Thursday, August 29, 2013

Enjoying Down Time in Jūrmala.

Jomas iela, the main pedestrian only street in Jūrmala.

After our lunch in Bausaka, we got back on the road. Our destination for the afternoon was Jūrmala ("Yer-mah-lah").  Located about 20 kilometers from Riga, it's a popular seaside resort. Bro was in charge of navigating us from Bauska to Jūrmala. We're quickly getting accustomed to reading the road signs and maps here - bodes well for the rest of our Baltic road trip.


It was early afternoon by the time we arrived into Jūrmala. Our map was not detailed enough to cover the town's streets so we had to go on instinct. We followed some signs and found a parking lot that fronted a small group of shops. On the surface, it looked like it was a good place to park and the fact that it was free parking was even better! Again, following our instincts we headed towards the shops and surprise of surprises, we found ourselves on a street that I recognized as the town's main commercial strip. It's actually more like a boardwalk - pedestrian only thoroughfare flanked by shops and restaurants.

Lots of pretty little shops and restaurants.


We strolled along - it was a pleasant little area though of course, it was strange to see the pine trees. I always associate pines with cold weather spots not places with beaches.

Looks and feels more like a mountain retreat than a seaside resort.

A stand of very cute little souvenir stalls.

We walked a good distance but didn't see the beach and so we asked for directions. Oddly enough, people were pointing us away from the boardwalk. Hmm... We followed directions but there were no signs so we had to ask for directions a couple more times.

Our walk took us through a quiet residential area that was filled with the quaint wooden homes that Jūrmala is famous for. Apparently, many of the buildings had fallen into varying states of disrepair and wealthy locals are now buying up the buildings and renovating. It's great to see Latvians spending time, money and effort to preserve their heritage. I have to admit, the buildings do have a lot of character. I noticed several of the larger ones were now small hotels. No surprise there.

Once I started to see traces of sand on the walkway and people, dressed in swimsuits walking towards us, I knew we were headed in the right direction.

Eventually, we arrived at the beach. Say hello to the Baltic Sea. Despite this being the end of August, I had a feeling the water was icy cold. I was not about to even dip a toe into the water - more than happy to just dip my toes into the fine, white sand. We sat for a few minutes and watched hearty Latvian souls enjoy the beach - quite a few people just sun tanning. The place was relatively dead probably because it's past the height of beach weather here - a bit to chilly to be swimming.

The beach, at last!

A few hearty souls were sunbathing.  The kids were just playing.  No one in the water swimming.  Too cold, I think.

After we left the beach, we walked back towards the boardwalk though we took a different route.

Nice neighborhoods filled with the wooden homes the town is famous for.

Nice quiet tree lined streets.

Most homes were sitting behind fences but if I stood on my toes, I could at least see the second storey.

Fences didn't stop me from peeking through to get a look.....a cute cottage nestled among the trees.

We were counting on our instinct that the streets are in blocks here though I didn't think we could get lost - the place is so small and people are more than willing to point you in the right direction. Back on the boardwalk, we found a small park with benches.

 

Another perfect spot to take a rest and for Bro to have an apple or two. I had decided that they were just way to tart for me - I can only pucker up so much before my brain starts to hurt. Okay, that might be overly dramatic reaction but you get my point.

Loves his fruit, no matter how tart!

Pretty view of Jomas iela in the late afternoon.

Back on the boardwalk, it felt like a good time for a snack. Plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from. I settled on this place mainly because it had outdoor seating.

Alus krodziņš.  That's the name of the restaurant.  Don't ask me how to pronounce it!

Inside, it was definitely a bar slash pub. Took us a few minutes to figure out how to order our stuff so we watched people before us and then took our turn. We ordered three small dishes and a Coke to share.

Smoked sardines, with pickled onions and a slice of hardboiled egg, on a piece of toast.
Not bad.

Fried sardines also served with a bit of pickled onion. The fish was fried but they also been soaked in vinegar. Super sour. Inedible
unless you're Latvian and maybe drunk.

Garlic bread - read as hearty rye bread dipped in garlic juice and toasted or maybe deep fried until super crunchy. I'm a garlic fiend so I was in
complete heaven though it would have been way too garlicky for any other normal human being except maybe a Latvian who was drunk.

Though it was nice to sit and eat outdoors, the meal was definitely less than satisfying. I for one could not end my day that way so our next stop was to a small store where I bought an ice cream bar. Bro knows my weakness for ice cream and everywhere I go, I have to try something local or have a Magnum if the place carries the brand. I ended up settling on something called Riga Black Balsam and Brownie. Riga Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian herbal liqueur made with different natural ingredients mixed with  vodka.  It can be sipped as is or mixed in with other liquers, coffee, tea, fruit juices or soda ater.  It is also occasionally enjoyed as a topping on ice-cream. The drink itself is black and very bitter, but with a distinct sweetness. I was curious to see what it tasted like in an ice cream. What I got tasted like a dark chocolate ice cream bar studded with bits of dried blueberry or some other blue/purple berry - never quite sure what I'm eating here.

A nice place to escape the hustle and hustle of Riga.

It was a nice but short visit to Jūrmala. Before we knew it, we were back in Riga.  We headed back to the Flying Frog for a light dinner.

Tomorrow, we're hitting the road on our grand Baltics self drive tour so tonight, we had to pack up our luggage. Bro travels über light so all he had to do was literally throw his clothes into the suitcase - doesn't even bother folding them. On the other hand, my suitcase is stuffed to the max so I have to repack everything but I've gotten down to a fine science so it always fits in.

It was a different story for Bro on the apple front. He had collected so many that I actually had to break out my trusty collapsible tote so we would have something relatively sturdy to carry all the apples in. Andris had mentioned that roadside apples are only a phenomenon in Latvia - we wouldn't see any in Estonia or Lithuania so I think Bro was doing a bit of hoarding. The bag was filled - I think we had at least 30 apples!

Bro's collection of apples from the orchard at Rundāle Palace!

It's been a short but very enjoyable visit to Riga. We have another day on our return to see whatever we didn't have a chance to see this time around. In the meantime, I will be happy to bid adieu to that damn ticket kiosk!

Our last good night from Riga....for at least another two and a half weeks!