>Day 60 (Tuesday). Back to Moscow.

>Happy birthday to my sister, Susie! I did forget to mention that yesterday, a day early in honor of her birthday, Cynthia and I visited the Russian Chocolate Museum (which was basically a store pretending to be a museum 🙂 to sample the Russian chocolates. We did determine that Belgium has nothing to worry about.

Today it is time for us to leave St. Petersburg and head back to Moscow. We loved our little boutique, niche hotel on Nevsky…the Nevsky Forum Hotel. It was small…about 25 rooms,perfectly located, friendly, always trying to please and very comfortable. During our free breakfast buffet, we had met a couple traveling with two children from England (although they were Americans now living there). Kids were about two years older than Kara and Kean, my grand niece and nephew. We really enjoyed swapping stories with them. And the little girl had a new game she liked to play called “passport control.” So we of course let her review our passports to make sure they were ok. The next morning in the hallway she yelled to her mom, there are those people we played our game with :-). Aren’t kids great fun?!!

So we leave with our fond memories of the city and our stay here.

A couple of important things we didn’t get to see on this trip, for those of you who may plan to travel here, was the Summer Palace, which was closed for renovation, and scheduled to reopen next year (although reopenings seem to always be delayed here). The palace itself is reported to be modest in comparison to other palaces we’ve seen (as it was built by the modest, Peter the Great) but it is supposed to have a wonderful garden. Also, we did not get out to Peterhof, about 19 miles outside of the city. This was also commissioned by the same Peter the Great, and was to rival Versailles (hmm, sounds like a contradiction to his modesty). It is supposed to be spectacular, especially the garden and the fountains. While they usually don’t turn the fountains on until late May, they did turn them on May 1 because of the beautiful early spring they were having. But we wanted to experience May Day in the city, and on Mondays all of the buildings at Peterhof are closed. We understand this is a worthwhile trip, so for both of these gardens, a visit in about June is probably superb (although probably a lot more crowded with tourists then). There is a hydrofoil you can take to Peterhof from behind the Hermitage on the Neva River (also not yet open until late May…as they have to ensure there is absolutely no residual ice on the river).

On to the train station to catch the high speed train back to Moscow (very similar to our Acela….right down to everyone talking on their cell phones and working on their laptops and iPads)…

We had heard last night from the car service that we had arranged to pick us up in Moscow that they would not be able to do so because of road closures around our hotel. And that we would instead need to catch the metro from the train station….with all of our luggage. Cynthia had already bought a load of vodka, so her suitcase was even heavier than mine, which I’ve managed to keep at less than 19 kilos…so last night we got out the metro map…

…aiiyiyi, we were in for another adventure. Now, if you can enlarge this map, the stops are written in English…not so at the stations. So again we had figured out that our hotel was four stops from the train station on the red line. First, we had to find the metro station which wasn’t in the train station! Once outside, we remembered that the entrances and exits are separate, so we first found what we thought was the exit, and with the help of a Russian woman who spoke no English, she walked us over to the entrance. (I am always glad to help tourists in NYC when they seem lost on the subway, so was happy to find someone who was also willing to help us out). Now it was down steps, and up steps, and down steps to find the red line…at one point, I stayed with the luggage while Cynthia made sure we really had to go up more steps to get there…yep, so up we went. Then to figure out which way to go as we tried to match the Russian words to our metro map. Once again, success…somehow we ended up at our hotel….in tact, but ready for a drink!

After a rest, and a couple of Advil, we ventured back to the arts district we had discovered in our wanderings last week, where we found a little restaurant tucked back off the street called Cafe Chekhov, which was very good and reasonably priced (by Moscow standards).

When we left the restaurant, there was a crowd lining the street…..aha, the reason for the street closures was yet another practice for the Victory Day celebrations which will take place on May 9 (in case you forgot, this holiday is related to their victory against the Nazis in WWII)….a very big day here.

You can barely see the sea of soldiers lined up down the side street, beyond this soldiers hat, near Red Square awaiting their time to enter and march through the square….

Lots of pride, lots of pomp and circumstance…(and lots of road disruptions :-).

After watching as much as we could, from as close as we could get to the square (no front row vantage point like we had in St. Petersburg), we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our last full day in Moscow, which will include a tour inside of the Kremlin walls.

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