Exploring Russia – Saint Petersburg

I just realized that I have never added a trip blog for Russia or as it is now officially called the Russian Federation.

Where to start?   It was nerve wracking from a visa application standpoint.  You have to provide all your schools…did you have military service…did you have any experience with nuclear or chemical warfare.  I am a US Navy veteran with some videos on my blog, so would they let me in?

It took a while and several visits to the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv to get our visa, but we finally were able to visit Russia for the first time.  I guess if you pay your $350 for the visa, it is all good!  The nice thing compared to cruise ship visits, is you can go wherever you want and not restricted in any way.

We flew in to St. Petersburg which is gorgeous place to visit in the summer months.  It is a delight to have a cold Russian beer that you buy on the street along with unusual flavored chips and watch the hydroplane races that are performed on the huge rivers.

It is the historical headquarters for the Russian Navy university, academy and military port both past and present.

Now, Saint Petersburg is known as the “city of museums” as I understand there are over 600 museums across the city.  You have to make some tough choices on which ones to pick as you cannot possibly walk to all of them.

Certainly the Hermitage is the most famous and a must visit…some famous art can be found here like the Madonna Litta.

but I think the best one was the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps which has an amazing collection of Russian and Soviet Union weaponry.

Some of the Cold War history artifacts were really fun and quite surprising to check out!

We also took a day trip to visit Catherine Palace which is about an hour away from St. Petersburg but a wonderful site full of history,architecture and artwork.  Luxurious to say the least.

Now, how many people know that Saint Petersburg was actually known as Leningrad during World War II?  It was actually once of the most brutal and long running sieges in the war.  The Nazi cannons were positioned all around the palace grounds to pound the city 30 KM away.

In closing, we enjoyed touring around the city for about 3 days and then hopped on the overnight train south the Moscow!  What an experience, not to be missed!

Stay tuned for the next posting on Moscow!

 

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Visiting Jamaica

I really never posted about visiting Jamaica, so it was clearly time to add that country to the entries on the site.

I have actually visited Jamaica twice – once in Montego Bay and once in Ocho Rios so we could visit Dunn’s River Falls.  Both times, we stayed at Sandals which is a great choice to get away, be safe and have fun at an all inclusive resort.  I have to admit that Montego Bay is more fun and very convenient since it is minutes away from the airport.

The cool thing to do at Sandals is to get certified to dive and this is where I started and got my PADI Open Water certification.

You can also easily do some deep sea fishing which is quite fun, but be ready with the Dramamine as it is easy to sea sick of if you are not used to rolling seas…

Now, the reality is Jamaica has lots of history and it is a great place to get a guided tour if you would like to learn more.  But work with your resort for a safe and recommended guide option.

Do NOT go out in town by yourself without guides or a formal tour. You do have to try and avoid the tourist traps of course, but this is much better than the risks of being mugged or running into crime which is rampant in the country.  This is why everyone stays at all inclusive resorts and they do not usually let you leave on your own.

Sandals and other reports are placed all over the island.  This is cool as some can be isolated, but at the same time, it take you HOURS by hot, dusty, unconformable tourist buses to slowly traverse over the pot holed roads.  My recommendation: take a puddle jumper prop plane to avoid the hours of bus and get to closer to your resort in Negril or Ocho Rios in 15-20 minutes.

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Visiting Stonehenge

This is a retro post from a past visit, as many people have been asking about other suspected alien related travel sites that I might have visited and would recommend.  Of course, one of the easiest is Stonehenge of course!

But…it is a very famous and popular site in England that everyone tries to visit when they can.

You can see from the photo that the stones are very large.  The question everyone naturally asks is:  Aliens?  Maybe.  Ever visit Easter Island like me?  It will certainly make you wonder…

Still to this day, I don’t know what these large independent rocks around the site are.  Are they related to monument?  How did they get here?  Unknown…

The rolling hills of the countryside are certainly gorgeous, so visiting the area is a wonderful afternoon jaunt outside of London.

After visiting, go have lunch in Bath and wonder what it would be like to live in Jane Seymour’s castle in the distance.  Many people like Bath for a great place to have lunch and check out the famous Roman baths in the town.

Overall, Stonehenge is only 1.5 hours drive or bus away from London…so it does not take a full day or tour to see it!  and if you jaunt over to Bath, it is a nice half day tour if you start early.

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Touring Scotland

A lot of people and friends have been planning to visit Scotland this summer, so I thought it was time to do a retro post from a few years ago when I visited a few famous sites around the country.

Where to start?  Edinburgh of course!  Here is a view of the castle which is fun to visit during the day and then attend a tattoo at night (see below).

August is a great month to visit Edinburgh as they have what is known as the Fringe Festival.  It kind of like SIFF in Seattle, but it is based on live performing arts and theater, not films.  It is a blast and so much fun to see the plays, theater and creative actors in many different venues.

Now the “must do” in Edinburgh is attending the Military Tattoo which I think is held almost every night and it is a great fin performance whether you love military parades or not.  Make sure you book your tickets well in advance as almost every night sells out!

OK – everyone knows there is tons of great music and entertainment in Scotland along with some great beers.  But when going out, what must you try and eat?

Haggis of course!  it seems that every restaurant and every area around the country makes it a little differently, so that is your excuse to try it.

I like beer with my haggis myself, but when touring around the country, you should try out and visit a Scotch distillery or two. We stopped by Blair Athol and leaned quite a bit and was surprised to see they make Johnnie Walker blends here.  It was pretty cool to see barrels that had whisky in them that was made 50 years ago and is still waiting to be blended.

Now, if you visit Scotland, you also must visit Inverness.  Why?  To get a chance to see the Loch Ness monster known as Nessie.  It was bad weather and a little stormy, but we did get to see her!  Check out the shot!

Yes, I know bad weather can sometimes create visual illusions, but we also used technology.  And the sonar showed and captured the truth.  The monster is real and still living and on some days, you may be lucky enough to see it in person.  We did!

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Visiting Reykjavík Iceland and Grand Circle Sites

This is a retro post from back in 2011, but so many people have been asking for recommendations, I decided I needed to add an entry for Reykjavík in addition to my previous postings about Grundarfjordur and Husavik.  Some people call some of the sites we visited to be the Grand Circle Tour.

We flew into Reykjavík and spent a long weekend touring around the surrounding areas.  It takes about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the main city.  You basically get to cross and see massive lava fields that dominate the landscape.

The city is very energetic and supportive to bikers and runners. There are very wide trails that go inside and outside the city and you can get some phenomenal scenery in your morning runs.

We took a tour to explore of some of the famous cites within driving distance of the city.  The first was the famous Gullfoss waterfalls.  It is amazing on how close you can walk right up to them and practically jump in if you wanted to!

Next, we went to visit the famous Strokkur geyser.  It was wet and rainy, but it was fun to see these geysers spewing and bubbling everywhere.

Did you know that you can actually touch and see where two continents meet in Iceland?  Yes, in Thingvellir National Park, the North American and Eurasian continents meet and was the meeting place many hundreds of years ago for the local governments.  I think they have a lot of pagan festivals every year year too…

Along the way, we also stopped an hiked around Kerio a little.  Some say it is a volcanic crater, but others have speculated that it was a launch point many many years ago for alien visitors that left the earth before our time and this was the takeoff blast crater.

Last, but not least, is the Blue Lagoon.  This is a must visit place for all travelers and is an amazing experience, second only to the Dead Sea in Israel.  It is not just a spa, it is a magical experience that is worth the money.  Be ready, you need to take public showers and that is how you enter and leave the facility.

 

Now, I wanted to say that running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots I have blogged about:

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Visiting Cartagena Columbia

Latest retro post highlighting a quick stop and visit to Cartagena Columbia that was possible from a cruise ship port stop.

A lot of people ask and wonder: is it safe to visit?  Yes, it is.  You can visit the old fort, walk around the old city and see many of the famous old buildings which are very colorful.  This is the famous fat lady statue in case you were wondering…

Some people may remember the famous English pirate name Sir Francis Drake who has a lot of history attacking and looting this city back in colonial times.

The most interesting thing to do (in my opinion) is to go out and visit some of the mangrove swamps and small villages that live and exist among them.

Basically you rise along and paddle with some of the locals in some canoes.  These were not ours, but you get the idea 🙂

Despite the poor villages and squalor, it was very safe and friendly.

If you love wildlife and photography, paddling around the canoes through the swamp areas and villages allows you to capture some great shots that you were never see in the city.

 

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Maui – Hawaii

It was time to add a retro post for a domestic visit to Maui Hawaii a few years ago. I know most of my postings have been international cities and countries, but Hawaii is very foreign for many people…no pun intended!

Without question, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to truly and experience the fact that the world is flat and you can slowly see the sun set below the edge of the earth as it goes down in the west.

Clearly, Maui is the island of relaxation and resorts and most people to relax and not adventure very much.  We rented a condo and stayed in Lahaina.

We took the risk and could not miss the adventure of driving around the North Shore of Maui and the difficult route to visit all the small villages and sites around the northern part of the island.  Needless to say, with a rented Lincoln town car, with very narrow, tight and limited space one lane roads, it was a little treacherous in some spots.

But adventure is my middle name and it is almost a rite of passage in truly visiting Maui in my humble opinion.  We did it, we survived and will relish the experience forever.

It was a short trip, but a great trip and I was even able to introduce a friend to scuba diving for the first time to do a shore dive right in front of our rented condo.  Anyone recognize the emerging cyber-security experts here…?

 

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