Cruising Parts 4-5: St. Petersburg

We had two days in St. Petersburg. Tourist visas are hard to come by unless you are with a cruise and while in the city you are required to be with a licensed tour company. Getting off the boat was a bit cumbersome and passport control took us 45 minutes, but we know people who spent 2 hours in line. The port is about 30 minutes from the city sites. 

St. Petersburg does not disappoint! It has all the bells and whistles one would expect of the jewel of Russian empire--grand museums, colorful churches, splendid art work, palatial architecture and an interesting and varied history. The problem with the city is that you have to be accompanied the entire time and you are basically shuttled from one busy tourist attraction to the next. It was a little buggy--I would have liked to have been able to explore a bit on my own, but instead we were constantly fighting crowds. 

The Hermitage is possibly the worlds best art museum and we were aloted 2.5 hours to see the same highlights that 5000 other people were seeing at the same time. I was super irritated that our guide didn't organize our time better. The other thing I didn't like was the food--sorry Russia, but I am not a fan. All that said though, the city is a must see. Two days are certainly not enough. 

Below are the photo highlights from...
The Church of Spilt Blood
Grand Palace
City Tour
Catherine's Palace
St. Issacs Church

Cruising Part Three: Tallinn, Estonia

Our next stop was Tallin, Estonia. We had a full day off the ship which was plenty for this sweet little city. Situated on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, ownership of the small country has changed hands many times over the centuries. In 1991 it gained independence from Russia.

We started our day with a bike tour of the new town which was kind of a waste and then spent a few hours wandering the old town. Tallinn is charming enough--Onion domed churches, turrets, stone walls, narrow alleyways, and charmingly chippy buildings. Set upon a hill, Tallinn was easily defensible and was never razed or pillaged.

As far as cruise ports go, this was super convenient, only a 20 minute walk from the ship into the old town.

Cruising Part 2: Warnemunde, German

So, our first port of call was advertised as Berlin, but anyone who knows geography knows Berlin is no where near the sea. We actually docked in Warnemunde which is a small, sleepy resort town, certainly not big enough to entertain you for a full day. Rather than take the train 3 hours into Berlin for a whirlwind tour, we chose to arrange a tour with Friends of Dave that took us to Wismar and Schwerin after a short tour of Warnemunde. 

I would recommend Friends of Dave for the traveler who is perhaps timid and wants to be dropped off and picked up at every step. For those who are more adventurous, you could totally do this tour on your own. In hindsight, we should have rented a car. We like to be a bit more autonomous, but the tour was good and sometimes it is nice to just go with easy. We had great weather as we explored 3 new towns.
The nice thing about Germany is that the architecture never disappoints. Castles, churches and hamlets abound.

Cruising Part 1: Copenhagen

We took a cruise--our first one ever--back at the beginning of September. I formulated all these opinions I planned to share, but at the end of the day who really cares.  No two opinions are ever the same, as evidenced in my own family. While I did not enjoy the cruise concept, my husband thought it was great! I've found cruise opinions vary widely depending on which demographic you are speaking to, so while my photos will  highlight some of the sights, I will share what worked and didn't work for our family.

Our cruise was on the Norwegian Getaway. The itinerary, the Baltic Sea, our disembarkation point was Copenhagen. With only a day and a half to explore and suffering from lack of sleep we only scratched the surface of what I am sure is a great European city.

We took a free walking tour which was literally one of the best I've taken in Europe. Our guide was young, energetic, clever, funny and full of interesting information about not just his city, but politics and government. He moved quickly which meant we covered a lot of ground in just a few hours.
Those life jackets are an art piece bringing light to the many refugees who put their lives at risk on the open waters in hopes of reaching a better life on some other distant shore.

The embarkation process in Copenhagen could not have been easier. I was impressed with Norwegian's check in procedures. They were clear, efficient and within about 45 minutes we were sitting in our cabin. Getting out to the port was simple--we took a taxi to save time,  but upon our return we used public transportation to get back into the city--it was cheap and efficient.

I will continue to review the cruise over the next few days.

Monet's Gardens at Giverney

Monet's Garden at Giverny needs no introduction. It is an understatement to say the gardens are splendid! I will let my pictures speak for themselves. Giverny is an easy day trip from Paris.  


The main draw to Versailles is to see the splendid palace and it was for me too, although this time not only did I come to see an incredible palace built for kings, I came to see the Versailles temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For members of the church temples are the most holy buildings where marriages and other ordinances are performed. Prior to a temple being dedicated, the public is invited to tour the building, but once it is dedicated only members of the church are allowed inside. 

The Versailles temple is a beautiful nod to Parisian artistry in its stained glass windows, art deco motifs and floral patterns. Enjoy the photos of both buildings--one built for an earthly king, who lost his head, the other built for one who willingly gave his.  

Silent Sunday

Linking with Photalife