Blue Bay Travel
Group Executive Director at Blue Bay Travel
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Group Chief Executive Officer
Group Executive Director
Sales Manager - Personal Travel Consultants
Software Development Manager
September, 2020 - present
CEO Blue Bay Travel Group, ✈Mexico & Caribbean, ✈Indian Ocean, ✈Long Haul Tour Operator
Managing Director/Owner Luxury Travel Agency, ✈Caribbean, ✈Indian Ocean, ✈Long Haul Travel Agency
Sales Director Luxury Travel Agency, ✈Caribbean, ✈Indian Ocean, ✈Long Haul Travel Agency
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- Stuart David Wilson
Director/Board Member at Blue Bay Travel Group Ltd.
Stuart David Wilson is on the board of Blue Bay Travel Group Ltd.
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Rowland eyes organic growth and acquisitions for Blue Bay Travel
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Blue Bay Travel will expand into new market sectors and different regions after Alistair Rowland becomes group chief executive at the online travel agency next month.
Currently Rowland is Midcounties’ chief retail officer of specialist businesses – overseeing travel as well as funerals, pharmacies and childcare.
Speaking on a webcast with Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley, he said he was keen to return to a role focused purely on running a travel business.
“For quite a while, I just wanted to invest all my time in the travel industry,” he said.
“What I really want to do is run a business really well.
“The ability to run [Blue Bay] as group CEO with a view of growth in mind…and grow it by acquisition and organically is a really powerful thing.”
Blue Bay has been part of the Midcounties’ consortium since 2012 and Rowland highlighted how the OTA has more than tripled in size during that time.
In February 2017, Blue Bay Travel secured a £6.5 million investment from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.
More : Midcounties Co-operative to recruit new chief retail officer
Stuart Wilson, Blue Bay Travel’s current chief executive, will become group executive director. Rowland’s wife, Maxine Rowland, will step down from her position of managing director at Blue Bay but will stay in the business.
Rowland said the agency employs just over 100 members of staff and turnover last year was more than £50 million.
“It is a really significant business but one – with the backing of investors LDC – is primed for growth, because it’s actually very narrow in terms of the field it operates in,” he said.
“It is great business: really entrepreneurial and well run. One of the best in the business and always has been.”
Blue Bay specialises in luxury long-haul holidays to destinations such as the Caribbean and Mexico, and has a “very strong relationship” with members-only website Secret Escapes and deals publisher Travelzoo.
Blue Bay operates on a subscriber basis with a “very powerful database” of loyal, repeat bookers.
“Most businesses and certainly OTAs have really tried to find the sweet spot on maximising the database and Blue Bay have certainly done that,” he said.
“Subscribers get better deals and offers than the standard email database and that works really well. Social [media] is very strong as well.”
But he aims to “substantially expand” the range of products on offer, albeit carefully.
“Many businesses get criticised for an everyman philosophy, selling everything to everybody and are rarely successful,” he said.
“But there is an opportunity within the EU, and there is an opportunity as the world opens up again to sell other destinations significantly…and other sectors such as cruise.
“These are horribly difficult times but the world will open up again and people just want to go away.”
Blue Bay specialises in the “value end of luxury” which Rowland said is still a big market.
Like every travel business, it is “hurting” with refunds and changes to bookings, but he added: “Blue Bay have fared better than most so far.”
The Midcounties Co-operative has announced it has recruited Alison Bain as chief marketing officer and Neil Hardy as head of omni-channel development .
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Blue bay travel appoints managing director in newly-created role.
OTA Blue Bay Travel has appointed a new managing director.
Maxine Rowland has been promoted to the newly-created position, from general manager.
Rowland joined Blue Bay in 2012, with a career spanning 25 years. Her roles include regional manager and latterly commercial manager for Co-operative Travel Trading Group.
Blue Bay has seen an exponential level of growth over the last two years, including a £6.5 million investment from private equity firm LDC.
The management team has expanded staff levels in all areas of the business, tripling the size of the office space, investing in new intelligent marketing tools, launching an online booking platform and a new luxury brand as well as introducing a number of new channels to market.
“I am delighted to have been recognised in this way and will work tirelessly with our talented internal team and fantastic range of supply partners to make Blue Bay Travel the operator of choice for long haul travel,” said Rowland.
“I truly believe that once customers have discovered Blue Bay they find it impossible to find a competitor to rival our value, experience and service. My aim is to communicate this unique offering to a much wider audience.”
Blue Bay’s key objective is to expand and develop the online channel and drive growth through technology.
Blue Bay chief executive Stuart Wilson said: “Maxine is the perfect choice to drive Blue Bay forward to the next level, she was instrumental in building the foundations for growth across the business during 2017.
“Key areas for the coming financial year are product, marketing and online amplification – we are driving the breadth of our product offering in core geographical areas, expanding into other destinations and looking to offer inspirational ideas to our customers.
“We will continue to look after our existing customers in the way they have become accustomed, with our expert team of personal travel advisors and homeworkers – whose knowledge of our specialist destinations and product is second to none.”
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The Trentham Lakes business has had its best year in its 16-year history
- 05:00, 24 DEC 2019
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Staff at Blue Bay Travel were forced to spring into action when holiday operator Thomas Cook suddenly collapsed in September.
The 103-strong workforce were ‘all hands on deck’ when they tried to minimise the impact of the crisis for their customers.
The Trentham Lakes business managed to rescue over 800, or 55 per cent, of directly effected contract bookings thanks to quickly-implemented automated email correspondence – and the creation of cross-departmental crisis teams who were on hand to update customers about the situation and rebook holidays over a few difficult weeks.
But in spite of the challenges it has faced this year, 2019 has been Blue Bay Travel’s most successful in its 16-year history – after seeing revenue, bookings and staff numbers all increase.
Now Blue Bay is looking to top it off with recognition at The Sentinel Business Awards by entering the Business of the Year category, sponsored by Autonet.
PR executive Jonathon Matthews said: "The Thomas Cook crisis was a very difficult time for us. We had people from different departments volunteering to do things outside of their remit and outside of their comfort zone.
"It was a challenging time for us but it was really positive to see that everyone came together.
"It took us three-and-a-half weeks to get back to business as usual, but we had a lot of positive feedback from customers about how we handled things."
Jonathon added: "In spite of everything that has happened, we have gone from strength-to-strength this year and have actually had our most successful year ever.
"We have seen growth in all areas, and our workforce has expanded to record size.
"We have also grown sales in some key destinations and have identified other areas of the globe that would help us to increase turnover and profits in the future."
Throughout 2019, Blue Bay Travel has increased its focus on its digital platforms and moved away from the call-centre business model that it has dominated in previous years.
It has implemented an email marketing strategy and a number of improvements to its online booking journey.
It has also made additions to its in-house development team to ensure it meets its targets – resulting in a 46 per cent increase in bookings when compared to 2018.
Over the next 12 months, Blue Bay Travel is looking at further growth by increasing customer numbers and introducing holidays in new destinations such as Panama, Costa Rica and Curacao.
Jonathon added: "One of the areas we have been focusing on in the last 12 months has been expanding the portfolio of products we have on offer.
"We are Caribbean experts and that used to be our USP, but we have been looking at how we can bring more into our long-haul offering and have been looking at further opportunities in places like the Maldives and Mauritius.
"We want to expand on that in 2020, as well as looking at other opportunities in the short-haul and mid-haul sector in countries such as Egypt and Turkey. Thomas Cook has left a gap in the market."
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BLUE BAY TRAVEL LIMITED
Company number 05343019
- Company Overview for BLUE BAY TRAVEL LIMITED (05343019)
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Officers: 4 officers / 2 resignations, rowland, alistair mark, wilson, stuart david, wilson, angela louise.
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New Product Management Director for Blue Bay Travel
Blue Bay Travel announces the recruitment of travel industry great Greg Armstrong to their world class management team.
- By Vicky Pulman
- Thursday July 26, 2018 12:00AM
"I am ecstatic to be joining Blue Bay Travel. Having worked closely with many of the staff there for the past 7 years, it is like joining a team I already regard as family. " Greg Armstrong - Product Management Director
The appointment follows a period of sustained growth for the Staffordshire long haul travel experts that has seen the number of employees increase to almost 100, and their office space triple in size. In 2017 the company secured a £6.5 million investment from LDC , a private equity firm that’s part of the Lloyds Banking Group.
“I am ecstatic to be joining Blue Bay Travel . Having worked closely with many of the staff there as well as liaising directly with Stuart Wilson for the past 7 years, it is like joining a team I already regard as family,” said Greg, “I am very much looking forward to working alongside the team at Blue Bay and to driving the product department forward. I have a very keen passion for discovering new destinations, hotels and opportunities and taking them to market.”
Having joined the travel industry at the tender age of 17 with Touchdown Holidays, a specialist operator selling to the travel industry, Greg spent 15 years working his way up from sending brochures out and running the travel club, until he ultimately became General Manager of the company. “My time at Touchdown gave me invaluable experience in every element of tour operation.” Said Greg.
In 2011, he joined Resort Marketing International as Business Development Director with an aim to assist with the diversification of their overall model and account direct some of their core accounts. This experience gave Greg a unique insight into the industry from the other side of the table and the knowledge to structure rates and manage marketing budgets on behalf of clients and build strategic long-lasting partnerships with core tour operators… such as Blue Bay Travel!
A dedicated family man, Greg is passionate about travel with his wife and two children, “ The Caribbean is always my number one choice, but it’s so hard to choose between the amazing islands we’ve been fortunate enough to visit. Mexico and Barbados are always right up there, but The Grenadines was an incredible experience.” When he’s not at work, Greg is a keen guitarist and can be seen (or rather heard) belting out heavy metal classics with friends.
MD, Maxine Rowland said, “We are very excited to welcome Greg to the team. He will bring to the table new strategies utilising his experience on both sides of the industry, to open up new destinations and to add to and expand on destinations that are already popular for Blue Bay.”
By Joel Lloyd
Mar 23 2022 08:49AM
Leisure Business News - Caryn Philip loves to get stuck in when it comes to all things hospitality. The newly appointed operations director of North West-based indie group R amp B restaurants is in her third decade in the industry and comes across with the same vitality she talked about feeling for the industry when she was just a teen.
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Blue Bay Travel Secures £6.5m in Equity Funding
Mid-market private equity firm LDC made the minority investment. As part of the deal, LDC Investment Director David Andrews joined Blue Bay Travel’s board alongside independent non-executive Lawrence Dean, and travel industry veteran Andrew Gardner as non-executive Chairman.
Founded in 2003 by Stuart and Angela Wilson, Blue Bay Travel operates under several specialist brands – including Caribbean Warehouse, specializing in destinations such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Barbados and Saint Lucia – and Tropical Warehouse, focusing on the Indian Ocean and Far East. The business currently provides holidays to more than 16,500 passengers per year – with a 31% increase in bookings in 2016.
The company intends to use the funds to accelerate growth by investing in its proprietary price comparison technology and online booking platform, expanding its 60 people team of travel experts, adding more homeworkers to the sales team – and launching new, innovative products. This will include new facilities for online-only booking, new collaborations with travel operators for direct sales solutions and a white label website framework called Orcastra, plus expansion to new countries and destinations. In 2017, Blue Bay Travel will launch Xclusivity, providing luxury breaks to carefully selected long-haul and short-haul destinations.
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Travel Itinerary For One Week in Moscow: The Best of Moscow!
I just got back from one week in Moscow. And, as you might have already guessed, it was a mind-boggling experience. It was not my first trip to the Russian capital. But I hardly ever got enough time to explore this sprawling city. Visiting places for business rarely leaves enough time for sightseeing. I think that if you’ve got one week in Russia, you can also consider splitting your time between its largest cities (i.e. Saint Petersburg ) to get the most out of your trip. Seven days will let you see the majority of the main sights and go beyond just scratching the surface. In this post, I’m going to share with you my idea of the perfect travel itinerary for one week in Moscow.
Moscow is perhaps both the business and cultural hub of Russia. There is a lot more to see here than just the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Centuries-old churches with onion-shaped domes dotted around the city are in stark contrast with newly completed impressive skyscrapers of Moscow City dominating the skyline. I spent a lot of time thinking about my Moscow itinerary before I left. And this city lived up to all of my expectations.
Travel Itinerary For One Week in Moscow
Day 1 – red square and the kremlin.
Metro Station: Okhotny Ryad on Red Line.
No trip to Moscow would be complete without seeing its main attraction. The Red Square is just a stone’s throw away from several metro stations. It is home to some of the most impressive architectural masterpieces in the city. The first thing you’ll probably notice after entering it and passing vendors selling weird fur hats is the fairytale-like looking Saint Basil’s Cathedral. It was built to commemorate one of the major victories of Ivan the Terrible. I once spent 20 minutes gazing at it, trying to find the perfect angle to snap it. It was easier said than done because of the hordes of locals and tourists.
As you continue strolling around Red Square, there’s no way you can miss Gum. It was widely known as the main department store during the Soviet Era. Now this large (yet historic) shopping mall is filled with expensive boutiques, pricey eateries, etc. During my trip to Moscow, I was on a tight budget. So I only took a retro-style stroll in Gum to get a rare glimpse of a place where Soviet leaders used to grocery shop and buy their stuff. In case you want some modern shopping experience, head to the Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center with stores like New Yorker, Zara, and Adidas.
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To continue this Moscow itinerary, next you may want to go inside the Kremlin walls. This is the center of Russian political power and the president’s official residence. If you’re planning to pay Kremlin a visit do your best to visit Ivan the Great Bell Tower as well. Go there as early as possible to avoid crowds and get an incredible bird’s-eye view. There are a couple of museums that are available during designated visiting hours. Make sure to book your ticket online and avoid lines.
Day 2 – Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Arbat Street
Metro Station: Kropotkinskaya on Red Line
As soon as you start creating a Moscow itinerary for your second day, you’ll discover that there are plenty of metro stations that are much closer to certain sites. Depending on your route, take a closer look at the metro map to pick the closest.
The white marble walls of Christ the Saviour Cathedral are awe-inspiring. As you approach this tallest Orthodox Christian church, you may notice the bronze sculptures, magnificent arches, and cupolas that were created to commemorate Russia’s victory against Napoleon.
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Unfortunately, the current Cathedral is a replica, since original was blown to bits in 1931 by the Soviet government. The new cathedral basically follows the original design, but they have added some new elements such as marble high reliefs.
Home to some precious collection of artworks, in Tretyakov Gallery you can find more than 150,000 of works spanning centuries of artistic endeavor. Originally a privately owned gallery, it now has become one of the largest museums in Russia. The Gallery is often considered essential to visit. But I have encountered a lot of locals who have never been there.
Famous for its souvenirs, musicians, and theaters, Arbat street is among the few in Moscow that were turned into pedestrian zones. Arbat street is usually very busy with tourists and locals alike. My local friend once called it the oldest street in Moscow dating back to 1493. It is a kilometer long walking street filled with fancy gift shops, small cozy restaurants, lots of cute cafes, and street artists. It is closed to any vehicular traffic, so you can easily stroll it with kids.
Day 3 – Moscow River Boat Ride, Poklonnaya Hill Victory Park, the Moscow City
Metro Station: Kievskaya and Park Pobedy on Dark Blue Line / Vystavochnaya on Light Blue Line
Voyaging along the Moscow River is definitely one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of the city and see the attractions from a bit different perspective. Depending on your Moscow itinerary, travel budget and the time of the year, there are various types of boats available. In the summer there is no shortage of boats, and you’ll be spoiled for choice.
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If you find yourself in Moscow during the winter months, I’d recommend going with Radisson boat cruise. These are often more expensive (yet comfy). They offer refreshments like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and, of course, alcoholic drinks. Prices may vary but mostly depend on your food and drink selection. Find their main pier near the opulent Ukraine hotel . The hotel is one of the “Seven Sisters”, so if you’re into the charm of Stalinist architecture don’t miss a chance to stay there.
The area near Poklonnaya Hill has the closest relation to the country’s recent past. The memorial complex was completed in the mid-1990s to commemorate the Victory and WW2 casualties. Also known as the Great Patriotic War Museum, activities here include indoor attractions while the grounds around host an open-air museum with old tanks and other vehicles used on the battlefield.
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The hallmark of the memorial complex and the first thing you see as you exit metro is the statue of Nike mounted to its column. This is a very impressive Obelisk with a statue of Saint George slaying the dragon at its base.
Maybe not as impressive as Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower , the skyscrapers of the Moscow City (otherwise known as Moscow International Business Center) are so drastically different from dull Soviet architecture. With 239 meters and 60 floors, the Empire Tower is the seventh highest building in the business district.
The observation deck occupies 56 floor from where you have some panoramic views of the city. I loved the view in the direction of Moscow State University and Luzhniki stadium as well to the other side with residential quarters. The entrance fee is pricey, but if you’re want to get a bird’s eye view, the skyscraper is one of the best places for doing just that.
Day 4 – VDNKh, Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, The Ostankino TV Tower
Metro Station: VDNKh on Orange Line
VDNKh is one of my favorite attractions in Moscow. The weird abbreviation actually stands for Russian vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva (Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy). With more than 200 buildings and 30 pavilions on the grounds, VDNKh serves as an open-air museum. You can easily spend a full day here since the park occupies a very large area.
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First, there are pavilions that used to showcase different cultures the USSR was made of. Additionally, there is a number of shopping pavilions, as well as Moskvarium (an Oceanarium) that features a variety of marine species. VDNKh is a popular venue for events and fairs. There is always something going on, so I’d recommend checking their website if you want to see some particular exhibition.
A stone’s throw away from VDNKh there is a very distinctive 25-meters high monument. Originally built in 1937 for the world fair in Paris, the hulking figures of men and women holding a hammer and a sickle represent the Soviet idea of united workers and farmers. It doesn’t take much time to see the monument, but visiting it gives some idea of the Soviet Union’s grandiose aspirations.
I have a thing for tall buildings. So to continue my travel itinerary for one week in Moscow I decided to climb the fourth highest TV tower in the world. This iconic 540m tower is a fixture of the skyline. You can see it virtually from everywhere in Moscow, and this is where you can get the best panoramic views (yep, even better than Empire skyscraper).
Parts of the floor are made of tempered glass, so it can be quite scary to exit the elevator. But trust me, as you start observing buildings and cars below, you won’t want to leave. There is only a limited number of tickets per day, so you may want to book online. Insider tip: the first tour is cheaper, you can save up to $10 if go there early.
Day 5 – A Tour To Moscow Manor Houses
Metro Station: Kolomenskoye, Tsaritsyno on Dark Green Line / Kuskovo on Purple Line
I love visiting the manor houses and palaces in Moscow. These opulent buildings were generally built to house Russian aristocratic families and monarchs. Houses tend to be rather grand affairs with impressive architecture. And, depending on the whims of the owners, some form of a landscaped garden.
During the early part of the 20th century though, many of Russia’s aristocratic families (including the family of the last emperor) ended up being killed or moving abroad . Their manor houses were nationalized. Some time later (after the fall of the USSR) these were open to the public. It means that today a great many of Moscow’s finest manor houses and palaces are open for touring.
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There are 20 manor houses scattered throughout the city and more than 25 in the area around. But not all of them easily accessible and exploring them often takes a lot of time. I’d recommend focusing on three most popular estates in Moscow that are some 30-minute metro ride away from Kremlin.
Sandwiched between the Moscow River and the Andropov Avenue, Kolomenskoye is a UNESCO site that became a public park in the 1920’s. Once a former royal estate, now it is one of the most tranquil parks in the city with gorgeous views. The Ascension Church, The White Column, and the grounds are a truly grand place to visit.
You could easily spend a full day here, exploring a traditional Russian village (that is, in fact, a market), picnicking by the river, enjoying the Eastern Orthodox church architecture, hiking the grounds as well as and wandering the park and gardens with wildflower meadows, apple orchards, and birch and maple groves. The estate museum showcases Russian nature at its finest year-round.
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If my travel itinerary for one week in Moscow was a family tree, Tsaritsyno Park would probably be the crazy uncle that no-one talks about. It’s a large park in the south of the city of mind-boggling proportions, unbelievable in so many ways, and yet most travelers have never heard of it.
The palace was supposed to be a summer home for Empress Catherine the Great. But since the construction didn’t meet with her approval the palace was abandoned. Since the early 1990’s the palace, the pond, and the grounds have been undergoing renovations. The entire complex is now looking brighter and more elaborately decorated than at possibly any other time during its history. Like most parks in Moscow, you can visit Tsaritsyno free of charge, but there is a small fee if you want to visit the palace.
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Last, but by no means least on my Moscow itinerary is Kuskovo Park . This is definitely an off-the-beaten-path place. While it is not easily accessible, you will be rewarded with a lack of crowds. This 18th-century summer country house of the Sheremetev family was one of the first summer country estates of the Russian nobility. And when you visit you’ll quickly realize why locals love this park.
Like many other estates, Kuskovo has just been renovated. So there are lovely French formal garden, a grotto, and the Dutch house to explore. Make sure to plan your itinerary well because the estate is some way from a metro station.
Day 6 – Explore the Golden Ring
Creating the Moscow itinerary may keep you busy for days with the seemingly endless amount of things to do. Visiting the so-called Golden Ring is like stepping back in time. Golden Ring is a “theme route” devised by promotion-minded journalist and writer Yuri Bychkov.
Having started in Moscow the route will take you through a number of historical cities. It now includes Suzdal, Vladimir, Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Sergiev Posad. All these awe-inspiring towns have their own smaller kremlins and feature dramatic churches with onion-shaped domes, tranquil residential areas, and other architectural landmarks.
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I only visited two out of eight cities included on the route. It is a no-brainer that Sergiev Posad is the nearest and the easiest city to see on a day trip from Moscow. That being said, you can explore its main attractions in just one day. Located some 70 km north-east of the Russian capital, this tiny and overlooked town is home to Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, UNESCO Site.
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Sergiev Posad is often described as being at the heart of Russian spiritual life. So it is uncommon to see the crowds of Russian pilgrims showing a deep reverence for their religion. If you’re traveling independently and using public transport, you can reach Sergiev Posad by bus (departs from VDNKh) or by suburban commuter train from Yaroslavskaya Railway Station (Bahnhof). It takes about one and a half hours to reach the town.
Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a great place to get a glimpse of filling and warming Russian lunch, specifically at the “ Gostevaya Izba ” restaurant. Try the duck breast, hearty potato and vegetables, and the awesome Napoleon cake.
Day 7 – Gorky Park, Izmailovo Kremlin, Patriarch’s Ponds
Metro Station: Park Kultury or Oktyabrskaya on Circle Line / Partizanskaya on Dark Blue Line / Pushkinskaya on Dark Green Line
Gorky Park is in the heart of Moscow. It offers many different types of outdoor activities, such as dancing, cycling, skateboarding, walking, jogging, and anything else you can do in a park. Named after Maxim Gorky, this sprawling and lovely park is where locals go on a picnic, relax and enjoy free yoga classes. It’s a popular place to bike around, and there is a Muzeon Art Park not far from here. A dynamic location with a younger vibe. There is also a pier, so you can take a cruise along the river too.
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The Kremlin in Izmailovo is by no means like the one you can find near the Red Square. Originally built for decorative purposes, it now features the Vernissage flea market and a number of frequent fairs, exhibitions, and conferences. Every weekend, there’s a giant flea market in Izmailovo, where dozens of stalls sell Soviet propaganda crap, Russian nesting dolls, vinyl records, jewelry and just about any object you can imagine. Go early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds.
All the Bulgakov’s fans should pay a visit to Patriarch’s Ponds (yup, that is plural). With a lovely small city park and the only one (!) pond in the middle, the location is where the opening scene of Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita was set. The novel is centered around a visit by Devil to the atheistic Soviet Union is considered by many critics to be one of the best novels of the 20th century. I spent great two hours strolling the nearby streets and having lunch in the hipster cafe.
Conclusion and Recommendations
To conclude, Moscow is a safe city to visit. I have never had a problem with getting around and most locals are really friendly once they know you’re a foreigner. Moscow has undergone some serious reconstruction over the last few years. So you can expect some places to be completely different. I hope my one week Moscow itinerary was helpful! If you have less time, say 4 days or 5 days, I would cut out day 6 and day 7. You could save the Golden Ring for a separate trip entirely as there’s lots to see!
What are your thoughts on this one week Moscow itinerary? Are you excited about your first time in the city? Let me know in the comments below!
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Moscow looks so beautiful and historic! Thanks for including public transit information for those of us who don’t like to rent cars.
Yup, that is me 🙂 Rarely rent + stick to the metro = Full wallet!
Looks like you had loads of fun! Well done. Also great value post for travel lovers.
I have always wanted to go to Russia, especially Moscow. These sights look absolutely beautiful to see and there is so much history there!
Agree! Moscow is a thousand-year-old city and there is definitely something for everyone.
Those are amazing buildings. Looks like a place that would be amazing to visit.
Never been to Moscow or Russia but my family has. Many great spots and a lot of culture. Your itinerary sounds fantastic and covers a lot despite it is only a short period of time.
What was their favourite thing about Russia?
I know very little about Moscow or Russia for the\at matter. I do know I would have to see the Red Square and all of its exquisite architectural masterpieces. Also the CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOUR. Thanks for shedding some light on visiting Moscow.
Thanks for swinging by! The Red Square is a great starting point, but there way too many places and things to discover aside from it!
Ruthy @ Percolate Kitchen
You are making me so jealous!! I’ve always wanted to see Russia.
Moscow is in my bucket list, I don’t know when I can visit there, your post is really useful. As a culture rich place we need to spend at least week.
Looks like you had a great trip! Thanks for all the great info! I’ve never been in to Russia, but this post makes me wanna go now!
Wow this is amazing! Moscow is on my bucket list – such an amazing place to visit I can imagine! I can’t wait to go there one day!
The building on the second picture looks familiar. I keep seeing that on TV.
What beautiful moments! I always wish I had the personality to travel more like this!
Perfect itinerary for spending a week in Moscow! So many places to visit and it looks like you had a wonderful time. I would love to climb that tower. The views I am sure must have been amazing!
I was lucky enough to see the skyline of Moscow from this TV Tower and it is definitely mind-blowing.
Moscow is definitely up there on my travel bucket list. So much history and iconic architecture!
Thumbs up! 🙂
OMG I dream to visit Moscow someday! Hope the visa processing would be okay (and become more affordable) so I could pursue my dream trip!
Yup, visa processing is the major downside! Agree! Time and the money consuming process…
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‘Make it a Christian town’: the ultra-conservative church on the rise in Idaho
Increased influence of Christ Church, whose leader wants to create US ‘theocracy’, comes as social conservatives aim to gain traction
A Guardian investigation has revealed that a controversial church whose leader has openly expressed the ambition of creating a “theocracy” in America has accumulated significant influence in the city of Moscow, Idaho .
Christ Church has a stated goal to “make Moscow a Christian town” and public records, interviews, and open source materials online show how its leadership has extended its power and activities in the town.
Church figures have browbeaten elected officials over Covid restrictions, built powerful institutions in parallel to secular government, harassed perceived opponents, and accumulated land and businesses in pursuit of a long-term goal of transforming America into a nation ruled according to its own, ultra-conservative moral precepts.
The rise of Christ Church may be playing out in a small Idaho city but it comes at a time when the US is roiled by the far right, including Christian nationalism, and when social conservatives are seeking to roll back basic tenets of US life such as legal abortion, as well as dominating powerful national institutions, such as the supreme court.
While the church’s previous controversies have centered on its founder and pastor, Douglas Wilson, a new generation of male church leaders – including Wilson’s son – have found ways to expand the church’s reach in Moscow and beyond, even gaining footholds in mainstream popular culture in the broader US.
In recent months, Christ Church has advocated for resistance to Covid mandates in Moscow, and Wilson has attempted to give theological ballast to opposition to restrictions and vaccination programs, as well as warning of political violence.
Last month, a video version of a post by Wilson at his well-read blog was removed from YouTube. The blogpost , entitled “A Biblical Defense of Fake Vaccine IDs”, was based on a conspiracy theory asserting that the vaccine response was a “power play” on the part of the Biden administration, which intended to leave the restrictions in place permanently.
Wilson further claimed that “we are not yet in a hot civil war, with shooting and all, but we are in a cold war/civil war” and urged readers to “resist openly, in concert with any others in your same position”, claiming that this would not be “rebellion against lawful authority” but “an example of a free people refusing to go along with their own enslavement”.
The post was met with outrage, including from other prominent evangelicals .
That was not the only time that Wilson’s activities and positions have led to criticism from other evangelicals, and associations with Wilson have led to crises in other churches.
In recent months, members and clergy resigned from Minneapolis’s Bethlehem Baptist church, and staff resigned from its associated Bethlehem College and Seminary (BCS), in part over the appearance of newly appointed BCS president Joe Rigney on Man Rampant , a video series hosted by Wilson and streamed on platforms including Amazon Prime. The show promotes Wilson’s long-held position that men need to assert themselves in society .
Christ Church was founded in Moscow in the 1990s, and experts who have studied the church estimate the size of the congregation and its offshoot churches at about 2,000, or 10% of the city’s total population.
But they also say that the church is increasingly drawing people to the area who are attracted to the idea of northern Idaho as a conservative “redoubt” against American modernity, and by the church’s “ reconstructionist ” position, which holds that the world will need to be governed according to their interpretation of biblical morality before Christ returns to earth.
Christ Church’s previous controversies have garnered national attention.
Recent reporting focused attention once more on the church’s – and Wilson’s – handling of a series of sexual abuse cases, and the theological subordination of women.
In 2005, Wilson asked a judge for leniency in the case of Stephen Sitler, a former student at a Christ Church-aligned college, New Saint Andrews College (NSAC). Sitler was at that time convicted of sex offenses involving children.
After his release on probation in 2007, Sitler was married in Christ Church in 2010, by Wilson, to a woman who, by Sitler’s and her account, had been introduced to him by Edwin Iverson, then a Christ Church elder and now pastor of a Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) church in Colville, Washington.
Wilson has faced scrutiny over other positions.
In the early 2000s, Wilson received criticism over a book, Southern Slavery as it Was, which he had co-written in the previous decade with J Steven Wilkins. Wilkins is a Louisiana pastor who was a co-founder of the neo-Confederate organization, the League of the South. His church is a member of Wilson’s congregational umbrella group, the CREC.
The book depicted slavery in the antebellum southern United States as “a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence”, and argued that the enslaved enjoyed “a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care”.
Wilson has repeatedly disavowed any interest in national electoral politics, but Christ Church’s eventual aim is what Wilson explicitly describes in a 2016 book as “theocracy”, or “a network of nations bound together by a formal acknowledgement of the lordship of Jesus Christ”, as opposed to secular society ruled by “civil governments, [which] are in necessary degrees satanic, demonic, and influenced by the god of this world, who is the devil”.
These beliefs have led Christ Church into conflicts with local government, but additionally, Wilson and other Christ Church members have founded a range of local and national institutions which are affiliated with or sponsored by the church.
Christ Church itself is an unincorporated nonprofit, which means that it is not obliged to provide details of its finances to government authorities. Many entities associated with the church are either also unincorporated, like the Logos School, or, like publisher Canon Press, are operated by a network of limited liability companies (LLCs) which are similarly limited in their accountability.
But insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity said that all members tithe 10% of their household income, and wealthier members are expected to make an even larger contribution.
Within a network of educational institutions, publishing houses, churches, and national associations that Wilson has founded or led, a small number of men, from a small number of families, have come to exert significant power within the organisation and Moscow.
Not least among these is Wilson’s own family, with him as its head.
At NSAC, for example, the college president is Wilson’s son-in-law, Ben Merkle. Another son-in-law, Luke Jankovic, sits on the board of trustees, as does Wilson himself and Christ Church’s associate pastor, Toby Sumpter.
Douglas Wilson is also on faculty at NSAC, and is listed as a senior fellow in theology. Also on faculty are his son Nathan (ND) Wilson, a fellow of literature; and his brother, Gordon Wilson, a self-described “young earth creationist” who believes that God created the earth in seven days, is senior fellow of natural history.
According to tax filings, Merkle and Gordon Wilson each draw salaries from the college, which lists tuition and costs for undergraduate students at $19,900 per year.
Merkle, Jankovic, and all three Wilson men are also elders at Christ Church, along with a founding director and former trustee at NSAC, Moscow resident Andrew Crapuchettes.
Until June 2021, when the company was acquired by a competitor, Crapuchettes had been chief executive of Moscow’s largest private employer, EMSI, for more than 19 years.
During that period, EMSI was a major employer of NSAC graduates. According to LinkedIn data, there are 55 current employees at EMSI who are NSAC graduates, from a college which has graduated only 635 people throughout its history.
In addition, a number of Christ Church elders hold senior positions at EMSI. They include Luke Jankovic – the NSAC trustee who is Wilson’s son-in-law – who is now executive vice-president of higher education.
Also, EMSI’s chief operations officer and chief financial officer is Timothy van den Broek, a teaching elder at Trinity Reformed church, Christ Church’s suburban offshoot.
Van den Broek began his career at EMSI immediately after graduating from NSAC, and he sits on the boards of church-aligned businesses and organizations, including the charity, the Hope Center, and Classic Learning Initiatives, which aims to devise alternative standardized testing for students at Christian private schools who wish to attend private Christian universities like NSAC.
Since his departure from EMSI, Andrew Crapuchettes has started a new venture, a jobs website called Red Balloon, which advertises itself as connecting “employers who value freedom with employees who value it too”, in “a world beyond cancel culture, where employees are free to work … without fear that they will find themselves on the wrong side of their employer’s politics”.
Many of the website’s initial clients appeared to be either church run or founded organizations, or companies belonging to other church members.
Now, Crapuchettes has branched out into property development, and this year won approval from Moscow city council for the “annexation” of 27 acres of land on Moscow’s south-western edge for a new, 109 unit subdivision called Edington.
A local businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the church already had a disproportionate presence in the downtown area, and that developments like Edington were evidence that “they are trying to attract more people here”.
He added that the church’s anti-mask and anti-vaccination positions, as well as its attempts to “take over local institutions” like a food co-op, had polarized the community.
He also referred to an ad for New Saint Andrews College that had been seen as transphobic by many in Moscow had “galvanized the town against them”. He called it a demonstration of the church’s preparedness “to throw red meat and recruit on the basis of hate”.
In response to detailed emailed questions about various aspects of Christ Church’s operations, Douglas Wilson did not offer any specific response, but wrote that the Guardian’s “approach illustrates an absurd fixation and anti-church bigotry that we have come to expect from certain elements of the leftist media”.
Asked about EMSI’s hiring practices under his leadership, Andrew Crapuchettes wrote that: “Under my watch, EMSI grew into a global company with offices on two continents, and in an ever-tightening labor market, we hired talent wherever we could find it, including from the 3 local colleges – Washington State, University of Idaho and New Saint Andrews.”
This article was amended on 12 November 2021 to correctly refer to the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, rather than the Council of Reformed Evangelical Churches.
- Delovoy Tsentr • 3 min walk
- Vystavochnaya • 4 min walk