Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 4: Very expensive tea!

We could have gone on optional tours today to another palace – Peterhof - or a canal cruise – but decided instead to stay in and rest and catch up with the blog and emails. We stayed in bed until 7h45 and had a leisurely breakfast before taking our books and laptop to the Panorma Bar where we stayed until lunchtime.
At 3pm were boarded the bus which took us to the Arts Square in St Petersburg which is close to the main street, Nevsky Prospekt. The Lutheran church of St Peters in Nevsky Prospekt, which was used as an indoor swimming pool was returned to the Lutherans and is now being used as a church. It was raining again so I wore my Altus raincoat and Patty carried her umbrella. I took her to see the church of the Saviour of the Blood, one of the most famous onion dome structures in Russia. (Those are the domes in the header of this blog). The guide warned us not to have coffee at the Grand Hotel Europa because it was so expensive but we decided to give it a try and sit under the canvas canopies at their pavement café. We had a pot of tea and hot chocolate with complimentary biscuits and meringues for 550 Roubles. Actually, I think we were had because she didn’t bring us a bill, just told us what the cost was and we paid, and gave her a tip. The guide told us that a pot of tea in a nice place usually costs around 100 roubles!
We got back just in time to shower and change and go up to the Sky bar for welcoming cocktails at 6:30pm. The captain, his first mate and the event manager introduced the crew and the head chef, restaurant manager, tour guides etc.   At 7pm sharp the boat set sail down the Neva, under the first bridge and past the city. For the first time we saw houses on the banks of the river, mainly summer homes. Dinner started late – at about 8:30pm and we sat with Richard tonight. Patty and Richard shared a bottle of Merlot so they were in fine form (I had water!).
It was announced that, because the level of the river was about 15cm higher than usual we wouldn’t be able to sail under one of the bridges so we would drop anchor and at 2am the road bridge would be raised so that we could continue on our journey. We only got to bed after 10:45pm.


The events guide woke us with an intercom message at 7h45 otherwise we would have carried on sleeping this morning. It was great to sit upstairs with no rush to get onto a bus or go on a tour this morning. The afternoon free time in the city was great too.
St Petersburg is beautifully laid out with wide boulevards and gracious old buildings. Syl took me to see the the church of the Saviour of the Blood. It was quite strange to finally see it for real because I have seen it so often in the books Shaun bought me and it was unreal to stand in front of it at last.
After sightseeing, we sat under the red canopies of the Grand Hotel Europe - one of the top 10 hotels in the world - watching the hoi-palloi walking past us while we had our very expensive tea - about R140 for tea and a cup of Horlicks. We watched smartly dressed men entering the hotel and fashonable young ladies struggle by on the cobble stones in 10” high heels.
 The Russians are very fashionable and the summer fashion seems to be dresses - very pretty, summer dresses.

When we got back to the boat there was a notice that the doll painting workshop had been cancelled due to a lack of numbers. (Sorry Di, I was going to bring you back some hand-painted dolls!)

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