Thursday, March 2, 2017


We disembarked from our cruise at 7am.... and jumped straight onto a tour to Windsor castle.
This tour concluded at Heathrow Airport for the flight we didn't have to juggle luggage at all until we arrived at the airport...such a great idea.

Thanks Donna for this information..
Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world and the oldest in continuous occupation. The original castle was built in the 11th century and has been the royal residence for over 900 years.

We were able to step inside St Georges chapel where the royal family go to church on Sundays when they are at Windsor castle. Built in the 15th century.

It was a lovely way to end our amazing trip with great friends...
We spent 5 weeks...took 9 flights... visited 15 countries... 22 cities... and as Donna put it... travelled about 38,000 kms of amazingness.

G D A N S K - Poland

The ship docked in Gdynia this morning.... so we enlisted Peter the Taxi driver to give us a tour for the day. He had limited English...but we managed to battle through most conversations somehow.

We were at the mercy of Peter...and he stopped at sights along the way.
First stop... Oliwa Cathedral - originally a monastery started in 1186... the cathedral was completed in 1594 and is home to the worlds largest pipe organ with over 7800 pipes.

Peter took us into Old Town Gdansk which much of was destroyed in WW2 but then rebuilt. It was beautiful with its cobbled streets and colourful buildings.

We climbed the 405 steep spiral steps to the top the bell tower of St Marys church for an amazing view of Gdansk. This church is one of the largest brick churches in the world with a capacity of 25000 people.

We stopped at a beautiful tourist beach on the way home to the ship....and I think we were all a little sad this was our last Baltic Port and our cruise was almost over.

H E L S I N K I - Finland

What a total contrast to our last few days spent in Russia.
We ambled... no rush to the tram station and caught it into the market square.
It was a beautiful warm day and we walked taking in the sights of the shops...parks and cafes.
There was such a beautiful feel to the day.

The markets on the waterfront were delightful.... the food was delicious...lots of reindeer and fish.
The souvenirs were also some of the nicest we had seen... reindeer hides.. antlers.. flowers.. it was such a pleasure to just stroll and look at them all.

We took the tram to the 'Rock Church' a Lutheran church built into solid rock in 1969. It was quite a contrast to the churches we had been seeing throughout Russia,

We headed back to the markets for lunch....
The boys had Reindeer hotdogs...and Donna and I had Salmon sliced off a huge fish cooking on a grill was absolutely delicious.

We stopped for a look inside the Helsinki Cathedral ....

..and then wandered back to the ship along the coastline.
It was the perfect day to relax...unwind and walk at leisure in the sunshine.

S T . P E T E R S B U R G - RUSSIA - DAY 2

Waking to another day in Russia and we can not wait.
Today we headed off to Peterhof Palace - founded in 1703 and built by Peter the Great.
Its another UNESCO World Heritage listed site often referred to as the Russian Versailles.

The interior of the palace was exactly as we had come to expect in Russia... art filled..opulent..and stunning in every way. It was badly damaged during world war 2  and then painstakingly restored.

We spent time wandering the huge gardens with its many water features. The story has it that Peter the Great had quite the sense of humour and many of the water features were for soaking visitors.

We gathered along with hundreds of others to watch the Grand Cascade fountain display with its 64 fountains and 200 gilded statues of Greek and Russian gods.

Once again we were treated to a lovely Russian lunch...again with a shot of vodka..and this time with Russian dancing as well.

The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood.. built on the spot where Alexander 2 was assassinated in 1881 - the church was built between 1883 - 1907 funded by the imperial family. After the revolution the church was looted and ransacked and closed in 1923. It was used as a morgue during WW2 and then as a vegetable warehouse. In 1997 after 27 years of restoration it was reopened. It is spectacular. Every inch of the interior is covered in colourful mosaics... 7000 square metres of mosaics!!

Final stop was Yusapov Palace - built in 1776 and purchased by Prince Nikolay Yusapov in 1820...remaining in the family until it was seized by the Bolshevics in 1917. The palace is most famous as the scene of assassination of Grigory Rasputin... the Russian peasant..mystical faith healer and trusted friend of Nicholas 2 the last Tsar of Russia. It made that famous song all make a little more sense. 

This tour was made so special by our guide Inna.... her knowledge not only about the Russian Royal family.. but about art.. architecture..the war... and pre and post communism was incredibly interesting ...every time she spoke we all listened intently.

S T. P E T E R S B U R G - Russia - Day 1

Whoa...what an amazing place.
We had so looked forward to this two days in Russia.
There is so much history associated with Russia and Inna our guide for the two day tour was like a walking encycolpedia. St Petersberg (formally known as Leningrad) was founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the great. Over the two days we learned a lot about the Tsars and Russian Royal family.

Our first stop was just for a photo of the beautiful blue gilded Nicholas Naval Catherdral built in 1753...after the rows of grey apartment blocks we had been driving past we knew we entering the heart of the city and were in for something spectacular.

The river canal boat cruise provided us with an eyeopening overview of the city and the incredible buildings. It was freezing.... but thankfully we were offered warm blankets and a glass of wine.

Next stop.... blew my mind.
The National Hermitage Museum... founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 and one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It is a series of 6 buildings including the Winter Palace. The museum houses over 3 million items. It was crazy to be standing in front of works of art by Leonardo De Vinci...Michaelangelo and a huge collection of Rembrandts. Inna our guide expertly explained each of the paintings which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Lunch was a traditional Russian meal...including a shot of vodka.
We dined at the Last Palace restaurant in the banquet hall ...a spectacular setting for lunch.

From lunch we headed to the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul... built between 1712 - 1733 by Peter the great.. To be honest it wasn't that spectacular on the outside...but the moment we stepped inside we stunned by the beautiful and elaborate painting and gilding inside. 
Inna told us the history of this Cathedral.... it is linked to the Romanov dynasty and is home to the graves of nearly all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the great to the last monarch Tsar Nicholas 2 who along with his family were executed without trial by the Bolshevics in 1918.
(Thanks Donna for your research here)

Next stop was Saint Isaac Cathedral  built in 1818 - 1858 ... a huge domed church capable of holding 14000 standing worshippers. The cupola on top is plated with 100kg of pure gold leaf. 

It was such an incredible day....the opulence...the history...we loved everything about St Petersburg ..