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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grand Hotel Europe (St. Petersburg)

Really, I promise that there's more Russia pictures coming; in fact, I should be posting more in the next few days.  It's just that I've formatted and sorted them in batches, and this was the first batch I received to work on.  So here's more of luxurious Kay & Jaime life at the Grand Hotel.

This is very like the picture I'd seen on the hotel's website.  What I didn't realize is that the hotel took the entire block, and it's a name block--like being on Fifth Avenue in New York.  In this case, the street you see is Nevsky Prospekt, one of the main, name streets in St. Petersburg.  The Grand Hotel takes the entire block, and in fact, you can where my sun porch was, just down from the main entrance, which is on the side street.

Here's the main entrance and, yes, it really does look like that.  In fact, it looks even posher when you drive up in a BMW 735, and a fully uniformed doorman opens the door and says, "Welcome to the Grand Hotel Europe, Dr. Edwards." :-)  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they knew our names since they provided the car and it wasn't a particularly busy time of year, but it really was impressive and an example of what the service was like the entire time we were there.

Here's part of the front lobby and, no, that's not a ghost.  Time lapse photography.  You can see one of the doormen standing by the first set of double doors into the hotel.  It was interesting watching the dynamic of people dealing with the doormen, especially since most people just ignored them.  So sad.  They were so pleased when we just said the basic courtesies to them in Russian, like Спасибо (spaseebah, thank you) and Здравствуйте (drastvooyte, hello).  I mean, it shouldn't be a strain to be polite and acknowledge their hard work, attentiveness, and kindness.

Okay, tirade stopped!  This is an example of what the corridors were like all over the hotel.  While this is a staged picture for some sort of promotional campaign, it really is authentic.

Once we arrived and were given a glass of champagne (neither Jaime nor I are big drinkers, but it would be easy to become one there!), our butlers took us on a tour of the hotel.  (I must admit that I had a sort of Jeeves character in mind when I thought of butler, but in this case, the butlers were two attractive women in their late 20s or 30s.)  One of the things they seemed very proud of was the "grand staircase" that went through the center of the hotel.  It was beautiful and fully restored; moreover, since our rooms were just off it, we went up and down it all day, which really added to the hotel-as-palace feeling of the place.  That being said, I had to laugh at myself.  I know that I've lived a pretty sweet life when I look at this and think, "Oh, another fancy staircase.  What's the big deal?" :-)  Given how much I hate the phrase "been there, done that," the minute I caught myself reacting like that I started laughing.  Made me appreciate everything even more.

Jaime actually had a great time taking photos of the stairway because, with the number of windows, skylights and reflective surfaces, there were lots of different lighting effects he could achieve.  These are just a few of his products!

At the top of the first flight of stairs there was a big room with cushioned chairs, couches, etc. and a grand piano for the guests; our rooms were right next to all this.  It was fabulous one day to walk out of the room and hear someone playing on the piano; turns out it was the son of one of the guests here.  His parents seemed a bit concerned at first that he'd been disturbing me, but when I gave them a big smile, they looked so proud they'd burst.

Although we didn't go out late at night often, we did go out a few times to see the downtown lit up and to go to the Kirov.  (Fabulous opera, appalling behavior by the audience, which I hear is made up almost entirely of tourists, both Russian and non-Russian.  Why is it that people's manners disappear when they aren't at home?)  In any case, the Grand Hotel at night was wonderful looking, as you can see from these photos.  It was particularly cool, too, to sit on the sun porch at night; you got the ambient light from the hotel but could look out at buildings on Nevsky Prospekt like the Gostiny Dvor store (think Macy's or Bloomingdale's) or on Arts Square behind the Grand Hotel where you could find the Russian Museum (in the old Mikhailovsky Palace).

I just wanted to include this because of the reverse perspective and to show you the fleet of cars that lived in front of the hotel.  These are the hotel's chauffeured cars, the ones Jaime and I ran around in.

More to come soon about St. Petersburg itself and some of the wining and dining we enjoyed while there!

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