Updated: Feb 23, 2020
I'm sure I'll have to use a thesaurus to describe the grandeur of St. Petersburg. I just kept saying, "Oh.My.God". The palaces and art were just so completely over the top that I have complete understanding why there was a revolution.
Friday, 8/2/19 - to St. Petersburg by high speed train from Moscow
Marriott Courtyard St. Petersburg West/Pushkin Hotel
Yan, the concierge in hotel has been a perfect virtual guide. He sent me on a walk to New Holland. This was an extraordinarily cool place. It's an island in the middle of the city that had been redeveloped into a collection of restaurants, shopping, park, and school. I had Pho even though there was a Mexican place called San Diego. I took a walk past canal and churches and got some water and other supplies for the days ahead in St. Petersburg.
I walked in the morning as far as I could then took a taxi to the Peter and Paul Fortress. I bought the combined ticket and saw the ornate cathedral after standing in line for 30 minutes with cruise tourists. It was impressively ornate and gilded. I also saw the history of the cathedral and ceramics museum. It was hard to find the other museums that were part of the combination. The bathroom facilities there were terrible. I saw a military group march and start to play music.
I taxied to the Russian Museum and it was vast and mostly wonderful. Once again, I saw the famously indifferent Russian customer service in action with two cashiers on duty and one lady sitting there doing nothing. It was a Saturday in August, when presumably this is the high season for entry into the museum. I waited 30 minutes in line.
I walked out of there and bought a ticket to the Savior on the Spilled Blood Church and it was really spectacular. Mosaic paintings covered the walls.
I walked through the beautiful Mikhalovsky Gardens and they were just beautiful with green grass and full leafy trees. I called for a taxi and it started to rain really hard and I managed to jump in the taxi in the nick of time. It took forever to get to my hotel because there was a parade of thousands of motorcycles going down the street on the other side of the canal. Plus, one had wrecked in my path so we really delayed. I ordered food at my hotel and while it was good, it also took forever to arrive.
The two concierges, Yan and Catherine in this Marriott Courtyard were incredibly helpful. Catherine helped me figure out my game plan with museums and various closures. This is important because there are literally tens of thousands of mostly Chinese tourists in St. Petersburg. They queue for hours and make seeing the sights very challenging.
I bought an all-inclusive museum card and went back out and saw the Faberge Museum and it was absolutely stunning. I ate dinner at a cute place near the canal. I tried to take a boat trip but I missed all but the one at midnight for the night. It’s called White Nights, but I’d say it will be more like freezing nights. They were already giving people blankets for the earlier tours. After the heat in Helskinki and Tallin earlier on my trip, in Moscow and St. Petersburg I never went out in less than my Columbia puffer jacket, and the sweater and scarf I had to buy in Moscow.
My 10 am Hermitage Tour was a huge challenge to get to. The St. Petersburg marathon had taken place that morning and I had to meet my guide inside the fenced-off, guard and metal detector-protected Alexander Column. I ended up fighting with my Uber driver to end the ride so I could get out of the car and run the rest of the way so I didn't miss the tour.
Impressionists at General Staff Building
Winter Palace of Peter the Great
Hermitage Museum. Absolutely mind blowing.
Take taxi to Catherine Palace and Park - See House then Gardens
Stay St. Petersburg
I first saw the The Kazan Cathedral and it was amazing that when I got there, there was a service taking place and the choir singing in the balcony up in the back. I quickly covered my head with a scarf like the other ladies and lit a candle for the shooting victims in the US.
Then since I was near, I toured the Stroganov Palace. Those poor rich people - they must have felt just terrible compared to the Romanovs. Still, I couldn't imagine the incredible wealth of even this family.
Then I had trouble finding the Hop On Hop Off Bus but when I did, I settled in and enjoyed the ride almost all the way around the tour. The stories and commentary were great.
I got off the bus and after some difficulty, I found a canal boat tour, also on my all-inclusive pass and completely enjoyed that. When I got off the boat, I Ubered to New Holland and ate Georgian food along with a cherry kriek beer from Belgium.
Finally it was time for Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theatre. It was at least as good as the ballet at the Bolshoy and the theatre was almost as pretty.
Peterhof Park by hydrofoil
St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Museum of Printing