Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

rhkkmk's off to Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn via JFK

rhkkmk's off to Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn via JFK

Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:35 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
rhkkmk's off to Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn via JFK

While we usually report on our wanderings on the asia board this report must appear here by new fodors "rules"...

We are two retired 65 year olds, based outside Boston who are bent on travel. thus far this year we have visited: Florida (including a self drive south from boston), LA for the GTG, London for 4 days for a dual surprise birthday party, Argentina and Paraguay, Long Lake and Long Island Maine, plus NYC for a mini asian foodfest GTG. Upcoming are this trip to the Baltic area, followed by the Boston GTG in October, followed quickly by our first South Africa visit including Capetown and the Garden Route, plus Kreuger and Sabi Sands visits, with 5 or so days around London on the way home, including two mini GTG's.....this is then followed 7 days later by two weeks in Thailand in November with other fodorites and a mini GTG there with about 15 expected.

So you see this has been and continues to be a busy travel year ...

While St Petersburg has been on my wife's short list for years, we had not found it in the cards to visit until this spring when Finn Air announced a 25th anniversary promotion to celebrate their 25 years of flying to NYC. At $477. all in, the flight was tooooo good to pass up----JFK to Helsinki. what started out to be a bargain trip thus far has proven to be a bit costly, but with some FF help we are weathering the storm... I will report here the day to day costs and experiences as well as our experiences.... this is just my introduction---sorry its so long, but it helps if you understand a bit about us and our planning.

The trip lays out in the following manner: self drive to JFK for the 1740 flight. long term parking in the newish Smart Park lot near JFK (13 days for $172.19), way cheaper and more flexible than jet blue from boston to jfk at $78+ each per segment. they offer a 5 hour grace period before applying additional charges if you are late on return. (1-877-JFK-PARK). their e mail states the following: "for the 13 days your vehicle will be with us, we will care for it as if it were our own...." i like this bit of friendliness---is this NY???

Overnite flight to Helsinki, 2 nites at the Hilton Strand Hotel... train to St Petersburg (Sibelius train about 7 hours); Marriott Courtyard St Petersburg Vasilievsky (4 nites); lux bus to Tallinn, Estonia (7 hours), Baltic Imperial Hotel (3 nites); Tallink Baltic Princess ship to Helsinki (3 1/2 hours), Sheraton Kamp Hotel (2 nites); followed by a nite at the helsinki airport at the Holiday Inn...

Day flight to JFK, followed by dinner in Queens at SRI (best thai food) with another Fodorite, overnite at the Greenwich, CT Hyatt and self drive back to Boston...

Advance planning: the hotels were quite easy to sort out.....as we are used to asian prices we were quite shocked at the northern european prices we found, but i worked around them partially.... the worst prices are in st pete where hotels and guides are completely outrageous. so i worked on that first.....i found that marriott opened a courtyard there not too long ago that seems to have a decent location right on the water and not that far from the main attractions. i am able to use FF to pay for that and they even have a reduced points cost at the moment. how to get around, now that is another problem.....just last week my wife found a name and e mail address on a TA report of a taxi driver with good english. she contacted the FLA person who wrote the review and got great reviews.... 12 euros per hour including car expense. this is a fraction of what others we have contacted intended to charge. we did not want a detailed licensed guide, so Alex will work perfectly for us......we contacted him and he will be meeting us at the train station when we arrive. we will use him several days during our visit....his name is: Alex Lyubimov (Tel: 8-921-945-4126)...E-mail: [email protected] he drives a newish 4 door lux sedan with a/c... with this now secure, we felt we were all set for st pete. we then bought our tickets for the Hermitage Museum on line (through a CA agency interestingly enough)---1 day for two $35.90. we will use Alex to go outside town for some other visits, but will not buy these tickets in advance. he will also do an introductory tour for us after our arrival and hotel check in.

Helsinki hotels were easier, but were showing up as very costly......i found an agency offering the Hilton for just over $100 per nite including breakfast so i pre paid that... i later learned the agency is in Turkey----maybe we have a res, maybe not??? then i found i could do cash and points for the ultra expensive and lux Kamp hotel.... 4800 pts plus $90 per nite through starwoods. the airport hotel then cleans out my points for holdiay inns... 15000.

Tallinn is a place we wanted to be situated in the old town. i found the imperial hotel, part of a small chain (baltic hotels) and found they had a seniors rate of 80 Euro per nite (50% off reg. price including breakfast, tax, etc.). it is in the old town, in fact one of the old city walls runs right through the hotel. information on estonia is not all that available but i pieced together info found on the internet.

i finished up with the greenwich hyatt at a AAA rate of $127 including breakfast. i had decided i did not want to make the 3-4 hour drive home after the flight from europe (arriving at about 4PM) so a stop in CT seemed a good idea. plus i needed a stay at hyatt for the 2500 bonus point promo going on until mid-september. this then allowed us to meet up with tengombre from nyc for another fantastic meal at SRI in Queens.

so here you have it the outline of the trip and some of the costs and advanced planning. we look forward to this trip which commences next monday, Aug 24.

i plan to add info from time to time as we travel so keep a watch out if you are interested.

come to the boston GTG on october 10, 2009 to hear more in person info.

bob and karen
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:45 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43,516
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 1 Post
Bob, what a wonderful trip~~~ I will look forward to photos and on the spot tales. sorry the GTG is not in Cambridge to have a small GTG at my place in pAST YEARS.
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:48 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
already i have made one big ommission......we are participating in the first, to my knowledge, rolling GTG. one SAian fodorite, who also happens to be an award winning tour guide in SA, is conducting a GTG on wheels where 8 or so of us will make a GTG tour of some areas around capetown....the description of where we will visit will make this the most memorable GTG held to date i think... details are on the africa board..

sorry selwyn for this ommission..
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:50 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
mimi---not to say that it still can't happen at chez mimi....we expect you to come to newton too!!!! what else does a birthday girl have to do??
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:43 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bob/Karen:
You did well with the Marriott in St. P..perfect location. Hopefully your guide will take you to the old "Aurora", a historic Russian naval ship permanently anchored close to your hotel. It's a good visit. A restaurant in the vicinity that is a good lunch spot with old Russian ambience is The "Akademia"...One of the most outstanding photo ops in St. P is the famous Church of the Spilled Blood...exceptionally colorful and gaudy at the same time. It is the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881 (a cannister of dynamite tossed between his legs...ouch!), and plays a significant role in the prologue of one of my books.

In Helsinki, be sure to visit the Jan Sibelius monument in a city park only a few minute trolley ride from the center of town...it is rather unusual...as well as the underground church..here are some Finnish pix (all pre-digital, so they're scanned) ...simply click on the magnfiying-glass icon to split and enlarge them....)

http://picasaweb.google.com/stuarttower/Finland#

Guys, have a great time and do nothing to embarrass the lofty reputation of Needham (where the needy live!)..

Best, Stu Tower
tower is offline  
Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:48 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
p.s......I know it's blasphemy herein to mention Mc Donalds...but in downtown Helsinki, reindeer burger is on the menu (do you want fries with that?)...
stu
tower is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 03:09 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,614
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bob, as always, I wish safe and wonderful travels to you and Karen. Sounds like the two of you did some great, thorough, careful planning. I have a British friend who enjoyed Tallin very much when she & her husband went, and some former neighbors who're Finnish-American who went to visit relatives in Helsinki. And of course the thought of the Hermitage makes me drool. Looking forwarding to reading more and hearing more about this trip (the latter in person in October), and to seeing the photos.

BC
bookchick is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 05:57 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,052
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't wait to read more of your report! All three of these are on my "I would love to visit" list and I don't see mention of them very often on Fodors. I wish you safe and happy travels.

Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 06:04 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 294
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Have a wonderful trip! I'm looking forward to hearing about it at the Boston GTG in October.

Safe travels.
TR
TravelRibbon is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 06:35 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,408
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bob, your travel schedule this year is something I can only aspire to do someday.
Bon Voyage and be safe!
Kristina is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 08:54 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Have a great trip! Looking forward to your interesting report, as usual.
lincasanova is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 11:51 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,712
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You will have a fabulous time - I just returned from a Baltic trip and hope to return sometime soon.

The fresh berry stands at Market Square in Helsinki sell an array of incredibly ripe and sweet berries. I bought several bags from various vendors and they were so good.

Old town Tallinn is fun to just wander about, and if you're looking to buy amber as souvenirs, I found it to be less expensive in Tallinn than in St. Petersburg. There are stands all over the old town where they sell these sugared/spiced nuts - I really liked them.

St. Petersburg is incredible and a bit of sensory overload if you only have a short time there. One thing I really enjoyed was trying blini at the Teremok street kiosks. There is another company that has kiosks, but didn't try those. Had the red caviar blini, which is salmon roe (ikura for sushi fans). Another day tried the salmon w/cream - both very delicious. Also tried a drink made with bread - kind of like a sweet beer, but with very low alcohol content.

Have a wonderful time.
chepar is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 11:57 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43,516
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 1 Post
bon Voyage, my friends. See you in october!
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 12:01 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,390
Likes: 0
Received 11 Likes on 4 Posts
Isn't this sort of a long way around to get to Asia?

Interested in hearing more about the great Thai place in Queens also.
Nikki is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:03 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Also tried a drink made with bread - kind of like a sweet beer, but with very low alcohol content.

Chepar:
most llkely kvass...talk about an acquired taste! Doing a stint with the Soviets in late 60's, I was introduced to it...now thay have kvass vending machines everywhere. Taste hasn't changed a bit.

stu
tower is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:05 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bob...try it, knowing you you'll love it and want to take some home just as a conversation drink! Would go well at the Boston GTG...Panda would gulp a whole tank of it!
stu
tower is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:21 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The good news is that he will be out of our region for these two weeks. Boston is preparing a celebration. It looks like early winter in Finland, Russia and Estonia. They may change their visa requirements after this trip.
Gpanda is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:23 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43,516
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 1 Post
stop picking on Bob or I'll post your picture in your speedo
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:30 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,712
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>most llkely kvass...talk about an acquired taste!<

Yes, that's what it was. I didn't find it bad, but I only cared to drink about half of the bottle.

What I did find delicious was fresh made cranberry juice - very little resemblance to the processed stuff from the grocery store.
chepar is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2009, 02:46 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 184
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Can't wait to read your trip report. Have a great time. I visited Helsinki/Tallinn/St. Petersburg/Moscow last year and have a fabulous time. Took the Eurolines bus to St. Petersburg from Tallinn. Immigration into Russia from Estonia was quite interesting!

Helsinki is easy to manage. The #3 tram is the way to go if you want to get around. Tallinn is a fantastic town, great to explore, especially around the town square (Raekoja plats). Museum of Occupation is a can't miss.

Don't even get me started on St. Petersburg! It's hand down, my most favorite city.

I hope to see your photos!
trsny is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -