Alla and her driver met us at the St. Petersburg pier where the Silversea Silver Cloud was docked. We did not need a Russian Visa to exit the ship. Alla emailed me a confirmation of our tour and that was sufficient for the immigration officials.
As we drove the hour south to the town of Pushkin, we chatted with Alla about her family and life in the city. Alla's English was exceptional and her knowledge of the city and its history impressive. When we reached the Catherine Palace, we were able to exit the car closer to the entrance than the buses did and enter immediately since we were with a licensed guide.
The next few pages document just a few of the amazing parts of Catherine Palace, about half of which has been reconstructed since the end of World War II. This may not sound like too much; however, 57 of the massive halls were totally destroyed during the war. Fortunately for all of us, many photos of the palace were in existence, which assisted in the reconstruction.