Latvia and a bit of a detour – just a little one!

New country time again – another border ruined by Schengen, we are never going to enjoy crossing a border without getting our passports out. Country 11, whilst we said we wouldn’t do counting and tick lists it’s hard not to look back and count how lucky we have been so far. We had agreed to break our ‘no capitals’ rule and have a few days break in Riga, so planned to carry straight on up the main road to the city centre campsite. On route we saw signs for much advertised Rundales Place, easily distracted we took a version to see what the fuss was about.

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We took a side road turning which took us into the centre of some very un-savoury looking apartment blocks, and not the sort of place we generally feel good stopping. However, we needed food supplies so risked a stop at the local shop – we should have learnt by now not to judge books by covers. The lady in the shop and I had a lovely five minute talk about England and Latvia, bread and cakes and the freshness of the bananas – she spoke not a word of English and I spoke not a word of Latvian. Using the international language of shopping: pointing – waving – nodding and slightly disgusting chewing faces: we both worked out what the other meant.

Just a few yards behind the shop was the palace, we both agree it warrants all the good reviews. Building started in 1737 and continued for 32 years. Set amongst a French Park is is simply stunning, we did the tour of the state rooms which contain some of the best examples of Baroque and Rococo art in Latvia. As we entered we had to put on little blue plastic bags over our shoes to save damage to the floors – felt like we were extras in a hospital drama :).  Room after room of absolutely beautiful apartments lavishly furnished with period furniture, and opulent wall hangings and curtains. They do the photography charge thing – you pay for a sticker to take photos, we didn’t so only photos from the web. A few zillion has been spent on refurbishment, interestingly that project started way before Latvia gained independence so a bit of a joint Soviet and EC project.

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Rundales Pils

After our culture hit for the week we did the hop and spit into Riga. Campsite on the side of the river just off the city centre, with more motorhomes than we had seen in 6 months. There was an expedition of 30 motorhomes meeting up on the campsite onroute for a tour around pretty much everywhere. They left Sunday for 170 day trip covering Moscow, Novosibirk, Mongolia, Peking, the Silk Road, Tehran and finish up back in Istanbul. Yes, we did think about joining up – however we have the days just not the €11,900 cost to add to the diesel etc. We do have the brochure though, dreaming cannot hurt (and they go every 12 months) ! :).

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 We usually avoid capitals like the plague but Riga looked worth a stop, mainly as the campsite was in the city itself. It only opened for the season on the day we arrived and it over 2/3 full when we pulled in. The old town was just a short walk over the bridge crossing the River Daugava, we were going to take a tram but the distance wasn’t really worth it so we walked over into a force 11 gale, bracing sea air was an understatement. Riga was last years European Capital of Culture and it was easy to see why. The castle was not the most imposing we had seen but the Art Nouveau and 19th century wooden architecture was stunning. Walking through the city we came across cobbled square after cobbled square, tall buildings lining skinny streets with colour popped buildings each side. The pavement cafes were generally on the exra large side – the theme was very much on the Euro Pop Freaky trail – the more garish the tables clothes and decor the better. Riga Cathedral was shrouded in scaffolding so wasn’t at its best – we ventured inside but balked at the entry charge which was higher than anywhere we have been. Instead we made do with a stroll along to the Freedom Monument and our first Costa experience since last November – bliss :).

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Riga castle

Despite it being a relatively sunny day in May (with a proper Baltic wind) there were very few tourists about and even fewer locals. Down at the river they were gearing up for the Riga marathon so possibly that was why no one much about, made it very easy for us to wander around at our own pace and have a look around. As seems to be the case wherever we go in Eastern Europe the electric ‘milk float’ tours were open for business, they seem to have taken over from the open top bus tours in all the major towns in Eastern Europe.

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We read plenty about Riga and the rip off’s that take place etc. even some of the foreign government websites issue warnings. For us, it felt safer than many a town back home, no-one bothered or worried us, it was clean, it was peaceful. The magnet seller on the market did try and keep my 50 cents change but I think that was just her not being used to the new currency, the Euro only came in January this year, rather than trying to swindle me :).

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 Freedom Monument

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We left Riga and instead of turning right we turned left! To cut a long story short, we are back home in (not so) sunny Wales. It would be fair to say its been a long week, we have driven over 2500 km through 7 countries between us in the 3 days, luckily its been motorway since Warsaw.

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It’s not solely because of the Marmite and Tetley supplies running low, however stock-up opportunity will not be missed. Main reason for popping home is Iain not felt 100% for several weeks with symptoms that have previously resulted in hospital stays, health insurance doesn’t cover existing conditions so our thoughts were best pop home and get things checked out.

Pending check-up results we hope to be back out on the road in the next couple of weeks to compete the magnet collection :).

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30 thoughts on “Latvia and a bit of a detour – just a little one!

  1. Sorry to hear you have had to cut short the magnificent road trip. Fingers crossed Iain checks out OK and you can re-commence the journey complete with fresh supplies and anything else that is needed (self-amalgamating tape perhaps?)

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  2. Have enjoyed reading your blog. Hope you will be on the road again very soon. We are one week into a potentially 3-month trip but if you thought about things going wrong you wouldn’t pull off the drive. All the very best to you both. Hope our paths cross one day.

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    • agree, why would you leave home in a tin box! We will be back out soon and yes its always ace to cross paths with other bloggers so keep your eyes open for us. Have a brilliant time

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  3. Everything x’d that Iain checks out OK. I’m sure he’ll feel better as soon as the Marmite and Tetley stocks are up to scratch, either that or he’s got too much Vit D after all that winter sun, and a couple of weeks here will soon sort that out! Maggie xx

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    • thank you – feel sure it will be fine and be off again very soon. Too cold to hang around here – but good to get a ton of washing done and a few fixed on the van 🙂

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  4. Probably very wise to get home. Abroad and ill do NOT go together well – but that is one hell of a drive from Latvia to Wales. Will you be holding a series of audiences so people can ask you questions? I have so enjoyed your ramblings – I shall miss them. Do let us all know how Iain progresses – personally I blame the overheated insulin early in the trip!! All the very best to both of you; that has been a great adventure. Not remotely in the same league, I will be visiting the Isle of Skye next month but am looking forward to it nonetheless. I can hardly imagine you ever visit Essex but you are always welcome here; the drive accommodates up to 7.5m motorhomes with EHU on tap.

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    • we do visit Essex, Brentwood as s/son lives there. We take up your offer and bore you silly on our adventures sometime :). Skye is amazing and for sure in the same league – not sure where we have ever been that betters it. Look forward seeing photos / reading Blog

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  5. Ok got the timing of the ferry thing now. Sorry to hear about Iain and, as with everyone else, fingers crossed for you both. I guess a positive is that we may catch up with you sooner than we originally planned? Give him a hug from us and keep in touch. R&C xxxx

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    • will do – thanks. Loads of positives, emptying 2 ton of junk from the van this afternoon that we never use. Being home for a week might not be the worst thing we did – now just need his clean bill of health and back over the channel 🙂

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  6. hi both gosh what wonderful lovely places you have visited i love reading your blog hope all will be well for you both now you are home for a wee time hope to be reading more of your blog soon love to both xxx

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  7. Hi, We’ve loved reading your blog and hope Iain is back to 100% really quickly so that you can continue with your travels. At the moment we are at one of your old haunts – Abergwynant CL. We have just been up Cadair Idris and tomorrow we will be following in your foot steps and cycling along the Mawddach Trail to Barmouth. In the near future we will be going full time in our motorhome so maybe at some stage our paths may cross.
    Take care, Lin and John

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    • thank you very much. Envy you so much, our favourite bike ride ever is the Mawddach. Bit of a walk to the loo at Abergwynant so hope you have the sunshine there 🙂

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  8. A bit of a shock to wake up to… I always read your blog first thing in the morning, it’s such a wonderful way to begin the day! Wish you and Iain the very best! Will cross my fingers for a quick recovery! Hope you’ll be on the road again shortly! We’re crossing the Channel your way, so who knows we might bump into each other somewhere …
    All the best!

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    • Have a lovely trip over the water, the sun is shinning now but it wont last. thanks for the good wishes. really appreciatd

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    • Hopefully will be back on the road soon – until then just reading everyone elses blogs and been envious 🙂

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  9. Hi Sandra and Iain, it’s been a long time since I last commented as we have been playing catch up. We had some Belgian visitors on Saturday, you will know them better from the Motorhome Forum as ‘Belgian Beauty’, anyway, it was them that told me about your diversion home !! Please give Iain our best wishes and Shazza and I are both keeping our fingers crossed that it’s nothing too serious and you can both re-commence your fantastic adventure 👍

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    • Hope you had an ace time in Scotland, we are having withdrawal symptoms not going this year :). Waiting results for Iain, all being well we hope to get off again soon xx

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