After lunch we wandered out of the square in no particular direction and for no particular reason and at one point I had a very lucky escape when a seagull overhead singled me out for target practice. I know that a bit of bird excrement on your shoulder is supposed to bring good luck but there is a world of difference between a little bit of sparrow dropping and a full load of seagull deposit.
I wasn’t being particularly observant at the time but Kim saw the bird hovering overhead and mischievously seeking out a victim and she screamed out a warning. It had me firmly in its sights, it locked on and swooped at top speed towards me. When it was within range it opened its bomb doors and discharged its gooey load. This was a well thought out attack and I had to take swift evasive action to avoid a very messy experience. I dodged aside in just the nick of time because the smelly slop hit the pavement with an enormous splatter and spread on impact into a repulsive sticky mess. A direct hit would have resulted in a serious dry cleaning bill I can tell you! The seagull shrieked with disgust at missing its target, swooped skyward and flew off at great haste its mission thankfully unaccomplished.
As we walked we heard cheerful music approaching and as we turned into a long narrow street we could see a procession of people walking towards us that was a sea of colour with young people waving sunflowers, balloons and small Latvian flags. They were handing out sweets to onlookers like us and I put some into my pocket for later. I think that it must have been the most joyful procession that I have ever seen with singing and dancing and every participant looking thrilled and happy to be involved.
The procession was part of the celebration of the family festival and after it had passed we walked lazily around the city proudly displaying the little Latvian flags that we had acquired and quite by chance (well, not really by chance) we found ourselves back at the Lido and we stopped for a final drink and sat outside on the pavement in the sunshine.
This had been a most relaxing and pleasant day freed as we were from the frenzy of organised itineraries but we were due to return to that now as we were to reassemble as a group to go out of town for a final meal together. We met at the Freedom Monument and walked to a tram stop near the Hotel Latvia stopping on the way to collect Christina as she finished work, which immediately kick started the flow of testosterone in David and Mark as they competed hard with each other again to be her escort for the evening.
Alona had done a splendid job in organising our stay in Riga but as we waited for the tram to our next destination there was genuine concern about timings because we were going out of the city and we had to be back in good time to catch our flight home. There was quite a long wait for the tram and when it eventually arrived we all agreed to chance it and we got on to join a crowd of locals all going home from work.
Our dining destination was an out of town barbeque restaurant that consisted of a central wooden building surrounded by what appeared to be garden sheds. This looked very curious. One of the sheds was ours and a member of staff directed us to it, inside there was a table laid out for us with tasty canapés and Rigan champagne cooling in ice buckets. This was very clever, an all year round barbeque experience that was equipped to operate whatever the weather.
After the starter there was a feast of grilled sashlika, a Latvian style kebab, which consisted of beef, pork, lamb and chicken accompanied by potatoes and salad and a curiously large amount of dill. In the middle ages, dill was used as an ingredient in love potions so I was a bit concerned about David and Mark in their state of arousal consuming far too much than was really good for them.
The food was excellent and the price absurdly inexpensive, when the bill arrived it was less than a hundred Lats for all twelve of us, David acted as banker and collected enough to include a respectable tip but there was a moment of panic when the waiter requested it back to add the cost of the champagne. We feared the worst but David quickly recalculated and declared that even with this adjustment we still had enough for the decent tip. That’s what I call value for money.
This had been an excellent trip and I had enjoyed every minute of it and in the taxi back to the hotel and then another to the airport I was able to reflect on this second visit to the wonderful Riga. The highlights were Sigulda (despite the rain), the beach at Jurmala and the ethnic museum, the quality of the food and the prices. Looking back I even enjoyed the itinerary chaos and the moments of excruciating indecision. Riga has quickly become a favourite of mine and I made a secret promise to return again soon.