So Christmas and New Year have come and gone again. We get to celebrate both twice, unlike you inoslavnym1-. Russian jews get to do it three times! Either way - it all adds up to three weeks of fun.
This year, Arkady and I flew to Miami on 21 December for three nights at The Setai, a truly wonderful hotel on South Beach. It is a little haven of calm with a great beach and divine service.
There are a lot of Russians in Miami. One reason is that many immigrants from Russia in the last century arrived and settled there.
Secondly, those immigrants who have built up successful businesses after settling in New York, often buy a dacha there.
And thirdly, wealthy Russians from Moskva are buying holiday properties there (on Fisher Island for choice) for the great climate, the glamour, the shopping and the nightlife - in essence, the same reasons that rich Russians go on holiday anywhere.
We call it Bling City. It's all big butts and big boobs, shiny dresses and shiny shoes, and no holding back on the brillianty2. Little wonder we feel so at home!
Russians also like Miami for the way it welcomes us. For example, one evening a bunch of us went to Tatiana - a cabaret restaurant serving Russian food (in pre-perestroika vast portions, of course!) - with a great stage show. The men didn't think wine was good enough, so it was vodka all the way, and it sure was a party.
The place was heaving with elderly immigrant Russians, the women with bleached hair, too much make-up and masses of bling. Add to this the dancing on stage, and in the restaurant, the singing, the carousing and the drinking until 7.30am, and we might as well have been in Odessa in the 70s!
The next morning, Arkady went to the banya with his friends for a traditional Russian bath and beating with birch twigs. They believe that it reduces stress and purges the body of toxins (i.e. it's good for hangovers!). They certainly came back in better spirits than when they went, but it may have had more to do with the fact that they serve Russian vodka there, rather than the beneficial effects of the steam baths!
Women are permitted, but my friends Svetlana, Masha and I preferred the more modern (and restful!) treatment at the Bliss Spa in the W Hotel.
I didn't do a lot of shopping - apart from a trip to Bal Harbour - but I did make a new discovery - a brilliant little boutique called Taj, where I bought some sundresses, and a few more bikinis and beach coverups.
I also visited two favourites: Missoni - where I bought kaftans in every colour in the sale - and Scoop, for sundresses. Most of these I will be able to wear again in the summer, but after that, it will be do svidaniya3. Even if Arkady doesn't notice what I wear, my girlfriends definitely do!
We departed Miami on the boat on 24 December. Our sons, Sasha, Nikolai and Valentin and their girlfriends flew down to join us that afternoon. Arkady had hired a yacht (Northern Light) + 11 crew for two weeks and the plan was to island hop through the Caribbean down to St Barts and from there back to Miami.
First stop was Nassau - it was a little too 'English colonial' for us, so the next day we set sail for Cuba. To visit Cuba is like going back in time 50 years. It is quite simply breathtaking - like walking on to a film set in the golden age of the movies: houses in faded colours, and 50s cadillacs on the streets. We were completely entranced and spent three days there exploring and drinking in the atmosphere.
Having stayed longer than planned, we cruised over to Jamaica for lunch with British friends who were staying at the Half Moon in Montego Bay; then on to the Dominican Republic, followed on subsequent days by Anguilla, St Barts and Antigua.
The holiday was really more about spending time with the boys than anything else, so most days, we spent just sailing, swimming and sunbathing, only going ashore for barbecue lunches or suppers prepared by the crew.
If you are yachting in this way, it can be easy to forget where you are, because if you keep to the empty beaches and undeveloped coasts of an island, you sometimes don't visit the port or the town at all.
Also, the archipelagos of (say) the Virgin Islands or The Antilles are so close together that you can pass several of them in a morning's cruising, almost without really taking it in.
One place we did stop though was St Barts, for a little light shopping and lunch. I picked out a pair of white and gold bangles at Cartier, and Arkady treated me to some really lovely pear-drop diamond earrings. Later, we ate lunch at the great restaurant on the beach at the Ile de France Hotel.
From St Barts we sailed on to Antigua before turning for home, and via Nevis, St Kitts, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, so back to Miami. From there we flew to New York and caught the flight to London.
Next week, it will be the Faberge launch and Paris for the Couture Shows.
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