Russia had never been on the top of my list of places to visit. From the way it’s portrayed in media and the movies, from all of my understanding from Russian literature, I had a picture in my head of a dreary, repressed place. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
From my very first step off the plane, I was in love.
I travelled to Russia with a group – also something I’d never imagined myself doing. I consider myself a world traveller, an adventurer, a solo artist. But when a friend of mine booked two tickets and his wife suddenly couldn’t make the trip, I felt obligated to help him out. And let me tell you, I’m sure glad I did. We travelled with Travcoa and the guides took care of every last detail. Not only that, our guide was an avid traveller herself. She spoke several languages and was familiar with all of the Russian customs we were not.
Because it was a luxury tour, we stayed in the very best hotels in Russia. Our first stop from the plane was the Grand Hotel Europe. Now, I’m used to doing my share of staying in old hotels, but this one is Russia’s oldest operating hotel! The building has been carefully renovated and it offers all of the luxuries of any five-star hotel you’d expect to stay at in North America. The rooms were extravagant, to say the least (well, everything on this trip was!); each had a foyer complete with sitting area so we could entertain other members of our group after long days of treking around the city. And the hotel boasts some very fine dining establishments. There are several that guests can pick from, everything from very fancy dining rooms to very causal cafes. My favorite? The Caviar Bar, of course (…when in Russia!). The restaurant offered both red and black caviar, fresh seafood, and a seemingly endless selection of vodka for guests to sample.
Our Russian trip was not solely to St. Petersburg, but St. Petersburg is where I left my heart. I will have to return one day soon to find it! They call this place “Venice of the North” becuase it’s built atop 42 individual islands (very small islands, at that) that sit in the delta of the Neva River. My absolute favorite thing was wandering up and down the miles of canals, stopping in at local shops and coffee shops.
But of course, Russia awaits and there was so much more to see…