Los Angeles is the location we chose for a rest stop. It is a long way from Grand Junction, Colorado to Wellington, New Zealand.
At the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard, we lounged around in the room until it was time for dinner. About 20 steps from the hotel is a great restaurant, Zpizza Tap Room. They sell pizza either whole or by the slice. Their hand-tossed pizza is delicious. The crust is thin; not paper-thin, but certainly not thick and doughy. Also offered are craft beers. We opted for wine instead of beer. After dinner, it was back upstairs for some television and sleep. The following morning, it was downstairs for the buffet breakfast. While eating, breakfast, we discussed things to do that day. We had plenty of time to kill since our flight to Auckland did not depart until 22:30 that night. Our decision was the Santa Monica Pier. Neither one of us had been there before.
Google Maps efficiently guided us to the pier. When we arrived, we stopped at the red light directly across from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. I knew I had to get a photograph of the iconic sign. That would have to wait until we parked.
The traffic light turned green, and we proceeded across the intersection and began our descent to the pier. At the bottom of the drive, one had to turn left to the parking lot on the boardwalk.
Once we parked, I walked back up to the entry sign while Leslie waited on the boardwalk. I was certainly not the only one who decided to take a photograph of the sign. Group after group of people stopped to take a “souvenir” photo beneath the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign. All the while, the locals went by, hardly noticing the tourists. In the first photograph I posted, a blurred runner attests to that fact.
I was surprised at the crosswalk at the intersection. Virtually the entire intersection was a crosswalk. I had never seen one painted quite like that. With all of the converging lines, it was almost too hard to look at and stay oriented.
The pier itself is not as large as I had imagined. Much to my amazement, there was parking right on the dock. There was additional parking in a paved lot at the beach level. As we began to stroll along the pier, it was evident that the pier was not quite in full swing. Since we are usually early when we go anywhere, we frequently miss the largest crowds, which is just fine with us.
One of the things we noticed on the beach was a field of crosses on display. It seemed to be drawing attention to the many soldiers the United States has lost in the war on terror. We could not discern why some crosses were white while others were red. If one looks closely at the photograph, one can make out at least one Star of David and one Muslim crescent moon. Those that installed the display did an exact job. No matter which way one looked, the crosses lined up perfectly.
In addition to the more significant buildings and restaurants on the pier, there were numerous kiosks. The kiosks had all manner of tourist kitsch. Of course, we had purchased some kitsch; specifically, our prerequisite refrigerator magnet.
At the end of the pier, we sat near the Mariasol restaurant and watched all the sights. There were a lot of people fishing from the dock. While we were there, we did not see anyone catch anything. Maybe on other days at other times, those fishing have much better luck.
We ended up sitting on the patio of Mariasol to have a coffee. There were a few others there for lunch. The Mexican food looked amazing. Unfortunately, we were between a rock and a hard place. We had eaten breakfast, not all that long ago. Also, we planned to drive to the In-N-Out Burger for lunch. If we ever get back to that point on the planet, we will prepare better so we can try some of the Mexican food.
I did not realize the Santa Monica Pier was the end of Route 66 until I saw the Route 66 Last Stop Shop at the end of the pier. When we walked back along the dock, we saw the “End of the Trail” sign.
A little beyond the Route 66 sign is the old Hippodrome building. I understand it is the oldest building on the pier, dating from the mid-1940s. Housed in the Hippodrome is a beautiful antique carousel. The carousel dates from the 1920s. We did not ride it (apparently there is a weight limit), but we did sit and watch it for a long time.
We got back in our rental car and drove off the pier. Sitting under the Santa Monica Pier sign, waiting for the traffic light, we noticed the drive down to the dock was no longer open. We could only imagine the drive reopened periodically as people depart as we did.
Just like the last time I was there, the In-N-Out Burger by LAX was packed. Somehow we were lucky enough to find a parking space. Inside the restaurant, all the employees moved at a frenetic pace. It is a fantastic sight to see all the employees working assembly-line-fashion to fulfill the dozens and dozens of hamburger orders.
While I waited for our order, Leslie went outside to find a table. In my opinion, half the reason to eat at this particular In-N-Out Burger is to watch the endless stream of planes landing at the airport. We got our fill of burgers, fries, and aircraft.
After lunch, we walked across the street to watch the planes approach the airport, flying directly overhead. I filmed a Southwest Airlines jet and posted it on Facebook. By clicking on “watch on Facebook,” one can see the video.
March 10 was an odd day because I arrived in Los Angeles before I left New Zealand. The International Dateline is an amazing imaginary line on the planet.
I am not much of one for numerology, but I found it unique that my flight was NZ6; it departed from gate 6, and my seat number was 6K.
The flight pushed back from the gate at 19:42 (on March 10), eight minutes early. Once we made our cruising altitude, the flight attendants began serving. The meal started with the following:
Prosciutto with radicchio salad, asparagus, grilled artichokes and blue cheese.
Roasted chicken breast with roasted cauliflower and currant couscous, green olive tapenade salsa and broccolini.
A selection of fine New Zealand cheese served with plum and tamarillo chutney and cracker selection.
After dinner, I settled in to watch a movie. I started with La La Land because of all the hype, but it did not last long. I could not get into the film. I switched to A Cat Named Bob, but I had the same result. I ended up watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie I have probably seen a dozen times.
Finished with the movie, I went to sleep with my other 28 roommates. It surprised me how bumpy the flight was, all through the night.
When I awoke, I asked for a cup of black coffee. It was very relaxing to drink my coffee while listening to Vivaldi. Then came breakfast:
Fresh fruit salad with a croissant.
Omelette filled with sun dried tomato and spinach mornay, roasted tomato and piccata ham.
I arrived at LAX at about noon (on March 10). That was nearly eight hours before I left New Zealand!
I checked into the Marriott Residence Inn on Century Boulevard. One thing I wanted to do was visit the In-N-Out Burger near LAX. Mr. Google was kind enough to let me know the restaurant was only about one mile from the hotel. I decided to walk.
In about 20 minutes, I was within a few hundred feet of the In-N-Out Burger. I stopped there because I was directly underneath the flight path for runway 24R at LAX. It was fascinating watching the planes overhead, seemingly so close that one could almost touch them. When I tired of that, I finished my walk to the restaurant.
In the parking lot, one must navigate through the endless stream of vehicles in the drive-through lane. Entering the In-N-Out Burger, I was instantly in a sea of people. I was soon able to discern there were three less than perfect lines leading to three cash registers. I began my wait about seven or eight people from a cash register. I used my time to review the surprisingly short and inexpensive menu. For example, for only $5.95, one could have a cheeseburger, French fries, and a drink. That was my meal of choice.
After ordering, the sea of people shifted a little to one side while everyone waited for their order. I found a small piece of real estate near the drink machines on which to stand. From that vantage point, I could see there were nearly as many employees behind the counter as people were waiting. The choreography was amazing as an endless stream of orders made their way through the galley and back to the front counter for distribution.
Soon, I heard my order number called. I picked up my order and walked out. There are several tables outside. I found an empty table on the south side that was directly adjacent to the flight path for runway 24R. I sat there enjoying my lunch, thrilled by each jet that flew by me. It reminded me of watching the planes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten (please see my St. Maarten post).
I walked back over to the flight path when I finished lunch, to watch a few more jets. That was when I saw an Emirates Airlines A380 fly overhead on final approach. For those that do not know, an Airbus A380 is a double-deck airplane, the largest passenger airplane in the world. Watching that lumbering beast approach, I found it hard to believe that nearly 1.5 million pounds (700 tons) of metal can fly. The plane appears as though it should fall out of the sky.
The second item on my to-do list for the day was to visit Venice Beach. I hailed a taxi and sat back for my $40 ride.
The taxi driver dropped me off at North Venice Beach Boulevard and Ocean Front Walk. I walked through the parking lot and across the beach. I stood there, watching the Pacific Ocean roll onto the beach.
Back on Ocean Front Walk, people were swarming and strolling along in both directions. Mostly food outlets and tourist shops populate Ocean Front Walk. I began my stroll heading north. I quickly noticed one additional type of shop, medicinal marijuana. Each medical marijuana shop had several people standing in front. As pedestrians stopped, the medical marijuana staff tried to determine what medical problems the pedestrian may have and if medical marijuana was the cure. As anyone who knows me might imagine, I kept walking.
Very shortly, I found myself standing near a garish orange building at Muscle Beach. There were a few weightlifters in the “weight pen.” I enjoyed seeing something I had heard about for so many years but never visited.
Near the “weight pen” were some benches. I sat on one of the seats and watched the other people on Ocean Front Walk. I captured photos of many of them.
A little farther along, I found Zoltar in front of some small shops. The fortune-telling Zoltar machine had a starring role in the film Big. It was a wish at Zoltar that turned a 12-year old boy into an adult, played by Tom Hanks. I do not know if this may have been “the” Zoltar, but I took a photo anyway.
There were many eclectic people on the Walk. I saw a man playing a grand piano. Hunching over the keyboard meant I never saw his face. His mopish hair also made it difficult to see his face. Not far from him, I saw a man on a tricycle decked out in full mountain-man buckskin; including a fox hat. I do not know how he stood that outfit. I thought it was entirely too hot to dress like that. He was talking with some men that appeared to want to film him for some film.
Ocean Front Walk is a pedestrian walkway. However, from time to time, a police car, a lifeguard car, or even a firetruck drove along the Walk.
By far, the oddest sight was the Venice Beach Freak Show. It is a greenish-gray building on the Walk. The signs on the building touted such things as “See the Freaks of Nature,” “Lady Twisto,” and “Giant Rat.” Sitting on the stairs to the Freak Show was a bearded lady. In front of her, on the sidewalk, was a little man. They both tried to get passersby interested in buying a ticket for the Freak Show. I opted out.
The last sight of the day was a man carrying a cross along the Walk. After seeing him, I found a taxi and rode back to the hotel.
I was at LAX early the next morning for my flight to Denver. The trip was uneventful. The plane went right by Grand Junction, my final destination. I found myself wishing I could get off right there. Regardless, it was on to Denver. As we flew, it was easy to see just how much snow was still in the Rocky Mountains.
At the Denver International Airport, I had time to kill before my final flight. I went into a restaurant overlooking the tarmac. I had some nachos and a beer, something that is very hard to find in Wellington, New Zealand (the nachos, not the beer).
After a one-hour flight, I had finally made it to Grand Junction. I had not seen Leslie since the first part of February. Even worse, I had not seen our son, Tyler, since December 2014. It was a great reunion.
As the Regal Princess slipped into the Port of Helsinki, we could tell we were in for an exceedingly beautiful day. The sky had barely any clouds, just a fantastic azure color. The port was bustling. Large ferries came and frequently went to other ports in the Baltic.
Arrangements by the cruise line included a shuttle bus. For 10€, we had roundtrip transportation from the port to a bus stop near the corner of Erottajank and Bulevarden. Lorraine and Arlene made arrangements for a tour of the city.
Leslie and I opted to see some sights on foot.
Once we got our bearings, Leslie and I began our stroll to the Helsinki Cathedral at Senate Square. We entered the west end of the Esplanadi, a park-like area about four blocks in length. The east end of Esplanadi is at Market Square. Along the road on the north side of the Esplanadi are all the high-end stores like Louis Vuitton. There were several bronze statues throughout the park. In the center of the park, the wide walkway is gravel.
At Unioninkatu we turned to the north. As we neared the end of the first block, we got our first glimpse of the Helsinki Cathedral at Senate Square. On the corner, just across from Senate Square, we found a souvenir shop. Yes, we bought another magnet.
After the magnet purchase, we crossed the street to Senate Square. The mid-19t h Century Helsinki Cathedral dominates the north side of the Square. There are 52 steps leading up from the Square to the Cathedral. In front of the stairs was a large portable stage. The Square teamed with several cheerleading squads, obviously preparing to perform on the stage. We saw a couple of different crews practicing in the Square.
Given the number of steps, Leslie decided to sit at the base of the stairs and watch the cheerleading squads while I went to view the Cathedral. I ascended the stairs and found the main entrance on the west side of the Cathedral.
The exterior of the Cathedral is all white with six columns holding the four pediments above each side. The top of the Cathedral has a large green dome adorned with a gold orb and cross. Four smaller domes with similar balls and crosses surround the central dome. The peak and two edges of each of the pediments are the bases for three statues.
It was hard to miss all of the gymnasts in the plaza next to the Cathedral. We found out the 15th Annual World Gymnaestrada. This is a gymnastic event held every four years. In Helsinki, there were 21,000 entrants from 55 countries.
The interior is quite Spartan. The chandeliers, altar, and pipe organ were all beautiful; but, other than some statues, there was not much decoration. Much like the encounter with the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, when I entered the Cathedral, I found myself saying, “That’s it?” With all of the hype, I was expecting a wonderfully decorated church. Instead, there was hardly any decoration inside. I was glad I did not have to pay to go inside the Cathedral.
Exiting the Cathedral, I noticed a smaller white building at the southwest corner of the Cathedral property. As I got closer, I saw it was the gift shop for the Cathedral. Inside I saw some lovely handmade crosses that I thought would go well in Leslie’s cross collection. Instead of just buying one, I walked down the stairs and told her what I discovered. She decided to walk up the 52 stairs with me and look at the gift shop. She did find a cross she liked. The gift shop also sold coffee. We decided to have a cup of coffee at the small table outside, and people watch.
Finished with our coffee, we decided to walk downhill to the Market Square. We chose Katrinegatan for our one-block walk to the Square. We saw an interesting store, Made by Helsinki, and decided to go inside. Local artisans made everything inside. Everything from jewelry to pottery and clothing was on display. We found some wooden Christmas ornaments that, when assembled, were three-dimensional. We bought three, one for Lorraine, one for Arlene, and one for us.
There were many people in Market Square, each going from vendor tent to vendor tent. Leslie and I each bought a Finland t-shirt. Although the designs were different, each had the words “Finland” and “Suomi” emblazoned on the front. I asked one of the vendors what Suomi meant. He said it is the name of their country in Finnish.
From the Market, we began to walk west toward the high-end shops. I wanted to find the littala glass store. I read a lot about the glass factory in the Lonely Planet guide to Helsinki. We found the store, but quickly decided it was not for us.
We emerged from littala and hailed a cab. We headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art (Nykytaiteen Museo Kiasma). American architect Steven Holl designed the modern-style building, apparently much to the chagrin of many Finns.
The building is striking, finished in 1998. Entry to the museum was 12€ per person. We decided to start on the fifth floor and work our way down to the ground floor. One of the first exhibits we saw on the fifth floor was Think of One Thing by Mariele Neudecker. There were several clear plastic cubes, each containing a mountaintop poking above clouds. They each looked very realistic. Another unique piece we saw was the “wind” drawings. The artist (I forgot to write down the name) attached a pen to the branch of a tree or bush. The pen rests against a piece of paper, making marks as the wind blows. The artist did something similar with photographs and light, but I could not figure out the logistics of those.
On the fourth floor, we both thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit Face to Face. That is where we saw works such as Scarlet, Villu’s Portrait, Jack, Topless Compact, and Michael. Possibly the oddest work was Michael. It is a video made in 2015 by Iraqi artist Adel Abidin. The video depicts a fictional interview with Michael Jackson when he returns from death, complete with screaming fans in Times Square.
Except for the Andy Warhol and the Yoko Ono photographs, neither of us liked the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit on the third floor.
When we left the museum, we walked about a block and one-half to the central Helsinki train station. I wanted to see it because of the art deco styling of the building. We found a place to sit and have a beer. Leslie stayed there while I ran around taking various photos of the station.
After the beer, we continued walking to the south. Ultimately, we knew we would end up at the bus stop from this morning so we could make it back to the ship. We stopped at the Virgin Oil Co., a restaurant, to eat lunch. We shared a pizza and had a Koff beer. This building also had art deco styling, including some art deco statues.
Sitting at the Virgin Oil Co., I noticed an advertising sign touting the grapefruit and cucumber Crook’s Head Dram… no, thank you. I will stick with beer or wine. I will keep my fruits and vegetables separated if you do not mind!
From lunch, we walked the final two blocks to the bus stop. There was a bus there, so we were able to board and sit down immediately. Across the street, I saw an El Jeffe sign. I had to snap a photo of that since that is how my team in Madrid referred to me. At the same spot was the Erottaja Bar. While that may sound like the word “erotic,” it is a nod to the name of the street, Erottajank.
The bus deposited us back at the dock within about 15 minutes. There was a large tent under which were more vendors. We bought a couple of packages of some type of rye cracker. It ended up that Leslie did not like them at all. I thought they were good. There was a photo of a statue with the face cut out. Leslie was a good sport, allowing me to make her crazy photograph there.
Coincidentally, Lorraine and Arlene were there too. After we all had our fill of looking, it was back on board to relax and wait for the second formal night for dinner. While Leslie and I waited, I sat on our balcony and took photos as the ship departed Helsinki. The most striking thing I saw was Pihlajasaaren Beach. It is located on a small island just about a half-mile from the mouth of the port. The colorful beach cabanas are what made it so picturesque. While we passed the beach, I found it surprising the number of seagulls flying beside the ship as we sailed. I heard the captain on the intercom warn the passengers that it was illegal according to maritime law to feed the seagulls from the boat.
Leslie and I dressed for dinner. We sat and had a glass of wine, overlooking the piazza area of the ship where a quartet was performing. The ensemble was there every evening, just before the first dinner seating. When we finished, we went into the dining room to meet Lorraine and Arlene for another of our delicious meals.
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation – July 13, 2015
We docked at St. Petersburg, Russia this morning. At breakfast, Leslie and I commented that we would never have guessed we would ever visit Russia, but here we are!
This morning, we were part of orange group #1, our tour group for our visit to the Hermitage Museum. Before we got on the bus, we all had to go through passport control. It was not necessarily a breeze. The immigration officer looked closely at us. She even motioned to my passport photo in which I sported a goatee and then pointed at my now clean-shaven face. In addition to our passports, she also demanded to see our ship excursion tickets. Those essentially acted as our Russian visas. Ultimately, even though she seemed a little cranky, she did stamp both of our passports. We thought it was cool getting that entry stamp. Leslie, Lorraine, Arlene, and I boarded the tour bus. Leslie and I lucked out and got two of the front seats. That made it helpful for taking photos on the way. It was one of several buses lined up at the cruise depot. By 09:00, we began our journey to the museum. On the way, our guide told us St. Petersburg enjoys only about 60 days of sunshine each year. That is precisely the opposite of Colorado, which enjoys approximately 300 days of sun each year. Our day was nice. It was not until later in the day when we returned to the ship that we encountered some raindrops.
After about 30 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the museum. The Louvre in Paris, France, has long been my favorite museum, but that may be in jeopardy now. At the Hermitage, in addition to the museum, one also walks through an awe-inspiring palace. The other fact that sways me is that one of my favorite paintings is at the Hermitage, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. The only downside is the size of the exhibit area does not comfortably allow for viewing when the museum is crowded.
When we arrived, our guide shared that we were in luck. We were entering the museum about an hour before it opened to the public. That meant we had many portions of the museum virtually to ourselves. That worked out well for my photography.
The museum is just over 250 years old, founded by Catherine the Great. The palace consists of six different buildings. We walked through five of them; the Winter Palace, Small Palace, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, and the Hermitage Theater. The buildings total over 2.5 million square feet of space. The ornate decorations in each building and the displayed artwork are just incredible.
We entered the museum through the main Winter Palace door facing the Neva River. It took a little while to get our entire group through the turnstiles; however, once we did, we met the very ornate staircase known as the Ambassadors’ Stairs. When an ambassador visited the Tsar or Empress, they ascended the Ambassador’s Stairs. I am unclear on whether the audience took place in the Peter the Great Throne Room or the St. George Hall. Regardless, they were both stunning spaces.
Departing the upper landing of the Ambassadors Staircase, we entered the Field Marshal’s Room. While it was impressive, it may have been the least remarkable space we saw that day. One may come to that opinion simply because the decorations are quite muted, not so ornate, and over the top, as some of the other spaces in the museum.
Most notable in the Field Marshal’s Room is the massive chandeliers. They each weigh a jaw-dropping two tons; 4,000 pounds! Several members of our group stood under the lights until our guide related that the chandeliers did fall once. That was enough to get everyone to clear the space.
The Peter the Great Throne Room was a little more intimate than the vast expanse of the St. George Hall. The throne room had an intricate parquet and wood inlaid floor. The walls were a warm, but dark red. That red echoed in the throne dais carpet and the upholstery of the throne itself, displaying the double-headed imperial eagle on the back, an imposing figure. The ceiling consisted of arches and coffers with hints of gold leaf. It was elegant.
Leaving the Small Throne Room, we walked into the amazingly ornate Armorial Hall. The amount of gold in the hall defies description. There was so much gold in the room that there was a gold hue throughout.
At one part of the hall, one could see through the doorway toward the throne in the St. George Hall. It is hard to imagine the numbers of staff that must have been required to make this Winter Palace a place to live and receive guests. Had I been alive in that era and in the St. Petersburg area, I am more than confident I would have never been able to set foot in the palace.
Comparing the Winter Palace living areas to the Napoleon Apartment in the Louvre in Paris is like comparing Versailles to a studio apartment in New York City. There is just no possible comparison between the two.
Even though we could see the throne in the St. George Hall, there was yet one more room to traverse; the Military Gallery. It is a long, narrow room. It is sometimes referred to as the War Gallery of 1812. The walls have dozens of paintings, all approximately the same size, of war heroes involved in the defeat of Napoleon. The entire tour group made quick work of the visit and moved on the hall.
The St. George Hall was an immense and massive space of approximately 800 square meters. That translates to about 8,500 square feet. That is more than three times the size of the average American home. A large dais, throne, and canopy dominated the east end of the hall. The throne seemed to be an exact duplicate of the throne in the Small Throne Room, including the imperial eagle. Behind the throne hung a large red banner from the canopy with an equally large imperial eagle. The ornate white and gilded ceiling soared two-stories above the floor.
Leaving St. George Hall, our group wound through some smaller spaces, ultimately stopping in Pavilion Hall. Intimate and two-stories do not necessarily go together, but this space was genuinely intimate. Dominating this hall is the 18th-Century Gold Peacock Clock. The clock is behind a glass covering. The peacock is life-size, as well as the cockerel and the owl. With such large creatures in the clock, one might think the clock face is large too, wrong. The hidden clock face is actually in a small mushroom. The automated birds originally went through a series of movements every hour. My understanding is that the clock now moves only a few times a year. That is to keep from wearing out the mechanical parts. Even though we did not see it move, it was an impressive piece.
We ended up in the Old Dutch Masters area shortly after leaving Pavilion Hall. That is where we began seeing painters copying various paintings. They had easels, stools, and drop cloths set up. We quickly saw a dozen or more painters. Our guide shared that it was a big test for the art students through one of the local universities. I could barely take photographs of the paintings; I know there is no way I could copy one with a brush. Their talent was amazing.
Our next viewing was the Italian Renaissance area of the museum. Below are some of the works that caught my attention. In this area of the museum, we found more art students copying paintings.
Another unusual feature of the Hermitage is the Raphael Loggia. It is a relatively narrow hall, but it is around 20 feet tall. Some call the loggia Raphael’s Bible. That is because Raphael painted several stories from the Bible in this loggia.
Below, in no particular order, are some of the other sights we saw in the Hermitage Museum. The narrative continues well below the photos.
The Hermitage is just like the Louvre in one respect; there is no way one can see everything. We did see many more works of art. When we emerged from the Hermitage, we saw a sea of people waiting to enter. We were glad we went when we did. We walked across the street toward the Neva River, onto our bus, and then back to the ship.
Back on the bus, our guide greeted us all with a Russian chocolate bar. That was very nice of her.
At the cruise terminal, several gift shops were dealing in items designed to catch the eye of tourists. As usual, we found some refrigerator magnets.
After dinner that evening, we all went to a show. The entertainment was a troupe of 14 Russian dancers/singers. Seven band members accompanied them, playing authentic Russian instruments. The entire performance in Russian did not deter us from understanding what was happening. The eye-catching traditional costumes were colorful.
The following day, our canal tour was in the afternoon. After breakfast, it was the same drill through immigration and onto a bus. Our destination was close to the Hermitage Museum. It was very cloudy. The bus stopped so we could all get off. We faced about a two-block walk to the canal boat. Some of the walking was a little dicey, but we all made it safely. While walking, we saw a bride and groom stopping to take photos. Our guide told us it is normal for newlyweds to travel around the city, taking photographs at their favorite locations.
As we finished our walk, it began to drizzle. That did not stop me from taking photos. I kept clicking from under my umbrella. Shortly after the boat pulled away from the mooring, one of the workers brought us a complimentary glass of champagne, my kind of cruise!
Our boat departed its mooring on Moyka Canal. After passing the Japan Consulate, we took a quick right turn onto the canal that is on the east side of the Hermitage Museum. That canal led us to the Neva River. On the Neva, we turned to the west toward the Bolshaya Neva. I believe that means “little Neva” River. We cruised under the Dvortzovyy Most (bridge) and then under Biagoveshchenskiy Most. We made a U-turn back to the east, ultimately going under the Troitskiy Most. One right turn and we were on the Fontanka Canal. Our final right turn took us back to the Moyka Canal and our original mooring.
The bridges over the canals were extremely low. Some only had a total clearance of two meters, about six feet. If one were to stand while passing under, one would definitely lose body parts.
Just as we docked, the downpour began. It did not let up until we were back on the bus, of course. On the way back to the ship, we stopped by the Red October souvenir shop. Surprise, we bought another refrigerator magnet. Since there was still time to burn at that stop, I took a few photographs nearby.
When the bus arrived at the cruise terminal, it was about 17:00. Our seating time for dinner was 17:30. After exiting immigration, we discovered a very long line to board the ship. I think part of that was because the ship was due to depart at 17:30. We might have been a few minutes late for dinner that night, but it was no big deal.
Even though we spent a night on the ship in the port of St. Petersburg, we were only allowed off the boat if we were on a ship’s shore excursion. We wished we had been able to get off the ship and explore on our own, but it is what it is.
After dinner, I was able to stand on our balcony and take photographs of the Gulf of Finland. One of the highlights was the flood control dam. It is about 15 or 20 miles west of St. Petersburg. There are large motorized steel dams, which close in cases of flooding. At that location, a divided highway traverses under the water. The road is labeled KAO. I believe that is a ring road around the St. Petersburg area.
Just before the flood control dam, I saw a small island. There was a small humanmade harbor in the center. I found out later that this is Fort Kronshlot, built-in 1704 to fortify Russia from other Baltic states.
We watched a little TV in our room and then retired, ready to awake in Helsinki.
Lastly, below are random photographs I took as we rode around town on the bus going back and forth from the ship to our tours.