Though it was still breezy and cool, our last two weeks in Riga, the sun finally came out, and we were able to explore the city and see more of the sites. One day, as we were walking along the cobblestone streets of downtown Riga, we stumbled upon a shop, with a sign over the door that said, “Figaro Art”. I’m always drawn to places that have anything to do with art, whether it’s a shop selling art supplies or a gallery with an exhibition of paintings and sculptures. In this case, I was really excited when we went inside and saw paintings and beautifully sculpted, whimsical dolls on display. The two ladies working in the gallery were kind and welcoming, and though they spoke little English, they managed to convey some information to us about the art exhibit. When they realized how taken I was with the dolls, they shared that the artists came from Russia, Estonia, Georgia, and Latvia, and the medium used to sculpt the dolls was paper clay. I really enjoyed this gallery exhibition, and as I stopped to admire each doll, I was reminded of the doll show, in Tbilisi, last November, in which the dolls were also sculpted from paper clay.
Before planning our next outing, we picked up a copy of Riga In Your Pocket, which gave us good information on the museums and restaurants that we chose to visit, as well as a city map that helped us find our way to each destination.
At the end of March, we decided to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, which is housed in a building that was formerly ST. George’s Church, and dates back to the 13th century. When we arrived at the museum, we stopped on the first floor to view the temporary exhibition, called, Weather Diaries. It was a unique display of fashions and photographic fashion portraits, created by Sarah Cooper (USA), and NinaGorfer (Austria), as a result of their travels and exploration of local culture, in Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.
The upper floors of the museum consisted of Latvian textiles, ceramics, glass, wood, and metal works, from the ’30s and ’40s to the present day. I wasn’t particularly inspired by the art and furniture pieces from the ’30s and ’40s. I found the styles to be rather plain and unimaginative. I began to enjoy the museum more when I reached the highest floor, where the furnishings were from the ’60s and ’70s, and the artists and designers seemed to be less inhibited when it came to experimenting with color and style.
We were both hungry after our museum visit, that day, and decided to eat an early dinner. After a short walk, we arrived at Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, a traditional folk club and restaurant, famous for its local beer. Although we were too early for the live music, we did enjoy a taped recording of folk music, playing in the background, as we sipped wine, and dined in a medieval atmosphere, on some typical Latvian cuisine. Since Tim and I are not beer drinkers, we decided to order a 12.00 Euro bottle of semi-sweet, Hungarian, white wine instead. I had looked up the restaurant’s menu on their website before we had arrived and knew that I wanted to try the Chicken Roulade, stuffed with cheese, hazelnuts, and spinach. It had a delicious, caramelized, garlic, cream glaze, and was supposed to come with grilled carrot salad, and a potato herb mash, but my dish came with only a few fried potato wedges. Tim had the Pork Hock, with a mustard glaze, and although his dish was supposed to be accompanied by baked potatoes, he was only given fried potato wedges. Though the food was tasty, and each entree was only about 10.00 Euro, each, we left the restaurant still feeling a little hungry, and had to eat a snack later in the evening.
One morning, in late March, we stopped at Martin’s Bakery to have coffee and sample some pastries, before heading to the National History Museum. the pastries proved to be delicious but in my opinion, the fact that you have to wait in a long line to get served, and then carry your own order, to a table, without a tray, is a little inconvenient. I prefer a full-service, bakery, cafe.
At the National History Museum, we were able to view artifacts from the Stone Age to the present day, as well as
Another type of Latvian food I had read about and wanted to try was the pancakes. One morning, before heading to a museum, we stopped at Street Fries Kitchen, where I could sample the pancakes, and Tim could have his favorite, chili-cheese fries. I ordered the pancake with a topping of egg, cheese, and spinach. The picture on the menu made it look so good, but when I tasted my pancake, I was disappointed to learn that it was soggy, the cheese was bland, and there were just a few spinach leaves thrown on top. Although the chili used on Tim’s fries was homemade and tasted pretty good, the fries they used were frozen, and the same bland cheese was used on top. I think a place described as a bistro, in a guide book, should provide a better quality of food.
After we left the restaurant, we headed over to the Art Nouveau Museum, which is housed in an apartment, designed, and once lived in, by,
Visiting the resort city of Jurmala, which is located on a peninsula, between the Liepe River, and the Gulf, was the highlight of our time spent in Latvia. We picked a beautiful day, towards the end of our stay, to take the 40-minute train ride to this quaint little city. Upon arriving in Jurmala, we crossed the railroad tracks and came to our first stop-The Jurmala City Museum. There was no charge for this museum, that explains to visitors, the development of the Jurmala resort, from it’s beginning, in the late 19th century, to the present day, through an exhibit, that includes, books, clothing, beach accessories, games, and toys. On the second floor, we viewed an exhibition of metal art by a Latvian artist named, Indulis
When we left the museum, we headed to the white sandy beach, to relax and take in the beautiful view. We sat on the bench to people-watch, as groups of tourists took off their shoes to feel the sand between their toes.
After leaving the beach, we headed up Maine street to explore, before stopping for a coffee and a very tasty slice of cherry cheesecake, at De Gusto cafe.
As we boarded the train to take us back to Riga, we vowed that we’d have to return, someday, to Jurmala, this beautiful gem of a city.
As I conclude this post, our visit here in Riga, Latvia, is coming to an end, but we will carry with us, fond memories of this charming city.