Personal Travel Manager Margaret Freemantle representative for Turner in the Australian Capital Territory, recently experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity, participating on a dedicated 11 night CT Partners’ famil to St Petersburg, Moscow and Helsinki. Lalitha Murthy from Finnair hosted the select group of six representatives from CT Partners’ member agencies in conjunction with Jan Whiteside from World Hotels.
Russia is synonymous with ballet, art, culture, history and politics and as Freemantle discovers, the notion of Russia being a dour place, barren of spirituality has been completely dispelled.
“Moscow is home to the Bolshoi Ballet and no one can claim to love ballet, in particular, and not to have at least considered visiting Russia. I am finding that Russia is now becoming easier to sell as it really does cater for so many varied interests. The culture is so integral to the destination with many magnificent buildings and monumental churches that are regularly packed. I found this incredibly curious however as the services are long and there are no pews.”
Moscow is the centre of political intrigue however for Freemantle, it was the enormity of everything in the city that continually surprised her.
Participants who experienced this once in a lifetime Russian adventure were (from left back row) Kate Malek – Egencia Travel, Karen Barnes – Travel Partners, Jan Whiteside – World Hotels, Maria Kastensson (Angleterre Hotel staff), Oksana Bezbabnykh (guide Grazioso Travel), Francis Pereira – CT Connections, Margaret Freemantle – TravelManagers. Front row from left is Eleanora Vachelac – TravelEdge and Karen Birch – World Travel Professionals.
“The sheer size of the Kremlin is awe-inspiring and President Putin has his own exclusive traffic lane on the freeway. Moscow really does create an atmosphere of political forces at work and the massive conglomeration that is the Kremlin sets your imagination running riot.”
Known as the Venice of the North due to all canals and bridges along the Neva River, Freemantle found St Petersburg a truly delightful city.
“I found St Petersburg to have a real western feel to it. The city centre is quite compact with all the major attractions being within walking distance. We explored the city by foot venturing over many bridges, canals and street labyrinths soaking up the cities’ cultural with every step. We visited Peter and Paul Fortress that wowed us with its impressive city views. Taking 21 years to build, the Fortress is considered to be the birthplace of St Petersburg.”
A visit to The Hermitage Museum, renowned for being one of the largest and most respected art museums in the world, was a highlight for Freemantle.
“With its impressive location on the banks of the Neva River and right in the heart of the city, The State Hermitage comprises The Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. You need days to truly appreciate all that it offers.”
Freemantle acquired a taste for caviar during her Russian adventure.
“The better hotels and restaurants serve Caviar often and I have to confess I became very accustomed to it. We were extremely spoilt to enjoy dinner at the Russian Ampir, one of the most exquisite restaurants in Russia. We knew we were in for a real treat when we entered the room to see 24 carat gold cutlery, Versace porcelain and Bohemian crystal. The food was just as incredible – our high expectations were certainly not disappointed.
A visit to Russia wouldn’t be complete without experiencing a vodka bar.
“Enjoying some really good Russian vodka at an authentic vodka bar is an experience worth having. The vodka is extremely potent however and relating to the locals is not easy at the best of times and even more challenging under the effects of too much vodka,” laughs Freemantle.
Freemantle from her personal experience offers some valuable and practical advice for travellers looking to visit Russia.
“I would highly recommend clients stay in an historic hotel if at all possible. To experience a hotel with history and in a central location really did enhance my entire experience. The language barriers are quite difficult so another reason for staying centrally located to major attractions is a bonus. Coffee is not their forte, so for coffee lovers make sure you have a couple of cups at breakfast in the hotel.”
TravelManagers work closely with partner suppliers to ensure personal travel managers experience a variety of educational experiences to worldwide destinations.
“TravelManagers prides itself on providing exceptional and personal customer service which comes from firsthand knowledge and experience. Educationals that allow our personal travel managers to opportunity to experience non-traditional destinations are so important, which is why we proactively work with suppliers to provide as many famil opportunities as possible,” says TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager Michael Gazal.
For more information or to speak to someone confidentially about TravelManagers please contact Suzanne Laister on 1800 019 599.