Goodbye 2005!

Okay, just a quick and final short photo-tour of St Petersburg for those who’d be interested in celebrating new year 2006 in true, glamorous Russian style.

First of all, St Petersburg is not cheap. In fact, it can be more expensive than big brother Moscow (which is even more expensive than New York).

It could be done on an economy budget, I guess. But as this trip was my wife’s Christmas present, I pulled out all the stops. I can thoroughly recommend the Renaissance Hotel. You can get a small suite for as little as $200 per night. But if you want a larger suite with a city view, be prepared to pay a lot more per night.

It’s an ideal spot, as it’s a very short walk to the Winter Palace and Hermitage (State Museum) which houses some of the most fabulous artworks I’ve ever seen collected under one roof.

The hotel is also perfectly located for access to Nevsky Prospect, which is one of the most famous streets in Russia. The street is very long and very wide. And it has some of the most wonderful stores, restaurants and bars that you’ll find anywhere in the city.

Perhaps the most luxurious (and expensive) restaurant is Palkin. It is more than 220 years old and the food and service are out of this world. If you do find yourself in the city and you enjoy quality dining, this is a must. But be prepared to pay for it.

St Petersburg, somewhat like Paris, is a great walking city. But at this time of the year it begins to get extremely cold. So make sure to wear sensible underwear and a good quality, genuine Ushanka (not the cheap imported kind). You may want to put some other clothes on, of course!

Okay, here come a few shots and then it’s back to business and blogging as usual for 2006.

Catherine the Great had a notorious reputation for getting her kit off at the mere sight of a Grenadier. She’s known to have had many lovers who were frequently younger than half her age!

Just off Nevsky Prospect is a small park where she stands, proudly looking for young men in uniform, no doubt.

As you walk along Nevsky, you’ll likely cross the bridge over the Fontanki. At this time of the year it is completely frozen.

Also on Nevsky is the famous chocolate museum. I stood next to a chocolate Father Frost (a kind of Russian relative of the Santa Clause family). I almost had to prise my wife out of the building with a crowbar. So if you do have a sweet tooth, be sure to take someone to help you on the will power side!

The jewel in the city crown is, of course, the Winter palace and Hermitage Museum. As it is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever visited, I have no idea why I look so bloody miserable standing in the huge square at the entrance.

There are many ice carvings inside in the courtyard. Here I am watching the ice queen melt in my presence!

If you want to know just how totally extravagant the Russian royals were, visit the Winter palace and the reception room which is decorated entirely in real gold.

As we walked from room to room inside this huge building we saw originals by so many great artists, including Gainsborough, Rafael, Rembrandt… And to my wife’s delight, original works by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Your tour of the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to St Isaacs cathedral. Once again, you can see that Russians of the time, as usual, were not doing things by half measure.

My final opinion? I adore St Petersburg as much as Moscow and would go back at any and every time possible.

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