Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theatre

Before we left for St Petersburg, we decided to book tickets to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Mariinsky Theatre.  While I normally do a lot of research on things to do in a certain area, this was the first time that I’d actually booked something.  And it was fantastic.

Firstly, it gave our trip a bit of a focus.  We had to plan our time around the theatre visit and it meant that we were a little bit more organised throughout.  Secondly, the show was fantastic.  Neither of us had ever been to the ballet before and, despite being a little bit apprehensive, we loved it.

However, there were a few minor hiccups.  Mainly, that for the first two acts, I didn’t have a clue what was going on!

A Panoramic Photograph of the Mariinsky Theatre

A Panoramic Photograph of the Mariinsky Theatre

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Imperator

This is the name of restaurant that we visited in St Petersburg.  It was a strange restaurant, mainly because we were the only people in it.  The DK Travel Guide states the following:

The Strelka has a number of restaurants but none of them can match the Imperator for price.  Tucked away in the basement of the Academy of Sciences, next to the Kunstkammer, it serves the usual mix of European and Caucasian cuisine, with the slightly odd addition of Mexican dishes.  The small non-smoking room should be booked ahead.

The first part is certainly true – the prices were very reasonable.  I’m not quite sure what ‘Caucasian cuisine’ entails but the menu was certainly very varied.  The meal itself was pleasant, if not exceptional, but the service was fantastic.  We had already eaten a few times since arriving in St Petersburg and the service had been pretty poor each time.

English: Saint Petersburg (Russia), Old Saint ...

St Petersburg

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Photographing the Snow in Russia

St Petersburg was very, very cold.  Thankfully, we had packed accordingly, with numerous leggings, thermals and socks.  Even so, my hands did become painfully cold on a number of occasions.  Taking my gloves off to sort out the camera was always a bit of a struggle!

However, I’d say it was worth it.  St Petersburg was beautiful in the snow and while my photography doesn’t do it justice, it might give you a little idea of what a winter weekend in St Petersburg has to offer.

P1020141

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The First Night in St Petersburg

We arrived in St Petersburg at around 6pm. We had to go through passport control, where the airport staff looked particularly frightening, and were lucky enough to find our bag within a couple of minutes. I say that as though it happened really smoothly, but I did actually have to dash across the airport in snow boots when I saw our bag from a hundred meters away! We then debated whether or not to get a taxi to our hotel (the easy option) or try and find our way there using public transport.

We opted to try public transport.St Petersberg

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Eating Italian Food in Vietnam

I know, I know.  When in Rome and all that.  But is it so wrong to want a little bit of Rome in Vietnam?  I understand that it’s important to eat local food when abroad, but does that mean I can’t indulge in an epic spag bol in Hanoi?

The Italian restaurant in question is El Mediterraneo and the food was AMAZING.  It isn’t just me who thinks so either – TripAdvisor has numerous equally positive reviews (although it also has a few rather scathing comments dotted about).  I don’t in anyway regret choosing to eat there because it was a lovely meal and I really do love Italian food.  But, now, looking back, I can’t help but think that it was a little bit strange to visit an Italian restaurant in Hanoi.  It wasn’t as though we had weeks and weeks available in which to sample the Vietnamese cuisine, so I wonder whether I should have been more experimental (it was, after all, me who insisted on having an Italian meal).   In total, we visited this restaurant twice, although we did spend a few days away from Hanoi in between visits.  If I recall correctly, I also had a cheese and ham toastie in Vietnam.

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Travelling with a Control Freak

Map of Switzerland, published in a 1913 Baedek...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)*

Travelling with a control freak is, I imagine, really difficult and perhaps not that much fun.  I wouldn’t know.  Probably because in a travelling duo, I am the control freak.

With the exception of the Russia debacle, I am relentlessly organised before a trip.  Every destination is thoroughly researched.  Every journey is googled using a number of booking websites, stop overs and airlines.  Travel forums are inundated with my questions.  And while all of these things are immensely time-consuming, I really enjoy the researching and organising stage.  So, at this point, any travelling companion of mine can consider themselves pretty lucky.  I will happily provide them with all the information on the chosen destination, including a thorough break down of costs.  But more on that later.

So what about the actually travelling, you know, that bit between leaving home and returning?  That’s perhaps where being a control freak is a less beneficial characteristic.

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Getting Ready For Russia

Saint Petersburg, Russia - White Nights with K...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In about ten days, I will be arriving in St Petersburg and I absolutely cannot wait.  Partly because of I’m looking forward to getting away from London (and my dissertation) for a couple of days and partly because I’m looking forward to experiencing somewhere new.

The decision to visit Russia was made fairly quickly.  Not because it’s always been on a list of ‘Must-See Places’, but because it just sounded really interesting.  The decision wasn’t, however, particularly well researched.  I thought that, for once, it might be fun to just pick a country, a city, a hotel and then book it.  As a massive control freak, it was a fairly novel experience.

Unfortunately, the lack of organising raised a few challenges.  A visa being one of them.  Not only is the visa itself £50, but there is an additional admin charge of almost £30.  I couldn’t believe that I was being charged an administration fee for something that is basically administration itself.  So that was money spent that I hadn’t accounted for.  But, once you’ve booked flights and a hotel, you really have no choice but to organise a visa.  Now I have a visa and I’m hoping that my better-late-than-never research has reduced the possibility of any other problems.  But you can never be too sure!

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