1. Lufthansa > United
If I am ever so lucky to travel to any European destination that Lufthansa services again, they get my money. Enough said.
2. Check Your Appliance Wattage
I thought we were prepared. We had some $50+ converter/adapter thing, but when arriving in the Latvian countryside, I found that none of my appliances were equipped to handle the wattage change, which led to 10 days of hair pulled back in a pony or messy bun. Yikes.
3. Save the Summer Whites
You really know a city girl in the country when she shows up in white pants and wedges. My love for white in the summer didn’t seem to translate well across the Atlantic. We were dirty within moments of stepping out the door and my pile of ‘Bleach Needed” clothes is evidence of that. Lesson learned.
4. Plant a Garden
I feel like I took a lot of inspiration from different parts of the trip and our 2 day escape to Bebrene in the Latvian countryside was no exception. I quickly fell in love with all the simple pleasures of the countryside and the fresh produce and herbs that Stefans and Lenvia, our amazing hosts, grew right there on their property, topped the list. Shortly after arriving, Dris came out of the house and said that it smelled like they had been cooking for hours, but it was all just fresh veggies and herbs cut up for lunch. After days of a french-fry diet (due to a strike on all foods unfamiliar) Luci’s diet on the farm was comprised of fresh cucmber, red bell peppers, strawberries and melon. The girl could not get enough and I couldn’t be more pleased. Stefans and Lenvia are really focused on eating fresh from what they (and their neighbors) grow and produce and limiting how often they go to the grocery store. While I think the grocery store will always be part of our lives, I definitely want to make a fresh garden part of our lives as well. Next year we definitely want to find a corner of the yard to plant a few veggies and some herbs. I simply can’t wait.
5. Making a House a Home
One of the neat things we noticed while we were in Dikli for the wedding was that each of the houses in this small town of 600 was named. Andris said that it was pretty common and I loved the idea. The names clearly represented how much each family cared about their home. I think my favorite was the name, “Small Corners”. It was perfectly quaint and fitting and just eminated a feeling of warmth. It made me think what we would call our home. I don’t have a good answer yet, but I hope it would conjure up the same feeling of love that “Small Corners” seemed to; and we decided that if we ever have a summer home, it definitely needs a name.
And, as we did in Mexico, we wanted to bring a little bit of Latvia back to Hillside Lane. We found this wonderful ornament for our Christmas tree to remind us of such a special trip.
And this handmade bowl, with its red glazed inside and rustic grey exterior, seemed like it just belonged on Hillside Lane and was both a subtle and beautiful reminder of our trip.
6. Memories Made Around a Table
There were many moments when time just seemed to slow down and I was able to really enjoy all the laughter and people we got to share the trip with. So often this happened around long dinner tables, filled with delicious food, some good wine and always, family and friends. At Stefans and Lenvia’s in Bebrene, you knew their farm table had seen many meals, filled with their children, grandchildren and friends, from all corners of the globe (us included!). I still think about the the salad they had at every meal. Delicious!
Back in Riga, we got to enjoy a dinner out at a wonderful restaurant with Andris’ extended family. The meal went on for four hours – I love nothing more than long meals – and I was just able to soak in this new place we were in and all that we were getting to experience. The meal was made all the more extrodinary by the German group of singers, seated in the corner of the restaurant, who serenaded the rest of us with an incredible song. Tears sprung to my eyes as they sang and I couldn’t help but smile when they finished and Luci quickly asked for, “More! More! More!” All this was topped off by nursery rhymes and lullabies serenaded to my sweet girl, who was so well behaved at such a long dinner, by her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It was such a special night.
And then there was our family dinner, with the new Mr. & Mrs. and my mother and father-in-law and us. I feel like there something a little sacred about family dinners and that night was no exception. The evening was so much fun, reminiscing about the wedding and discussing all we’d seen and done, and then all of a sudden, Luci and Lars (LaLa) were holding hands and Luci was just totally enamored. It was just this priceless moment filled with a little extra love for her LaLa.
It made me think of our table on Hillside Lane and all the wonderful friends and family we have gathered around it and how much more history that table will see, stories heard and laughter shared.
7. Go. See. Do. Rinse. Repeat.
The days seem to go so quickly when you are on vacation and all you want to do is slow down so you can take it all in. We were lucky enough to spend this trip to Latvia with some of our very best friends, Kendra & Art and their two boys. They have travelled many places with their boys and I have to say we love their travel style. They always get out and explore and find new experiences. We tried to make the same a habit with this trip to Latvia. We were lucky to get to see Dikli, where Lars and Paul were married, and then out to Bebrene for a day and half of country living, both of which were experiences that I am so grateful that we had. Dris was so excited to show us around Riga that we scoured every nook and cranny of the city, getting to enjoy impromtu outdoor concerts over a meal or taking walks to new neighborhoods for a glass of wine. We were sad to miss making it to the beach this time, but while schedules and a tired 2-year-old were working against us, it did give us some extra time in Riga to soak up all the extra charm that fills the city during the Song & Dance Festival. Every day when I woke up, my legs were achey from all the walking and exploring we had done the day before – and I have to say, it was the best feeling.
One of our favorite nights included a walk to a spot of Riga Dris had never been and the architecture was amazing. And even though it was just a simple walk over a cup of coffee, pushing Lu in the stroller, it was one of the highlights of our trip.
8. Roll with It
I will totally admit to being pretty Type A. I am a girl of plans and schedules and I know some of my anxieties when planning for this trip had to do with getting Luci on a schedule that worked for her and planning around that. While our trip was amazing from start to finish, I won’t lie that travelling with a 2-year-old came with its fair share of hard moments. But over a glass of wine, I told Dris that I think this trip really taught me a lot about being a parent and that my ability to “roll with it” a little more made a lot of that anxiety disappear. I’d watch as parents with two or three kids were handling these situations with apparent ease, and me, with my one child found myself at a loss at least once a day. I think that I sometimes I let my expectations get the best of a situation and what I realized, especially on a trip like this, is that I can’t have the same expectations. There can’t be a true schedule and you kind of create one as you go that works for you. Luci was amazing the entire trip and when I stopped worrying (as much) about bedtimes and naps and making sure she was eating something more than just french fries and recognized that she was fine, even when she was up until 1am dancing at Lars’ wedding or playing in the courtyard with her buddies, and that we would just “roll with it” and make it work, I was able to enjoy these moments even more. Now that we are back, we are back to schedules and balanced meals and regular nap times, but it is just a lesson that I am glad I learned.
9. I’m a Lucky, Lucky Girl
This trip was another reminder of just how blessed we are. Not only did we get to go and see and do so much on such a special trip, but we were surrounded by some of the best people to experience it with. Our good friends, Kendra and Art, who we’ve known for a lifetime, were the perfect match with their two boys. Happy hours were held in the courtyard over wine, cheese, Danimals and juice boxes. While the husbands golfed, Kendra and I made our way to explore the Riga Zoo, with three kids; and we all spent late nights enjoying evenings “in”, with sleeping little ones and glasses of wine and bourbon for the boys.
I am so lucky to have married into a family that is so full of love, laughter and unconditional support. Being able to share this trip with them, in a country that means so much to their family, was extra special. Each day they helped out with Luci, shared a laugh, poured glasses of wine and helped create memories that will last a lifetime. I am so blessed to have such an amazing family in them. “Paldies” (thank you) just doesn’t seem to do it justice.
And then there is Andris and our Lucija, who are my everything in life and made this trip nothing short of amazing. It was so wonderful to see Andris there, with our family, and the pride and passion he had when showing us around. You could see it on his face everyday. The love he brings for his Latvian heritage is such a gift to our family – the language, the songs, the customs – it all makes us richer everyday. He was patient with me as I navigated life in Europe with an almost-two-year-old and was always there with a smile and hug (or a glass of wine), just when I needed it. We have always said that we want travel to be an important part of our lives and this trip was definitely that. And our Luci girl…I could not have asked for more. She was so good and everyday was a source of laughter and smiles and seeing her experience all these things, was a blessing in and of itself. Es jus milu.
At the freedom monument – there is such amazing history around every corner.
10. It’s Nice to Go Away, But Even Nicer to Come Home
When coming home from any trip my parents always used the phrase, “It’s nice to go away, but even nicer to come home”. They couldn’t be more right. We had an amazing time in Latvia and have so many memories to look back on and enjoy. But there is nothing like the feeling of walking through our front door, seeing Luci play with all her toys, sitting outside in our backyard, and even just sleeping in our own bed. I hope that our lives allow us to travel and see and explore and experience new things and places; but I also hope that each trip brings us home to our favorite spot in the world – Hillside Lane.