Trip date: January 2017
After being in Riga for two full days we decided to take a day trip out to Jurmala. This pretty beach resort is just 30-minutes from the city and during the summer I could imagine it is a haven on the Gulf of Riga which connects to the Baltic Sea. During the winter it is a bit different!
We drove thru the small town and found parking near the beach so we could take a short walk around. It was a bit drizzly as we got out of the car, and it was cold! The old soviet-style buildings and hotels were interesting and we even found the bronze turtle statue that stares out to the gulf.
From here we made a circle walking through more of the town. Some of the beach houses were very old and in need of repair while others were new and quite modern in their architecture.
The main street is really cute and filled with shops; there was even a small Christmas Market going on.
It was getting colder and it was also time for lunch so we drove to another part of the town, past very large mansions, to a fantastic little restaurant that sits right on the beach- 36.Line.
I had traditional veal pelmeni (dumplings) served in mushroom broth and sour cream to start, followed by a ridiculously huge pork shank. Everything was delicious and we had a front row seat to watch the snow as it started falling!
The snow continued to fall as we headed back to town, the city was so pretty! We walked past the Laima Chocolate clock (which was suppose to be some big deal but I wasn't impressed), and over the river past the Freedom Monument. We'd mostly been in the old town and now were in City Center. We made our way to the Corner House, the former headquarters of the KGB where you can walk thru an exhibit which explains the power and activity of this secret organization. There are also tours of the cellars, interrogation rooms, etc. which unfortunately were sold out when we arrived. I had gone to a similar museum in Vilnius.
The next day we drove out of town again to Birini Palace. It was snowing quite hard when we left town and at one point as I drove through a very thick forested area it was so dark and snowing so hard that I couldn't see a damn thing! Finally it cleared as we neared the palace and we were rewarded with absolutely stunning views of the palace grounds!
The palace, which also is a hotel now, was built in 1860 and has lakes, parks, horses, a restaurant, etc.
We were shown around a bit by one of the "castle keepers" and then were turned loose to explore on our own. It is very pretty; I wouldn't put it in your "not-to-miss" list but if you are in the area the pink castle is a beautiful site!
We had an average lunch at the on-site restaurant and then got back on the road. Our plan was to hit a few more castles before the end of the day as there were four in the nearby national park. But the snow started falling really hard again and we just didn't want to risk the roads so we headed back home and had a couple of cocktails!
On our last day in Riga we woke up to an actual snow storm! We had booked an Art Nouveau Architectural walking tour and spent 3 hours walking around the city which was freezing but so beautiful!
The buildings in Riga are so interesting, I highly recommend one of these walks which cost us 15 Euro each and included a coffee break (where I chose mulled wine and an apple caramel tart!).
We all had early flights the next morning and shared a 5:30am taxi to the airport. Ugh. Forest, Thibault and I had an Air Baltic flight to Paris where we said goodbye after traveling around together for 2 weeks. I had a 3 hour layover before my flight to Seattle, so I spent some time duty free shopping before hitting the Delta lounge which is just ok at CdG. Then I had a very nice flight home in business class with multi-course meals, wine pairings, and a lay-flat bed.
Another wonderful New Year's Eve trip was in the books! I was so charmed by Riga and the surrounding countryside. If you get the chance to visit I would absolutely go. And if you happen to be there during the holidays when there is snow and Christmas markets, then all the better!
Latvia photos are here.
You can also find photos of our trip on Instagram using the hashtag #BalticBash2016
Other posts from this trip:
36 Hour Parisian Birthday Party
Christmas in Beaujolais
Baltic Bash Kick Off
Out and About in Lithuania
Baltic Road Trip
A Very Baltic New Year
Latvian Eats & Drinks
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