Adventures Abroad

Adventures Abroad
Machu Picchu

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Review of Russia


As promised, let’s discuss the trip to Russia. Where to begin…yes, I suppose just the basics will do for today.

B and I booked tickets from home-Moscow, Moscow-St. Petersburg, and then St. Petersburg-home. We also managed to get 2 amazing 5-star hotels in the deal for $1,300 per person! (Words of Wisdom: always take advantage of an economy that is struggling.) We went during March, which is the off season because it is quite cold. However, I loved seeing it snow in Russia! It was so magical to see snow covering St. Basil's Cathedral!  

Hotels:

It was a stunning hotel right near the Kremlin and Red Square! The staff was extremely nice and helpful during our whole stay. The rooms are nonsmoking, but you can smoke in the hallway, so it is a little smokey smelling. One of my favorite things about this hotel was when we came back from walking around in the freezing cold Russian air; we sat in a beautiful parlor and had mulled wine! Uh, hello, we call that perfection! Overall I would recommend this hotel just for the location alone! 
Hotel National
Our dinner after being indecisive-wine, cheese, meat, and fruit! 
The inside of this hotel was just as stunning as the last if not more stunning! This hotel is the only place that offers a caviar bar in St. Petersburg, which B and I had to try out—expensive! There is also a bar located downstairs, which offers live entertainment but it is also expensive (think $12-15 per GLASS of wine). The Belmond is definitely more expensive than Hotel National.
The Belmond's entry to the bar
Transportation:
Moscow:
Airport travel: One thing I hate about travel days is when you get off the flight and finally get your luggage only to be bombarded by a ton of taxi drivers. Miserable! Well, we took a taxi to our hotel for a bit more than it should have been--around $80 and yes, it is a lot more than it should be! My advice is to go to the official taxi counters and pay for your taxi there. It should cost you around $20-$30 to get to the hotel. Yet, we did not know this until we arrived for a tour of the American Embassy in Moscow days after. Never trust a random taxi driver even if you are exhausted and want real food and a hot shower!
Walking around: Moscow is one of the most amazing underground cities! Yes, everything is underground!! For one thing, you cannot and I mean absolutely cannot cross streets in Moscow! Not only would you get hit by a crazy driver, but you may get ticketed! Always use the tunnels that lead to the malls, grocery stores, and subway. They are not scary at all! You will notice the real hustle and bustle of a big city and see police officers monitoring the areas. Oh, did I mention they are spotless? There is no trash littering the streets or tunnels of Moscow! It is amazing how quickly the clean-up crew comes through.
Metro: The metro is a little confusing to navigate, but it is cheap and efficient to get around to places not in walking distance. We received a map and directions from our concierge who spoke fluent English. Also, do not be alarmed if you get on the wrong train. It happens. And never forget that people are much nicer than you think. Ask a local for help! They may not speak English, but they understand maps and destinations.
St. Petersburg:
Airport travel: After getting ripped off in Moscow, we definitely learned our lesson. We went to a legit taxi stand and paid about $20 to get to our hotel. However, our driver was a madwoman! She truly reminded me of Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. I got so car sick during that drive, but it may have also been the fact that I was unknowingly carrying a wee-little-Wilcox in there!
Walking around: We walked a lot. St. Petersburg is almost like Venice. The streets are filled with canals and bridges. It is not an underground city like Moscow. Cross the streets when the lights change!
Metro: We did not attempt in this big city!
Taxi: We did arrange for taxis from our hotel to the ballet and Catherine's Palace. The taxi rides were quite affordable.
Dining:
Moscow: We went to a few legit Russian restaurants in Moscow, but mostly just cheap places we found when we were exhausted from walking in the cold. Most of the food you eat will be a huge surprise since some of the places do not have English on the menu. Don't be scared! After all, it is a huge part of the big adventure!
$70 worth of caviar and vodka
St. Petersburg: B and I had the most amazing Asian food here! We were both cold and exhausted and wondered into a tiny Asian restaurant that I did not catch the name of (it is across the street from a McDonald's). Best people watching ever! My next suggestion would be a chain called две палоцки, which has a symbol of what looks like two seagulls on their logo. The restaurant means Two Pilots. The restaurant offers everything you could want--Asian, American, Italian, etc.--and all in one giant menu! Pure deliciousness!  
Bottom line, all of the food in Russia is delicious! Be adventurous and try something new!
Wine & Cocktails:

Moscow: You must go to the Four Season's bar and lounge for some of the best cocktails you will ever have! The bar specializes in mixing vodka with everything...including champagne! Yes, I tried a $30 cocktail that had champagne and vodka and it was delicious! The bar is quite expensive, but hey, you only live once!
St. Petersburg: BUY your own wine! The hotel bars are nice, but pricey! We paid like $15 for one glass of wine. After that night, we went right down to the corner grocery store and bought our own wine for like $5 and it wasn't too bad. However, the wine carafes at the Two Pilots is quite affordable and huge! We paid $15 for more than a standard bottle of wine in one of their carafes. As for vodka, you must try the caviar bar at Belmond. B and I split a vodka and caviar plate for $70. Again, you only live once!  
Wine and Chocolate!


A Tradition You Need to Know:
Churches:
 Ladies, ALWAYS cover your hair upon entry to a church. I would explore the city with a big shawl-type of scarf and then pull it over my hair to wrap it up. Never show too much skin! You must remember to wear skirts past your knees or pants and appropriate shirts. It is a church after all!
Men, please dress appropriately and remove your hat upon entering the church.
Everyone, cameras are not allowed in most churches, so be respectful or you will be denied entry into the church. If a camera is allowed, remember to turn off your flash. Again, this is a place of worship and that is what a lot of people are there doing. I cannot stress how important it is to be respectful!


Remember to click here to check out my post about getting into Russia!

My next post will be pictures of Russia! Check back soon!

Happy travels!
-Katie

2 comments:

  1. oooh wow! i bet russia was an incredible place to visit!!

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    1. Brittany,
      Russia was such an amazing country to visit! I would highly recommend putting it on your bucket list! The food is delicious, the people are friendly, and the architecture is mind-blowing! I am very happy to say that the architecture and art museums are better than the French! I will post a link for some pictures in a blog post tonight!

      Happy travels!
      -K

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