Monday, 24 August 2015

ALL GOOD THINGS

21-22.08.2015

Last full day. Lovely warm weather, at leisure in morning so mainly packing and then a walk through the park on the river bank which was very pleasant and coffee in a local cafe. After lunch back into city through nightmare traffic for tour of Kremlin ( which means fortress and is quite common in russia, not unique to Moscow ).
Very interesting and not what was expected. Lots of elegant bright buildings and lots of churches which was a surprise. Very nice floral gardens and an oak tree planted by Yuri  Gagarin. Churches were stunning.
Dinner was a very joyful affair, much exchange of emails and we have an invitation to visit ?KanKun (which John may own), slightly muted in some cases by the thought of leaving the boat at 2.30am. Various coaches were destined to leave for the 2 airports  all through the night but we are lucky and are on the last coach out at 11.30. Quick turnaround for the ship as new arrivals begin with our coach picking up new guests. Leave on time after buffet lunch and use the M25 equivalent for Domodedovo airport the largest and furthest away. At 2.30 the journey took 90 mins, we take nearly 3hrs.in traffic that makes M25 look like a pussycat. Airport still under 10 year reconstruction is as bad as we have been warned but Viking reps are really excellent at shepherding their 14 charges through the chaos. ( extra busy weekend being end of school holidays) . Checked in online  last night and when reach BA  bag drop nice Russian lady says "your flight is very full we have decided to send you by bus". I look startled and start to protest . She looks puzzled and says "you don't want?" so I ask her to repeat what she said and it now comes back  as " your flight is very full, we have upgraded you to World Traveller Plus" . Result! !!.
Priority loading, lovely big seats with legroom, constant flow of drinks (although unfortunately  I do have to drive at other end) and an excellent roast lamb dinner.
So we finished in comfort and style. Through immigration  and customs and on the shuttle bus within the hour and picked up the car at the Hilton hotel without hitch.
Staying at Julian's over weekend.

An excellent holiday all round.
Viking were superb both in organisation and service. Staff were constantly cheerful and helpful and nothing was too much trouble. Guides were informative,interesting  and were eager to engage and answer questions  about life today and life under the Soviets. Modern politics were discussed openly, including Ukraine,  and Putin was criticised and praised in equal measure. The ship was elegant having been refurbished last year,had an extensive library of books on all aspects of Russia,games, a daily 4 page newspaper digest for UK,USA,CANADA & AUS.,daily crossword & sudoku sheets, reasonable wifi, good food, bottled water every time you left the ship..
I never saw the staff not smiling and whilst some tours were not as good as others they were trying to please everybody.
Our only criticism would be that the average  age meant that we had to make frequent stops for WCs which were not always readily available, and at times the walking pace was funereal which makes my hips ache... we were much more comfortable when given a chance to explore on our own and covered much more ground.
Russia was an experience. We would gladly go back to St.P and will look for a short break. Moscow will be fantastic in 2-3 years when the scaffolding is down and the roads relaid and I would like another look.
Cannot praise Viking highly enough. Great job, stress free.
THE END.

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