We are so happy to have Dutch visiting us for two weeks. The very day he got here, we jumped in the car and headed to a cabin for the weekend. It was just perfect. The fall crisp air was wonderful, the castle in Cesis was magnificent, as always, and the cabin was great (except for the 972 black flies in the house.) Over the weekend visited an outdoor art shop, had lunch at our favorite place in Cesis, and walked around the town. Then we headed back, started a fire, cooked dinner and hunkered in. We spent the daylight hours by the lake waiting for the hot tub to heat up. I don’t think it ever got “hot” but Cody and Dutch braved the cold air and sat outside under the stars for a couple of hours. It was a great weekend!
After Athens we headed to Rhodes, a Greek island close to Turkey. We arrived to our hotel, The Ixian Grand, after a short taxi drive and discovered that it was not only beautiful, but right on the water with spectacular views, especially at sunset. You could look right across the water and see Turkey.
For our many days there we spent time going between laying by the pool with books in our hands and heading out on day excursions. Cody and I rented bicycles and also did a few afternoons exploring the local town 5 minutes away. It was completely relaxing and just what we all needed to get our minds off of the real world.
One of the first day trips we took was to the larger city of Rodos. It was a hot day, but it was wonderful to walk around the old fortress walkways and see the castles and hidden secrets of this ancient stronghold. The city is a must see and has lots to offer in terms of sightseeing. We loved just exploring by foot and seeing where alleyways would take us. It is really amazing the history that Europe has compared to the US and it is hard to think how new our country is in the grand scheme of things.
A few days after Cathy and Rick arrived we headed to Athens to start our Greek adventure. We stayed at a great AirBnB in a great location. The home was in walking distance of great local food, markets, Mexican food and the Parthenon. Well, I guess the last is debatable, but yes, we walked everywhere, including many km up and down hills to the Parthenon. Good thing we all had some sturdy walking shoes, which came in handy not only for comfort but to dodge the rubbish all over the street.
The first day out we explored the city and found some great little shops and got our bearings. It was fun to just walk and explore the city while catching up and chatting. We were shocked how dirty and run down the city was, but then you have to remember that in addition to the financial crisis, the city is freakin’ ancient.
The next day we did it up big, starting with a delicious breakfast of burritos and margaritas. Then to an antiques market and a snack of halloumi and tzatziki. Our table was on the roof overlooking an archaeological site and it was amazing to see the process of excavation, although no one was working at the time, probably due to the crazy heat.
Next, we headed to the Parthenon through the park and up the hill. It was a long way, but completely worth it as I have never seen something so epic before. It rivaled Anchor Wat but with the dry landscape, it seemed so grand where in Cambodia, the jungle makes it seem cozy and secretive. It was really spectacular and I am so appreciative that I got to see Athens up close and in person.
One of my closest friends from high school came to visit us recently. Sam and I have been long, long friends and it has been great seeing him in Riga. Unfortunately he was here for the last two weeks of school so it was a really busy time for us. We got to take him around a bit and he has been trying to see the sights on his own.
His visit has also overlapped with Cody’s parents. It has been 7 years in the making getting them to our house but finally the time was right and it has been just awesome. They arrived the day after school ended and it has been non-stop fun since picking them up from the airport. We have been eating and drinking ourselves all over Riga, playing games, taking some road trips and all the while, trying to stay out of the rain they brought from Oregon.
Tomorrow we are off to Greece, but Latvia has been a great first stop. Yesterday we traveled to Cesis to visit the castle and then headed up to the Valmiermuiza brewery. The country side is beautiful right now and we took advantage of the slight break in rain. After that we headed downtown to Cody’s favorite restaurant, Folkklubs Ala, for dinner and some drinks and then headed back with friends to play Saboteur, a card game we picked up here. It really has been a wonderful start to the summer!
Last weekend Cody and I headed for the Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum to spend some time in nature and see some handicrafts made by locals. I had never been to the museum but it is in a huge park situated right next to a lake. The walk through the dust and the forrest with crafts every we looked reminded me a bit of the Oregon Country Fair. Actually, the more time we spend in Latvia, the more we realize that Latvia is very similar to Oregon. There were wood crafts, weaving, wicker work, ceramics and much, much more. We found a place to get some food and found our favorite local brewery, Labietes. With our beers and shashlik, we sat by the lake and hung out in the sunshine. We bought some gifts for friends and family back home and headed out after a few hours there. It was truly a Latvian experience.
Festival season started on the weekend of the Riga Marathon. I grabbed my girlfriends and we went out thrift shopping for the day. Somehow we ended up at a city park with music, food, crafts and beer. The weather has finally gotten warm and it was one of the first sunny warmish days. At the festival we decided we had to pick up some flower headbands for the race and Mikyla and Rebecca had to try them out.
Race morning stated with rain and clouds but Cody and I laced up the trainers and headed out to meet some friends. I was doing the 5K with some friends and Cody did the 10K. I had wanted to run the 10 with Cody, but I have been dealing with an annoying knee injury so I didn’t want to push it. I saw Cody off and then headed over to try to see him on the bridge. Instead of seeing Cody, I saw a students sister instead!
The ladies and I met for our race start, pulled up our hoods and headed out. One of the friends I was running with was a race virgin and did great. I ran/walked with her and it was so much fun. Along the race route there were some bands, choirs and people cheering us on. I loved the high-fives from the ladies in the traditional Latvian dresses. It was really uplifting at the end of the race.
At the end of the race we decided to get dry in our favorite pub, Folkklubs Ala. Our friends met us there and we ordered the party platter complete with pickles, traditional garlic bread, pickled herring, smoked meats, cheese and veggies. It was perfect for a post race meal. It was a great weekend to start the summer season off.
So in April Cody headed out with Micah and Paul, his old high school friends, and I decided to head to Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. I was lucky enough to have three friends who also love last minute plans, so we bought tickets and a week later we were hiking and biking in the beautiful national park. Cal, Shaun and Mikyla were wonderful traveling partners and I hope that over the course of our time in Latvia, we get to do it again.