April 15, 2015
Rented Apartment, Old Riga
We didn’t do a lot today, which was actually really nice. Because I didn’t use any public transportation today, I am about to put my pajamas on and watch “Decoy Bride” with the parents and then hit the hay! Yay!
We got up this morning and went to Golden Coffee for pancakes, but sadly-we don’t think their favorite waitress, Daniella works there anymore. The pancakes were good and I ate them all, which was good too! I have not had much of an appetite during our trip, especially in the morning. The latte at Costa is much better, however.
After breakfast, we came back to the apartment to get word about our visa appointment. When we found out it was one o’clock, we hurried over to Saint Peter’s to give ourselves a little tour. St. Peter’s was really pretty and the view from the tower is amazing. I loved it.
After that, we came back to the apartment to regroup before Mommy, Daddy and Dorothy had to head out. There wasn’t room for everyone in the car, so Phoebe and I stayed behind. They first had to run by the doctor’s office to have her sign off that Dot’s TB test came back negative. They didn’t get home until about four!
Meanwhile, Phoebe and I had a relaxing afternoon watching “Support Your Local Sheriff” (one of those movies Phoebe loves but Dorothy doesn’t “get,”) painting and taking a nap. We also ate a whole bag of paprika potato chips while watching the movie. That’s what happens when you are locked in an apartment with no lunch!
By the time they got home, of course everyone was very hungry, so we had a celebratory “lupper” at a nice Italian place called “Felicitia” down the road a bit. I had baked chicken with vegetables and it was delicious. After that, we went back to Kuuka Kafe for coffee and dessert an walked around some souvenir shops.
We are home now, ready to wind down. Goodnight!
April 21, 2015
Well, I was doing really well for a while there! Once we were on the downhill slope of the trip, it was hard to slow down to write. Before we left Riga, we were able to do a limited tour of The Dome Cathedral (much of it is under construction) and spend a day with *Sintija! She took us to a new restaurant called Zoyste that a Latvian-American just opened. They use organic ingredients and put a Latvian spin on American dishes. It was pretty good!
We then went to our favorite place–Costa! Best coffee in Riga. After that, we met the lawyers assistant at House of Blackheads to pick up Dorothy’s visa and new, Latvian passport. It was a great moment to have all the documents—complete at last! But it was also bittersweet, knowing we have no “reason” to return to Lativa–or Europe for that matter. And it also meant we had to say “goodbye” to our Latvian friends, for who-knows-how-long. Wah.
So we had mixed feelings as we left the apartment and boarded our plane to Stockholm. However, we had all been looking forward to our time in Sweden, so we focused on that! Sweden was awesome. It really felt like a place I would like to live. The people were much friendlier than I expected. The sun was out almost the whole time we were there and, though it was cold, we kept comfortable by sitting in the sunlight whenever possible and continuing to layer our clothes as we had done for the entire trip.
I actually have callouses on my legs from wearing tights under my pants every day. Didn’t know that was possible!
Our first night in Stockholm, our contact came and got us settled in to the apartment. Her name is Juliet and she was born in Uganda, but has lived in Stockholm for nineteen years. She speaks perfect English and was very helpful. Our apartment was super nice. It was a very stereotypical Swedish design–sleek, minimalistic and mostly white. It had a sauna, heated floors and a nice, big kitchen.My room was a loft with a curtain for a door and a fold-out couch for a bed. I had a balcony and, though it was too cold tone hang out there, I did occasionally open the door and let the breeze come through.
Our first full day in Sweden, we went to the National Palace and saw the changing of the guard. We were told to “be early or be tall,” so we waited out in the cold for probably half an hour before it began. Sure enough, quite a crowd had gathered by the time it started. What I was imagining to be a five minute ceremony was actually a forty-five minute performance! There were horses, a marching band, commentary, salutes, and all sorts of “pomp.” We had a blast watching from our perfect spot on “front row.” Everything was very formal until near the end when suddenly, the band started to play “Sway” by Dean Martin! They played the whole song and the conductor wiggled to the music atop his steed. We had a great time watching the whole thing.
Before it began, Daddy tried to ask one of the guards a question and stepped a bit too close! He was loudly commanded to “halt!” Then Daddy wanted me to go ask him and see if he would treat me the same way. Not happening…
The changing of the guard happens every day but Monday (much is closed on Mondays in Stockholm) and a different “squadron” (or whatever they’re called) performs every day!
We ate lunch at a place not far from The Nobel Museum. We had “toast” (grilled sandwiches) and soup. Our first night, Daddy and I walked across the street to “Mama Dou” and got oriental food and brought it back to the apartment. The second night, we were too hungry to look for another place to eat, so we heated up our left-overs for dinner.
While in Stockholm, we also got to tour two museums: Vasa Museum and Skansen. Both were lovely!
The Vasa was way more interesting than I expected. It is a museum built around a warship that’s over three hundred years old. 98% of the materials are original! We also saw much of what was recovered from Vasa, including several human skeletons, some of which were so well persevered by the cold, briny harbor that their hair, brain and clothing remained intact!
Skansen is meant to be a “little Sweden” from the past and is the oldest living history museum in the world. It has lots of actual buildings from centuries past, collected from other parts of the country. The park is huge and beautiful and is a strange balance of kept-up and left-free. There are gardens, animals, a zoo, shops, places to eat, glass-blowing workshops, a pottery studio, a blacksmiths, and much more. Unfortunately, we only gave ourselves about an hour there before much of these things closed for the night. The employees who dress in old-fashioned costumes and much of the “living history” activities were gone.
However, the park itself, including the zoo, doesn’t appear to close…ever! We walked to our heart’s content, discovering new pathways and habitats for hours.
Before closing time, we were abel to see a short glass-blowing demonstration, during which Phoebe and Dorothy got to blow some glass themselves. It was probably the best of our day for them! We also got to see The Great Cathedral of Stockholm that day, including the ancient statue of Saint George slaying the dragon. Awesome! Other than that, we took a boat tour, shopped for souvenirs, drank lots of coffee (“fika!”) watched the swans and ducks at the short near our apartment (on Kungsholmen) and walked and walked and walked.
Sadly, Sweden is far behind me as I write…along with the rest of the European continent. We got up at three o’clock this morning for a six-thirty flight from Stockholm to Amsterdam and are now on our flight from Amsterdam to Houston, where it all began.
I am so sad it’s over, but also very excited to see the rest of the family and be home.
*Sintija was Dorothy’s chaperone the first time she came to the states. We love her and have enjoyed keeping in touch with her. Parting ways was very sad. Come back to the U.S. soon, Sintija!!!
This concludes my journal entries from my trip to Europe, April 2015. There is always so much more to say, but I hope you all enjoyed “following along” in a way. It was an unforgettable adventure. A big “thanks” should go out to my parents for letting me tag along and for buying me so many lattes in so many countries. It was a blast, such a fun, special, insane, difficult, lovely blast…