Riga, Latvia: What I'm Looking Forward To

Labdien (hello) from Latvia! Perchance you may have seen on my Instagram (@jasiminne) that I'm in Riga, Latvia. Dear friends, I write to you now from the comfort of luxury boutique hotel Gallery Park Hotel ensconced in the warm enriching glow of an eight hour nap followed by a spellbinding evening of ballet - Swan Lake at the Latvian National Opera - and a satisfyingly heavy meal which I (tried but failed to) walk off with a stroll through the park. Everything is covered in a blanket of snow and the city looks just like a postcard of the ultimate fantasy of what a European city should look like (but without the crowds, the chaos, and the urban grime of say, Paris).

Why Riga, you ask? Well, on a 'post-holiday comedown' after Romania I was seized by the fancy to take us to a country we'd both never been to. Riga came to mind - we'd both read in an in-flight magazine that it was named European Capital of Culture in 2014, it was nearby and cheap to fly to from London; and it had that wonderful combination of being safe,  accessible, and historical. It's a highly underrated travel destination and we wanted to see it before it became so mainstream that it would be as Kate said about the Cuba I visited before the recent travel restrictions to Americans were lifted: 'turned into Disneyland'.

Things I'm looking forward to in Riga:

The Art Nouveau architecture. The city has the largest and most impressive showing of art nouveau architecture in Europe, with over forty percent of the city's buildings adorned in sweeping undulating lines, goddesses, sphinxes and opulent details inspired by nature.

The Riga Shooting Range. 'Feel the power of combat shotgun' the masculine black website boasts , offering a knee-quivering list of guns you could never fire in London - Winchesters, AKs, Glocks, Magnums - and even the names of movies their guns have made appearances in. It's enough to make a slack-jawed yokel weep with joy. The staff even said of taking photos - 'You can make model with Soviet uniform for take many nice picture'. Did you read that in a thick Eastern European accent? I did.

The food! I have a list of restaurants I want to try (I ticked Benjamin's off the list for our first dinner yesterday): Vincents ('slow food' championed by Prince Charles, Hestal Blumenthal, and Queen Elizabeth II), Renomme (Gallery Park Hotel's award winning Latvian and Baltic restaurant), the food stalls
 and cafes of Lido Recreation Centre...and of course I must sample Riga Black Balsam!

I'm off to bed now - it's nearly two in the morning here in Riga and I have to be up nice and early for a hearty breakfast ahead of a day full of firing guns, walking, and of course pausing every 10 metres to take photos. Have you been to Riga? Do you have any tips and recommendations for me?

Photos from various sources on Pinterest.


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