Wednesday, January 23, 2013

St. Petersburg


We took a nice, long weekend trip to St. Petersburg, Russia in the Fall.
Despite the weather, it was a very nice time!  St. Petersburg feels nothing like Russia and more like Europe. Perhaps this is why it is called "a window into Europe."

We took the Sapsan fast train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Tickets can be bought at the Leningradsky train station for approximately $200 round trip.  You can also buy them online for a slightly less rate if you can navigate the Russian website. The trip one way is four hours with very few stops.

If you get hungry, you may purchase food and drinks. However, I would recommend taking your own snacks. Munchkin One ordered a chicken sandwich. This is what he got.

We went to St. Petersburg on the first snow of the season. It didn't last long. The Mr and Munchkins built their first snowman at eleven pm at night. By morning it has melted. We stayed at Marriott Renaissance Baltic Hotel. It was very clean, very nice and very close to Saint Isaac's Cathedral.
There is a metro nearby, about a 10 minute walk;with Munchkins can take longer.

The metro is very clean and everything is written in Russian and English. The metro system is easy to use and the most convenient transportation.

We made our way to The Hermitage on our first morning there. As luck would have it, we entered for free! The first Thursday of every month access is free. You do need to pay a fee for photography however. This place is impressive! One can easily spend a full day inside. The Munchkins did well!  Upon entering the many rooms we would wonder what the Kings and Queens did in each room.  
The Hermitage is impressive and a must see on any itinerary!

Inside The Hermitage were great architectural details. As an Interior Designer, I was amazed!

Can you imagine having this as a table center piece? 
Ok, maybe not! Me either....but stunning none the less.


When I said I would like a Hermes bag (insert laugh here) this isn't what I had in mind...

I loved the detail in this room. I wanted to take more photos but the bald man in the right corner wasn't moving. He was guarding something.

Not exactly the most pretty name, but a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church.
Entrance was 250 rubles per adult. Children under 7 years are free.

 It was inside this church I saw the most beautiful Faberge Eggs.  I continue to look when out and about. It is my opinion, the best selection may just be in St. Petersburg.  I did not do much souvenir shopping on this trip, knowing we will return. Inside this church may be a nice place and keepsake reminder.


On our way from the metro to Peter and Paul Fortress we happened upon this; a sweet little cafe built into a hillside. We did not go in, but it was very inviting playing Crooner music through outdoor speakers.

Entrance to the fortress was 270 rubles per adult, 140 rubles per child for us. There are five places you can choose to go see inside. We chose four...
The Cathedral where the Monarchy is buried.
Commandments House
Curtain Wall

The Cathedral

 Monarchy Lineage

The Commandments House
Each room has been turned into a museum or sorts displaying artifacts. It is not a house refurbished or preserved.

 In the prison, prisoners used a system of tapping to communicate with each other.

If you look closely you will see what looks like a naked woman. She is preparing herself for a dunk in the water by running some laps back and forth.

Here she is preparing to go in. Prior to entering the water she made the sign of the cross three times.

There she goes!

This brave lady stayed in the frigid water long enough to swim out a bit andreturn.

 This is St.Isaacs Cathedral, as mentioned above.
Entrance to the Cathedral costs 400 rubles. This includes the interior and access to the rotunda.
Tours are available in many of the places I mentioned for an additional fee. We chose not to participate in a formal tour.

Views from the rotunda

The building with the curved roof is the Marriott Renaissance Hotel where we stayed.

We had amazing food in St. Petersburg. The Mr works with someone whose family member owns Amrots Restaurant. It is an Armenian Restaurant where food, design and attention to detail collide.  We were treated to an amazing lunch! Only half of the table is pictured above. Our host and hostess were very kind, ordering an array of food for us to sample.

We also ate at Stroganoff Steak House.
The meal was very good and right around the corner from the hotel. However, we were expecting the children's room to be open. It was not. The Mr walked back to the hotel to gather some items for the Munchkins to entertain themselves.  Not exactly a place for children, unless they are well behaved. The Munchkins did very well!  The four of us ate for approximately $100. I ordered a steak. The Mr ordered Stroganoff. Munchkin One ordered Macaroni and cheese. Munchkin Two ate off everyone's plates. A drink and extra water for us all. 
Note....water is NOT free in Europe. Americans are spoiled. You do not get a glass of water upon sitting nor free refills.

Another restaurant we went to was Teplo. Again within walking distance from the hotel, this AMAZING restaurant is down home and child friendly. Be sure to make reservations in advance.  The interior is shabby sheek. Dress code is casual (jeans) to dressy. We went after a day of sight seeing. There was a party their dressed and celebrating a birthday. The four of us shared appetizers, soup or salad, main course and dessert.  Drinks were had by all. The staff speaks English and very interested to speak with us. There was a map on the wall with flags notating where their patrons had come. Munchkin One got to place a flag on our home city.  The children were well entertained by coloring and their pictures were hung!  There is also a photo wall....we are on it!  Upon leaving, the children were presented with a little goody bag of fresh baked treats.  I think the four of us ate for 3600 rubles and we ate a ton of food, all freshly prepared.  Can you tell I loved this place?! We are going back to claim a table!

There was another cute little cafe we ate at; perfect for a cup of coffee and sweet treat. We think it was called Happy.  Come out of St. Isaacs Cathedral, the opposite side of Alexanders Garden. You will know you are on the proper side when you see a green space in the shape of a circle.  Just diagonal to that exit on the left, across the street, is this sweet little cafe. They serve food and desserts. A cute place to pop in! Don't you love my directions....

All in all, St. Petersburg was an amazing place to visit. A bit on the cooler side with rain, but we managed. We can't wait to go back when the weather is warm and sun is shining! It is the perfect weekend getaway from Moscow. The people are different...happier. They smile more. Life is not as stressful. The traffic not as hectic. Highly Recommend!

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