Verdugo Hills Women's Council

The Verdugo Hills Women's Council committee members coordinated the successful Bingo Luncheon that raised $2,000 for the hospital. (Courtesy of the Verdugo Hills Hospital / October 27, 2012)

Slowly but surely, I'm seeing the places in the world that have intrigued me. I have just returned from a fascinating journey to Russia, a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time.

The most important city for me to visit was St. Petersburg. Being an art history minor in college, I really wanted to see the Hermitage Museum of Art, which has an enormous collection of the master painters of the world.

Also on my St. Petersburg sight-seeing list for me were the summer palace of Catherine the Great and the Peterhof, the palace of Peter the Great, with its magnificent gardens and fountains.

Since I was traveling alone, I decided to meet up with a Viking River Cruise that navigated the waterways of the Tsars from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It was like a grand party because there were only 200 people on the ship and by the end of the two-week trip, I had met most of them.

I think I must be a La Cañada magnet, because it didn't take me long to make a “valleyite” connection. I first met up with Cindy and Roy Walters, who were longtime La Cañadans and raised their children here. They now spend their time between nearby Long Beach and Dataw Island, South Carolina. Of course they loved hearing all the current La Cañada news.

Then I met up with Diane and Ed Clinton. Diane grew up here in LCF and Ed is a physician, with an office in Pasadena.

Diane visited St. Petersburg 20 years ago and she was amazed at the changes that have been made in the city. “When I saw St Petersburg 20 years ago it was a crumbling city,” Diane said. “Now it is a beautiful city, with its buildings restored to their former glory, and there seems to be such hope in the faces of residents here.”

By the way, Ed is the grandson of Clifford Clinton, who founded Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.

Ed is putting the finishing touches on a book that he is writing about his grandfather and the famed cafeteria and its exciting past. The book is due out next spring and should be quite a page-turner, especially for us that remember this landmark eatery during its heyday when Broadway, in L.A., was a fashionable street.

My next neighborly encounter came when the Viking cruise directors arranged a superb “Behind Closed Doors” tour of the Hermitage and its archived storerooms of treasures not usually seen by the public.

We were having lunch at the Hermitage when I met Steve and Julie Webber, who live in Glendale. Steve is an attorney in downtown L.A. and Julie is his office manager. We had a lot to chat about, as they were looking forward to exploring more of Russia after the cruise, when they were going to visit a friend in Kazan, the eighth-largest city in Russia. Its Kremlin is a World Heritage Site. They then returned to Moscow, where they visited with one of Steve's law school buddies, who makes his home there with his family.

I just love these small-world encounters that happen so far away from home; my, we are a global bunch, aren't we?

Now for some news closer to home. The Women's Council recently held its annual fundraising bingo luncheon event.

Many supporters of Verdugo Hills Hospital gathered for an afternoon of fun, which raised $2,000 for the purchase of equipment for the hospital.

Up next for the hospital is its Poinsettia Ball/40th anniversary celebration, which is set for Dec. 1 at the historic and beautiful Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. For more information about the ball, contact the Foundation office at (818) 952-2226.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@yahoo.com with news of your special event.