Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I'll Take It All - Saint Petersburg

Hello Journeyers. And so winter is slowly but surely creeping up on us and I am definitely not ready. But I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside me thanks to my pretty new blog look! It's safe to say that I might have a tiny massive crush on my blog now! This months Guest Travel Post belongs to the beautiful Irina who blogs over at I'll Take It All. This Russian beauty has a amazing sense of style and pulls off the natural beauty look to a T. I can only dream of putting together outfits like she does or pulling off a bold lip like she does! I have spent some quality time with her and am blessed to now have her part of my close circle of friends.
Here goes nothing....Enjoy!

I fell in love with Saint Petersburg when I first visited it in 2009. It was my first ever visit to Russia (my family and I lived in the Ukraine prior to our move to South Africa) and when my parents first moved over to Russia, they chose Saint Petersburg as their home. I remember my mom fetching me from the airport and as we drove through the city I starred at it in awe- the city was beautiful beyond words!
A little bit of history – Saint Petersburg was built in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great (hence the name Petersburg). It was established as the capital of Imperial Russia and stayed so until the revolution in 1918. Then it was renamed to Leningrad, but when the USSR broke down in 1990, it went back to being called Saint Petersburg. The Russians affectionately call the city “Piter”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Moscow. I love the bright city lights and the feeling of being in a real metropolis. But Piter is something different. The city is enriched with stunning architecture, historical museums and has culture bursting at its seems. To this day the Russians still refer to St. Petersburg as the cultural capital of the county.

What There Is To See
If you are ever planning a trip to Russia, take the 70% of the time that you are going to be there, and schedule it for St. Petersburg. There is so much to see in St. Petersburg that you would need a couple of weeks or a month to properly see everything this gorgeous city has to offer. I’ve complied my personal favourite places.

Church of Christ the Saviour on Spilled Blood on my hand. It's Midnight...
1. Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood(Spas na Krovi) and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan(Kazanski Sobor)
There is a variety of stunning religious marks all over the St. Petersburg but these two are my favourite. They are both located by Nevskiy Prospect-the main street in Piter. My parents have a thing for always wanting to live right in the centre of the city(I guess living in Benoni while in SA was too much for them) and they had the most gorgeous, antique apartment that overlooked both of these cathedrals in one go. When I went there in the summer, we stayed up late on the balcony while drinking tea and just admired these gorgeous pieces of architecture. How might we see at night you might ask? Well that is my must-see thing number 2…

2.White Nights.
This is a phenomenon that occurs in St. Petersburg during the months of May to July. The sun doesn’t go down, or when it does it goes down for an hour or two. It is the most fascinating thing, realizing that its midnight yet the sun is still high up in the sky. This is a beautiful time in Piter as everyone celebrates and rejoices the summer, and groups of friends are walking the city, couples are making out in the streets and people are still taking boat rides at 3 in the morning. Speaking of the boat rides…

3. Take a boat ride along St. Petersburg
Piter is actually located on water. In runs on a couple of channels and mainly on the Neva River and the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. I loved taking a city tour and exploring the city while on a boat. During the night time the boats provide you blankets and hot tea so you are comfy and cosy. Another cool thing to see is the separation of the bridges. Because Piter  is mainly surrounded by water, there are lots and lots of bridges all over town. Of course some big cargo boats do not fit through the bridges, so at night-time, some bridges get separated in order for the boats to come through. It is a beautiful and a rather romantic sight!

State of Heritage Museum
4. Visit the State of Heritage Museum
If you love history and art, this place is for you. Build by Catherine The Great in 1764 , a part of the museum use to serve as the winter palace residence for the royals. Now the palace hosts the most magnificent collection of art- there are over 2.7 million exhibits in it! You need a few good days to explore the museum. I suggest hiring a tour-guide for this one, because trust me, unless you are a history buff it is hard to understand what’s what.

5. Visit Peterhof(Petrodvoretz)
One of the highlights of my trip to Piter was visiting Peterhof. Petehof is often referred to as the “Russian Versailles” and the Palace Of Versailles was what inspired Peter the Great to build it in the 18th century. Peterhof is about an hour out of Piter and its grounds are spectacular, and just the sight of all of these gorgeous fountains should be enough to lure you in! We got an excursion of the palace where everything is still preserved as it stood during the Imperial Russia days(the palace was actually restored in 1947 after the Germans bombed in during the World Word 2.). You get to see the massive gold dining room, portraits of the royals in their rooms, and their impressive bedrooms. It was a magnificent excursion and I would gladly visit there again!

View of Piter from St. Isaacs Cathedral
Of course there is a lot more to see in St.Petersburg such as the Palace Square, Saint Isaacs Cathedral and you can even take a tour of the city on the roofs- but I have so much time here to explain everything.

Where to stay
A popular way of vacationing in Russia(especially during the summer) is hiring out a “suburban” flat or a room. It is a lot cheaper than a hotel , and the advertisements for this sort of accommodations are available in newspapers. It might seem dodge, but this is how the Russians do it, especially because so many of them leave the city for the summer to travel to their “dacha”- an out-of-town holiday house and this is a way for them to make some extra cash. Even renting a room is not scary, most of the lenders are old “babushkas(grannies)” who just want to make some money. Babushkas are all over Piter and they are sweet little grannies usually trying to sell some fresh vegetables from their home gardens. If you are ever in Piter please support one!
However if you prefer to stay at  hotel I would recommend the Petro Palace Hotel(about R800 a night, hotels are not cheap there) my parents stayed there when they first moved over and were very impressed by the service.

Inside the Cathedral

Kazanski Sobor with my grannies
Where to eat
There are so many delicious foods that you have to try in Russia! I love Russian food and whenever I go over I do not restrict myself with anything!

Have tea at the Cafe Signer - My parents lived right by this massive book shop called The House of the Book which also holds a great little cafe inside it. Russians are known for their love of tea, and we are not talking plain old Five Roses and Rooibos here. Think blackcurrant and cream, violets and smoked wood and peaches and mango. Russian tea is delicious and you have to try it!
If you are a vegetarian you have to visit “Idiot” named after Fedor Dostoevsky famous book and it is also locate right by the Mariinsky Theatre(another great attraction for the people who love theatre). And for some tradition food such as Borz and pancakes visit Demidov Restaurant. Now I know that Borz is technically a Ukrainian dish but it has somewhat been adapted in Russia as well. Borz is beetroot soup, and don’t tell me it sounds gross because it is delicious. Perfect if you are visiting in winter because this soup is served steaming hot with a side of sourcream.Yummy! 

Peterhof Fountains
Peterhof Gardens

Russia also has a couple of delish franchise restaurants- “Coffee House” and “Chocoladtiza”are known for their scrumptious coffees and desserts. They also serve yummy breakfasts and business lunches for under R75, so it’s perfect if you don’t want to spend too much. Also don’t right off fast-food restaurants such as MacDonald’s because they have plenty of “Russianized” food there. The cherry pie and the “Beef- ala-Russ” are my favourites with the latter being served on brown rye bread, with a bacon patty and caviar.

You can find her here:

I really need to kick my savings up a notch so that I can get to all these amazing places that these Journeyers are sharing with us! My fingers and passport is itching to get on a plane. Well a nice roadtrip will also do! Please share your love with Irina down below or go drop by her blog! We both will appreciate your lovely kind words! 

Have a great and wonderful day! And enjoy your day off tomorrow as it's Public Holiday over here in SA!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

That phone call no one wants to get....

Hello Journeyers!
And welcome back to the new and improved Our Journey to Everywhere! What do you think?
The reason for my absence the last month or so is because I received the worst news of my life on the 13th of March 2014. I remember sitting in a restaurant catching up with a friend, and as I was literally adding sugar to my cappuccino, my phone rang and on the other line I heard it. News that I hoped I will never have to hear! My father passed away... My world crumbled and all I could do was pray that it wasn't true. But it was. And my life has never felt this empty. My dad was my whole world, my rock, my support system and my best friend. He was always the first person I phoned (after Cedric) when I had something to share, whether it be bad or good news. And he was always there to jump with joy with me on good news and cheer me up with his silly jokes on bad news. So yes it is safe to say that my life has stopped and I plummeted into a deep dark ocean full of sadness. So many emotions were going through me, mostly anger. Anger at so many people that made his life unhappy the last few months and angry at the person that drove in front of him.

This was the last time I saw my dad - August 2013
Cedric and I were on a flight down to Mossel Bay the next day to be there for my dad's fiance and to be with my family. And sad to say but with all the heartache we had a good time. All we did was talk about my dad, I heard so many wonderful happy stories from when he was younger. We shared all our happy times with each other and laughed a lot. My dad laughed a lot, and made everyone around him laugh a lot. He was such an amazing person. He could turn the worst situation into the best one. He had that personality that could turn a grumpy old man into putty in his hands. I can now only strive to be like him and live like he did.

I love this photo. This was on his 51st birthday, and this was his way of showing how old he is. LOL!

His company had a tearjerker of a Memorial for him which we attended. His employees and bosses loved him. And I am glad I went, it almost prepared us for the Funeral the next day. Which was beautiful! My dad wouldn't have wanted it any other way. From Houtkruis playing as we entered the church to 100's of motorcycles escorting his hearse to the Funeral Home. I had goosebumps the whole time. My dad only drank Black Label, so what better way to go celebrate his life after the Funeral with some bikers at a restaurant on the beach. And every single person had at least 1 Black Label. So it's safe to say that from now on the 13th of March 2014 I declare as National Black Label day! #ripjohnny

And just like that it was over. I still couldn't believe it and I was terrified of coming back to Joburg to face reality. I stayed for the Cremation and thanks to a few angry but caring pushes Cedric and I were on a flight back home. It was really very hard. But in a way I knew we will be ok. Not now, but one day. In the future. We will know that he is now in a better place. Looking over us. Guiding us. He wouldn't want us to be sad, he would want us to be happy, laugh, love and make the best of each day. He did. So why not us too...

He truly was a Legend, taken too soon, but he was needed elsewhere.

I will forever miss you daddy, and the pain and sadness will get better with time. The wounds will heal, but the scars remain. You live through us now and we will make you proud. Love you lots like jelly tots! xxx

I wasn't sure if I wanted to share this on my blog, but I'm glad I did. So yes, this is the reason for my delay in blogging the last month or so. I've been struggling to get back into the swing of things. But luckily the new blog look helped me to get some of the motivation back. Thank  you for all the loving words of support that I received from all my blogger family! You guys are special! And I appreciate each and every one of you!

Let's see this blog go from strength to strength now, because that's what it deserves! :) My dad always loved reading my blog! And thank you so much to Pretty Geeky for my lovely new blog look! You guys rock!