Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A Winter visit to Jurmala, Latvia

During my Riga research, I found a whole bunch of sources telling me about what a how popular the nearby beach resort of Jurmala is in the summer. Locals and tourists alike flock to the sunshiny seaside town to soak up the rays and frolick in the sea.


There was no sunshiny frolicking on my visit! But, even in the depths of winter Jurmala is well worth a visit - perhaps even more so. After all, nice beaches in the summer are ten a penny, but somewhere you can walk on the frozen sea? That's pretty special!

I woke up in Riga on the day of my intended visit to find that it had snowed overnight - would the weather affect the running of the trains? We'd have had no chance in the UK, but the Latvian trains were running perfectly on time still. Not only efficient but cheap too, with the one-way 30 minute journey costing just E1.40, and a discount for the way back if you buy as a return.



Don't make the mistake of looking for a train to 'Jurmala' though, as there's not a station with that name. Your best bet might be 'Majori', with a tourist information centre and a ten minute walk to the beach.



The beach is easy to find too - well signposted, and there's a big map just over the road from the station if you need any extra help. I was a little wary, as I'd already gotten a bit out of my way that morning looking on the way to the train station in Riga (I took a short cut that wasn't that short....!) but had no trouble at all finding where I wanted to be. 


And then, there I was. Snow on ice, as far as the eye could see! 



I didn't really know what to expect, visually. With fresh snow covering everything, how would I know I was walking over the frozen sea, as opposed to just snow-topped sand? But even under the snow you could see ridges and waves where the water had frozen solid.



That, and I had an excitable old German chap yelling 'Is water underneath!' at me with a massive smile on his face! 


There was a temptation to keep edging towards the (liquid) water, but even I could see the possibilities for disaster there! 




Of course, the fact that everything was frozen should give you some indication that it was pretty cold, so it wasn't too long before I headed back the relative warmth of the train and the comfort of some of Riga's finest hot chocolate but I'll always be grateful for the opportunity to visit this incredible place! 

I'd love to see it in the summer to compare the two! 
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Sunday, 15 April 2018

Cake in Riga

When I was in Riga in February, I booked a walking tour on Riga's Old Town. I didn't book a private tour, but I ended up getting one anyway - I can only assume everyone else chickened out because of the ungodly weather - but 'twas just me and my lovely guide Inga wandering round the gorgeous Old Town for a couple of ours In that time she many many things relating to the history and culture of Latvia, but one thing she said stuck with me above all else I learnt on that tour. She told me 'we Latvians love our pastries'. Now THAT is a cultural statement I can get behind! 


Earlier that day, I'd visited Bakeberry, somewhere that was on my radar for it's impressive array of pretty cakes. Though to my surprise, it wasn't one of these complex, highly decorated and beautiful looking concoctions that grabbed my attention,....


...but a comparatively simple Coconut Pastry.


There could be a couple of reasons for this decision. For example, the pricing structure that put this flakey, buttery, coconutty delight at a mere E0.75 cannot be ignored.

But I think the main this was I couldn't consider a cake that wold in any where interfere with the enjoyment of my frankly magical hot chocolate!


There's no mistake - THIS was the star of the show. The bitterly cold weather had left craving something both warming and comforting, and this was it in spades! So it seemed obvious that my accompanying food chose should be something that complemented, not competed with, the extravaganza that was my beverage. 



Still, much as I am sure I made the right decision on the day it was a shame to not indulge in some of their sweeter, fancier options. But worry not, this was not my only opportunity for overly sugary goodies! 


Possibly my favourite of the cafe's I stumbled across in Riga was the Fat Cat Eklernica. Yup, that's an eclair cafe. A cafe full of eclairs. Lots of different flavours and fillings of eclairs. 


Eclair's aside for the moment, Fat Cat is just a beautifully cosy and cheerful little spot, with really lovely service - the lass behind the counter was more than happy to offer recommendations.


So based on her suggestion, I settled down in a snug corner with my dulce de leche eclair and a nice cup of earl grey. Heaven! 


This is almost the opposite of my Bakeberry set up - the eclair was sooo sweet that anything fancier than a plain brew would have been way too much, but as it is this combo was perfection. 

I did of course hit up a couple of other cakey spots in Riga - I needed to make sure I got out of the cold every so often just so the blood didn't freeze in my veins - but this pair were my favourites, as well as the only two my hands stopped shaking long enough to get pictures in! I might have to make a return visit in better weather to do them all proper justice! 
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Sunday, 8 April 2018

March Happenings, April Plans

Another month has gone by with very little from me in the way of blogging - I'm a bad 'un! 

March is always a tough one though because it's one of the busiest times at work - not that I need an excuse for being slack! I keep thinking 'oh I'm just gonna knock the blog on the head, I don't have time for it'... but then I wouldn't have an excuse to buy the new camera I've been eyeing up so I better stick with it for a while! 

So, March. March I've been mainly up to my eyeballs in receipts and VAT and other boring work things, but I did manage a couple of nice breaks from that! 

The biggest and best thing in March was our nights stay at Crab Manor's gorgeous Bardola Lodge. Designed to look and feel like a Norwegian Ski Cabin, this cosy little lodge is in North Yorkshire. We were there for a wedding and I was more than happy to take the excuse to stay over at this stunning place. We even had out own hot tub! It was almost a shame to leave the lovely lodge and go to the wedding! 


A couple of other March plans went astray because of the snow (in March? Seriously?!), but hopefully that's all behind us now! I was worried that my brunch date with Lizi and Caroline would be snowed off, but thankfully we managed to defy the weather and indulge in some pretty awesome breakfast foods. 

April sees a long-awaited trip away with the family. Between them, the kids covered both volcanoes and Romans in school last year and they inspired me to book us a visit to Pompeii - for educational purposes of course! 

I'm also looking forward to getting out and about locally a bit more, now that the worst of the weather should finally be behind us! Also I'm really hoping to actually getting some blog posts written - I'm building up quite the backlog that I need to clear! 

How was your March? Anything fun coming up in April?
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