St Petersburg, what we found.

We loved St Petersburg and found the people at the hotel we stop at very helpful

It appears it is cheaper to book transfer from the hotel. Inbound we didnt it it cost us 3500 rubles. For that we had an older tatty car. The return was booked via the hotel and the same trip cost 1900 rubles. And that was in a nice, clean Mercedes with a bottle of water each in the back.

Day Two

A late start for us after filling up on breakfast again, today we headed to the Peter and Paul Fortress originally built by Peter the Great in 1703. The skyline of St Petersburg is dominated by golden spires and domes with the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral being the highest in the City.

Another gold fest!

Within the Catheral is the Grand Ducal Burial Chapel which contains numerous tombs of the Imperial Romanov Family.
We also bagged our first Russian Geocache in the Fortress grounds but decided to ignore the guidebook’s suggestion of sunbathing on the beach…

.The beach!The city of St Petersburg is built over a series of islands connected by bridges (guide book warns against getting stranded when the bridges are raised but that’s not a problem when the sea/rivers are frozen!) so the next stop was Vasilevskiy Island with our destination being The Kuntskammer Museum. Again another link with Peter the Great as the museum holds a bizarre collection of items from teeth he pulled when practising his hobby of dentistry, to his 2.27m tall personal servant’s skeleton to a bizarre collection of deformed foetuses.
Continuing along the embankment we passed a pair of Sphinxes bought here from Egypt before crossing the Neva back to our island. On the bridge there is a cache but we’re buggered if we can find it – it’s difficult to go hunting for it without drawing too much attention to ourselves!
Back to the hotel via another coffee shop – has to be done! Good coffee and free wifi everywhere.
After another 10 miles today on foot, we’re too tired to go out so it’s dinner in the hotel bar. Not a bad choice as whilst we are eating with the Sochi Olympics on the TV in the background the barman wanders over and tells us as Russia had just won a gold medal we were entitled to a free drink – a glass of wine or a shot of vodka. Rude not to celebrate with them!

Cocktail in colours of Russian Flag!

Doing the tourist thing

Having loaded up with the hotel breakfast (all included in our deal) it was a short walk to probably the number one tourist spot in St Petersburg; The State Hermitage. We had prebooked tickets, which included all the exhibitions and permission to use a camera, to avoid any queues but this seems to be a very quiet time of year and could easily have walked straight in. The State Hermitage contains over three million pieces of art and artefacts from around the world including many rooms dedicated to European artists – Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Gainsborough, Rodin to name but a few. Within the Hermitage is the Winter Palace, the pre-revolutionary residence of the tsars where subtle decor is definitely not the order of the day. The Malachite RoomHaving had our share of culture for the day it was off to another famous landmark, The Church On Spilled Blood. Now we know that it’s Valentines Day and a day for the romantics (not that we’re not!) but in the short time we spent there we saw at least half a dozen bridal parties piling out of various stretch vehicles to join the queue to have their photos taken in front of the church.

Having not had a proper coffee stop today, the need for a cup and some lunch was high on our minds so it was onto Nevskiy Prospekt, the main street in the City. One note, we changed some money in a bank here earlier in the day and they would not accept anything less than pristine notes. We had seemingly clean Euros but the cashier would not accept one note with a small tear and another with a set of initials on them. Mission accomplished it was back to the hotel for a brief nap, well we are on holiday and had walked in the region of 10 miles, before heading out to dinner.
So we’re in Russia on Valentines Day, so where do we go to dinner? An Italian of course! Found Trattoria Stefano through Tripadvisor and would highly recommend a visit. Great food, very reasonably priced (around £55 for two courses each and a bottle of Prosecco) and English speaking staff.

St Petersburg

We left the UK with floods and high winds, leaving Bob’s eldest lad house sitting (well it gives his mum a break from him too).

During the flight Bob wrote a couple of words about June, by mistake, not having booked the hotel for Thursday night. A guy sat next to him said ‘sorry about reading your screen but if you need a place tonight i have a studio flat you can use for free. I am going away but you can just drop off the key’. Nice Russian.

However getting a taxi at the airport we found the flip side when they tried to charge us £60 for a 18k trip. We had a chat about the 90 Ruble per km and it was only 18 km to the hotel from the airport. He tried to say it was more until Bob showed him the app that had tracked the trip. We ended up paying £46, which was still over the top but not as much as the couple we met in reception who had paid £70

Hotel Domina Presitge is a very bright hotel but spotless and with free wifi. Not too sure about the need fir a network socket in the bathroom though