We booked a private tour with Tailored Tours of St. Petersburg and it was just the two of us, our guide, and the driver. We could have booked a less-expensive group tour with the same company but we wanted the freedom to design our own itinerary and adjust on the fly. Our guide was very efficient in getting us through the various sites on the first day and was more than competent in providing information and interesting perspectives. It was on the second day that she proved herself to be worth her weight in gold.
First up, the Hermitage, aka the Winter Palace. We had early entrance tickets but then it seemed like half of tourists did too. When we arrived, the line was half a block long and about 3-4 people abreast. Our guide whipped out her phone and made a couple of calls. A person showed up with tickets and we were whisked in ahead of the line. Nice!
The Hermitage was overly crowded and the small passage ways between the galleries did not hep help with the flow of bodies. Our guide, however, knew how to maneuver through the crowds and as long as we followed in her wake we were able to get through the galleries pretty quickly. No waiting 15-20 minutes to see the Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt masterpieces for us. She whisked us to the front, did her explanation, and allowed us to have a close up look, and then we were off to the next piece or art. Very glad to have visit the Hermitage, it is truly an impressive building and collection, and forever grateful to our guide for making is an enjoyable experience.
She then again took us to a cute place for lunch where I had the traditional blini (pancake) and beef stroganoff (we saw the Stroganoff Palace where this dish was invented). The bathroom reflected the whimsy of the restaurant.
Our tour ended in the Fortress of Peter and Paul with a visit to the Cathedral where many members of the Romanov imperial family were buried. If you had a very critical mother who did not want you to ascend to the throne and who basically had your father killed so that she could take over the throne, what would be your ultimate revenge? For Tsar Paul, it was to exhume his father’s remains and bury it next to his mother.
The Fortress sits on Hare Island. So it made natural sense that there would be bronze statutes of hares placed throughout the Fortress. Here is Rosie with her new friend, Harvey.
As we sailed away from St. Petersburg, I can definitely say that it a magnificent city worthy of any bucket list.