Tuesday, July 9, 2013

St. Petersburg, Russia | Day One

Our ship docked at 6am on Thursday in St. Petersburg. We were there 2 full days (we didn't sail until 8pm on Friday). We took a private 2 day tour with just the people we were traveling with - so there were 11 of us and our tour guide - it was fabulous! We went saw a lot of the city and learned tons. After this trip I realized that I tend to go off into my own world when I take pictures and miss a lot of the facts. Luckily Justin pays attention while I snap away :) Russia was not what I expected...I'm not even sure what I expected but it was just...different. People always ask me if I was scared and I wasn't at all. The only reason it felt a little weird was because you knew you couldn't go off on your own - you HAD to be escorted by a tour guide. 

Our adorable tour guide - Elena
We started off our morning at the St. Nicholas Cathedral. The Russians love the color blue - you'll see! We couldn't take pictures inside but take my word for it that it was beautiful!

Famous Mariinsky Theater...I would have LOVED to see a ballet while we were there!
St. Isaac's Cathedral - We went inside on day 2

Monument to St. Nicholas
Town square by St. Isaac's

Tourist sporting his Dell hat
After taking some pictures of St. Isaac's we hopped back in the van and headed over to a souvenir shop (with bathrooms!) to do some shopping and taste some Russian Vodka. My mom and I were on a shopping mission but pretty sure my dad had our share of vodka plus some :)

Beautiful Faberge type eggs
Matryoshka Dolls - Sooo many different designs
After our little break we headed over to the Hydrofoil that took us to Peterhof Palace. We were on the Hydrofoil for about an hour and it was a nice relaxing break during our busy day.

We snagged some comfy "first class" chairs!

Peterhof is referred to as the Russian Versailles because of the extensive and beautiful gardens. It was used as the summer palace and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

None of the fountains have pumps or use electricity - some crazy valve engineering
Lots and lots of fountains
I felt like we were secret agents with our ear pieces :)
Pretty tulips - it's like they were ready to celebrate the 4th ;)

Pretty view on the water
Rotating fountain
This is one of the unique fountains that have a hidden operator that sprays water when people walk by...what a job!
More pretty grounds
More of the pretty grounds

After exploring the grounds of Peterhof it was time for lunch. Justin and I were both terrified to see what was in store at lunch - we are both picky & non-adventurous eaters but it ended up being pretty good! We played it safe with herb stuffed chicken and french fries.

Pretty painted ceiling
Pickles anyone??

Justin & his Russian beer
My sprite came with a wine glass...keepin it classy y'all
After lunch we made the drive out to Catherine Palace - summer residence of the Russian tsars. Guys - this place was massive and so ornately decorated it was over the top. The inside of the palace was intentionally destroyed by the Germans in WWII which only left the shell of the building. Luckily there was a lot of documentation on the interior of the palace which led to its reconstruction. 

Huuuge palace
More blue
We had to wear booties on our feet to protect the floors
Porcelain wood stoves
Dad doing a little dance with his booties
One of the many, many rooms
This looks like a mirror but it's actually looking down the hall into room after room of gold
Green/pink room
One of several dining rooms...they would use different dining rooms for different courses
Grounds of the palace
After we explored the palace we went back to the ship to have dinner and CRASH. The pictures below were taken at about 10pm that night...it had been cloudy/yucky all day and when does the sun shine through - 10pm really?!

Lots more to come on day 2!