Tag Archives: tourist

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part Three

26 Aug

This summer feels like it just flew by.  It was a bit shorter than last year, but it was also significantly busier.  It was filled with travel and visitors, family and friends.  I have split this post into three parts in order to share photos.  This is the third of the three posts!

The third, and final, big event of the summer was a visit from Ben’s parents.  We spent a few days in Moscow, a week in St. Petersburg, and then a few more days in Moscow while they were here.  We managed to visit a TON of museums in both cities including the new Tretyakov State Gallery, the Armoury Chamber in the Kremlin, the Hermitage, the Trubetskoy and Alekseyevsky bastions and the Museum of Torture at the Peter and Paul FortressKunstkamera, the Zoological Museum, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and the Russian Museum of Ethnography.  We covered A LOT of ground in those two weeks and I’m so happy that they were willing to make the trip over here and were up for so much site-seeing.

We happened to have good timing when we were in St. Petersburg.  Ben had previously heard that there is a day when paratroopers gather in parks, get drunk, swim in fountains, and maybe start fights.  Turns out that day is August 2nd, VDV Day, the celebration of Russia’s Airborne Forces.  We were in St. Petersburg for this and saw the gathering, drinking, and swimming, but, fortunately, not the fighting.  This holiday was actually only a few days after Navy Day which was a huge celebration in St. Petersburg given its location on the water.  We saw more gathering and drinking, and a bit of fighting that day, but not as much swimming in the fountain.

до свидания!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part Two

22 Aug

This summer feels like it just flew by.  It was a bit shorter than last year, but it was also significantly busier.  It was filled with travel and visitors, family and friends.  I have split this post into three parts in order to share photos.  This is the second of the three posts!

After my trip to Florida, I had only one day back in Moscow before Ben and I headed off for a long weekend in Riga, Latvia.  Although it was about 10 days early, the trip was an anniversary celebration for us (nine years!).  We have managed to travel for the majority of our anniversaries, even if it was just a day trip to a nearby city.  It is nice to have a tradition that allows us to take time and do something just for us.

The weather was lovely and it was a great city to walk around and explore.  We visited the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia to learn a little more about the country.  We enjoyed dinner at another medieval restaurant and drank so much delicious (and inexpensive!) beer.  We also tried Riga  Black Balsam which was quite interesting.

We also took advantage of the timing of our trip and went to the movies to see Pacific Rim since it was in English with Latvian and Russian subtitles.  It seems that seeing blockbuster summer films in foreign countries is becoming another anniversary tradition, last year it was The Dark Knight Rises in Copenhagen.  Honestly, I think this may have been the highlight of the trip for both of us, which just goes to show how perfect we are together.

We decided on Riga after visiting Tallinn in February.  We thought it would be nice to see all three Baltic states while we are living here.  We just have to get in a weekend in Lithuania now!

до свидания!

Friendship Is Magic

16 Jun

Ben and I were fortunate enough to have some friends visit Moscow recently.  They are friends that we met when living in Southern California, though they have also found new homes outside of Orange County.  It was so much fun to spend time with them here and to show them the city that we now call home.


Photo courtesy of Remy and Svetlana

We did some sight-seeing, hitting Red Square (I actually went into St. Basil’s and GUM this time and we saw Lenin!), the Arbat, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines.  Much food was consumed.  Many stories and laughs were shared.


Horseradish and Honey Vodka!

Between this visit, my sister and brother-in-law’s visit, and my trips to London and St. Louis, year two has offered me the chance to catch up in-person with some really amazing friends and family.  We have definitely made incredible friends here in Moscow, but having time with all of these people has been really important.  During our first year I didn’t leave Russia between October 2011 and June 2012.  It was too much of a separation from life back in the States.  I am certainly anxious to get back to Florida again this summer to see more family and friends, but having time throughout the year to connect with people really has made a difference in my enjoyment of living here.

More photos below!

And, yes, I did reference My Little Pony in the title of this post.

до свидания!

London Calling

21 Apr

I recently had the opportunity to visit London for a long weekend.  This was my first time traveling to England and while the trip did not go exactly as planned, I still got to spend time with friends and see some sites.  The weather was beautiful for the weekend, too, which was a major bonus.

So Helpful!

So Helpful!

So, knowing that cars drive on the left side of the road and experiencing it are two very different things.  I cannot express how helpful these street signs were.  Sure, you should always look both ways before crossing any road, but this doesn’t help in actuality when you are still expecting the cars to be coming from the direction that they have come from for your entire life.

Flags Flying Half Mast for Margaret Thatcher

Flags Flying Half Mast for Margaret Thatcher

I was there the day that Margaret Thatcher died.  This shot was taken shortly after the news broke and shows some flags that had already been lowered to half mast.  By the time I heading back from taking photos here many more flags had been lowered all over the area.

When Ben asked me before the trip what I planned to do, I honestly told him that I had no agenda except to get close enough to Big Ben to take photos.  These photos were taken specifically to be posted online with this (modified) National Lampoon’s European Vacation reference.  The Griswald family’s various adventures are the source of many quotes within my family and I could not let this opportunity pass.

The gallery below has some more photos from the weekend.

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part Three

27 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

After two crazy-busy days of tourism, we took a day off on Thursday to hang out and relax.  Our biggest accomplishment was braving the icy streets to go to the grocery store for some food.  It was a lovely day of family with feet up.

We were back at it on Friday, though.  We ventured out for brunch at Brooklyn Local Cafe. I was sold the moment I heard they actually had bagels.  Bagels are one of the things that I miss A LOT over here.  They made a good one, too.  Once we were fed, we visited the Russian Museum which is the largest depository of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg.

State Russian Museum

State Russian Museum

Since the Russian Museum is not quite as large as the Hermitage, we had time to walk around and explore a bit after.  We primarily wandered up and down Nevsky Prospekt, a main street in the city.  We were able to spend some more time looking at sites that we passed with our guide earlier as well.  This included walking around and taking a million photos of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  It is certainly impressive and makes Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square look even more like a model at Disney than I originally thought.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

We had warm beverages at Cafe Singer in the Singer House, Kevin treated himself to a jersey at the Zenit store, we  marveled at the treats in the Kupetz Eliseyev Food Hall at the Eliseyev Emporium, enjoyed cocktails at the Grand Hotel Europe, and finished off the day with dinner at Van Der Wafel.

Saturday was our last day in St. Petersburg.  We planned a few last things, but spent much of the day packing up and preparing to head to Moscow.  We had lunch at the Idiot restaurant and then walked to see the Bronze Horseman statue.

Bronze Horseman

Bronze Horseman

Earlier in the week we decided to take an overnight train back to Moscow and books our tickets.  Our transportation to the station was very late and as we rushed onto the platform we learned that the train we selected was one of the very few trains that does not leave from the station known as the Station Where Trains to Moscow Depart From.  Since trains leave so often, we were able to find four spots on one that left a few hours later.  We grabbed a table and some beers and waited it out.  We were not able to get one compartment for all four of us, but Heather and Kevin were together with another couple, as were Ben and I, and we were in compartments next to each other.  I fell asleep before the woman even checked our tickets and overall enjoyed the overnight train.  It was a little warm in the car and the other couple with Ben and I were not the best roomies, but I would definitely travel this way again.

And then we were in Moscow!

Reminder: the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part Two

19 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

We toured the city on 26 December.  Led by an English-speaking guide that Heather and Kevin booked through easyRussia, we covered A LOT of ground in St. Petersburg.  This is a photo-heavy post (see gallery at the end), so rather than explaining too much detail/history I recommend that you use the links to learn more about the places we saw!

Our flat was pretty close to the Kazan Cathedral, which stands out due to its impressive colonnade.  Built in the early 1800’s, it was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  We did not enter the cathedral, though, simply passed it while walking.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

We then moved on to another cathedral, the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.  Our guide rushed us here so that we would arrive in time to see part of the service.  It is fairly small inside, but like all of the Russian Orthodox cathedrals that I have been in, it is covered top-to-bottom in ornate decorations and iconography.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

As we walked back to the main street of St. Petersburg, we passed Moika Palace, the location where Rasputin’s assassination began with cyanide poisoning.  We opted out of the tour of the cellar room due to timing and expense.  While most palaces were converted to mundane use after the revolution, this one was given to the Education Commissariat and was preserved as a museum.  It is currently the Palace of Culture of Educators, hosting events and theater productions.  One of my favorite quotes from wikipedia about it is this: “The courtyard where Rasputin attempted to flee from his killers is now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the palace.”

We also past Nabokov House and quite a few palaces that were converted post-revolution.  We saw St. Isaac’s Square which includes St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hotel Astoria, and Mariinsky Palace, which now houses the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac's Square

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac’s Square

We stopped for lunch at Stolle.  They are a “pie” shop, with both savory and sweet pies.  They are AMAZING!  We were very excited to find they have locations in Moscow as well, so we will definitely check them out again.

We walked along the main street for a bit and then hopped on the metro to see the Peter and Paul Fortress.  We didn’t go into any of the museums or sites, but it was impressive to see.  I am also glad we were able to see it in winter because they frozen river covered in snow was impressive.  We also walked to the cabin of Peter the Great, which was a tiny little cabin that is preserved inside of another small building.  It was such a contrast to all of the palaces we passed throughout the day.

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

We passed many other sites along the way since the whole city is covered in historical locations and monuments.  It was about six hours of tour, most of which were walking, so we were exhausted by the time we made it back to the flat.  We managed to drag ourselves back out for dinner, though, and enjoyed a nice dinner at an Armenian restaurant called Kilikia.

As I mentioned before, the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part One

11 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through them all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

Ben and I took a late afternoon train to St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve.  Trains leave from Moscow for St. Petersburg, and vice-versa, close to every few minutes.  The specific length of time varies, but most are approximately four or eight hours.  We selected one of the four hour departures that would arrive after Heather and Kevin, giving them a chance to settle everything with the rental flat and rest a bit.  After we got in, we chatted and enjoyed a nice holiday toast of Havana Club rum.  Why not celebrate being out of the States with something you cannot have in the States?

On the train to St. Petersburg

On the train to St. Petersburg

Christmas day was spent at the Hermitage.  We visited the collection housed in the Winter Palace, which is part of Palace Square.  We spent probably five hours there and still only saw about one-third of the collection.  Ben and I have been saving many of these museums and sites, anticipating having family and friends visit.  The Hermitage is one that we can easily visit again and not feel like we are seeing the same thing over and over.  Not only was the artwork itself amazing, but since it is housed in the Winter Palace, the rooms themselves are artwork, rich in history.

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day and decided to find dinner on the walk back.  We ended up at Gogol and I don’t think we could have planned a better first dinner out in Russia.  Excellent food and atmosphere, with an English-friendly staff and menu.  Designed to be the flat of a writer in the 19th century, each room is themed.  We were seated in the Reception room.  We all enjoyed our soups and main courses, but the highlight was the vodka.  Heather tried to order the homemade spicy horseradish vodka only to be told it was not available.  A short time later another server came out to let her know that it was now available if she still wanted some.  At that point, we all ended up ordering it and not one of us regretted it.  Not my first horseradish vodka, and not even the only one of the vacation, but definitely the best I’ve had.

Reception Room at Gogol
(Photo from Restaurant’s Website)

We don’t have too many photos from these two days, but this is a pretty good place to stop for now.  The photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!


27 Jul

As I mentioned in my last post, Ben and I went to Copenhagen, Denmark to celebrate our anniversary. This was the first time either of us spent a vacation in a European city, so it was pretty exciting.

The city was lovely. From what we saw it was clean, easy to navigate, and friendly. It was amazing to see a city that was overwhelmingly bicycle-friendly, too. Supposedly a third of the population of Copenhagen commutes by bike and we certainly saw everything from casually dressed tourists to men and women in business dress and fancy shoes.

We did not have any specific plans for our time there and mostly walked around the city for the two days. We saw a lot, but didn’t necessarily do a lot. We did manage to pass/see Tivoli Gardens, The Little Mermaid, Kastellet Fort, City Hall Square, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen Opera House, and Christiania.

We were warned ahead of time that it was a bit of an expensive city and found this to be true. We ended up not doing too much that actually required money, but we did treat ourselves to a very nice dinner at the Brewpub on our anniversary. The food was amazing and they offered beer menus that matched beers with your specific courses for a complementary taste.

We also saw The Dark Knight Rises while we were there. This may seem like an odd thing to do while on vacation, but it was actually the best way for us to see it in English. From what we have found, unlike Moonrise Kingdom, a movie this big would only be found dubbed in theaters here. In Copenhagen, it was subtitled in Danish so we could still watch it in English.

Which leads me to one of the nicest things about the trip: how English-friendly Copenhagen is. I don’t think we encountered a single person who did not speak English and there appeared to be no ill-will towards us for requiring it. I was always nervous about the idea of traveling to a city in which English was not the first language and Moscow did nothing to change those feelings. Copenhagen, though, reminded me that Moscow is special.

Here are some photos. Enjoy!

A Tourist in My Hometown

8 Jul

As previously mentioned, I spent two weeks in Florida visiting family and friends. I haven’t lived full time in Florida for almost eight years, but being born and raised in Pam Beach County means that this place will always be one of my homes. I definitely took it for granted while I lived there and totally appreciate that this is where I can vacation without having to pay for a hotel:

My parents took the full two weeks off during my stay, making this a vacation for them, too. We split our time between hometown memories and being tourists. Driving around I saw the only two houses I lived in, as well as my elementary, middle, and the rebuilt-version of my high school. I also went through boxes of cards, letters, photos, etc. from my childhood and teen years. We also visited beach-front hotel restaurants for fancy cocktails, took photos in front of the ocean, and I declined savings-card memberships because “I don’t live here.”

Some of the note-worthy food and drink stops were Tap 42, the Breakers, Burger-Fi, Four Seasons, and, of course, TooJay’s.

There were two must-visit restaurants while my sister and brother-in-law were in town: Sublime and the Mai Kai. Sublime is a gourmet vegan restaurant with one of the best sandwiches I have ever had (the rueben). Not one of us is vegan, but we all loved it. The Mai Kai, well, that was something else altogether. Happy hour drinks and appetizers, dinner, and a show – this place is way more than a tiki bar. My brother-in-law described the full experience, including the serendipitous moment that put this place on their radar, over on his blog.

Over the years my friends have spread out across the country, but I was fortunate to see a few while I was in town. Dinner and drinks were enjoyed on separate occasions along Atlantic Ave. with Katie, who I haven’t seen in over two years, as well as Becca and Charles who I haven’t seen in over seven years. I am lucky to have the kind of friends that make it easy to pick right back up, as if I saw them a few days earlier.

While I managed to eat-til-it-hurt and shop almost every day, there was also a lot of relaxing going on. Books were read and crosswords completed (sometimes only attempted) on my parents’ porch or living room, movies were watched on the big and small screen, and walks were taken around the neighborhood. This was an amazing way to vacation and next time, when Ben is with me, it will be perfect (I cannot wait to take him to Mai Kai!).

A few photos from the trip:

до свидания!

Red Square

18 Sep

We set out last night to check out чук и гик (“the only place to get comics in Moscow”) and grab some food.  While deciding where to eat,* we realized that we were only a few blocks from Red Square and decided to take a walk there after dinner.  It’s times like these when I still can’t fully believe that I live here.   Continue reading