As I type I am sitting on the open deck enjoying a gorgeous day at sea. The weather today has been absolutely perfect and many passengers are taking the opportunity to relax in the fresh air, read, chat or just watch the world go by. Its days like today that money can’t buy!
Since my last check-in with you all we have visited St Petersburg in Russia and Tallinn in Estonia and both visits were certainly something to talk about.
We spent two days in St Petersburg but to be honest even that would never be enough to take in everything this wonderful city has to offer. On day one I had an excursion to Peterhof Palace and Park and what a palace it was! The weather was perfect, barely a cloud in the sky, and the tourists were flocking to this visually impressive slice of luxury, just outside the main city. Photography inside the palace is prohibited so sadly I can’t share any interior images with you, but let me tell you that it was incredible! I had been torn between Peterhof and Catherine’s Palace but I am glad I went with the first option. Every single room had a different theme, we went from the rather impressive Ballroom and Audience Hall, which were both clad in gold leaf and completely over the top with decoration, to a Chinese themed room, which looked like it had literally been plucked from the Orient and dropped in the palace completely untouched. The décor in every room was impressive as were the furnishings and even the little things like the Wedgewood dinner set. Of course the entire palace was incredible and I would highly recommend the visit, but it was the gardens that I really wanted to see and I was not disappointed by the beauty! The fountains are turned on at 11am so after our interior visit we were just in time for the fountain ceremony to begin. WOW! That’s all I can say! It visually blew your mind, everything was superbly maintained, the grass was a perfect shade of green, the water crystal clear and the small flower gardens were beautiful colours. I don’t think the gardens would have had quite the same appeal if the weather had been awful, but we were very lucky and the sun was hitting the Scoop Basin and Samson fountain in a way that lit up everything around them. It was a place that I could have happily explored all day, you would probably need at least half a day in reality just to walk around the gardens!
In the evening I embarked on a waterways tour, which again was very nice! It was a good way to appreciate the beauty and architecture without the hustle and bustle of other tourists that were probably trying to do the same thing. The architecture in St Petersburg is amazing! Every building makes your eyes light up, even the Cartier store was an attention grabber – well it was for me. We passed several notable sights including the Spilled Blood Church and the Hermitage. It was just a peaceful way to explore and a chance to see the city from the waterways, which in reality is exactly what the city was built for – to be viewed from the water. Again we had ideal weather, not a drop of rain fell from the sky, that was until we boarded the coach and then the heavens opened. I’d had a wonderful day in Russia and I was looking forward to the offerings of day 2.
Day 2 started with an easy morning, my tour didn’t depart until 1:30pm so I took advantage of the time to relax and get ready for my excursion without any rush. We left the port on time and made our way into the city and towards the Church of Spilled Blood. I have always wanted to visit St Petersburg and in particular the Spilled Blood Church so I was incredibly exited to get there. Again this is another architectural masterpiece, it really is beautiful to look at. I was mesmerised by the outer beauty, but once inside it was like being in another world. I didn’t know where to look, every single inch of the interior is beautifully painted and depicts various religious scenes. I can’t stress enough just how amazing it was and I say again, if you are visiting St Petersburg then PLEASE go and see the church, but don’t just look at the outside, you MUST go in. Inside the Church you will also find the spot where Emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded, they say his blood is still on some of the stones! I took hundreds of interior shots, I couldn’t stop myself from clicking the button on the camera. I wanted to capture every piece of art and I think I succeeded! I could never verbally do the Church justice so I hope you enjoy the images below and you can see for yourself just how impressive it is. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore!
My Spilled Blood Church excursion brought an end to our time in Russia and although we still have one port left, I have to say that it is now my second favourite port of the cruise, the first now being Tallinn, which we explored yesterday.
I opened my curtains and was greeted by glorious sunshine, there was a rather dense sea fret lingering over the port of Tallinn but by noon it had burned away and we had clear blue skies all day – perfect for exploring! I left the ship, grabbed a map and off I went into the Old Town. Like Russia, Estonia was a place I had always wanted to visit and I was terrified of being disappointed, I can now say I wish we had spent an overnight there as I completely fell in love with the Old Town and I felt very comfortable exploring on my own. Our call also coincided with a song and dance festival, which is held in the city every five years, so the streets were alive with thousands of people. Apparently there are over 40,000 people that take part in the festival, so you can imagine what the atmosphere was like! Mix that number of people with the amount of locals that were gathering for the festivities and tourists that were rolling in, and you had a rather busy Old Town! I walked all over the place! I explored every area bar one and felt quite accomplished with my little adventure. I took in the Town Wall and its defence towers, St Olav’s Church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Holy Spirit Church and so much more. They say Tallinn is like something out of a fairy tale and having now visited myself I can see exactly what they mean. Everything seems to branch off from the main town square, which makes it an incredibly easy place to navigate, but I would suggest you take a map as many of the narrow streets look very similar and it you could be easily confused if you don’t have clear directions. Even the streets that are less visited are impressive and have character, it’s a destination that you can immerse yourself in completely even if just sitting in a café watching the world go by. You don’t need a massive amount of time to explore here, but I would have loved to have experienced the Old Town at night.
We are in Copenhagen, Denmark, tomorrow then we will have a daytime Kiel Canal transit and a day at sea before returning to Dover on Thursday. I really don’t want to get off! 😦
I will check-in with you all again soon!