Tuesday, August 6, 2013

St. Petersburg, Russia...we've arrived...

  ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA  August 7, 2013

What an exciting beginning to a trip….Jim’s back went out last week…fully recovered with rest and some help from the doctor, before we left home.  Then at the airport in Los Angeles…I managed to lose my passport and boarding pass between TSA and the gate!  Fortunately we’d arrived at noon for a 3 pm flight.  Two hours later and fifteen minutes before boarding…yes..they’d pulled our luggage from the plane…we finally found the documents deep in the bottom of an unused pocket in my backpack.  That was on the sixth search of all of our carryon luggage.  It was mentally and physically exhausting with runs back to TSA for them to check all of the bins!  But…we solved the first of probably many problems without yelling or blaming each other!  We’d been told by United Airlines that we would not have any food on the flight…so Jim had spent $30 on two sandwiches before I realized I didn’t have the passport.  We finally ate those on the airplane and then found out that Lufthansa Airlines…a partner of United…had other plans…we enjoyed two meals during that flight and another one on the final leg from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg.  We were well fed by the time we arrived.  The service was wonderful and would recommend flying on Lufthansa Airlines to everyone!
I’d planned to sleep on the plane and had gotten up at 3 am in California to help reset my body clocks.  With all the excitement and food services plus the availability of a large selection of new movies to watch (I saw three on the flight over)…very little sleeping was done.  So with catnaps here and there we arrived after sixteen hours;  jetlagged but excited.   We had a two hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany before arriving at 6 pm in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Customs was very easy and done all electronically with our passports.  Walked out and there stood our guardian angel for the next week…Tatiana…a guide with Russian Adventures that we found on the Internet last fall.  Her mother taught English and she is married to a British man … speaks beautiful English and is a fountain of knowledge….a walking guidebook who seems to anticipate our every need.  

She drove with us to the hotel, helped us to the new hotel…same chain…when we discovered they’d had a problem so had switched us to a different hotel…better location actually than the scheduled hotel…..and then stayed with us another two plus hours to get our bodies used to the time change.  After half an hour to settle into the hotel, we walked over to the Sacred Blood Cathedral or also known as The Church on the Spilled Blood and into the parks that surround that and the Hermitage buildings and several palaces. 

 While walking Tatiana told us the history of everything that we were seeing.  She gave us a cell phone before leaving us at our hotel so that we could contact her in case of problems and then we connected to the Internet here in the hotel and I used my smartphone for a telephone call over the Internet using International Skype service.  It was like I was home…the connection was very clear.  With eleven hours difference from here to California…we’ll call family on the east coast in the evening and those in California in the morning.  Works best for their time zones.
Finally to sleep by 11:30 pm…we both slept soundly until about 7 am.  Waiting to go down the breakfast here in the hotel and then Tatiana will be arriving to take us to the first of two trips to the Hermitage Museums today.
ADDED POST NOTE:  One of the first things we saw while driving in from the airport yesterday...in the newer part of St. Petersburg; was a Carl's Jr. Restaurant.  I saw the " yellow star" ... the Cyrillic name didn't mean a thing but then in small letters near the bottom it said "Carl's Jr".  For those who live in California...the chain originated in Orange County and we know members of the family.  Very surprising and totally unexpected.  There are areas of the USA that have never heard of this version of the hamburger stands that are modeled after MacDonalds. 

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