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Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) with Rossiya Airlines SU 6620 departing London Heathrow at 16.10 arriving in St Petersburg at 22.25. On arrival, transfer to the centrally located Astoria Hotel, where four nights are spent. Originally opened in 1913, this is the most central and charming of all the St. Petersburg hotels and, having been restored to its former glory, offers unmatched comfort in elegant surroundings. A cold picnic and a bottle of wine will be provided in your room on arrival.
Your tour of St. Petersburg begins with a short walk to return to the State Hermitage Museum – The Winter Palace. Built in the mid-18th century in Baroque style by Rastrelli, the palace was once the winter home of the Imperial family but is now The State Hermitage – Russia’s premier museum housing one of the greatest art collections ever gathered in one place. Apart from the sumptuously furnished State Rooms, also see the unrivalled collections of European sculpture and masterpieces, the majority amassed during the reign of Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia 1762 – 1796) See more of the spectacular collection housed there including works by some of the world’s most renowned artists such as Leonardo, Titian, Raphael, Goya, Velazquez, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and other masters.
Lunch at GoGol restaurant. Visit the 18th century Prince Yussupov Palace which was once owned by the richest family in Russia – see the restored State Rooms, some still with their original furniture. Also see the exquisite Rococo private theatre where Chaliapin and Nicholas II performed amateur dramatics as well as the cellars where the murder of Rasputin took place in December 1916. The scene is eerily recreated in wax. Return to the hotel. There will be an option to visit the Russian Museum to see Russian national art in the 19thc Mikhailovsky Palace. Return for an Illustrated lecture (accompanied by vodka!) on ‘St. Petersburg: City of Imperial Splendour’ by Professor Alexei Leporc. Dinner at Dom restaurant.
Return to the Hermitage Museum to see more of the spectacular collection and the Sbergétate Halls.
Lunch at the Russian Vodka Room. See the famous statue ‘The Bronze Horseman’ of Peter the Great which was commissioned by Catherine the Great. Also the magnificent quayside with panoramic views across the frozen River Neva while driving to the Peter and Paul Fortress on Hare Island. Begun by Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) in 1703, its massive stone walls encompass early 18th century buildings including the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. Here lie the magnificent marble tombs of all the Tsars and Tsarinas from Peter the Great onwards lie, including the last Tsar Nicholas II and most of his family, who were finally laid to rest here in 1998. Continue to see the impressive collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces by Matisse, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin and others, alongside works from every notable school and artist of the 19th and 20th centuries. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.
Today, accompanied by Professor Leporc, drive 29km outside the city to the Palace of Pavlovsk. Built by Catherine the Great for her son the future Tsar Paul I, the palace was designed by the Jacobite architect Charles Cameron and completed in 1796 in the most exquisite neo-Classical style. It has a series of elegantly decorated rooms filled with original furniture, exemplifying the best of 18th century taste and craftsmanship during Russia’s ‘Golden Age’. Afterwards enjoy a troika ride through the snow-covered ‘English’ park. Continue to Tsarskoye Selo, translated as ‘Tsars’ Village’, the town of Imperial Palaces which in the 19th century was the summer retreat of the Court and the aristocracy.
Lunch at Admiralty Restaurant. Visit Rastrelli’s grandiose white, turquoise and gold Rococo Catherine Palace which has a series of superb State Rooms including the famous Amber Room which ‘vanished’ in World War II but has now been recreated after painstaking work spanning more than 30 years. Return to the hotel and dinner under own arrangements.
This morning enjoy a private visit to the Fabergé Museum. The Ukrainian oil and mining magnate Viktor Vekselberg reportedly spent $30m renovating the former 18th century palace of Count Shuvalov where his personal collection of exquisite Faberge clocks, cigar and cigarette cases are superbly displayed. V. Vekselburg bought the entire Forbes family collection of ‘Imperial Easter Eggs’ in one presale swoop purchase from Sotheby’s for over $100m in 2004 and the haul includes the famous Coronation Egg that Nicholas II presented to his wife in 1897. Fabergé enjoyed immediate fame from 1885 onwards both in Russia and across Europe until 1916. Fabergé’s unsurpassed workmanship and designs, combined with the sheer wealth of materials, remain unique. Drive via the moving Memorial to the Defenders of Leningrad which commemorates the great 999-day siege the city suffered during World War II.
Lunch will be a picnic. Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) Rossiya Airlines SU 6619 departing St Petersburg at 14.15 arriving in London Heathrow at 14.45.
It has been wonderful to discover that there remain places like this in the world, where one can find peace amid wild nature. This has been the highlight of our stay in Colombia and we look forward to telling our friends about it.- ZA, Colombia