Adventure of 12 Portuguese
About this blog
My dear readers, I want your excuses in advance - I'm not a traveler, I'm a tourist guide. I have no license, I'm not a professional - normally I work as a translator and interpreter. This means I don't have an excursion every 3 days, and I find something to discover in the places where I happen to take my tourists, and this something can make a story to tell. This one is about the adventures of 12 Portuguese who visited St. Petersburg from April 30 to May 3, 2010, and who met me at TravelPod. On April 30, about 8 p.m. I firs met all the company in the hotel Moskovskiye Vorota Holiday Inn. http://www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/saint-petersburg/ledmp/hoteldetail That season the hotel charged 80 Euro/day. I checked prices in the middle-class hotels I know very well - the price varied from 100 to 140 USD - huge! And this can not be helped. Anyway, in the end of the stay I asked my friends how they find price against services, and they found it OK. Now, back to the trip. I must confess that the trip's program was not totally my invention, it was a result of close cooperation between me and Rui (rudyflaviis), and I guess, all the company. We had a dinner at the hotel (my highest prices to the restaurant) and moved to the night trip around the city. We hired a bus from the local company Bus Imperia http://www.imperia-bus.ru/ as they offered the lowest price as compared to the Portuguese agency and the hotel's transport service. In the darkness the city artfully illuminated looked grand, especially 1 km wide river Neva not to mention exquisite architecture of huge cathedrals and elegant palaces. Next day, on April 31 we hired a minibus for the whole day, first we headed to the Catherine's palace. Here I must admit advantages of the season. In spite of "about zero" air temperature, half-melted snow and wet pediments undoubtedly, there were some advantages. For instance, we had no problems with entering the Catherine's palace (the most beautiful out-of-town royal residence famous for its Amber Room). No queuing, no fighting, no restrictions (in summer there are only 2 hours when they allow unorganized tourists in) - we just came in and bought tickets! I must say that the palace is really beautiful, thoroughly restored after the War. It can impress even a European tourist (see photos). Next stop was a lunch in Podvorye - a well advertised restaurant in Pavlovsk (some 15 min driving from Catherine's Palace). Thanks God, it was not my idea to go there, though I checked the restaurant's reputation among locals. I found it to be overpriced and under-designed. My friends never complained, I think it was a shock of the first day in a foreign country. Then Pavlovsk (another royal residence, 5 min driving from Podvorye). Here we decided not to go inside a huge palace, but to walk around the grounds. In this very context "grounds" means a huge and beautifully designed royal park of 600 ha. It is very popular among locals for tobogganing and skiing in winter, and picnicking in summer. But we found the park totally deserted. Half-melted, hard and dirty snow was not suitable for any sports any longer, and this very snow was the thing my companions appreciated so much. I took a path of foot-compressed snow coming down to the river Slavianka, known for its picturesque views. The company followed me. Now and then someone stepped aside from the path breaking into the snow down to the knee height. I said something like: "Please, keep to the middle, take snow seriously!" But my companions found it very funny to break down and never agreed to take snow seriously. Next day we went to the Hermitage museum. Grandeur of Russian imperial designs, a lot of world-known gems of art - all was in place. Once in between of Leonardo's Madonnas I found my friends glued up to the window. What could they see there - nothing but Neva river through that particular window. I joined the company by the window. The view was much greater than any particular painting - rare and much appreciated sun was shining with its light doubled by glittering snow and ice and reflections in golden spires and domes on the opposite bank of the huge river. Besides, ice on the river started to move slowly, making the greatest impression. Next stop was a restaurant - City Blues. It is a boat moored up frozen on Neva and functioning as a restaurant. In better seasons it would be sailing around with jazz band on board. Service was slow as usual, but... huge pieces of ice were floating slowly just by the windows... The view was great. Food also. Next destination was Yusupov Palace - a famous place where Rasputin was killed. You can not book an excursion here without paying in advance to their ticket office (in cash, of course). One week in advance I paid for 3 persons, this way booking the excursion. When the whole company of 12 came, they paid for 9 persons more. The place is impressive, though not very tourist friendly. Our guide was in a hurry, and I had to slow her down permanently. Dark and mysterious decoration of the basement room (designed specially for the purposes of the murder), wax figures of the conspirators in the drawing room upstairs... it deserves being seen, as well as to listen to the true story of that event later surrounded with such a lot of speculations. Then Russian museum. This place is not so popular among the foreigners, and this is a sort of unfair. Going straight to the exhibitions of 19th and 20th century you will discover a really great art, no worse then existed in Europe in the same period. And there is one more place I'd like to praise - the Ukrainian restaurant Hutor Vodogray (Karavannaya 2). It is great and reasonable, and impressive, food no worse than the design.