In order to fulfill your dreams, you always need help. So when my Mum asked me where I’d like to go for my graduation present, as my sisters had been taken on trips to London and Edinburgh, I immediately got online to work out a cheap holiday somewhere I had never been before.
Visiting every country in Europe is my main focus, every country in the world is next, so when Skyscanner had cheap flights I messaged my Mum and showed her that if anything, it would be cheaper to go abroad. Next thing I know we’re off to Latvia!
The flight was great as we passed over Denmark and Sweden, and we coukd even see the bridge that links Copenhagen to Malmo, that I traveled on a few years ago. As the plane descended we saw a thin layer of snow over the forests and countryside, our first foray into the Baltics. The journey from the airport to our hotel couldn’t have been easier, or cheaper as a 2euro minibus (number 222) took us straight into the centre and dropped us off opposite our hotel! Totally by coincidence of course, we had booked the wellness hotel in Riga and it’s great so far, clean and modern with breakfast included (more on that later) and a spa located in the basement. On our way we picked up some tasty looking cakes to go with our boots meal deal lunch that were delicious.
We ate our lunch in the hotel and then headed out to explore Riga and pick up our reserved tickets to the ballet. We had booked these well in advance for 10e each and Mum was really looking forward to it.
(Opera house )
As we stepped out onto the cold streets, wrapped up in layers, hat and scarf the chill air blew past us. It was going to be a cold holiday. Walking up through a park towards the opera house was nice with the autumnal colours still holding on in the face of snow and winter. We picked our tickets up with ease and carried on through the park past interesting statues and coming up to the freedom monument representing Latvian independence. Without realising we had booked our holiday for their independence day and light festival and there were signs everywhere of them setting up ready.
From the freedom monument we climbed up bastion hill to look out over the old town and surrounding park. It felt lovely and wintery and we saw a facade on one house covered in the coat of arms for each town/city in Latvia.
We walked down into the old town with no plan and began to explore, going past old city walls, bars selling hot wine and traditional black balsam, (a kind of local spirit) and old houses with wooden shutters. We passed a couple of old churches before coming out into a big square with giant inflatable rabbits and the lutheran dome church.
This was part of the light festival with installations all over the city.
We continued on and saw some lights down a side street, intrigued we went to investigate and came out into a square filled with neon green lights and the blackheads building, one of the oldest buildings in Riga.
After this we noticed a sign outside a nice restaurant offering 99c oysters, now we couldn’t say no to that! It was actually a very upmarket fish restaurant and the menu sounded gorgeous but we stuck to our plan and had a beer each and two oysters, we even got complimentary bread. This deal is only on a Tuesday and Thursday and I hate to think why.
Time was getting on so we went back to the hotel making sure we went past St Peter’s Church a big tourist attraction, however the church was overshadowed by a great light show projected onto it’s side.
It’s great when this unplanned stuff happens, and it gives you a real insight into wherever you’re visiting. After enjoying the show for a few minutes we made it back to the hotel and had a quick costume change into something more fitting for the opera house.
Arriving just in time we checked our coats in and found our seats, luckily one over from a view of a post. It was my first ballet and I really enjoyed it actually. I wasn’t sure if I would but the first act was almost an hour long and flew by. The 5E glass of champagne at the interval also helped.
The ballet was full of drama and I enjoyed the dancing, a couple of the dancers really stood out too and you could follow the story well.
When we left it had started to drizzle so we decided to go for a post ballet drink somewhere in the old town. more light installations emerged as we wandered through squares and down cobbled streets when it started to pour, so we jumped into the nearest bar and were greeted by NWA followed by System of a down on the jukebox….an interesting mixture. We spent the next hour or so chatting away over beers and decided on an earlyish night ready for the proper festivities to start tomorrow.