I haven't been on many tours (some remote parts of China, the DPRK and the Himalayas mostly) as I normally just pack a guidebook, some common sense, buckets of humour and respect for others. So perhaps I am not fully-equipped to judge. Having put forth that disclaimer, this Treasures of Two Capitals tour honestly ranks as my No. 1.
I got to see everything I came to see (within my time and budgetary constraints). The choice of accommodations were more than reasonable and I cannot gush enough over the friendly staff - I especially adore the Radisson in Saint Petersburg. The Travel All Russia logistics specialists were extremely helpful in assisting me with my last-minute queries, requests and payment arrangements. I booked this tour pretty late yet everything was a breeze, no doubt due to the hard work put forth by the Travel All Russia team. In the beginning I had some fears over missing my Moscow hotel transfer but the driver was there waiting and smiling as promised - it would've been nice though if I had had one that spoke some English but then again I should've been the one to improve my Russian. I love the Honest Kitchen in Moscow - delicious food, beautiful restaurant! What a fantastic choice. All-in-all, my tour went swimmingly from start to finish.
And now, to write an epic praise over the most professional, knowledgeable, patient, friendly, warm, funny, accommodating tour guides in the history of ever! Aleksey of Moscow and Konstantin of Saint Petersburg went over and above their call of duty to ensure that we had the time of our lives. Konstantin had such extensive knowledge of Saint Petersburg; I believe had I asked him when a lamppost on such-and-such Bulvar was erected he'd know the answer. During the Victory Day Parade, he even had one of our group members climb his shoulders to take videos of the parade to be shared with everybody (because many of us are short and could not get a clear view of the proceedings). Who does that? Who, I ask you! We arrived at our hotel in Saint Petersburg at about 9 pm and I asked him if he could recommend to me an eatery within walking distance that serves Russian cuisine - instead of just telling me the restaurant names and giving me directions, he walked me all the way there and even helped with the menu (and declined my offer to buy him dinner in thanks). Ditto when I asked for his suggestions regarding buying some Russian vodka - again he walked me to a nearby store, helped me choose some brands favored by locals, and even let me use his discount card. This is during the half-day free time on a public holiday during which he could've gone off and have a round of drinks with his buddies or hang out with his girlfriend or whatever. Nothing is too much to ask, for him apparently. I adore him completely.
As for Aleksey - very caring and attentive and incredibly funny to boot. Thank you so much for taking the time to show me the Our Lady of Vladimir icon - there were a number of steps to climb through and I was the only one in our Group who wanted to see it and we were somewhat pressed for time so he could've easily deflected my request. I remember crying a little at how magnificent it was - thank you! He was also very aware of all the older people in our Group and made sure that not too much walking is needed - only as absolutely necessary, namely when he was sending us off on the Sapsan as we needed to haul our luggage. It wasn't easy due to the numerous roadblocks and closures for the Victory Day celebrations. I am so very glad to have him as our guide.
One of the reasons I enjoy traveling so much is getting to meet the people of a particular country, and our tour guides played a huge part in making me fall deeply in love with Russia - well, even more so than I already am. I am already planning another trip to this marvelous country, with Travel All Russia of course!
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