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.
I know, I know. When in Rome and all that. But is it so wrong to want a little bit of Rome in Vietnam? I understand that it’s important to eat local food when abroad, but does that mean I can’t indulge in an epic spag bol in Hanoi?
The Italian restaurant in question is El Mediterraneo and the food was AMAZING. It isn’t just me who thinks so – TripAdvisor has numerous equally positive reviews (although it also has a few rather scathing comments dotted about).
I don’t in anyway regret choosing to eat there because it was a lovely meal and I really do love Italian food. But, now, looking back, I can’t help but think that it was a little bit strange to visit an Italian restaurant in Hanoi. It wasn’t as though we had weeks and weeks available in which to sample the Vietnamese cuisine, so I wonder whether I should have been more experimental (it was, after all, me who insisted on having an Italian meal). In total, we visited this restaurant twice, although we did spend a few days away from Hanoi in between visits. If I recall correctly, I also had a cheese and ham toastie in Vietnam.
Travelling with a control freak is, I imagine, really difficult and perhaps not that much fun. I wouldn’t know. Probably because in a travelling duo, I am the control freak.
With the exception of the Russia debacle, I am relentlessly organised before a trip. Every destination is thoroughly researched. Every journey is googled using a number of booking websites, stop overs and airlines. Travel forums are inundated with my questions. And while all of these things are immensely time-consuming, I really enjoy the researching and organising stage. So, at this point, any travelling companion of mine can consider themselves pretty lucky. I will happily provide them with all the information on the chosen destination, including a thorough break down of costs.
So what about the actually travelling, you know, that bit between leaving home and returning? That’s perhaps where being a control freak is a less beneficial characteristic.
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In about ten days, I will be arriving in St Petersburg. I absolutely cannot wait.
About six months ago, we started discussing a weekend break. We talked about Bruges and Paris. We considered somewhere sunny. Then, having never considered Russia before, we began to think about visiting St Petersburg.
We researched flights and hotels, and eventually, a few hours later, settled on a British Airways deal.
I thought that, for once, it might be fun to just pick a country, a city, a hotel and then book it. As a massive control freak, it was a fairly novel experience.
Unfortunately, the lack of organisation raised a few challenges. A visa being one of them. Not only is the visa itself £50, but there is an additional admin charge of almost £30. I couldn’t believe that I was being charged an administration fee for something that is basically administration itself. But, once you’ve booked flights and a hotel, you really have no choice but to sort out a visa. So, now we have a flights, a hotel and two visa and I’m hoping that my better-late-than-never research has pre-empted any other problems. But you can never be too sure!
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