Ukraine Family Christmas Journey – Part 1
Ukraine Christmas Journey
I am so enjoying the Christmas season. For me it started early and is ending late as this Ukraine tour itinerary is themed around the Eastern Orthodox Christmas. I am therefore getting to celebrate Christmas twice within a few weeks! Christmas is my favourite time of the year.
This tour is a boutique small group departure. It was purposely designed that way as we spend Christmas Eve in a family home so as you can imagine space is limited.
My group filled with repeat passengers (except for 1 newbie) met me at Toronto Pearson for our flight to Lviv, Ukraine. It is hard to believe that we are going to be elebrating Christmas when the outside January temps in Toronto are so spring like,
After we checked in for our flight and cleared security we gathered in the Plaza Premium lounge for food and beverages. Most of my passengers already know one another from past “Travel With Bradley” tours so this gathering was a true homecoming.
There was a bit of excitement when our flight to Montreal was delayed and then “cancelled” so I was very busy trying to come up with a quick solution. A very professional AC representative was ready to re-book us on another carrier but the two of us decided that it was worth trying to get us rebooked on the next Air Canada scheduled flight to Montreal. If it left and arrived on time there was a great chance we could make our connection with Lufthansa airlines. The Air Canada rep promised me that he would keep an eye on that new flight and if it was delayed at all he would make sure we didn’t board and he would rebook us with another carrier. Since our Air Canada booking was a “Travel With Bradley” group that gave us priority over individual travelers,
Luckily the flight ended up leaving on time and were able to make our connection to Munich. It was a bit of a hike to our gate in Montreal but we were quick. I even had a couple minutes to grab a Starbucks before boarding the flight.
We flew to Munich on a Lufthansa state-of-art A350-900. What a beautiful plane – spacious, oversize windows, modern washrooms.
Due to the winds our flight to Munich was relatively short – 6.5 hours and it was a very smooth crossing over the pond. Service was good and so was the main meal that they served us.
When we arrived in Munich it was a short distance to our connecting gate. They called the Lviv, Ukraine flight to board but minutes later they sent passengers back into the terminal because there was an issue with the plane. I was expecting a major delay but within a short period of time we boarded a smaller regional Lufthansa jet and were on our way to Lviv.
I was sitting in the emergency row so a flight attendant arrived to brief me and those around me on the protocol during an emergency. He soon learned that one of the ladies across from me could not speak English so she needed to be moved from the Emergency row. He asked another couple if they spoke English and after hearing “yes” he moved them into the Emergency row across from me. Seconds later he realized they were not fluent either…. It was a comedy of errors – he had to find another couple to fill those seats. He was getting frustrated.
Even though it was a relatively short 90 minute flight, along with beverages Lufthansa also served a hearty sandwich to us.
Gladly our luggage all arrived in Lviv. Taras (Terry) our local guide was wearing a “Travel With Bradley” polo shirt when he greeted us in the arrival hall. I know Taras and he is a terrific man – very caring and passionate about his country and Lviv, the city where he lives.
It was a 30 minute transfer to the hotel. We are traveling in a 33 seated coach for the duration of this tour. The views from the airport to the historic city centre are not overly exciting but Lviv’s city centre puts it on the map as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This is a very multicultural place. In the recent presidential election (when the comedian was elected), the majority of citizens of Lviv were the only ones in the entire country that as a majority voted against him.
The core of Lviv is an eccentric place. It’s filled with very “trendy” coffee shops (coffee is a big deal here), hip restaurants and many locally owned shops. Being its the Christmas Season there are 2 main Christmas markets just a couple minute walk from our hotel,
Considering Orthodox Christmas is around the corner, the streets were filled with locals and tourists who are celebrating and shopping,
Our hotel is the highest rated in the city,. The hotel rooms are oversize with high ceilings and they feature a large bathrooms. Touches like fresh roses in the rooms and chocolate truffles on the bed at turn down service help to attract a professional international crowd. The Governor General of Canada has stayed here along with many world dignitaries.
Since we didn’t arrive at our hotel until 3pm it didn’t make sense to take everyone to a restaurant for lunch as dinner was a few hours later so a nice selection of food was waiting in everyone’s room to hold us over.
Instead of resting up most of my passengers were excited to start strolling the beautiful streets of Lviv, The city centre surrounds the doorstep of our hotel. Within a short period of time I had purchased a number of quality mementos that I will be bringing home.
We all gathered at 530pm and Taras toured us around the core for an hour Christmas sights walk. The air was crisp and we could feel the excitement of Christmas. We even visited with Saint Nicholas. He asked if I had been good boy….
Dinner was in one of the most famous Polish/Ukrainian restaurants in the city. I don’t know how Taras our guide managed to get us a group reservation but we felt like VIP’s walking past the long line of people hoping to get a table. This restaurant holds a large number of people but the eccentric decorated dining rooms are relatively small so the experience is personable.
I think it’s fair to say that it would be difficult to top that dinner anywhere else in the world – it was that good! Our meal was a leisurely 3 hour affair – we enjoyed every minute. Platters of artistically placed appetizers were waiting on the table. On on table there was button that we pressed to call the waiter who was very professional. A large dinner salad was the next course – the salad dressing container contained the dressing along with some dry ice so when the waiter poured the dressing on the salad the cloudy presentation was exciting. The salad was filled with various flavors – one of the best Ive tasted anywhere. The main course consisted of spinach filled turkey rolls served with a lazy cook perogies (pasta noodle like but perogie flavor). A liquor shot arrived and we were in awe the way the waiter poured the shots We had a choice of menu when to selecting our dessert – most ordered either the cottage cheese cheesecake or sweet cheese filled perogies – both excellent choices.
When we left the restaurant the lineups of patrons hoping to enter were even longer than when we entered.
Our hotel was just steps away. Most headed to bed but I strolled another hour. The city was buzzing. The venues were all full and the Christmas Markets were colourful and lively.
I feel asleep quickly but woke up in the middle of the night (jet lag) so I took advantage of that time to write this blog post. Hope you are enjoying! You really should be with us,,,,