We were on the road shortly after breakfast. We departed New Plymouth on our way to the visitor center at Mount Taranaki. It was a very cloudy morning with scattered showers.
There was virtually nothing to be seen of Mount Taranaki when we arrived at the visitor center. There was not a piece of it visible. The clouds were thick. So, all we could do was look around the visitor center.
Back in the car, we set TomTom for Otaki Beach. One of my colleagues at work owns a bach (summer home) there. He was kind enough to allow us to stay there.
After nearly four hours of driving, we arrived at the bach. It sits directly across the street from the beach. It was so relaxing there, especially after some 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) of driving. I was beaten. I enjoyed being by the ocean and watching the spectacular sunset.
Sunday evening, I asked Leslie, “Do you want to go here?” While asking the question, I pointed at my computer screen.
Her response, “Where?”
“Here,” I continued to point, “New Plymouth.”
“Yes, yes, let’s go!”
I completed a hotel reservation. Then we packed a couple of bags and prepared for a morning departure.
Our traveling M.O. seems to begin with a stop at Macca’s. That morning was no different.
It was around 07:30 when we headed out of town on Highway 2. After just a few kilometers, we turned west on Highway 58. We have gone that way before. However, in the past, we have veered off onto the very narrow and twisting Paekakariki Hill Road. Leslie dislikes that drive even more than the Rimutaka Pass drive. That is because the Paekakariki Hill Road makes Rimutaka pass look like an autobahn in comparison. This time, we vowed to stay on Highway 58.
Highway 58 takes one to Porirua. Just after the Paekakariki Hill Road turnoff, Highway 58 skirts along Porirua Harbour. It is very picturesque.
The highway ends at Highway 1. That transition is a double roundabout. I am not exactly sure if I negotiated the double roundabout correctly, but we made it onto northbound Highway 1 without causing sparks with other vehicles. I count that as a win! Oddly enough, even though it was the morning rush, there was not a great deal of traffic at the roundabout.
As with virtually any drive in New Zealand, the scenery was beautiful. Heading north toward Paraparaumu, Highway 1 is directly alongside the Tasman Sea. The views are breathtaking.
Just outside Ohau, I spotted Otarere Maori Arts and Crafts. I would have stopped, but it was on the other side of the road. Instead, I made a mental note to stop on our way back home.
We continued on Highway 1 until the T-intersection with Highway 3 in Sanson. From there, we continued north on Highway 3. There, the terrain began to transition from rather flat to some steep hills and valleys. Multiple sheep and cattle dotted the hillsides. Each valley contained its own creek or stream.
Just before Wanganui, we crossed the Wanganui River. The span of the bridge is around 700 feet. According to several billboard signs, there is a paddleboat that plies the river. We may return for a weekend in Wanganui and try the boat ride.
Not long after leaving Wanganui, we spotted a volcano. We knew there is a volcano near New Plymouth, Mount Taranaki. We thought that was what we saw. Not too long after that, we spotted the actual Mount Taranaki. That meant the first volcano we saw was Ruapehu which is south of Lake Taupo. We were roughly 50 miles away from Ruapehu when we first saw it.
Continuing north, just as we entered Eltham, Leslie spotted a great view of Mount Taranaki. I stopped immediately to capture the view. I do not think my photo does justice to the stunning sight of the volcano in the distance and the lush fields in the foreground.
About nine or ten miles south of New Plymouth, TomTom sent me onto Highway 3A. I did not want to go that way, but I decided not to argue with the GPS. As we arrived on the outskirts of New Plymouth, it was very definitely an industrial area. Suddenly, TomTom announced we had reached our destination. I looked around quickly. I did not see the Waterfront Hotel, nor did I see the beach. We continued on the main road until I found a safe place to stop.
I pulled up the hotel confirmation email on my cell phone. I checked the address, 1 Egmont. I knew I entered that into TomTom earlier that day. I decided to go back to the finish point, following the GPS directions exactly. Sure enough, there was nothing but industrial buildings in the area. I rechecked the email. That is when I noticed the address was 1 Egmont STREET. I had earlier selected 1 Egmont ROAD. I entered the correct address. In about three miles, we made it to the Waterfront Hotel.It was nearly 13:00 when we checked in to the hotel. The woman at reception placed us in room 306. Somehow, in the short trip from the reception desk to the third floor, 306 morphed into 302 in my mind. Exiting the elevator, room 302 was just in front of us. Under normal conditions, I would have tried our key in the door, noted it did not work, and then discover the number error. However, the entrance to 302 was propped open. I assumed that was for our arrival.
We walked into 302, me pulling the luggage cart behind. It was a massive room with a spectacular terrace and ocean view. We also immediately noticed it was brutally hot in the room. The split unit was pouring out hot air. I grabbed the remote control and brought the temperature control down to about 68 degrees. I took all of our stuff off the luggage cart. We agreed that we would meet in the hotel restaurant after I returned the luggage cart. On the way out of the room, I decided it would be a good idea to check our keys before we locked the door. I was surprised when my key did not work, even though I tried it several times. That is when I checked the key-sleeve I was given at reception. Right there, on the front of the key-sleeve, was the number 306. We gathered our things and sheepishly moved to the correct room.
After lunch, we decided to walk around a little. One site I wanted to see was the Richmond Cottage. The good news is it was just around the corner from our hotel. The bad news, it is only open on the weekends. We were in New Plymouth for Monday and Tuesday only.
The two women at the tourist information station both recommended the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Their recommendation was due in part to the unusual building exterior; a polished metal attaches to the undulating exterior surface of the building. We decided to check out the gallery.
The gallery was just a few blocks from our hotel. It was easy to tell the building. It is so radically different from any of the other architecture around. The mirrored surface provided numerous reflections of the surrounding area. I imagine it is challenging to drive by the building at certain times of the day. The sun probably reflects directly into drivers’ eyes.
We decided to go into the gallery. The entry fee was free. In our opinion, it was worth every penny. The only exhibit that I liked was the Four Fountains by Len Lye (1901-1980). Lye is a well-respected New Zealand artist. It was mesmerizing watching the Four Fountains move back and forth. However, to our taste, the remaining exhibits did nothing for us. We were glad we had not had to pay to enter. From the gallery, we walked north on Queen Street to the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway. We strolled along the walkway until we were near The Wind Wand. We later learned that The Wind Wand is a kinetic sculpture designed by Len Lye. The sculpture consists of a long red wand topped with a clear plastic ball. Inside the ball is a smaller red ball. The red ball lights up at night. In total, the sculpture is 48 meters (157 feet) tall. It originally opened January 1, 2000, nearly 20 years after Lye’s death. Some of the locals told us the sculpture was removed shortly after it opened due to some structural faults. The sculpture went back up about 18 months later. It was interesting to watch it move around in the breeze.
Our next stop was the Centre City Shopping Centre. However, a mall is a mall is a mall. It was close to 16:30. Since the sun was due to set in about 45 minutes, we decided to go back to the Coastal Walkway, sit on a bench near The Wind Wand, and watch the sunset. It was a little chilly with a light breeze. The sunset was lovely, but probably not the best I have ever seen.
Following the sunset, it was back to the hotel for dinner and relaxing.
The next morning, we both enjoyed eggs benedict for breakfast. For some reason, those seem so much better here than in the U. S.
Our destination for the day was Egmont National Park, the home of Mount Taranaki. We wanted to stop at the Visitor Centre and see Dawson Falls.
Captain Cook spotted the volcano from the ocean nearly 250 years ago. He named the volcano after the Second Earl of Egmont. Of course, the Maori had been around for some 1,000 years before Captain Cook. Their name for the volcano was Taranaki. Roughly translated, Taranaki means shining peak. Today, the National Park retains the title of Egmont while the volcano goes by the name of Mount Taranaki. Looking at a map, it is immediately apparent the boundary of the National Park is nearly a perfect circle.
Departing the hotel, it only took about 30 minutes to make it to the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre. Upon arrival, we found there were only two or three other visitors. The Visitor Centre placement allowed for some stunning views of the volcano. While we were there, the clouds parted just enough to allow for some reasonable photos of the volcano. It was amazing to both of us just how quiet it was at the foot of the volcano. We marveled at the sight for a long time on the observation deck. The volcano summit is 2,518 meters (8,261 feet) above sea level. Macabrely, Mount Taranaki is the second most dangerous mountain in New Zealand after Mount Cook. That is an astounding fact given that Mount Cook is an additional 4,000 feet taller than Mount Taranaki. Since 1891, a total of 83 people have died on Mount Taranaki.
Inside the center, we talked at length with the ranger, and she told us the volcano last erupted in the late 18th Century. It was currently a 0, no volcanic unrest, on the 0 to 5 scale used by the New Zealand government to measure the activity of a volcano. That is compared to a 1, minor volcanic unrest, for the Ruapehu volcano we saw the previous day. She also provided some insight for the next leg of our journey, Dawson Falls.
Dawson Falls is near the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. To get there, we had to exit the National Park, skirt along the boundary to the south. We drove north on Manaia Road back into the National Park. For nearly the entire 50-minute drive, we were in a fog, drizzle, and light rain. Except for the toilets, the Visitor Centre was closed.
There was a wide spot in the road a very short distance from the Visitor Centre. We parked there at the same time as the rain stopped and the sun began to emerge. A sign there marked the 200 meters (650 feet) trailhead to Dawson Falls. The well-groomed trail descended from the road including 35 stairs on our way down to an observation platform. That platform provided an excellent view of the falls. However, that did not satisfy me. I wanted actually to go down to the base of Dawson Falls.
Leslie agreed or stubbornly asserted (the reader may choose) to go to the base of the falls with me. Little did we know that meant an additional 178 stairs. Luckily, the last 100 or so had a handrail. That said we encountered a total of 213 stairs on our way to the base of the falls. That rivaled the 261 stairs we faced at the Stairway to Heaven.
Dawson Falls drops about 18 meters (59 feet). At the base, a lot of mist swirled around with the wind. Regardless, I had to take some photographs. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have seen.
So, how did we get back up to our car? One step at a time! That is when we counted the stairs. When we arrived at the car, we were both tired, but we were also both thrilled we had made the trip.We were very close to the small town of Stratford. We decided we would stop there for a late lunch. On our way up to Dawson Falls, we had noticed a sign advertising possum products. We wanted to stop there on our way to Stratford. We did see it again and stopped. We were at Environmental Products NZ Ltd., Possum Fur and Leather Shop. Possums in New Zealand do not look like possums in the U. S. They are Australian Brush Tailed Possums. Introduced to New Zealand in the mid-1800s, they have become a pest, destroying much of the ecosystem of New Zealand since they have no predators.
Environmental Products use possum fur and leather to make a host of products. One of the most predominant products are sweaters made with a combination of possum fur and merino wool. Try as she might, Leslie could not find a sweater she liked. However, we did depart with one pair of socks (I can testify to their warmth and comfort) and a pair of gloves for Leslie. We continued into town and had a very mediocre lunch. Then it was back to the hotel for a nap, happy hour, and dinner, in that order.
The next morning, we departed for home after breakfast. This time, I was watching for the Otarere Maori Arts and Crafts store. Sure enough, just outside Ohau, I spotted the store again, this time on the left side of the road. That made for easy access to the store and then back onto the highway. Inside, a wonderful Maori woman talked to us about several different Maori items in the store. We fell in love with a wooden tiki face. It is hand-carved. It will always remind us of Aotearoa, the Maori word for New Zealand.
We left home around 05:00 to make our early morning Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. The Mount Victoria tunnel was closed. Because of that, our taxi driver took us along Oriental Bay. Even though it was dark, it was stunning.
After checking in, we had coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Then it was off to the gate, onto the plane, and on to Auckland. It was smooth sailing all the way.After our uneventful arrival in Auckland, we walked to our next gate.
There was some delay in boarding the aircraft. One of the gate attendants told us it was because they were trying to load a stretcher on-board. There was someone in Papeete, Tahiti that was waiting for evacuation to New Zealand.
Once we got on the plane and pushed away from the gate, everything was fine.
Our trip to Tahiti is one of the oddest trips I have ever made, for one reason in particular; our travels took us to yesterday! We left New Zealand on Monday morning. We arrived in Papeete, Tahiti on Sunday evening. That is what happens when one travels to the east across the International Date Line.
Well before our trip began, we applied for and received French visas. We needed the permits because I was traveling to Papeete for business (indeed a sentence I never thought I would write).
The plane landed around 16:00 Tahiti time. When we arrived at passport control, we went to the Diplomatic line as usual. The immigration officer did not speak English very well. Leslie and I speak nearly zero French. As his questioning began, I knew it would be a problematic entry because I was having a challenging time hearing him. At one point, he asked if I had a military escort or an entourage waiting for me. I assured him all I had waiting for me was a taxi.
I could tell he was getting frustrated. I assumed that it was because of our language difficulties. At that time, an Air New Zealand employee happened to walk by the booth. The immigration official called out to her in French. He emerged from his booth, continuing to speak to her. Soon, all four of us were huddled in a group. We both used her as a translator. Finally, after numerous questions, he stamped our passports and allowed us into the country.
When we finally had our luggage and emerged into the terminal area, we spotted our driver. As we approached, she placed a beautiful flower lei on each of us. I put our bags in the rear of the van. Within 15 minutes or so, she delivered us to the Le Meridian Hotel.
At the check-in counter, the attendant immediately offered us a small glass of cold mango juice. It was both refreshing and delicious. After receiving our keys, we walked to our room. Our baggage was already there. I grabbed my camera and we walked down to the bar near the beach. The sun was just setting as we arrived at the bar. The views were absolutely stunning.
We transitioned from the bar to a table by the ocean for dinner. The beautiful setting, the food, and the wine made it one of the most romantic dinners we have had in quite some time.
Our room rate included a daily continental breakfast. One morning, we decided we wanted a hot breakfast. We went to the breakfast buffet to get eggs, bacon, and potatoes. That was the last time we did that. Breakfast cost us the equivalent of US$75. When we complained about that; the staff responded that it was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet. They were not interested in reducing the price. For the remainder of our stay, we kept ourselves to the continental breakfast side of the restaurant.
The restaurant was a beautiful setting. Along the oceanside of the restaurant, there was a large pond containing koi and water lilies. On the other side of the water was a large stone patio. Beyond that were palm trees partially obscuring the ocean view ocean. It was very relaxing to sit there and enjoy coffee in the mornings. The beach at the hotel sloped gently into the ocean. No waves were striking the beach because of the barrier reef. The reef and breaking waves were about a half-mile offshore. The water was warm and crystal clear. In the water, there were large clumps of coral. Several types of fish swam around the corals. It was beautiful to behold.
On one of my days off, we took a morning shuttle from the hotel to downtown Papeete. Our guide parked at the ferry terminal. We walked from there toward the tourist information building. From there, she led us across a busy street for a block until she pointed out the market. The walk was close to one-half mile.
The market was very clean and nicely done. In addition to some tourist trinkets, the ground level housed fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, and fishmongers. The upper level housed an assortment of tourist trinkets, clothing, jewelry, and artworks. I bought a couple of Tahitian shirts. On the way back to the vehicle, we stopped in another store where I bought some more shirts.
When we walked back to the ferry terminal and port, we had some time to kill. The most impressive yacht we saw was the Arctic. Doing a little research, I found the boat began life as an icebreaker. It is nearly 88 meters (289 feet) long. It accommodates 12 guests and 25 crew. I guess that would be an OK way to travel the world.
Later that afternoon, I used the hotel’s plastic kayak. I paddled nearly halfway to the barrier reef. It was during low tide, so periodically, the bottom of the kayak scraped slightly against the tops of the coral. I could look down on either side of the kayak and see the ocean floor. It was not very deep, probably eight to ten feet. Looking down, I saw all of the fish. The whole experience seemed surreal.
One morning we walked to le Musée de Tahiti et des İles (The Museum of Tahiti and the Islands). Similar to downtown, the walk was about one half-mile. For a small museum, the displays were numerous and well done. The vast majority had descriptions in English as well as French.
When we left the museum, we walked about 100 meters to the sea wall. There, the ocean waves crashed against the wall. There was not a barrier reef at this portion of the island.
Our afternoon highlight was sitting in a chaise lounge, enjoying a glass of wine, and watching the sunset. The sunsets we saw were just stunning.
The highlight of our trip, by far, was the Polynesian dance show. The show happened on the patio near the restaurant. The dinner buffet was a part of the price paid for the show. The performers included about ten men and ten women dancers. The drumbeats during the various dances seemed to reverberate right through our abdomens. If only I could move like the dancers, I probably would not be fat!
We woke up early and departed our hotel. We arrived at the airport at about 05:30. Getting out of the country was much more manageable. The passport control officer quickly stamped our passports. We breezed through security and sat down at the gate to await our flight.
We boarded the flight a few minutes late, but we did take off on time. During the trip, there was some turbulence, but nothing too severe.
We arrived in Auckland a little late. The Air TahitiNui pilots taxied the plane to the arrival gate and switched off the fasten seat belt sign. Everyone stood up and began removing items from the overhead bins. While that was happening, I noticed I could still hear the sound of the jet engines. I also noticed the plane’s door was not open. We stood there for twenty minutes. Finally, one of the pilots announced we were waiting for gate personnel to respond. We stood for an additional 10 or 15 minutes before the engine finally stopped, and the door opened.While we were standing, Leslie and I were getting nervous about making our connection to Wellington. Waiting for us when we finally got off the plane was a wheelchair attendant for Leslie. We informed him of our tight connection. While he nearly ran through the terminal, he told us the reason for the delay is that the engine had not stopped. That did not make sense to me. Regardless, the race was on to the Wellington gate.
When we entered the duty-free area of the terminal, people packed the central pedestrian aisle, of course. The wheelchair attendant veered off and rushed us through the paths of one of the duty-free stores. Shortly after merging back into the central aisle, we arrived at passport control. The immigration officer quickly stamped our passports.Our focus turned to the baggage claim area. We all rushed there. We waited and waited at the baggage claim carousel. Soon, there were just a few bags left on the belt, but we did not see ours. The wheelchair attendant asked for a description of our baggage. We described our bags. He quickly moved to the access-controlled door, went through, and within about a minute, he emerged with our bags.
An oddity of the Auckland International Airport is that the international terminal and the domestic terminal are not connected. There are two ways to get from one to the other; a free bus or a 10 to 15-minute walk, following a green line painted on the ground. The bus runs approximately every 15 minutes. We were lucky when we emerged from the international terminal; we could see the bus arriving. We boarded the bus with our luggage.The bus has to travel on public streets to get from one terminal to the other. Of course, that means traffic and traffic lights. It seemed we would never arrive. We still had to re-check our bags and make our way to the next gate. When the bus finally arrived, we dashed inside, found an Air New Zealand employee, and told her our following flight number. She broke the news that we would not make that flight. Luckily, Air New Zealand has multiple daily flights from Auckland to Wellington. She booked us on the next flight.
We made it to our gate, waited about 30 minutes, and boarded the flight. Our 65-minute flight to Wellington was uneventful.
We arrived, retrieved our baggage, and hopped in the Corporate Cab for our 30-minute ride home.
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.