07/9/13
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Art Cathedrals

On July 9, 2013, Ivan and I woke up early at 7:30 am.  The Carnival Legend was docked in St. Petersburg, Russia.  We had room service deliver our breakfast.  Ivan and I had smoked salmon with toast and cereal.  Ivan put the extra Raisin Bran in my bag in case he got hungry later.

In order to go into Russia from a cruise ship, you have to be booked on a tour.  It can be a tour that you booked yourself or through the cruise line.  Ivan booked a tour online since it was cheaper than the one on the cruise ship which is almost always the case.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I left at 8 am.  We stood in line for immigration.  20 windows were open, so it went pretty fast.  You have to bring your passport, immigration form and your tour ticket.  Ivan and I went to the The Immigration desk together.  The Immigration agent didn’t say anything and was stone-faced.  She took Ivan’s passport and glanced at Ivan’s paper for the tour.  She stamped his passport.  She barely looked at my tour paper.  I’m sure it would have been easy to book a tour to get the paperwork since you don’t pay until the last day of the tour.

Lil Dave left to go meet up with his cousin Davoff.  Ivan and I met up for The two day Grand Tour with Alla Tours.  We went on the bus which was a total of 15 people including us.

Our guide was a Russian named Vladimir.  We were given headsets, so we could hear what he was saying.  His voice was monotone, so it made you want to go to sleep.

The group’s first stop was at Admiralteyskaya metro station.  This station is 1 year and 7 months old.  We took a long escalator ride down which is 410 feet long.

Long escalator to Admiralteyskaya metro station

There’s a shorter escalator to the station since it’s difficult to build an escalator beyond 410 feet.  We took the train one stop and then came back to Admiralteyskaya.  Ivan and I thought it was pointless doing this since the station wasn’t all that special, the only cool part was the 410 feet long escalator.

Our bus driver drove us to the next stop which was the Hermitage Museum.    We didn’t have to wait and got right in to the museum.  This museum gets a million visitors a year.

Lots of cool art in the Hermitage

You know a museum is going to have some cool architecture and art when the staircase leading to the museum is impressive.

1 1/2 ton bronze chandelier

Vladimir pointed out the one and a half ton bronze chandelier above our heads.

We saw many halls like Peter the Great Hall, St. George Hall and the Da Vinci Hall.

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We would see one hall and you thought Wow, this is wonderful, but then you see another one that’s just as amazing.

The museum got crowded in some areas.

The murals on the ceilings were quite wonderful.

Beautiful art on the ceiling

You really do need a guide to show you all the cool rooms and artwork otherwise you’d be clueless to what you’re looking at.  Vladimir definitely knew his stuff.

Lovely artwork on the ceilings and walls

Our group saw lots of artwork varying in types like Baroque, Renaissance and Russian.  I did listen to what Vladimir said, but sometimes I went off to take pictures.  Good thing I didn’t lose our group.

Vladimir took us to the New Hermitage where we saw statues and art.

Crouching Boy by Michelangelo

Got to see the Crouching Boy statue by Michelangelo and a few paintings by Rembrandt.

The Holy Family with Angels by Rembrandt

It was great to be able to see so much during our 2 1/2 tour of this wonderful museum.  I highly recommend a visit to this museum.

The group was driven to Via Dell’ Oliva for lunch.  The restaurant was pretty inside.  There was coleslaw and bread at the table which wasn’t anything special.  Ivan and I were sitting with an older couple from San Antonio.

A soup was brought out.  Ivan told the guide that we were vegetarian.  No vegetarian soup was brought out as a replacement.

The Texan couple got a chicken breast and a boiled potato for their main dish.  Ivan and I got grilled vegetables.  We think the chef wasn’t very imaginative or Alla Tours is only paying a small amount for our lunches which means a limited, boring menu.

Our next stop was The Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood.  It’s an Orthodox church filled with beautiful mosaics on the walls and ceiling.

Mosaics in The Church of the Spilled Blood Savior

I thought this church was amazing inside and I would have loved to explore it more and take lots of pictures.

The driver took us to the river where we boarded a boat.  Ivan and I sat at the top where we could get a good view of everything.

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral

The commentary said St. Petersburg was modeled after Venice and Amsterdam, so it’s good to see the city by boat.  The boat showed us the sights of St. Petersburg.

It was off to another cathedral, this time it was St. Isaac’s Cathedral.  It’s the 4th biggest church dome in the world.

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The church is filled with classic and baroque art and architecture.  I can tell you one thing.. the Russian artists and architects seem to love to use gold in their work.

Our last stop was at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.  Many Romanov rulers are buried here:
Peter the Great and his family are buried here, Catherine the Great, all three Alexanders, Paul, Peter III, Anne and Nicolas I and II.

Inside of The Peter and Paul Cathedral

Ivan and I were tired, so I only walked around a bit to take a few pictures.  I did notice a lot of baby angels on the ceiling.

The driver took us back to the Carnival Legend ship.  Ivan and I got back on board at 6 pm.

Later, we went to dinner.  We were supposed to meet up with The Aussies at 8 pm.  Found out that Tim and Gabbie had already eaten, so we thought we’d get assigned to a table with other people.

We sat down with an English couple who live in Wales.  The lady got robbed on the first stop on her tour and she reckons the tour guides were in on it.  A handy tip: If you’re going to St. Petersburg, wear a money belt.

Ivan and I had the black bean soup which was delicious.  Ivan also got a study in sushi which is small, but tasty.

Lisa from dinner came over to talk to us about her boring guide, I guess we weren’t the only ones with a guide who had lots of knowledge, but was boring and monotone.

We both got the delectable baked herb polenta with mushroom ragout for our main dish.  For dessert, we got a cinammon, fig and raising cake which was yummy.

Since we were so knackered (tired), we went back to the room and called it an early night.

06/9/13
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A Day of Gaudí

On June 9, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I checked out of the apartment.

We got a taxi to the new Airbnb apartment and checked in.  It’s close to La Sagrada Família.

Ivan parents Denise and Ken came to the apartment from the Norwegian Epic cruise ship soon after.

That afternoon, we all went to La Sagrada Familia which was created by Antoni Gaudí.  It was great to skip the very long line, which is usually an hour wait or more, since Ivan booked it online.

View from the nave of the altar

It was very cool inside with gothic and art nouveau mixed inside with lovely glass stained windows.  The ceiling was interesting as well.

Ceiling of the nave

I took lots of pictures.

Very unique architecture

Ceiling and glass stained windows

I highly recommend going inside the church if you love unique architecture.

We went to lunch at a Catalan restaurant – not sure of the name.  We got a big plate of bread.  You got garlic to rub on the bread and then you put tomato on and a bit of olive oil.  Ivan and I got a soup and a sepia but it was burnt.  The food was okay here.

Our next stop was Parc Güell.  It’s a beautiful park done by Gaudi.

Parc Güell

Ivan and I only made a short stop here the last time we visited, so it was great to walk around and explore the park more.

Ken, Ivan and Denise at Parc Guell

It’s a great place to relax in especially on the cool serpentine bench that has many variety of colorful tiles on them.

Owl like bridge

Lil Dave loved climbing the trees.  I would definitely walk around the park if you come visit, there’s lot of great art to discover.

Sun tile

It’s definitely one of my favorite parks in the world.

For dinner, we went to Tapas Royale.  Ivan picked out a variety of tapas for everybody.  We also ordered cuttlefish, vegetarian paella and Galician-style octopus.  It was delicious food as usual.

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