Final Thoughts Part II: Hotels, Places to Eat, and a Few Photos

June 5, 2013. Venice, CA. — Now for the details on where we stayed, where we ate and some additional photos.

ST PETERSBURG

We stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson. It was comfortable, but not luxurious (maybe a 4 star hotel), and very conveniently located on Nevsky prospect, the main drag of St. Petersburg. It is a block away from the busiest section of the street, so it was surprisingly quiet. It is also less than 100 yards away from the train station. I don’t know the price since it was part of an overall package that included transfers and the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Overall, it was a very good hotel; I would recommend it.

The best food in St. Petersburg, maybe in Russia, is Georgian. It is basically hearty comfort food featuring great soups, breads, and dumplings. Our favorite restaurant was Café-Baje at 3, Kirpichnyj Lane (yes, the comma is not a typo; its on their card). It’s relatively inexpensive (a light lunch for 2 was about $25). I also recommend Baklazhan on the top floor of the huge shopping mall around the corner from the hotel, next to the train station (more expensive, about $60 – $70 for dinner for two), and Moskva across the plaza from the train station (even more expensive, about $80). I realize that the directions are somewhat vague but ask for directions at the hotel. Since they recommended the restaurants, they know how to get there. Both are within a short walk of the hotel.

MOSCOW

Our hotel in Moscow, the Intercontinental was excellent. Conveniently located on Tverskaya St., the main street in the downtown section of Moscow, it was at least 4 and a half stars (I first thought five stars until I checked out the Ritz Carlton). We paid $295 for an extra night (booked through Lernidee, the company that ran the trip), considerably more than what we would usually pay for a hotel, but given Moscow’s reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world for travelers, I was happy to pay it.

We also stopped at the Oxygen Bar on the roof of the Ritz Carlton for a vodka (Russian Standard, the actual brand name, was $15 per shot) and a view of the tanks and troops rehearsing for the Victory day parade. Now that’s a five star hotel! Have no idea how much it cost, but I bet it’s more than $295/night.

stairs leading down from Oxygen Bar at Ritz Carlton

stairs leading down from Oxygen Bar at Ritz Carlton

P1020108Aside from the group meals on the tour we ate at only one restaurant in Moscow, the Cafe Pushkin — very elegant, excellent food, but pricey. definitely worth it for a splurge.

checking out the menu at the Pushkin Cafe

checking out the menu at the Cafe Pushkin

Below are some pictures from our explorations of the Metro (the Moscow subway), a long walk to and through Bolotny Island, an up and coming bohemian/arts district in the middle of the Moscow River near the Kremlin, and the historic toilet in the GUM Department Store. It cost almost $3 to use the toilet but it was worth it. P1020147 P1020156

controversial sculpture, "Peter the Great"

controversial sculpture, “Peter the Great”

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

P1020226P1020222P1020220IRKUTSK

We stayed at the Hotel Courtyard by Marriott, a four star hotel with the most expensive laundry charges I have ever seen. It cost us $130 to launder some underwear and a couple of shirts and a pair of pants.  If you can save your laundry for Ulan Bator or better yet, Beijing.

ULAN BATOR

The Ramada Citycenter is one of the best hotels in the city. The view from the lounge near the top floor was great. Stay out of the Karaoke bars unless you are looking for trouble.

BEIJING

The Hotel Capital was, along with the Intercontinental in Moscow, one of the best hotels I have stayed in anywhere — big comfortable rooms, great views and a lavish brunch.

As for food, check out my comments in the blog post for Beijing (posted May 20). Sorry I can’t be more specific about where I ate, but most of the time we were wandering so it was difficult to figure out exactly where we were. Besides, I was too busy eating and my fingers were too greasy to take notes.

SHANGHAI

We were on our own in Shanghai so I can be more specific about my recommendations.

First, the hotel. We booked the Howard Johnson Plaza through hotels.com for about $136 night including all taxes and fees. This was a great deal since the hotel was excellent and within a block or two of the Nanjing Road Promenade and about a half mile walk to the Bund. If you want to splurge, check out the world famous Peace Hotel right on the Bund for about 2-3 times as much.

The food in Shanghai was the best of the trip. As I described in my blog post of May 23, most of the time we just walked around and ate from the food stalls off the Nanjing Promenade or in the huge shopping mall adjacent to the Yu Garden (check out Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in the mall near the Zig Zag Bridge). One sit-down restaurant I would recommend is the Grape Restaurant at 55 Xinle Rd.in the heart of the French Concession. There was another, but I was so full after eating there I forgot to ask for a card. I tried to find it again the next day but was not successful.

FINAL NOTE

A couple more photos on the train:

dining car

dining car

feet on bed

watching scenery pass by from the bed

The entire trip starting with our second night in Moscow and ending in Beijing was conducted by Lernidee Trains and Cruises. They hosted Katherine and me on the trip and also arranged the St. Petersburg portion. For more information on the trip, plus dates and prices check out their website.