From Payal Chaudhri, N.Y.
Where I went: Moscow & St. Petersburg
Why I went: holiday and art trip
Who was on the trip: my husband, Rajiv, and I
When: June 2007, during the White Nights in St. Petersburg
Who organized it: I did
Who it’s right for/wrong for: It’s right for someone who likes history and art. It’s wrong for someone who likes luxurious living.
What I’d go back for: The art.
What I wish I knew in advance: Moscow is very expensive. There’s a lot of pollution and traffic is not pleasant. My husband actually got very ill while we were traveling; be sure to take some medicine with you, especially if you’re traveling with children. The hotels are not amazing, though there’s a Four Seasons coming up and a Ritz-Carlton just opened. I found the people not very nice and there are limited vegetarian dishes on the menus at restaurants.
What to skip: The Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
What not to miss: The Kremlin (www.kremlin.museum.ru) in Moscow; the Hermitage (www.hermitagemuseum.org) and the Peterhof (www.peterhof.org) in St. Petersburg. A great hot spot in Moscow is this new place called GQ Bar (Ulitsa Baltschug Dom 5; 011-7-495-956-7775), which has a great people-watching scene. Also, the Gallerya (www.gallerycafe.ru) was very nice. In terms of shopping, I would recommend the department store Gum (www.gum.ru/en), in Moscow, which is expensive, though. In St. Petersburg, there are so many cultural sights that I didn’t have enough time to discover the hot spots. Here are some places you must see: The Hermitage, which takes at least 1-2 days; the Peterhof, St. Peter & Paul’s Fortress and the Catherine’s Palace, all of which are half-day tours. Don’t miss Yusupov Palace whose architecture really comes alive (the Yusupofs were like the Medicis in Russia). Also, you must watch the Kirov Ballet perform and sit in the Imperial Box at the Mariinsky Theatre (www.mariinsky.ru). It was incredible!
What we loved: the Art at Catherine’s Palace; the Hermitage; the Bolshoi Ballet and the Kirov Ballet at the Mariinsky.