From Russia With Love
Welcome back to #GTime!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some much needed #GTimeOut and feel refreshed, revitalised and ready to write again; and specifically about some of my adventures from the last month.
I wrote in my last blog ‘Off the Radar’, about my impending holidays to Switzerland and Russia, so thought I’d dedicate the next few blogs to the highlights of these experiences. In fact, as I like to do things in 5s 🙂 the next 5 posts will focus on the last 5 places I’ve visited over the last year: Russia, Switzerland, France, Turkey and finally, Portugal.
So, today I’m kicking off my series of travel reviews with Russia and Moscow, as the destination of my most recent trip… hence today’s title!
I was really fortunate to go to Moscow for the final few days of the recent World Athletics Championship, and what a few days it proved to be. I was warned of various things beforehand – how expensive it is and the (sometimes) sternness of the locals, but otherwise I really didn’t know what to expect of Russia. I was super excited before I went and I’m delighted to report that it did not disappoint!
So, here is today’s #5aday on Moscow:
- First impressions – It was quiet. While the oligarchs were away on holiday in San Tropez and Ibiza, we had most of the streets to ourselves (excluding the Kremlin/Red Square area, which was teeming with tourists, of course). It was very clean. The pavements are jet-washed twice a day to get rid of the dust and dirt. The sun was shining. In fact it was the perfect temperature; not too hot for sight-seeing, and balmy enough to sit and enjoy an alfresco rooftop drink. And the sun, blue skies and river provided a stunning backdrop to the formidable, yet impressive architecture.
- Culture – We were very lucky to have a fabulous tour guide called Svetlana. Young, and incredibly knowledgeable, she painted a colourful and fascinating picture of some of Russia’s most infamous Tsars – Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. She took us on a boat cruise along Moscow River, pointing out the many incredible buildings including the Kremlin, the Seven Sisters (a group of 7 skyscrapers in Moscow, designed in the Stalinist style), and the Olympic Stadium. We also had a walking tour around Red Square and a rather surreal visit to Lenin’s Tomb, where he’s been on display, embalmed since his death in 1924.
- Food and drink – We enjoyed delicious food and cocktails at some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Amazing seafood and cocktails on the rooftop of Chips (the latest from the Novikov Group); cocktails at the O2 Lounge, the Ritz-Carlton’s rooftop bar, overlooking Red Square; traditional borscht (beetroot soup with beef) and filet mignon at Cafe Pushkin; and pizza and Bloody Marys at Olive Beach, an amazing bar/restaurant cum ‘beach’ complete with sun beds, by Gorky Park overlooking Moscow River.
- Shopping – When in Russia, it’s important to shop like the Russians, and I’m pleased to confirm that we did! But we also benefitted from some good sales… I bought some Carrera sunnies (50% off), a Jonathan Saunders skirt (70% off) and some Russian dolls for my nieces & god-daughter!
- Athletics – The main reason for visiting Moscow was to go to the World Athletics Championships. We were treated to some lovely hospitality, and some thrilling athletics. Notably, we watched the controversial 4x100m relays, where Team GB’s men were disqualified of their bronze, and the women were upgraded to a bronze medal. In addition, we witnessed Bolt’s 200m win and his cossack dance celebration, after he powered the Jamaican team to win the 4x100m relay! All of this, we enjoyed in the crowds right behind injured Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake!
When visiting somewhere new, I do like to don my trainers and pound the pavements, seeing it through the eyes of a local. By the last day I felt I knew my way around sufficiently to enjoy a decent run, from our hotel to Red Square, and along the river, past the Kremlin.
All, in all, it was an incredible three days of sport, culture, shopping and eating and drinking – all with two fabulous friends. I can confirm that Moscow is very expensive and the people can come across as a little unfriendly. Having said that, we did meet some very lovely locals, especially Svetlana, our wonderful tour guide and a number of smiley taxi drivers!
Much love and safe travels!
By Sarah Mayo