
There’s a chance that on your way home, energized with the power of art, you will suddenly decide to cook a French staple – a vegetable soup for dinner, but remember that your fridge is empty. In France, it’s a tradition to shop at a local farmer’s market, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables: it’s considered a great way to get some advice from the farmers themselves on the best way to cook their products. For that, check the stalls in your area or visit Sennoy Market. When you’re done, don’t forget to drop by a bakery for a baguette and invite your friends – this soup should be shared and enjoyed together!
Oh and of course, feel free to sport that red beret!