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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Russia - St. Petersburg 7.3

  • Peterhof
  • Peter & Paul's Fortress
  • St. Issac Cathedral 
  • Restoran
I felt slightly anxious last night.  Despite my best intention to go with the flow and be relaxed about our itinerary, after the luggage delay and not really doing much yesterday, I thought there were still quiet a few important sights we haven't seen in St. Petersburg and time was running out. 

So we decided to get our act together, and asked for  a morning call at 8:30 AM this morning.  After a quick breakfast stop at a nearby cafe, we were at the ticket booth behind the Winter Palace boarding the Hydrofoil to Peterhof at 10:30 AM. 

30 minutes later, We were at the Peterhof.  There was no shortage of tourists when we arrived.  It was hard not to be dazzled by all the water fountains and golden status as we walked through the lower garden.  Tip: If you go to Peterhof, resist the urge to get distracted by the Grand Cascade.  Save the photo ops for later, and head straight to the Palace entrance first.  Once we got to the entrance of the palace, all the a lar cart admissions for various exhibitions, and a very long line getting into the main palace were aggravatingly confusing. 

It took us awhile to figure out which line was for the Palace admissions.  Of course it was the longest line right in front of the Palace main entrance.  10 minutes after we were in line, a staff member announced something in Russian. People waiting in line looked annoyed by the announcement and some left.  We were confused and tried to get some answers.  Another staff member used broken English explained that the ticket booth was closed.  Not willing to give up so easily, we went back to the announcer again for more information.  It must be our lucky day, because the announcer actually pointed to the main entrance and gestured us to go in! We were like two VIPs in the New York night clubs scene, walking through the crowd, and going straight past the red velvet rope!!  What just happened??

Once we got in to pay for admissions, we realized what a great timing we had.  Turned out, it was 11:55 AM, and the ticket office was about to close.  We were the last visitors in the morning!  If we would have been turned away, we would probably have missed the palace after coming all the way to the Peterhof. I could not believe our luck! THANK YOU, GOD!

The interior of the Palace reflected the Russian Royality's aesthetic preference with a lot of intricate details and gold plated panels. However, since photography was not allowed,  I could not remember much. 

We tried to figure out how to get to the upper garden after the palace, but it did not seem that the upper garden was open to the public at the time of our visit.  So we went back to the lower garden for more water fountains.  It was a really hot day, and we saw quite a few Russian women all decked out with high heels in the garden.  I was impressed!

By 2:30 PM, we were back in St. Petersburg and on our way to Peter & Paul Fortress.  Personally, if I never visit another fortress for the rest of my life, I would not miss it.  It just does not excite me.   However, H loves it and I was happy to go with him.  It was pretty neat to visit the Cathedral seeing the actual tombs of all the Russian Czars and their families.  The Trubetskoy Bastion was another captivating site for us to get a glimpse of the turbulent Russian past. 

After Peter & Paul Fortress, we went back to the hotel for a quick break.  Our legs were hurting with all the walking we had done the past few days.  But there were still a lot to see and we still had the whole night ahead of us.  

We dragged our tired feet out of our comfortable bed. (Seriously, the W bed and blanket were the MOST comfortable ones we slept in! Obviously we were not the only ones who felt this way because the W actually sells their beds & blankets online.)  The evening started out with the visit to St. Isaac Cathedral.  Although we only had 5 days in St. Petersbug, but coming to visit in the summer time had its advantage.  Everything opened late, and the sun was out until midnight, so we were able to do so much more in one day.  Tip: The opening hours for Cathedral and colonnade walkway varies depending on the time of the year you visit, and the admission fees were higher if you visit after 6 PM. Check the website for accurate information. 

St. Issac Cathedral was one of the most impressive cathedrals we have ever seen.  It was grand and majestic.   After we toured the inside of the Cathedral, we decided to have dinner before returning for the colonnade walkway.  

Restoran was on Vasilevsky Island, a short walk from St. Isaac Cathedral.  As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I fell in love with it's minimalistic and elegant decor.   Although our server was struggling with English, he was attentive and made great suggestions on what to order. 

Since Restoran has an extensive appetizer selections, we skipped the main course and ordered several appetizers.  It was really a lot more fun to sample different dishes this way. 

Russian Collection - Salmon tar-tar with pike caviar, vinaigratte with sprat, forshmak, olivier with veal. 

I loved the pike caviar! It was similar to the flying fish roe in Sushi restaurants.

Zakuska - lard, onion, garlic. 

This was H's favorite dish.  The server mentioned this dish usually would be ordered with vodkas.  I could see that the salty jerky texture like lard being the perfect match for vodka drinking. 

Solyanka - Country style fish soup (Left)

Siberian dumpling (right)

Pancake with salmon caviar & Sour-cream

Salmon caviar had a much stronger fishy flavor.  I wanted to order the sturgeon caviar instead, but with the heavy tag of more than $200 per plate, I simply could not stomach it. However, I did like the combination of caviar, sour cream and pancake together.  

Dessert: Kissel - berries jelly with cream
Flavored Vodka
Cranberry, Siberian buckthorn, and pepper vodka.
Cranberry vodka was my favorite one. 

H and I love to share dishes when we dine out.  In New York restaurants, we often have to request for extra plates and utensils when we share dishes.  Coming to Russia, we did not expect the service to be good. To our surprise, the service had been exceptional in most of the restaurants we went.  Every dish that we shared were split and served on two plates.  A new set of utensils was provided for every new dish.  I almost felt bad for all the extra work our server had to do with us sharing dishes. 

I was glad to walk off the meal by climbing to the top of St. Isaac Cathedral.  It was around 11 PM and the Sun slowly came down over the horizon and cast a golden glow over the city of St. Petersburg.  The city from this angle was serene and beautiful, in an understated and nostalgic way.... 


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