Well, for now.
It was, without a doubt, a must-see place for me. It’s somewhere I had researched and researched. I had looked at hundreds of pictures, read hundreds of blogs, I’d even dreamt about the place. So, when I visited, it felt extra special.
Tuesday 5th June 2012
After breakfast in Hanoi, we joined a coach full of others and set off for Halong Bay. Unable to sit next to each other, I spent the journey sleeping and listening to the Regina Spektor album I had just downloaded. Now, every time I listen to that album, I relive the excitement of that journey.
Following a brief stop, we arrived at the port. We were offered a strange looking (and strange tasting tea) and settled down to play cards for about twenty minutes.
Later, on the boat, we were treated to an amazing buffet lunch. Not one for seafood, I accepted that I’d have to be experimental and made a conscious effort to try everything.
At the weekend, I decided it was time to GET ORGANISED.
I think I’ve been over-embracing the new not-a-control-freak-anymore version of myself. By which I mean, I booked flights for Bali, then I booked accommodation and then I did nothing.
I knew that I would need to sort out an international driving license but, busy with essays, the thought wandered off to the back of my mind. Until last week. When I had a mini meltdown, thinking I’d left it too late and that there was no chance I could possibly get it sorted in time and that we’d have to change all of the plans because I had been too disorganised to sort out driving licenses.
A few weeks ago, I posted about the business lounge at Heathrow.
Basically, I said that WE LOVED THEM. Finding ourselves sitting, sipping beer at 8am was a bit of a surprise, but it was a brilliant start to a brilliant weekend.
After we returned home, I decided to check out the cost of airport lounges. I worked out that we would normally spend around £15 per person on water, snacks and magazines before a flight and, at Lounge Pass, discovered that the No. 1 Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3 cost £30 per person. So, as expected, it didn’t really make financial sense.
Before we left for St Petersburg, we decided to book tickets to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Mariinsky Theatre. While I normally do a lot of research on things to do in a certain area, this was the first time that I’d actually booked something. And it was fantastic.
Firstly, it gave our trip a bit of a focus. We had to plan our time around the theatre visit and it meant that we were a little bit more organised throughout. Secondly, the show was fantastic. Neither of us had ever been to the ballet before and, despite being a little bit apprehensive, we loved it.
However, there were a few minor hiccups. Mainly, that for the first two acts, I didn’t have a clue what was going on!
A Panoramic Photograph of the Mariinsky Theatre
The Impertor was a strange restaurant, mainly because we were the only people in it. The DK Travel Guide states the following:
The Strelka has a number of restaurants but none of them can match the Imperator for price. Tucked away in the basement of the Academy of Sciences, next to the Kunstkammer, it serves the usual mix of European and Caucasian cuisine, with the slightly odd addition of Mexican dishes. The small non-smoking room should be booked ahead.
The first part is certainly true – the prices were very reasonable. I’m not quite sure what ‘Caucasian cuisine’ entails but the menu was certainly very varied. The meal itself was pleasant, if not exceptional, but the service was fantastic. We had already eaten a few times since arriving in St Petersburg and the service had been pretty poor each time.
St Petersburg was very, very cold. Thankfully, we had packed accordingly, with numerous leggings, thermals and socks. Even so, my hands did become painfully cold on a number of occasions. Taking my gloves off to sort out the camera was always a bit of a struggle!
However, I’d say it was worth it. St Petersburg was beautiful in the snow and while my photography doesn’t do it justice, it might give you a little idea of what a winter weekend in St Petersburg has to offer.
We arrived in St Petersburg at around 6pm. We then went through passport control, where the airport staff looked particularly frightening. Then we quickly found our bags – although it did involve a brief dash across the airport in snow boots when I saw our bag from a few hundred meters away! We then debated whether or not to get a taxi to our hotel (the easy option) or try and find our way there using public transport.
We opted to try public transport.