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Photo From the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar

We have to admit Gibraltar, just like Luxembourg, wasn’t that high on our list of places to explore but when we were offered a housesit for five nights to look after Kuki, an 18-year-old cat, we thought well why not? We decided to turn our trip into a mini road trip stopping at Évora in Portugal and Seville in Spain on the way down.

We had heard that crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar could sometimes be a little tricky and the queues could be long, (no problem crossing from Portugal to Spain) but I guess we timed it right, we simply flashed our passports and drove across, took maybe two minutes at most. Turns out leaving Gibraltar was even easier, we didn’t even have to flash our passports this time, and Spanish customs weren’t interested in us either, we could have bought more rum after all!

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Gibraltar for me, at first sight, was like a flashback to summer holidays in the UK as a kid, with its fish and chip shops, cream teas, sticks of rock, 1970 style seaside hotels, red phone boxes, and overstated Britishness. Interestingly Gibraltar aka the Rock has been British for far longer than the USA has been American.

Cable Car to the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar

What to see and do in Gibraltar Cable Car and the Upper Nature Reserve

One of the most popular activities to do in Gibraltar is to head up to the top of the Rock for great views and come face to face with the Barbary apes. If you’re feeling fit, you can walk up to the top, or alternatively and much kinder on the legs is to take a minibus, taxi or the cable car up to the top.

Windsor Suspension Bridge on the Rock of Gibraltar

We opted to take the cable car up with a walkers ticket. The walkers’ ticket allows you to roam the nature trails on the Upper Rock (the maps aren’t the easiest to follow, but you’re not going to get lost!), walk across the Windsor Suspension Bridge and visit the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a fairly recent attraction. It was only opened in March 2018 by none other than Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars Movies. From the Skywalk, which is 340 metres above sea level, you get great 360 degree views over three countries and two continents!

View From the Rock of Gibraltar Skywalk

As you wander along the trails, you will meet many of the locals, yes the infamous Barbary apes. They may look cute but don’t carry food with you, or plastic bags as they associate that with food. In fact, there are hefty fines if you are caught feeding them, although that didn’t seem to deter the tour groups.

Up on the Rock, there are many historical sites such as St Michael’s Cave, and the Great Siege Tunnels. To visit these, you would need to have a Nature Reserve Pass which costs a little more.

Barbary Apes with Africa in the Background on the Rock of Gibraltar

There are eateries and toilets located on the Rock. One by the top Cable Car Station and another by St Michael’s Cave.

For up to date prices re tickets and options, have a look at https://gibraltarinfo.gi/en/tickets/.

Opening Hours of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve:

During the summer months, 09:30 – 19:15. Last entry 18:45
During the winter months, 09:30 – 18:15. Last entry 17:45

Real English Pubs and Sunshine in Gibraltar

A stroll along Main Street

Main Street runs through the heart of the old town with lots of familiar shops and brand names from the U.K. and many pubs and cafes. The street is also lined with many historic buildings with an unusual blend of British, Moorish, Spanish and Portuguese architecture. At the end of Main Street is Casemate Square, a popular place today for bars and cafes but once the main stage for public executions.

Drive, walk, take a bus around the whole of Gibraltar

It doesn’t take that long, but it’s possible to drive around the whole of “The Rock”. You go through some pretty weird roughly cut rock tunnels, but it’s a pretty drive, and Catalan Bay is a charming little bay to stop at, perfect for a lunch break.

Something You Don’t Really Expect in What is Basically Southern Spain

Our favourite restaurants in Gibraltar

One thing Gibraltar isn’t short of is restaurants. There are restaurants, English pubs, fish and chip shops everywhere. For nice restaurants down by the waterfront, head to Queensway Quay or Ocean Village.

  • Lounge Gastro Bar – Queensway Quay. We enjoyed a good Sunday roast dinner here. A weekly pub quiz takes place here on Sunday evenings. Yes, we participated in the quiz, but alas, we didn’t win.
  • 4 Stagioni – Rosia Road. Italian food, chilled ambience. Good pizza. Really good bar singer on Saturday night when we were there.
  • Curry and Sushi – Parliament Lane, just off Main Street. This was our favourite restaurant in Gibraltar. Great curry and really lovely staff. If we lived in Gibraltar, we would come here at least once a week. Didn’t try the sushi, but it looked good.
  • Bistro Point – University of Gibraltar. Only open 10-5. Nice place for breakfast or lunch with views of the mountains of Morocco. Recommend the Eggs Benedict.
  • Michaelangelo’s – Catalan Bay. We only stopped here for a quick drink on our drive around the island, but this place gets excellent reviews on TripAdvisor for its food. Friendly, helpful staff.
  • Jury’s – Main Street. Had our last meal here, I enjoyed British fish and chips (well I had too really!) and Jon had a beef and Guinness pie.

Sunday Roast at Lounge Gastro Bar on Queensway Quay in Gibraltar

Top Tips for visiting Gibraltar

1) Unlike many borders in Europe (see our crossing from Portugal into Spain) you will probably need to show your passport at the border.

2) Driving is on the right.

3) Don’t pet or feed the monkeys, it’s illegal and you could receive a hefty fine plus a good chance of being bitten. (From what we saw, cab drivers seemed to be the biggest offenders of this)

4) Gibraltar currency is the Gibraltar pound. You can use the UK pound, but the Gibraltar pound can only be used in Gibraltar. Euros, dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.

5) Avoid entering and leaving Gibraltar during early mornings and evenings. 20,000 people that work in Gibraltar live in Spain so border crossings will be busy at those times. The wait to leave and enter Gibraltar can easily be up to an hour or so.

6) Accommodation is fairly limited on the Rock. There is more choice of accommodation just across the border in Spain, but to really get a feel of the place, try and stay for a few nights on the Rock.

7) For those driving into Gibraltar, fill the car up here, fuel is so much cheaper here than Spain.

Final impressions of Gibraltar

Gibraltar really grew on us. Most people arriving on a day trip from a cruise will walk through the more scruffy tourist parts around Casement Square, but the longer you stay, you’ll discover some great foodie places, some charming little bays and friendly people – everyone we met who lived here, loved living here. We would be happy to come back, but still, so much more of the world to see.

Gibraltar Lighthouse with Africa in the Background

The post Things to Do Gibraltar appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Life Part 2 | Retirement Travel Adventur.. by Words By Sarah Wilson - Photos By J.. - 3d ago

Seville is one of our new favourite cities. We were only supposed to stop for one night on our way to Gibraltar but it turned into two, and we could happily have stayed longer. It’s a city best explored on foot, so we found a car park (no easy feat) close to our guest house and set out to investigate.

Highlights from our trip two days in Seville:

16th Century Gothic Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral and the Giralda

Tempting as it was to head out to the tapas bars, we thought we ought to see some of the local sites first. We could see the top of Seville Cathedral from the rooftop of our guesthouse. Seville Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the world or the largest Baroque cathedral in the world, depending on what guidebook you read. The belltower known as the Giralda was once the tallest building in the city. Built in 1165, it was initially a minaret of the Aljama mosque that stood on that spot during the Moorish times.

Inside Seville Cathedral

Plaza da España

Plaza da España in Seville, Spain

This huge building located in Maria Luisa Park was initially built for the Ibero-American Expo in 1929. Decorated with Sevillian azulejos (painted tiles) showcasing highlights of the different provinces in Spain. Its semi-circular building is edged by a canal filled with rowing boats and pedalos. Very touristy but fun to visit and it’s free.

Free flamenco performances took place here, easy to find from the sounds of stomping feet and the shouts of ‘olé!’

Free Flamenco Performance at Plaza da España in Seville, Spain

Santa Cruz

This is the first barrio most tourists visit as it’s very close to the cathedral. It’s beautiful, filled with winding cobbled streets and charming houses and plenty of tapas bars and restaurants. But very touristy, a little bit more expensive than other barrios and not a local in site.

For more local bars, just keep walking a little further, when you see a tapas bar filled with locals, that’s where the excellent tapas will be.

Tapas Bars in the Santa Cruz Area of Seville, Spain

Tirana

Market in the Tirana Neighborhood of Seville, Spain

We were enjoying lunch in the Tirana area, located just across the river when we heard that we weren’t needed to be at our housesit in Gibraltar until the next day. So having already checked out of our guesthouse, we booked ourselves into an apartment just a few minutes from our lunch spot. We then spent a lovely afternoon exploring all the backstreets of our new barrio. This side of the river had many pretty churches and a fabulous food market Mercado de Triana where we bought terrific cheese, olive treats and fruit.

It is Not as Polished as Other Areas of Seville, but We Fell in Love With the Tirana Neighborhood

Nice breakfast spot

Great place for healthy breakfasts, strong coffee and fresh juices is Filo, just 20 metres from the Cathedral on Calle de Hernando Colon.

Jon Loves It When it is Caracole Season in Europe

Our Favourite Tapas in Seville

Too many lovely historic tapa bars to choose from and some amazing tapas. There were a lot of great tapas places on Calle San Jacinto and on Calle Hernando Colon. Our favourite tapas was the espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas). The spinach is mixed with two ingredients, cumin and chickpeas that were introduced to Spain when the Moors invaded in 711 AD. Jonathan particularly liked to eat the Caracoles.

Bridge Over the Guadalquivir River in Seville, Spain

Fun place to Watch Flamenco

There are loads of places to watch flamenco in Seville, but we were looking for something a little more authentic than the overpriced shows that cater for tourists, although we have heard that the nightly performances held at the Museo de Flamenco are good, but they sell out fast.

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We ended up at the La Carboneria, located in Calle Levies, Santa Cruz. A nice mix of locals and tourists. The tapas were very average, but the drinks were cheap, and we watched a really cool Flamenco guitarist, singer and male flamenco dancer.

Tapas Bar in the Tirana Neighborhood of Seville, Spain

We really loved our short time in Seville, so much to see and not enough time to see it all. We will be back!

The post 2 Days in Seville, Spain appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Things to do in Evora, Portugal

Drone Photo of the Red Tiles Roofs of Evora, Portugal

It’s our second visit to Évora, a beautiful town located in the heart of the Alentejo region in Portugal. We are actually on our way to Gibraltar to housesit for a cat. According to Google maps, Gibraltar is only a seven and a half hour drive from our home on the silver coast in Portugal, but we like to travel slow and have decided to take a couple of days to get there.

Evora, Portugal is well worth a visit. It’s a town with a long history, some excellent restaurants, and charming guesthouses. Here’s a list of some of the best places to visit in Évora.

Photo of Evora, Portugal from the Chapel of Bones

Capela dos Ossos

The Capela dos Ossos aka Chapel of Bones is a fascinating yet rather macabre place to visit. It is one of Evora’s most visited sites. At the entrance to the chapel, you are greeted with a Portuguese inscription that translates as, “we, the bones that are here await yours.” Well, I think that’s how it translates, my Portuguese is still a little rusty!

Inside the Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal

The inside of the chapel is decorated from floor to ceiling, with skulls and more than 5,000 bones. It’s weird but incredibly beautiful at the same time. But why did they do this? Well, apparently during the 16th century, the graveyards around Evora were so full that the bones were exhumed so that new bodies could be buried.

The Chapel of Bones is part of the Igreja de Sao Francisco complex. It costs four euros to enter. The chapel is only small but well worth visiting, but the price of your ticket also includes a visit to the church museum and a nativity scene exhibition.

Opening Hours – The Chapel of Bones is open daily except for Sunday, from 09:00 – 12:50 and 14:30 – 17:30. Open one hour longer in the summer.

Évora Cathedral

Evora Cathedral

Evora Cathedral, located at the highest point of the town, is the largest medieval church in Portugal. For a small fee, it is possible to visit the rooftop which offers excellent views over the city or wander among the orange trees of the Gothic Cloisters but, alas, it was closed when we arrived.

Opening Hours

Evora Cathedral is open daily from 09:00 – 12:00 and 14:00 – 16:00

Évora Roman Temple

Close to the cathedral and one of Evora’s favorite sites is the Roman Temple. If you have been to Rome, you may not be that impressed, but it is the best preserved Roman building to be found on the Iberian Peninsula.
It is located in a square, very close to the Evora Cathedral but you cannot actually enter the site, but you can walk around. The Jardim de Diana Gardens are located just to the north of the square, here you can relax and enjoy a coffee or beer.

Roman Temple in Evora, Portugal

Evora’s Historic Centre (Old Town)

Wandering around the maze of Evora’s cobbled streets is fun. It’s a town best explored on foot. You will discover many charming photo opportunities along the way.

Evora’s Old Town

Praça do Giraldo

Located in the heart of the old town is Praça do Giraldo, the town’s main square. Filled with cafes and bars, Praça do Giraldo a great place to enjoy a drink and people watch. The Tourist Information Centre is located in the square and is a good source of information and has loads of free maps of the area.

It’s hard to believe that this lovely square was once a significant site for the 16th century Spanish Inquisition Court.

Relive the Spanish Inquisition Court, or Just Have a Drink at Praça do Giraldo

Our Favourite Restaurant in Evora, Portugal

OK, admittedly we only know one. We went there on our first visit, loved it so much, we booked a table and went there on our second visit too.

The restaurant is the Taberna Tipica Quarta Feira, located on Rua do Inverno 18. Just a short walk from the Praça do Giraldo. It’s a fixed menu of local Alentejo dishes, the only thing you get to choose is the wine. Reservations are needed, we saw several people being turned away the night we were there. It’s possible to make reservations via Facebook messenger, they respond quickly, and yes they can speak English. Cash only, no credit cards.

Sorry, the Food Was So Good, We Forgot to Take Photos Before We Started Eating

Accommodation in Evora

There’s plenty of accommodation in the city. We always find ours through www.booking.com. We stayed at the Ibis Hotel. We are not huge fans of chain hotels, but it’s located right by the old city walls, has free parking, private bathrooms and around $50. If you are not travelling by car, then I would choose one of the many charming guesthouses in the old city.

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How to get to Evora, Portugal

We drove, but it’s also easy to reach Evora, as a day trip, by train or bus from Lisbon. Both the train station and the bus station are within an easy walking distance of the historic centre. The bus station is slightly closer.

Side-trips from Evora The Megaliths –

Drone Image of the Megaliths Near Evora, Portugal

There are many megalithic sites close to Evora and even throughout the whole of central Alentejo. They are fascinating to visit. Some date back to 5500-4500 BC, yep, older than Stonehenge. The easiest way to find them is to drive yourself, but for those without a car, there are tours available. Check with your hotel or the Tourist Information Office for details.

The Village of Montsaraz –

Drone Image of Montsaraz, Portugal

Less than an hour’s drive from Évora is the gorgeous old hilltop castle town of Montsaraz. The view from the castle overlooks vineyards, Alentejo villages, lakes, and mountains. The area is stunning. It makes an excellent day trip from Evora or even as an overnight stop. Montsaraz is a great place to wander along the cobbled streets, climb the steps up the castle walls and just enjoy the scenery. Plenty of parking nearby. It is also possible to get to by bus from Evora.

The post What to See When You Visit Evora, Portugal appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Is it safe to visit Russia? Moscow? St Petersburg?

We felt very safe walking around central Moscow and central St Petersburg both day and night. As with most major cities around the world, just take the same precautions that you would at home, watch out for pickpockets, don’t drink too much and avoid wandering down dark streets alone at night. All things considered, we felt a lot safer walking around Moscow and St Petersburg than say London or New York.

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Matryoshka Nesting Dolls for Sale in Saint Petersburg

Can Americans Travel to Russia?

Yes! And, despite all leftover Soviet Era / Cold War preconceptions, we found Moscow and Saint Petersburg to be quite modern and cosmopolitan. We also discovered the Russian people to be warm and welcoming. Visiting Russia as an American changed many of the biases Jonathan had learned since childhood. I had visited Moscow back during the Soviet Union days and found it now to be completely changed and a great place to visit.

Inside the Famous Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg

Do I need a visa to visit Russia?

Probably. Unless you are a diplomat or a from a limited list of other countries closely allied with Russia, the answer is yes. Certainly, if you are a United States or UK passport holder, you will need one. We have a guide for getting a Russia tourist visa here.

Do I need vaccinations to visit Russia?

No compulsory vaccinations are required for visiting Russia but always check with your GP or doctor before traveling.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

Do I need health insurance to Visit Russia?

Travel health insurance is always a good idea. Officials sometimes ask to see a copy when you apply for your tourist visa.

What are the hospitals like in Russia?

It varies across the country, but there are some excellent international standard hospitals in Moscow and St Petersburg. Luckily we didn’t need to test this.

Is it ok to drink the water in Russia?

Brushing your teeth with tap water should be fine, but best to assume that it isn’t safe to drink especially in St Petersburg as the water pipes in some places are rather old. Drink bottled water, or either boil water for 10 minutes, or use water purification tablets or a filter. Water from local shops or supermarkets is cheap to buy, but we found water ordered in restaurants vastly overpriced. A good excuse to stick to wine, or vodka as it was often less expensive.

Modern Downtown Moscow

Can I use my smartphone in Russia?

Yes, but check with your provider regarding roaming fees. Some U.S. phone companies charge up to $10 a day to use a phone overseas. If you have an unlocked smartphone, do what we did. At Moscow airport, there’s a Beeline Telecom office and bought a sim card for 700 rubles (around $11). We got unlimited internet, free incoming calls and 30 minutes domestic and international calls. Other popular phone companies in Russia include MTS and MegaFon. We chose Beeline as it was the first phone shop we saw. It took five minutes to organize. You’ll need your passport to register your phone. And yes, they speak English, well they did at the Moscow airport shop.

Is there WiFi?

Good, fast, free wifi is available pretty much everywhere in Moscow and St Petersburg. In the more rural areas, we used cellular service and the hotspot from our smartphones. We sometimes needed to use a VPN to access our favorite websites.

Do they have ATMs in Russia?

Yes, there are plenty of ATM’s everywhere in Moscow and St Petersburg. Most ATM’s have an English language option. Also, you usually get a better exchange rate at ATM’s than at currency exchanges. Just make sure to spend all of your Russian currency during your Russian visit because the rouble cannot be exchanged outside of Russia. Be sure to tell your bank where you will be traveling, so they don’t block your ATM card.

The Kremlin in Moscow

Can I use credit cards?

Major credit cards are accepted in many places. Remember always to opt to pay in local currency; it works out a lot cheaper in the long run. Again, be sure to tell your credit card company where you will be traveling, so they don’t block your card.

I don’t speak Russian, will that be a problem?

In major cities, many people will speak English, but bring a Russian phrasebook or download a Russian language app to your smartphone. If you are worried, use the services of a guide. Many people will say they don’t speak English but actually have a working knowledge. Learning a few basic phrases – “please,” “thank you,” “sorry, I don’t speak Russian” – shows you are making an effort and makes people more likely to want to help you.

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How expensive is it to eat in Russia?

With cafes, bars, restaurants, shops on virtually every corner, finding something to suit your taste and budget shouldn’t be too hard. For lunch or dinner, we spent an average of $20 per person. Fast food – yes if you miss McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Burger King, you will find plenty of them in Moscow. We spent most of our time indulging ourselves with delicious Russian and other local ethnic food. Also, self-catering from supermarkets is always a way to save money.

This Grocery Store in Moscow was Once a Palace

What is Russian food like?

Russian food is quite hearty with lots of delicious vegetables. One popular dish is Borscht. Borscht is a traditional soup made with cabbage, beets, potato, and meat and it’s very yummy indeed. Or try the pelmeni, fabulously tasty dumplings. Tell your server that you want something authentically Russian and they will often make good recommendations. Experiment and try new tastes. We weren’t disappointed.

When is the best time to visit Russia?

The best time to visit Russia is between March and October when the weather is a little milder. The most popular month to visit is June not only because of the weather but because of the White Nights Festival that takes place in St Petersburg when there is 24-hour sunlight. You can often save money by traveling during the “shoulder season.”

Flower for Sale on the Streets of Moscow

Is there anything else I should consider before I visit Russia?

Consider using a guide for some of the attractions. It will solve any language barriers, and you will learn a whole lot more about the country and the places you visit. We mixed guided and independent travel and loved both. Our sponsor for part of our trip was Strelka Travel, and they provided us with excellent guides at major attractions. They showed us many things we might otherwise have missed.

The post Visit to Russia FAQs appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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What to See in Moscow


Jonathan and Sarah in Front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Why Visit Moscow?

Jonathan and I REALLY loved Moscow, and you know, I didn’t think I would ever actually be saying that. When we first mentioned to friends and family, that we were going to Russia, everyone raved about St Petersburg. All those that had been to St Petersburg loved it, and if they hadn’t been, well they said it was on their bucket list, and now having seen Saint Petersburg for ourselves, we can certainly see why. Even with all the positive reviews, we had heard about the city, it still exceeded our expectations.

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But Moscow was different. ‘Well, once you’ve seen Red Square, what else are you going to do?’ ‘It’s just a big city, why are you going there?’ I have to confess that I too had some doubts about visiting Moscow. Why? Well, I went there in the late 80’s, and while it was great to be standing in Red Square, and see the Kremlin and St Basils Cathedral (spoiler alert- it still is!), Moscow was, well, just grey. The weather was grey, the buildings were grey, the people looked grey and the food, yes even the food was grey. Even now, I can still see in my mind the long queues of depressed looking Russians lining up for the GUM department store with its empty shelves and the long lines of miserable looking people lining up to see Lenin’s Mausoleum.

Downtown Moscow 2018

‘It’s changed, you have to come and visit!’ said Alina from Strelka Travel. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, people said that about Berlin too, but I still wasn’t impressed after revisiting Berlin in March of this year – sorry Berlin!

But Moscow has changed, wow has it changed! No longer the ugly duckling but a beautiful swan! The city has been undergoing gentrification for quite a while now. From a visitor’s point of view, it looks terrific. The Russian people we met were welcoming, the food was delicious and far more choice than what we are used to here in our home in Portugal. Don’t come to Russia if you are hoping to lose weight.

I could easily ramble on for hours about how lovely Moscow is but to make it easier, we have created a list of what to see in Moscow and what to do on your visit to Russia’s capital city. We spent four days there and would happily have stayed longer.

Red Square

No trip to Moscow would be complete without a visit to Red Square. It is the largest and most famous square in the whole of Russia. From Red Square, you can see many of Moscow’s most well-known buildings: the Kremlin, the State History Museum, Lenin’s Mausoleum, GUM department store, and the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral. Many people don’t realise that Red Square’s name has nothing to do with Soviet Russia or Communism. The old Russian word for ‘beautiful’ and ‘red’ was the same, so Red Square simply means “Beautiful Square.”

St Basils Cathedral

St Basils Cathedral

This stunning iconic building, located on Red Square is known to everyone as St Basil’s, but it’s officially called “The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat.” However, everyone refers to it as St Basil’s after Basil the Blessed, a Russian Orthodox Saint known as a holy fool, who was buried on this site when it was the Trinity Cathedral. Not quite sure why he was known as a holy fool, sounds intriguing!
The Cathedral was built in the 16th century under the orders of Ivan the Terrible. These days, the Cathedral serves as a museum.

St Basil’s Cathedral Opening hours:

Daily from 11.00 to 17.00, Closed on Tuesdays.
For a while apparently during Soviet times, there was talk of demolishing St. Basil’s Cathedral because it hindered Stalin’s plans for hosting huge parades on Red Square. In fact, St Basil’s was saved thanks to the bravery of architect Pyotr Baranovsky. When he was ordered to prepare the building for demolition, he refused and allegedly told Stalin, he would rather kill himself then destroy the Cathedral. So thanks to him, St Basil’s Cathedral still remains, however, Baranovsky did end up with five years in prison.

The Kremlin

The Kremlin

Moscow’s Kremlin has played an important role in Russian life for more than 800 years. Getting tickets to visit the Kremlin can sometimes be a little time consuming, so that’s where having the help of an agency like Strelka Travel comes in handy. You’ll need a good few hours to explore the grounds and Cathedral Square. The Kremlin was initially built in the 12th century and has grown over the centuries under different leadership. It served as a fortress for the city under Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible. Lenin and Stalin issued their orders from here, and today it serves as the office of the Russian President. The area is vast, and many of the buildings are unsurprisingly inaccessible for tourists.

Tsar Cannon, the Largest Cannon that Never Fired

Wandering the extensive grounds of the Kremlin, you will come across the vast Tsar Bell – the biggest bell in the world that never rang and Tsar Cannon, the largest cannon that never fired!

Located in the very centre of the Kremlin is the impressive Cathedral Square with five beautiful churches with their stunning gold onion domes. It is possible to visit all the churches, but we opted to visit the main cathedral, the Cathedral of the Assumption. The religious artworks in the Russian churches are incredible. In this cathedral, there was also a very ornate praying throne for the Tsars, initially built for Ivan the Terrible in 1551.

Alexander Garden

One of the first city parks in Moscow. It is situated along the length of the western Kremlin Wall. It’s a nice place to chill after visiting the Kremlin. Here, you can enjoy coffee, ice creams, and people-watching.

Alexander Garden for Ice Cream

Gum Department Store

Gum Department Store in Moscow 2018

Located on Red Square opposite the Mausoleum. This place has changed beyond recognition since I last visited back in the late 80’s. From empty shelves of yesteryear, now it is filled with designer stores and world-famous brands. This store is somewhat out of our price bracket, but it’s fun to have a look inside, as the building itself is lovely, and there are quite a few interesting relics from the past that are fun to look at on the upper floors. It is not how I imagined Moscow to be at all, but there are some excellent little eateries and clean toilets inside.
Opening hours GUM is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm.

The streets next to GUM that lead off from Red Square are great to wander around too. They are decorated with pretty lights and butterflies, fake sakura which looks a lot better than it sounds, and perfect for taking those selfies. Here you will come across street entertainers, opera singers, and locals dressed in historical costumes posing for photos. There are cafes to people watch, ice cream parlors, cutesie restaurants. It’s fun, it’s alive, it is so not the drab grey Moscow I remember at all.

Lubyanka Building – The former headquarters of the KGB

Lubyanka Building – The former Headquarters of the KGB

Within walking distance of Red Square, you will come across the rather imposing yellow, grey and red stone Lubyanka building – the former headquarters of the KGB and at one time probably the most feared building in Russia. There’s even a prison inside. Apparently, in Soviet times, the citizens were too nervous to even look at the building. Now it’s a cool building to take a photo of, well it’s KGB!

Today, the KGB has been replaced by the FSB which is kind of same, same but different.

Top Tip: Just a few minutes walk from the former KGB building is the Detskiy Mir department store for children. There are some interesting shops in there if you have kids but that’s not why we are there. Head up to the observation deck for some excellent views of the city, the KGB building – you can even see the Kremlin and on a bright day the Moscow State University, one of Stalin’s seven sister buildings. It also has a coffee shop up on the rooftop too.

Visit one of the Seven Sisters/ Stalin’s Towers

Seven Sisters / Stalin’s Towers in Moscow

The wedding cake style giant skyscrapers are a distinct feature of the Moscow skyline. Built by Stalin after World WarII to rival the towers in the USA. One of the smaller sisters is now the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel located just a few minutes walk from the Leningradsky Station where we disembarked from our night train on the Red Arrow from St Petersburg. Keen to look inside and feeling slightly peckish, our guides from Strelka Travel took us there for a rather lovely buffet style breakfast. The interior of the hotel is an unusual mix of Russian Orthodox, Gothic and Baroque architecture and is home to the longest bronze chandelier in the world. It is also a cool spot for a good strong coffee, and a toilet break!!

Watch a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet.

Performance at the Bolshoi Ballet

As soon as I discovered I would be celebrating one of my many 21st birthdays in Moscow, I subtlely hinted to Jon, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great to go and see the Bolshoi Ballet for my birthday!!” But alas, when we checked online, every show for the time we would be in Moscow was sold out.

Bolshoi Theatre

The Bolshoi Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world, founded way back in 1776. One morning as we were strolling passed the beautiful Bolshoi Theatre which was just a five-minute stroll from where we were staying, we mentioned to our guide Elena from Strelka Travel, how we would have loved to have seen a show but everything was sold out. Out came her phone and about 10 minutes later, we were sitting next to a very dapper looking gentleman choosing seats for the next night’s show. Tickets weren’t cheap, but not much more than what was advertised online, I don’t know the exact price as it was a birthday present from Jonathan, but I think you are looking at about 150 euros a ticket. We had seats up on the third tier but still got a great view of the stage.

We saw the show La Bayadere, at first not being as cultured as we would like to be, we were a bit confused by the storyline but as soon as we read the synopsis, we were good, and the dancing was superb. My legs and feet ached the next day, I guess subconsciously I was trying to join in with the dancers.

Top Tips for visiting the Bolshoi Ballet:
  • Read the synopsis of the show before the performance starts.
  • The dress code isn’t too strict. Yes, many people were in formal wear, so dress up if you want but equally wearing jeans is just fine also, phew that’s a relief!
  • If the theatre says it’s full, there are ways and means to get tickets, that’s where travelling with a company like Strelka Travel comes in really useful.
Muzeon Park of Arts aka Fallen Monument Park

Muzeon Park of Arts (Fallen Monument Park in Moscow)

Situated close to Gorky Park is the oddly fascinating Muzeon Park of Arts or as is it sometimes known, the Fallen Monument Park. This is where many of the Soviet statues removed unceremoniously from Moscow’s parks, and squares ended up after the collapse of Communism. Here you will find a massive statue of Stalin with his nose missing, many damaged busts of Lenin no longer on their pedestals, a statue of Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB and many other weird and wonderful sculptures. It’s really quite odd but well worth an hour or so to wander around.

Close by is another very interesting and unique statue, it’s massive standing at 94 meters tall. Ís it Peter the Great or is it Christopher Columbus? According to our guides, this statue was originally built with the head of Christopher Columbus and is standing on a Columbus ship. The artist Tsereteli could not find a buyer in the USA, so he replaced the head with that of Peter the Great and tried to sell it to St Petersburg, but they didn’t want it either. So the weird and wonderful Peter Columbus statue remains in Moscow. It’s not the most beautiful statue you’ll ever see, but it certainly stands out!

The State Tretyakov Art Gallery

Outside of Tretyakov Art Gallery

This is one of the most delightful art galleries I have ever been to. The Tretyakov Gallery holds the most extensive collection of Russian art in the world and exhibits Russian artwork from the 11th century to the early 20th century. We particularly liked the paintings of landscapes, they looked like photographs, they were gorgeous.

The founder Pavel Tretyakov apparently started collecting art from local artists in 1850 and presented his collection to Moscow as a gift in 1892. It’s quite an extensive gallery with 62 themed halls and over 12,000 sqm in the main building so, like many galleries, it’s impossible to see everything but well worth a visit and the signage and descriptions of the paintings is written in English.

Tretyakov Art Gallery Opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 10:00-18:00
Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10:00-21:00
Closed on Mondays.

Cost 500 Roubles per adult (approx $8), free for under 18s.

Danilovskiy Market

Danilovskiy Market

I don’t think we have ever seen so much fresh food as there was in this farmer’s market. It was incredible. Massive displays of organic fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, pickles – all beautifully presented and with lots of opportunities to sample the goodies before buying. Just my kind of market. We left the market with bags of cheese, nuts and interesting Russian delights that we had no idea what they were, but they tasted good!

Around the edge of the market were a number of stalls selling ready made food – the queues for Vietnamese Pho were extraordinarily long but there were many fabulous cuisines to choose from – Indian, Israeli, Cypriot, to name a few. Certainly wasn’t expecting to see this in Moscow. This city becomes more and more our favourite every day.

Nearest Metro: Tulskaya

Open daily from 08:00 to 21:00

Take a trip on the Moscow Metro

For more information about travelling the Moscow Metro – see here!

Moscow Metro Station

Getting around on Moscow’s metro is cheap, safe and really easy to use. Tickets are only 50 rubles per ride. You can use the ticket machine, which unlike those in Lisbon, Portugal are really easy to use or buy at the ticket counter. Most staff we came across spoke some English if they don’t, then just smile and indicate the number of tickets you need using your fingers! Or learn some basic Russian, but for some reason, we could never remember how to say Russian numbers!

There’s no need to rush if you hear a train coming, the average frequency is 90 seconds, even more, frequent in the central stations.

But the best reason to travel on the metro is to see the stations, they are stunning, yes bring your camera with you but not a tripod, for some reason they didn’t like that. Described as “palaces for the people,” the stations are stunningly ornate, each one decorated in its own unique way. It would be quite easy to spend an entire day just travelling from one station to the next.

Some of our favourite metro stations include Prospekt Mira, Belorusskaya, Mayakovskaya, Mayakovskaya and Komsomol’skaya.

Exploring Moscow by Segway

Jonathan Mastered the Segway

If you get tired of walking but don’t fancy taking the metro, you could consider exploring Moscow by Segway. Because I am one of the least coordinated persons in the world, I opted to take the photos and video, but Jonathan had a great time zipping up and down Moscow’s streets.

Izmailovsky Souvenir Market

This is an excellent market for all your traditional souvenirs and Soviet paraphernalia. Allow a few hours at least to explore the market, it’s enormous, and you will come across some fascinating items from Soviet times, some great bargains on the Russian nesting dolls, and just so much more choice. Much better than what’s on offer at Red Square. Many of the sellers speak excellent English and are really keen to show you their products but without the hassle that you get in some markets around the world.

Izmailovsky Souvenir Market

There’s also some nice and quite reasonably priced barbeque eateries.

The market is located in the Izmailovo Kremlin, a wedding, cultural and entertainment complex that is based on 18th-century Russian architecture. It’s equally tacky and fabulous, we loved it. As well as the flea market and the souvenir market, there are museums such as the Museum of Russian Vodka and the Museum of Russian Folk Arts. But we skipped the workshops and museums and headed to the shops, but I’ve just discovered there’s also a Museum of Chocolate. How did I miss that?

Izmailovsky Souvenir Market is Open daily 09:00 to 18:00 but more sellers there on weekends.
Nearest metro: Partizanskaya

Our Favorite Restaurants in Moscow

Never in a million years did I expect to find so much choice when it came to food. It seemed like only yesterday I was watching on TV the long queues outside the first ever McDonalds to open in Moscow.

We have an entirely separate blog about food in Moscow and all the delicious Russian foods we tried, but meanwhile here are a few of our favourite restaurants.

Lepim-Varim

– a small cosy restaurant located close to our hotel on Stoleshnikov. Serving delicious homemade pelmeni (stuffed dumplings), and venegret – a salad made with beetroot, carrot, and potatoes.

Dr. Zhivago Restaurant

Jonathan Couldn’t Resist the Chicken Kiev at Dr. Zivago Restaurant

We went here for my birthday, ate far too much, but everything was oh so good! It is located close to Red Square in the National Hotel. The menu includes many traditional Russian dishes. As we were not that familiar to Russian food, we said yes to everything and tried a little of each. This was indeed not the “grey” tasteless food I remember from my first visit to Moscow.

Aragvi

As Alina says, “They are hard to eat but impossible to resist.” The Dumplings at Aragvi.”

A Georgian restaurant. Several people had recommended we try Georgian food. We had no idea what to expect, but we love trying out new cuisines. So on our last day, Alina from Strelka Travel introduced us to this place and guess what, the food was terrific. Pancakes, dumplings and so much more made with the freshest ingredients. It’s great having lunch with someone who knows what to order. Looks like Georgia has just been added to our future travel plans!

We were lucky that within the vicinity of our hotel Akvarel were loads of bars and restaurants. It was a superb location. Another great area for eating out is Patriarch’s Ponds. Easy to get to with an Uber, it’s quite an affluent part of Moscow with some great bars and restaurants. Not very Russian but we had a lovely pizza there!

Now that you know what to see in Moscow

Top Tips for Moscow
      • Well if you have made it this far, congratulations. What can I say? In case, you hadn’t realised Jonathan, and I really loved Moscow.
      • If you are thinking of visiting Russia, do allow time to visit Moscow. Yes, you will need to get a visa, but it’s really not that difficult to obtain.
      • In case you’re wondering, we felt very safe walking around the city at all hours of the day.
      • Use the metro, it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s beautiful to look at.
      • Taxi drivers don’t speak much English but getting around by Uber is really easy and surprisingly..
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Moscow Metro Station Exit

Is It Safe to Travel on the Moscow Metro? I Don’t Speak Any Russian, Will That Be a Problem?

Don’t worry if you can’t speak or read Russian, it’s actually quite straightforward to get around Moscow on the Moscow Metro, and it’s very safe.

Are There Moscow Metro Maps in English?

You can pick up a map written in both Russian and English of the metro system at any station, your hotel or download to your phone one of the many free Moscow Metro Map apps available online.

Moscow Metro Map and Metro Tickets

What Are the Moscow Metro Hours?

The metro runs daily from 05:30 AM to 01:00 AM. But like anywhere in the world, try to avoid travelling during the rush hour. It gets busy, and hey you’re on holiday, there’s no need to travel at peak times.

How Much is are Moscow Metro Tickets?

A single journey on the Moscow metro costs 50 rubles (around 80 cents), and you can travel to any station on the Moscow Metro network. There are no different travel zones like many other cities. Nor is there a time limit on your ticket, so if you want to hop on and off all day taking photos of the fabulous artworks and statues found at Moscow’s metro stations, then you can. But the moment you exit a station, then you will have to purchase a new ticket to get back on board the next train.

How Will I Recognise That I’m At a Metro Station?

Metro stations are easily identifiable by a giant red M outside the station.

How Do I Buy a Moscow Metro Ticket?

Moscow Subway Train Platform

Buying a ticket is pretty straightforward. You can use the ticket machine which does have an English language option or purchase a ticket at the ticket counter. The ticket counters are called KACCA. Most staff at all the ticket counters that we used did speak some English, but if they don’t, then just smile and indicate the number of tickets/journeys you need using your fingers! It’s easy, honest! It’s worth noting that you can buy a ticket for ten trips or so and share it with friends and partner, there’s no need for each person to have an individual ticket.

Once I’ve Got My Moscow Metro Tickets, What Do I Do?

Once you have your ticket, pass through the turnstiles, some stations are more modern than others, but you just place your ticket on the card reader and then head down to the platforms on probably what will be some of the longest metro escalators you will have ever seen in your life.

Long, Really, Really Long, Escalators in the Moscow Metro

How Do I Know Which Mosco Metro Train to Take?

At the main metro stations, most of the signs indicating which direction the line is travelling in are written in both Russian and English but NOT at all stations. It is, however, easier than you think and quite fun to try and read Russian, and surprisingly I managed to decipher correctly 100% of the time and if I can, anyone can. It may just have been a sheer fluke though!! But don’t worry if you jump on the wrong train or miss your stop, trains run so frequently, just hop off at the next stop and change trains. How will you know if you’re on the wrong train, well once you are inside the carriage of the train, the maps and announcements are made in both Russian and English.

See also:

What Do I Do if I Have to Change Moscow Metro Lines?

If you need to switch metro lines when you exit the train just follow the signs in the colour of the line you need to take. With a single ticket, you can change lines as many times as you want.
There’s no need to rush if you hear a train coming, the average frequency is 90 seconds, even more, frequent in the central stations.

Are The Exit Signs Written in English?

Once you arrive at your destination, simply follow the exit (Way Out) signs. Yes, the exit signs are usually written in English (especially near Red Square and the Kremlin) as well as Russian (Выход). The larger metro stations will have more than one exit, so choose one closest to your final destination or do what we do, pick one at random and see where it takes you. After all, travel is an adventure!

Riding the Moscow Metro is a Unique Experience in Itself.

The post Moscow Metro Guide for English Speakers appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Drone Photo of Monte Brasil on Terceira Island

Where is Terceira Island?

Terceira (AKA “The Lilac Island’) is part of the Azores archipelago which is located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,000 miles west of Lisbon and 2,500 miles southeast of New York. It’s one of the larger islands with a land mass of approximately 153 square miles and a population of about 53,000. The oldest city in the Azores, Angra do Heroismo, is located on Terceira.

A Little History of Terceira Island

Terceira, in Portuguese meaning “the third island,” was initially known as the Island of Jesus Christ. Settlement on Terceira Island began around the year 1450, but the island really came into its own during the 15th and 16th centuries, when galleons bringing wealth and goods from the Americas engaged in trade with ships from India.  But I’m no historian, I would recommend visiting the museum in Angra to understand how this rock in the middle of the North Atlantic came to be.

Things to Do on Terceira Island

There’s a surprising amount of activities to do on an island this size. At first, we worried that maybe a week in Terceira would be too long, when in fact we could easily have spent more time leisurely exploring the island.

Here’s a list of our favourite activities:

Drone View of Angra do Heroísmo

Explore the lovely old city of Angra do Heroísmo. The town is best explored on foot. Admire the old architecture and charming homes. For ideas where to get the best viewpoints of the city, and places to eat, see below.

Visit the museum in Angra, excellent value at just €2 per person and surprisingly good.

Museum in Angra do Heroísmo

Listen to fado, there are some amazingly talented singers on the island. Fado is sung at the weekends at the Taberna do Fado and on Sunday evenings at the Fort.

Hire a car (avoid GoldCar) and get out and explore the island. The roads are mostly good, and there’s not much traffic apart from the odd tractor and a few cows. Book your car before you arrive though, as there is a limited amount of vehicles on offer and public transport isn’t great, especially on weekends.

Relax in the natural swimming pools of Biscoitos. There’s a cute looking wine museum in Biscoitos too, but unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we were there, so we will just have to save that for our next visit.

Natural Swimming Pools of Biscoitos on Terceira Island are a Favorite Thing to Do

Try some local Azorean food such as the cheese. Free cheese tasting is available at Quiejo Vaquinha aka Cheese Factory in Cinco Ribeiras.

And you must try the delicious Dona Amelie cakes. Our guest house gave us some homemade ones, oh boy they were good!

Dona Amelie Cakes are a Favorite Treat on Terceira Island

Not active enough for you, well there’s always whale watching, snorkeling, bird watching, hiking, golf, and exploring caves.

If you visit in the height of summer, you can also join in local festivals or the rope bullfighting.

The best viewpoints of Angra do Heroismo

Monte Brasil – Great views of the city, the island, and the ocean. It’s also a good spot for hiking and enjoying a picnic.

Alto de Memoria – Offers excellent view of the city and Monte Brasil. The owner of our guesthouse dropped us off at the top so we could enjoy the view, then we strolled down the path, through the gardens to the town center.

Quinta dos Açores – Great place for a view and the chance to try the delicious ice cream. I recommend the After Eight!

The Best Viewpoints on Terceira Island

We hired a car to explore the island. It really is the best way to discover the beauty of Terceira. Along the way, you’ll come across so many viewpoints ‘miradouros’. It’s a good idea just to drive slowly and stop often to take photos and admire the picturesque scenery. Although, be sure to drive up to Serra da Cume viewpoint.

View of Terceira Island from Serra da Cume Viewpoint

Recommended Bars and Restaurants Angra do Heroísmo –

Alto Sé, Altos dos Covos1. Serves food all day. Fantastic cakes, try the cheesecake. Friendly service.

Caso de Pasto A Canadinha, Avenida Infante Dom Henrique 24 E. Serves food all day. Good idea to make reservations at weekends. Huge portions and not expensive.

Quinta dos Açores, Vinha Brava – Delicious ice cream with a view over Angra. Also, offers meals but we only tried the ice cream but the food being served looked good. Also, there’s a small market shop selling local produce. We stocked up on cheese here on our way home.

A Pirata Gastropub, Rua da Rocha. – Nice place for a drink offering a great selection of craft beers. Friendly service. Closed on Sundays.

Limpets at O’ Pirata

Taberna do Fado, Rua do Rego 74 – Great place to enjoy a drink, enjoy some nibbles and listen to Fado. The night we went, there were some amazing singers.

Tasca das Tias, Rua de São João 117 – Nice place for dinner. Try the tuna steak or the pasta with shrimps.

A Minha Casa, Rua Direita – One of the few places open on a Sunday afternoon. Excellent for sandwiches, wraps, and desserts. Friendly service and not expensive.

São Mateus –

Beira Mar, Caminho da Vila Maria – Popular seafood restaurant. Good idea to make an advance reservation, especially at weekends. Overlooks a small fishing port.

Vila Nova –

Valadão – Casa da Galinha, Rua Dr. Francisco Valadão 1 – American fried chicken. According to Jon, some of the best chicken he’s eaten in years. Been a family business for almost 40 years.

“American Chicken” at Casa da Galinha on Terceira Island

Where to Stay on Terceira Island

There are hotel and accommodation on Terceira to suit all budgets – from five-star hotels to camping. We stayed at the lovely Quintal d’Angra in Angra do Heroismo. Great location, it even came with its own fully equipped kitchen so we could self-cater, but we didn’t as too many nice restaurants on our doorstep. The owners Xavier and Fatima were great too and really looked after us.

Top Tips for visiting Terceira Island

Hire a car, but don’t book car rental GoldCar with Ryan Air like we did. Big mistake. They have a lot of hidden charges plus a very odd rule that because I was the lead name on our flight booking, that meant I had to be the primary driver. So the only way Jon could drive, I had no intention of driving, was to pay an additional driver fee. Makes absolutely no sense. Why he couldn’t be the primary driver remains a mystery. Hopefully, the credit card company can sort it out. So our advice, book through Kayak, we have never had a problem with them.

Travel slow, stop often to take photos.
Try the local delicacies- the Dona Amelie cakes go well with coffee.
Pick up some local cheese and enjoy a picnic as you explore the island. There are picnic spots all over the island.
All the restaurants listed, we tried and can recommend. If you find another that you enjoyed, let us know so we can add to the list.

Getting to Terceira Island, Azores

Airlines with regular flights from North America to the Azores.

Azore Airlines are the only airline offering direct flights from the US. Direct flights available from Boston.

Airlines with regular flights to Azores from Lisbon and Porto, Portugal

Ryanair (avoid if possible)
TAP Portugal
Flights from Terceira to other islands in the Azores are available with SATA airlines.

The Complete Guide to Terceira Island in the Azores; Top Tips on What to See, What to Do and Where to Dine

The post Things to Do on Terceira Island in the Portuguese Azores appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Things are changing! As LifePart2.com, my little retirement, travel, photography blog, has begun taking off, it has become clear that me doing everything from writing, photography, web design, answering emails, blah, blah, blah, wasn’t going to work. I needed some help.

From the beginning, LifePart2.com has been a labor of love, and while I love telling the story of how I sold everything to retire and travel the world, keeping everything updated was starting to cut into my wine drinking, photography and travel adventure time. Also, although I liked the design of the old website, it was beginning to look a bit tired, hard to navigate and cluttered. So, I decided to try something different.

First of all, as many of you have requested, you are going to be seeing a lot more of Sarah around here. Luckily, she has agreed to take on some of the travel writing, answering emails, posting to social media and other tasks. We hired a web design firm to do the refresh, improve the look of the site, make it more fun, more user-friendly, and easier to navigate.

We are very excited about the refresh! We hope you will look around and help us squash any bugs. If you see areas where we can improve or other things you want us to tell more about, we would appreciate you letting us know about that too. We would also thank you, if you like what you discover, to tell your friends about the new and (hopefully) improved site.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing some of the travel pieces and doing all the photography, but this change will allow me to write more about retirement issues, rant a little bit about overcoming fears and wax poetic about having a great life and enjoying retirement. We are also going to be looking for other ways to get out the story about this thing we call LifePart2, and we would appreciate your ideas as well.

The post LifePart2.com New Look appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Life Part 2 | Retirement Travel Adventur.. by Words By Sarah Wilson - Photos By J.. - 1w ago

Yusupov Palace from Our Private Boat Tour

Day Two of Our St Petersburg, Russia Tour

After such a great tour of St Petersburg, Russia the day before, we couldn’t wait to get out and discover some more of the city’s delights. Rain had been forecast for today, but yes, that was definitely blue sky and sunshine we could see peeking through the clouds!

We rose early to enjoy our hotel Lotte’s fabulous buffet breakfast. Before we came to Russia, we had this preconceived idea that Russian food really wasn’t going to be up too much, and with all the walking we do when we travel, we would easily be able to lose a few unwanted kilos. So wrong!! From what we have tasted so far, it looks like we were going to be seriously piling on the kilos instead!

No Tour of Saint Petersburg, Russia would be complete without a Visit to Yusupov Palace

So at 10:30 am, we set off with our guide Elena for a short walk alongside the river to the Yusupov Palace. The Yusupov Palace belonged to the incredibly wealthy Yusupov family and is just one of a few aristocratic homes left in St Petersburg which still has most of its original interior. Now this is where having an excellent guide like Elena from Strelka Travel comes in handy 1) because she’s just a mindful of information and stories and 2) most of the signage in the Yusupov Palace is written only in Russian, although audio guides in English and other languages were available.

The inside of the palace was quite stunning with many of the rooms painted in different styles, with beautiful ornate chandeliers, frescoes, and tapestries. Yusupov Palace even features a stunning ornate Rocco theatre which still shows productions today – that would be so cool to see!

Chandelier in Yusupov Palace

Murder of Rasputin

But it’s not all beautiful rooms that you have come to see here. The Palace has a gruesome history. This is where Rasputin was murdered! There are many legends and stories of what exactly happened that night on 16 December 1916, but the exhibition that is shown in the basement of Yusupov Palace is based on the fascinating autobiography of Prince Felix Yusupov who was one of the conspirators in the initial poisoning of Rasputin. Apparently, Rasputin was taking too long to die by poisoning from potassium chloride so was shot eleven times but somehow he still managed to survive. Finally using clubs, they hurled his body into the icy river where he died from hypothermia or did he?

Display of Rasputin Before the Poison in Yusupov Palace

The way our guide Elena described the story was far better than I could ever do, but it was a fascinating story and well worth seeing. It was a very cool exhibition.

A year later, Yusupov Palace was seized by the Bolsheviks.

We left the Palace and continued our tour of St Petersburg with Elena our guide and myself singing and humming along to Boney M’s Rasputin, well you would, wouldn’t you?

RA RA RASPUTIN
Lover of the Russian queen
They put some poison into his wine
RA RA RASPUTIN
Russia’s greatest love machine
He drank it all, and he said: “I feel fine.”

RA RA RASPUTIN
Lover of the Russian queen
They didn’t quit, they wanted his head
RA RA RASPUTIN
Russia’s greatest love machine
And so they shot him till he was dead. 

Jonathan denied all knowledge of ever hearing that song.

Boney M - Rasputin - YouTube

Admit it, you’ve started humming it too now! If you haven’t seen it watch the video and you will.

As we strolled down by the river, wondering what was in store for us next. A canal river boat pulled up beside us and off we all went. Wow, we didn’t expect that. It was warm enough to sit up on deck and admire the beautiful buildings from the water. We even cruised right by our Hotel Lotte. Getting an entirely different perspective of St Petersburg was lovely.

Cruising by the Hotel Lotte on Our St Petersburg, Russia Tour

After such a great time exploring, we were ready to eat again, unbelievable really after the amount we ate earlier. We had a late lunch at the Terassa, which is a popular rooftop restaurant located on one of St Petersburg’s tallest buildings overlooking Nevsky Prospekt – the city’s main shopping street and Kazanskiy Cathedral.

After a scrumptious late lunch, we had a few hours left to explore the city by ourselves. St Petersburg is such a picturesque city, far more beautiful than we had expected. We felt perfectly safe walking by ourselves and with the iconic dome of St Issacs’s Cathedral always in view, it was impossible to get lost.

But sadly our tour of St Petersburg was coming to an end, but a new adventure was about to begin. Next stop, the famous Red Arrow night train from St Petersburg to Moscow!

The post Our Tour of St Petersburg Russia appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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Cost of Living in Prague, Czech Republic for a Month?

You know Prague, the capital city of Czecia (formerly known as the Czech Republic) one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Now, I’m not sure about the exact number of expats who live in this place, but I do now that there are quite a few foreigners who temporarily settle here. Personally, I have had an amazing experience living in Prague, and I honestly recommend it to anyone looking for a European city to live in. The cost of living in Prague is more than welcoming (especially if you’re from North America), and the atmosphere is charming, so let’s get into what you really need to know.

Cost of Accommodation in Prague

I might not be the best person to take accommodation advice from (I sleep in instant tents for god’s sake), but I do know the difference between decent and awful. In my experience with apartments in Prague, I have not experienced the latter. The type of accommodation available varies greatly, and prices are determined by location and quality of the place itself.

For the first week, I stayed in a shared apartment in a suburb of the city, and it cost me around 65 USD. If you do a bit of math, this means that a monthly price would be around 260 USD. The location was a bit further from the center (roughly 20 minutes by foot + subway), but it was well worth it.

For the remainder of my time (an entire month), I rented a studio for about 500 USD a month. I have to point out that this was a BARGAIN as downtown studio rent prices can go up to 900 USD for the same time period.

Finding a place to stay can be hard or easy depending on when you come here, as Prague tends to be very crowded during certain months of the year, namely July and August. If you come in spring or fall, the chance of finding an apartment for a good price, in a nice location is significantly higher.

Transportation in Prague

Cost of Transportation in Prague

The cost of living in Prague is made much more affordable if you factor in transportation costs. Transportation in Prague is dirt cheap, and 23 USD will get you a monthly pass for metro, buses, and trams. The subway is well organized, efficient, and easy to get around with plenty of stations reachable by foot in most parts of the city. It runs 7 days a week from early morning until midnight. After midnight, you’ll have to settle for a tram or bus. However, only a small number of lines still operate during the late night hours.

Taxi prices are not exactly the cheapest, and you should be careful as there are some drivers who will take you on a tour of the city instead of driving the shortest route to your desired location. A legitimate cab can cost you up to 25 USD within the distance of 20 kilometers, which includes the center and the surrounding areas. My advice would be to stick to the public transportation and get a taxi only as a last resort.

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Cost of Food and Beers in Prague

Delicious Food in Prague

Plenty of tourists who come here do it for the beer, as the Czech Republic is known as the manufacturer of some of the best lagers in the world. If you are one of those people, you’ll be delighted to know that beer is excellent and super cheap! A half liter domestic beer at a pub will cost you around 1.5 USD, while imported brands go for 2.3 USD.

Coffee is also very affordable, and the usual prices are anywhere between 1.5 USD to 3.5 USD. Cafes in the old town Prague core usually charge more than those elsewhere in the city.

A meal in a restaurant can be as cheap as 6 USD, and it goes up to 15-16 USD on average. Again, downtown eateries often pose as tourist traps and might overcharge for mediocre quality food, so be sure to ask a local about where to eat. The signature dish of Prague is the infamous koleno (pork knuckle), and it is absolutely enormous! I suggest you try it.

Fast food chains are plenty and can be found anywhere in the city. KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, you name it, they’ve got it all. This can be a quick and cheap option if you’re looking for a bite, and a Big Mac, for example, costs around 3.5 USD.

The cost of living in Prague is also greatly reduced if you shop in supermarkets. A liter of milk and a loaf of bread go for a dollar, and a kilogram of chicken breast is 6 USD. I highly recommend that you prepare your own food if you’re traveling on a budget. One last thing – some Czech beers in the supermarket cost 0.5 USD for a half liter bottle!
The summary

As you can see, the cost of living in Prague is a pretty affordable and very attractive place to live in. For those who aren’t good at math, a 1000 USD should be more than enough to comfortably spend a month in this city. If you haven’t been here, make sure to do so as soon as possible! There’s so much to see and do, and it would be a real pity not to experience it for yourself.

About: Melanie Campbell is an outdoor and camping professional who gives expert advice on camping and outdoor food. She runs a website called Ardent Footsteps, where you can find proven tips on how to make the most out of your camping adventure, from outdoor food to gear & equipment.

The post Cost of Living in Prague, Czechia for a Month? appeared first on LifePart2.com.

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