Moscow - Great Blinies!! Low Price!


If you find yourself walking along Old Arbat Street, the pedestrian mall near the hotel, you'll eventually come upon this colorful red trolley cart. What do they sell/serve? Blinis! the beloved traditional Russian snack - small crepes filled with sweet or salty fillings like caviar or jam.

If you're up for a quick taste and a light snack, head inside the car and check out their simple menu. They have an English translation with pictures by the cash register so you can easily, point and purchase blinis and drinks.

Once you receive your goods, you can either eat inside the trolley (although it's kind of tight and crowded at times) or outside in one of their two tables in front of the trolley car.


PS- Classically blinis are served with sour cream, caviar or smoked salmon.

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Barcelona - Photos of Barcelona by Kayra


Kayra Martinez's (frasw) photos from Barcelona. Soccer Stadium Camp Neu and other city shots.

Photos by Kayra Martinez (frasw).


Rome - Palazzo Barberini


Too tired to walk far in Rome? need a "no crowds" destination near the hotel? try the Pallazzo Barberini just a few steps away from Piazza Barberini. To get there from Piazza Barberini, make a left on Via Del Le Quattro Fontane, the street that runs right in front of Pepe's coffee shop.

The Palazzo, is just a few feet away on your left, easily identified by it's iron fence lined up with enormous male bearded sculptures. Enter the gates and walk past a water fountain on your left. The entrance to the museum is on the right side, on the right wing. Go up the spiral stairs to a second floor and push open the huge, wooden carved doors to enter.

At first, it will seem as if you have already entered the museum, for you will find an exhibit of small paintings. You have not entered the museum proper yet, this is just an entrance hall. Walk straight past the gift shop and you will find the ticket desk. Here is where the entrance to the collection officially begins.

The entry fee is 5 Euros (cash) and if you want a recorded tour in English, that will cost you an additional 2.5 Euros. I rented the recorded tour and I recommend it. It will help you understand the amazing ceiling frescoes, the impressive renaissance paintings and amazing sculptures in the collection. The recording also gives you valuable information on the artists that created each piece. The collection, is impressive. There are works by famous artists like Caravaggio, Raphael, Holbein and El Greco .

The best part of it all, the place is an oasis of silence and calm. I visited the Palazzo in August, as the streets of Rome were swarming with summer tourists in every historical site. Here, at the Palazzo Barberini, there were only 4 or 5 visitors in view, while I wandered leisurely through the palace. It felt as if I was the only one there. What a pleasure.

If you wish to only visit the Palace Gardens, you don't have to enter the museum/collection section. Just walk past the buildings to the rear of the property and enjoy the peaceful green areas for free. As you wander around the property, you will notice sculpted and painted bees. It is the Barberini's family symbol repeated through out the whole property. Just look over the doors, in some paintings and frescoes and on various outside walls. See if you can spot them.

I hope you enjoy the palace like I did, as a nice,quiet escape from the crowds in the heat of the summer in Rome.

For more on the history of Palazzo Barberini, go to this address:


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Moscow - Dinner or Lunch with a View


For a lovely rooftop view of the Kremlin plus friendly and attentive service (drinks, lunch or dinner) try the rooftop restaurant at the Hyatt Hotel in Moscow.

The Hyatt is located one block away from the Bolshoi Theatre (if you stand and look at the Bolshoi straight on, it will be to your right, one block over, in the street parallel to the park). You can ask your concierge for directions, if my directions sound confusing.



Moscow - River Cruise


On my first trip to Moscow, I made a mental note to check out the Moskov River Cruise before the summer ended and the river froze. Well, the summer is almost over and this could be my last chance. It's a bit chilly outside, but despite my exhaustion, I decide to head to the nearest boat ramp and finally, catch the above mentioned boat.

The Moskov River Cruise is on my radar. It's a bus like boat that floats gently down the river, past many important Moscow sites, including the Kremlin. It runs every 20 minutes and only during the summer months.

I've been told it will be approximately, a two hour ride from one end to the other. For this, I mus dish out 400 Rubles in cash (or 12 Dollars) right by the boarding pier. Each ticket should be good "only" for a one leg ride, so don't get off or you will have to repay 400 Rubles to get back on.

My boat ride begins near the hotel, a few blocks away from Old Arbat Street. To get there, I cross Old Arbat to the very end of the pedestrian area, where it dead ends in Smolensky Blvd. There, I cross Smolensky Blvd. ( via the underground tunnels ) and continue straight on Smolenskaya Utilisa towards the river. About two short blocks and I reach the river. I cross the Borodinsky Bridge. Its a great place to linger a bit to take photos while crossing river. Not too far across the river, on the left bank, I see the boat ramp for my boat.

Once there, I purchase my tickets at a the small ticket booth by the ramp. Then, I wait for about 10 minutes until the next boat arrives. It comes from the direction of the Kremlin and quickly, makes a U turn on the river and pulls up to the pier to pick us up. In less then 10 minutes, we're on our way down the river.

The boat is nothing fancy, it has an open deck with blue plastic chairs bolted to the metal floor and an inside cabin with a few tables and a bar (what a surprise). As we leave the pier, I notice on the right bank a huge building surrounded by many colorful flags and waterfalls. It's the Kievskaya Metro Station. I'm told, there is a nice mall inside the building worth visiting. If you go, let me know how it is.

We float away gently down lush green banks along both sides of the river. On the right side, I see Gorky Park lined beautifully with scenic biking paths and stone stairs along the edge of the water. It looks surprisingly similar to the paths along the Potomac river in Washington DC. I wonder what the Russians would think of this if they knew. I notice people biking and walking hand in hand along the water. It looks relaxing from where I sit, in my blue deck chair in the open deck. Further down the river, on the left side, we pass The Central Stadium, a huge sports complex in Moscow. It looks impeccably clean and new.

Six bridges down and many historical Russian buildings later along the banks of the river Moscow, we come upon a monstrous metal statue of a ship with sails. It is a monument dedicated to Peter the Great and an eye sore for many Russians. My city guide in an earlier tour informed us that the statue had initially been made for Spain to celebrate their 100 years of the Discovery of the Americas, but that unfortunately, Spain had refused it. The artist, cleverly, simply changed the head of Christopher Columbus for the head of Peter the Great and sold the statue to Moscow instead (picture enclosed). Oh well.

Behind the monument to Peter the Great, is a red aged factory like building. It's the famous Red October Chocolate Factory. They produce some of the most popular chocolates in Russia.

Further down, on the left bank, we come upon the grand Cathedral of Christ the Savior. A monumental white walled structure, crowned with the ubiquitous gold domes. The Church is a spectacular sight from the river. Its hard to believe that it was once destroyed by Stalin, and completely rebuilt in only a couple of years, recently, to look "exactly" as it did before it was razed. An amazing sight.

Right behind the Cathedral, also on the left bank, one can begin to make out the familiar silhouette of the Kremlin in the distance. The familiar red fortress walls and the cluster of shiny gold domes inside it, all familiar outlines in this grand city. It is a magical view of the old city from the water. I take my shots, take a deep breath and take it all in, then I get off at the next stop before it gets dark.

It's not the end of the boat ride, but I fear, if I continue downriver any longer, I may find myself in unknown neighborhoods when it's dark. Not a good idea. Better leave the second half of my boat ride for another day, when there's more light. I'll just start where I left off this time, at the foot of Bolshoi Kamenny Most Bridge, right across the river form the Kremlin.

I exit the boat and walk a few steps of the ramp towards the bridge. I climb the steps and reach the top of the bridge and discover that the view from here is breathtaking! You can see the river Moscow and the Kremlin from a high vantage point and it's sunset hour. Magical!
There are some tourists taking photos of themselves with the sights behind them. It's definitely, a Kodak moment.

This bridge is the one that runs right into the Kremlin, almost in front of the Alexander Gardens, as you come into the city from the south. From this point, it's an easy walk back to the hotel. A few more photos and a short walk, and I'm back at the hotel in time for dinner.

Enjoy the ride.

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