Woke up rather tired from little sleep and we were soon on St Petes train station and being met by the travel agents driver. Within 20mins we were dropped off at the hotel where we waited in the reception/breakfast room for about an hour until our room became available. We slept for about an hour then at 9:30am we met our guide for a 3 hour guided walk around the city. It was hard work as we were both still pretty tired and the day was already quite hot. Our guide took us around some beautiful streets and houses and along some lovely canals/rivers. He then made some recommendations of places to visit and the best place to take a boat cruise along the canal and river. Still very tired, we went back to the hotel for some air-con and a few more hours sleep. Waking up at around 5:00pm we thought we'd better get something to eat, so settled with an early dinner/very late lunch at the Stroganoff yard which is sited in the courtyard of the Stroganoff family home who gave their name to the famous beef creation
. We thought we'd try the dish in its origin and found it delicious. Strolling back, a big dark grey cloud ascended overhead with a few claps of thunder. Not wishing to get caught out, we dived into a nearby Sushi bar and heavens opened with a gale force wind whipping through the bars canopies. The aftermath of the 'storm' was quite noticeable with glass from drinks shattered in all directions. I mussed and enjoyed the remainder of the walk back as it was like watching a miss wet T-shirt competition as many women walked by, having been drenched to skin, with their T-shirts and dresses sticking tightly to their skin.
Tues 11th July
Had a nice lie-in until 10:00am, then headed down to breakfast to get ready for a full on touristy day. We started off with walking over the bridge across the river to the Fort. Half way across we saw the floating fountain with its 60 meter high vertical jet and hundreds of others shooting out in all directions. In the middle of the Fort we saw the church with its huge steeple that has an angel on a cross at the top. From there we crossed the river using the other bridge which took us straight to the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum. We spent a few hours inside looking at the beautifully decorated rooms that were big enough to fit a house or two into each one. The architecture in these impressive buildings is amazing, you just don't get level of attention to detail any more, no wonder it took them so long to build
. The next building on the list was the Yusupovsky Palace where Rasputin was killed. Feeling hungry and tired, we walked to a restaurant that serves Bliny which are pancakes filled with all sorts of fillings. Yummy. As it was our last evening in Russia, we went on a boat cruise around the canals and river where we got a closer look at the impressive floating fountains. It was a nice way to end an exhausting day relaxing and seeing all the sights from a different perspective.
Weds 12th July
A late start to the day as we got up for breakfast at 10:00am, then packed and checked out at midday. We then had our last wander into town, had an early lunch and back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Loaded up we headed to the Metro to catch a train to the outskirts of the city and catch a bus to the airport. These buses are transit van type minibuses and haven't a lot of room in them. With my pack still on my back, I climbed on and got rather stuck, I ended up on my knees with my bag pinning my legs to the floor. I had to undo and take off my pack to get any further, (much to the humor and frustration of the other passengers). We finally got crammed onto the van and we head off towards the airport, and then had to repeat the process of getting out. At the airport we had to go through a metal detector to have our bags x-rayed just to get in the door
. I'm then pulled to one side to have my passport checked whilst Cathy is being quizzed about our picnic set, (she was asked three times; is this hand luggage, to which each time she replied; no it is going into the hold.) finally the woman got it, it is going with checked luggage, and then she abandoned Cat to go and interrogate another passenger leaving Cat not knowing whether or not she could pack and go. Standing there stunned, a few minutes later the woman shouted go! Meanwhile our bags are holding up the machine and everyone else trying to get in. Once in we put our back packs into our flight bags and proceeded to queue for check in. On the way we were asked by security personnel; what was in the large hold alls, (flight bags) and made us open them to show our back packs. What is inside them he said pointing to one of our packs, clothes and shoes etc I replied getting rather agitated, to which he then moved us on. Half an hour later we had our passports checked again and then at the check in desk we finally checked in only to find we weren't sitting together on the plane. That's all we have said the check in clerk quite abruptly. For some reason a lot of other people we spoke to got the same treatment. Moving on, next was passport control where we got a very stern look from the woman behind the desk who stamped our exit visas like she was trying to kill them and moved us on to the departure lounge. We had an hour to wait, so we had a drink in a café to use up some of our last Rubbles and waited for the queue to our boarding gate to get smaller
. At the entrance of the boarding gate area we had another x-ray machine, metal detector and body pat down before finally boarding the waiting plane. Once on board, Cathy had a word with the very friendly English BA crew to request seats together as she was a bit of a nervous flyer and needed to sit next to me. They were delighted to help and had soon arranged it by asking a few people if they minded moving seats. We then reversed out of the docking area and stopped. We then sat there for 30 minutes because one of the wheels got stuck in a 'pothole'. You should have heard the laughter when the captain announced that one! We finally got off the ground and after a fairly good flight we landed into Heathrow at 17:45, only 5 minutes later then scheduled. How they do I don't know.