Borsch and Bolshoi

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I didn’t plan to spend my 34th birthday alone. Why would I? I’ve got a husband, a daughter and friends who love a reason to celebrate the good stuff in life…yet there I was after work, roaming the streets in the rain, trying to decide if and how I should mark the occasion.

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But before I sound all self-pitying and maudlin…I was in Moscow. The reason I was alone? A business trip. And whilst I ran around the city every night checking out fancy metro stations, iconic buildings, scary red walls and marching soldiers, hubby was at home with Lal Lass keeping everything in order, tucking her in at night and sending me updates. Lieverd.

So, satisfied that all was well at home, how did I solve the dilemma of celebrating a birthday solo in a strange place? Well, it turned out, the same as I would back home…by treating myself right!

First stop, Tretyakov Gallery for some fine art and culture. Spending a couple of hours in a quiet environment, being allowed to stare at art works and read about the story behind them undisturbed isn’t something that happens often in the life of a working mama so it was an experience to be savoured, despite having little knowledge of the art works involved or understanding of the technique behind them.

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After leaving the gallery, I made my way to the Bridge of Kisses, a cute pedestrian bridge over the Moskva River where tradition dictates that newly married couples go to kiss and add a lock with their wedding vows to a lock tree. A romantic, colourful place in the middle of a cold city on a rainy day.

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Mu-Mu supplied my birthday dinner. Not exactly a glitzy place, it’s a Russian chain, almost fast food-like though the food is traditional Russian cuisine rather than a paper hot dog. I went for a bowl of my new favourite soup, Borsch, accompanied by a shot of vodka. The only place I visited that offered service with a smile.

Around the corner from this particular Mu-Mu I came across the Bolshoi Theatre. And wow. It was dark by then, and still raining, but sitting outside the Bolshoi in front of the fountain after a heartwarming vodka made me feel like a very lucky girl.

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It was around 10pm and I still hadn’t had birthday cake, so I headed back to the neighbourhood I was staying in, Kitai-Gorod (China Town), and found the cute cafe Volkonsky where I had the thickest, gooiest, hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

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I needed to lie down after that. Yes, it was that good. But before I could, I felt I had to visit the bar next to my hotel. The bar that I had heard live music coming from every night since I’d arrived in Moscow. And there I found an unlikely looking trio ranging from 18-50 playing not bad music, headed by the Russian equivalent of Mark E. Smith, or Bad Santa.

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So I sat down, gave my aching feet a rest and raised a final birthday toast to myself, with a White Russian.

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And that’s how you make the most of celebrating solo in a strange city. до свидания москва – and thanks for the memories. Here’s to another year of new experiences, life lessons and surprises!