Catherine Palace

It’s my 30th birthday.  And I’m in one of my all-time favorite cities in the world.

There isn’t a word (or an emoji, for that matter) to depict how happy I am.

After a breakfast of star-shaped pancakes and mimosas (courtesy of the Seabourn Quest),  we made our way through Russian customs and onto the bus, which would be taking us to the Hermitage.  Also known as one of the world’s most spectacular museums.

I’ve been utterly blessed to have toured the extensive art collections, housed in the Winter Palace and an additional 4 buildings, twice already.  I knew exactly where my favorite Picasso was, the best angle to see the ever popular Rembrandts.  I also knew there was a new exhibit of historical Russian clothing that I had to see.

The downside of not getting Russian visas was that we were bound to the tours arranged by the ship.  The upside of these tours were getting into the museums early, and skipping a number of lines.

Another downside – having to stay with the tour.

Our guide was excellent, moving our large group with ease through the crowded rooms and galleries.  A knowledgeable art historian, she shared details of the great works in the Hermitage – the two Madonna and child paintings by Raphael, the room of exquisite Rembrandts, and the extensive Impressionist gallery housed in the museum.  She touched on the politics of Russia’s art collection, noting a recent failed attempt by the curator of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art in Moscow to bring the entire art collection under one roof.  Prompted by my question, she explained in detail how the works of the Hermitage were carefully packed and shipped off to Ekaterinasburg, in central Russia, for their protection during WWII.  (Ekaterinasburg was also the site of the Romanov family’s exile and execution). [click to continue…]

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Saint Petersburg was, hands down, my favorite trip of the year so far.  Though it was to-the-bone exhausting (two long days of meetings, followed by entertaining nights), I re-fell in love with the country that captured my heart 12 years ago.  Here are my recommendations on what to see/eat/wear in Saint Petersburg, Russia…with random tips listed at the end of this post.

 

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To see more pictures of my Russia trip, check out the album on my Facebook page.

Other recommendations:

A trip to Saint Petersburg isn’t complete without seeing the ballet.  I’ve been lucky to see the Kirov Ballet perform Gisele in the beautiful Mariinsky Theatre on my first trip, and saw some beautiful one-act ballets in the newly built Mariinsky Concert Hall this time around.

The sun doesn’t set until late (if at all) during the summer.  Pack an eye mask and sleeping pills to help you sleep at night.

If mayonnaise/sour cream-laden cuisine isn’t your preference, kabobs are a common menu item in most Russian and Georgian restaurants.  Plus – they’re delicious!

You will get weird looks if you go for a run in the streets.  You also get used to it.

Peterhof, the vacation home of czars, is another must-see.  I had the chance to visit it during my last trip, and it’s worth the ferry ride and few hours to explore the area.

We stayed at the Domina Prestige, just catty corner from the Saint Issac’s cathedral.  A nice, new hotel – but its variety of colors resemble the S/S 2011 colorblocking trend like no other.  There’s no shame in wearing your sunglasses indoors, when you’re at the hotel.  No shame at all.

Have you ever been to Saint Petersburg?  What are one of your favorite places to see/foods to eat?

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