The 2014 Blues squad touched down safely at Saint Petersburg airport 35 minutes ahead of schedule on Tuesday afternoon, to be welcomed by Maxim from the University and translator Gregory. Youngest tourist Matt Geiger from Manchester Grammar school, was the first casualty of tour, when his suitcase – larger than him – was the only piece of luggage not to arrive. Following 40 minutes of form filming and being shouted at by the Russian customs officers, Matt was allowed to join the rest of the tour party on the coach to Hotel YouNost, our base for the next 11 days. The Tokyo Dome Hotel this was not, but nevertheless rooms were allocated and the party started to settle in. No sooner had they dropped their bags, then they were off again to a local park for an active recovery session with S & C Coach Sy Wiggall, followed by a solid meal at a local café. Tour roles were allocated including, but not exclusively: Fergus Taylor as Historian, Guy Western as Philosopher, James Scaife as news & weatherman, Sam Peter, Chris Mansfield, George Cullen & Anthony Collias as the resident By Band, Will Boardman & Henry Lamont as comedians but also on Ferret Watch, whilst George Messum will celebrate his Birthday each & every day of tour!
On Wednesday morning the party were up bright and early for a stretching session back in the park, followed by a hearty breakfast before heading to the local fitness club for a morning of strength & conditioning once again under the watchful eye of Sy, who warming to his task put the boys through their paces. Fraser ‘Keg’ Heathcote tried to introduce himself to the local mums, by joining in their aqua-natal pool class, but as he was not too their particular liking he was rapidly ejected! Lunch soon followed before the coach came to pick the party up to take them to the Saint Petersburg State University for a welcome reception. Accompanying the party were students Masha, Luda and Sofia to act as translators and guides and they were particularly well received by the tour historian!
A tour of the University campus ensued with photos, welcoming speeches, gift exchanges as the two Internationally distinguished Universities created ever stronger bonds across the sea. This was followed by an intense rugby session, as Head Coach James Wade had his first opportunity to put the boys through their paces on Russian soil. James and Sy also lead a session for local rugby players, including students, adult males, women and some youngsters – Fresher Kit Goodfellow being on the receiving end of some Russian hospitality during the contact session!
Dinner in the hostel was followed by an early night as the party started to feel the effects of a long day and the travelling the previous day. Please return for Dairy entry 2 in due course.