Our Oasis A review of Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria
We were to stay in an apartment in the neighborhoodof Uldnaya in St Petersburg. Getting there from the train station was scary enough, but the apartment was dreadfully dirty and had an odor that was unbearable. The elderly lady, Laura, who lived there was nice, but didnt speak english. Within 2 minutes I knew we couldn't stay there, so I only hoped I could get her to show me where the nearest metro was so my wife and I could head downtown to find a hotel. Leaving everything in the apartment, Laura took us to the metro, but then proceeded to get in and ride the train. Not speaking any russion we just followed her, and ended up in front of the winter palace where she gave us a key to the apartment, and then left. We were left standing in the palace square with only the clothes we were wearing, a video camera, and a small guide book. The guide book led us to the Astoria, and for $240/night we found an oasis in an otherwise dingy, worn out, crumbling city. The staff was very helpful, in that the rules forbid them to allow guests without passports/visas. Lauras son took ours to register us with the government, so we had none when we checked into the hotel. The hotel was kind enough to let us stay one night, but after that we were to provide them with the passports and visas. I called the agent that booked the room (luckily it was a st petersburg number) and told him we were not staying at the apartment, but opted for the Astoria, and that we needed our luggage and passports. He could have ignored us, or taken our stuff, but he showed up that night with everything intact. I told him to cancel our hotel in Moscow for later that week because I had to 're-think' how accomodations work in Russia. I also told him to keep the money for the apartment and pay Laura what was due her, and told him that we would talk about refunds after I got back to the US. Interestingly when I got back to the US, he had already sent a full refund. There were several opportunities on this trip for the Russians to 'take' us, but on every occasion they were good and honest, and lived up to their word. The Astoria is what it is. An elegant, historic hotel with good food (a little pricey, but what isn't at this level?), beautiful lobbies and sitting areas, decent rooms (ours was right in front of St. Issacs Cathedral), clean bathrooms, and a very helpful staff. It was also within easy waking distance of everything. We would stay there again.