30.06.2012 - 04.07.2012 18 °C
The W was a great choice. It was located by the Hermitage and St. Issacs Cathedral. There was a great rooftop bar- bit trendy for me, however, fantastic view, great drinks and food. The gym was okay, staff very nice, however, the English or international staff or overall refinement was missing. It may be that this is W style. They are about to open a new Four Seasons across the street. It looks amazing.
The city is easy to navigate by foot. We walked every where, and due to White Nights, we were able to fit in basics excluded from the itinerary. We stopped at a few beer kiosks, strolled gardens, visited cathedrals, found a Rodin exhibit and special life size bear exhibit from Berlin- like the cows on parade in Chicago.
I advise having a canal cruise first to get oriented; most attractions alternate closings on Monday/ Tuesdays. This creates some scheduling issues. We went to the Hermitage- for art lover's a good day to 2 wil be required. We did 2 special reservation tours on site and the Storage rooms, offsite. If I had to eliminate one, it would be the Storage rooms and arrange a visit to Peteroff- version of Versailles.
We then went to Catherine the Great's palace. Another Versailles. This was great- I wish we had packed a picnic and at on the grounds- little details that can elevate the experience. Another special interest tour was the Amber room work shops. The palace has a famous room given by a Prussian prince. At the time a special super glue - we are talking 1700's- bonded amber to panels and covered an entire room. Stunning mosaics. Hilary Clinton was there that week- may see press photo's of her there. The nazi's stole the room panels- saying it was theirs. The panels were never found- some suspect they are in some very wealthy persons secret room. The most amazing part is we had a tour by the head artist. He never does this. He makes all the state gifts to presidents, royals etc. This is old world craftsmanship - all by hand. Not computer generated, lasered. We don't see this anymore- it is sad.
At this point, I would tell the driver what photo opts I had in mind or what I wanted. We passed Chesme church- candy cane appearance. Peter's Cabin, sites from WW2.
As I mentioned, the white nights allow more opportunities to explore. We climbed a cathedral after midnight, to view the city.
We had a poor attempt of a vodka tasting- take a pass. We did have a great dinner at a modern twist of Russian cuisine. Very neighborhood type place. Fun decor, great menu, service. Templo- I could see us all there one night.