around Riga & Stockholm (short holiday, pt. 3)

as promised, this time i’m going to post the other things we saw and did in Riga & Stockholm other than museums. just a small warning, there are even more pics this time! feel free to skip this post if it’s just too much for you already. 😀

again i’m going to point out that we had 3 days in Riga, and 2 days in Stockholm, but most of them were all rainy, which is why it might seem that we didn’t get to do much (plus we’re quite lazy travelers, we don’t usually put so much in our to-do list because we want to actually have a relaxed time at our destinations). i’m putting the pics into separate sections along with a few background stories for each section.

Riga Parks

i guess the title could be a bit misleading, since it was actually just one BIIIIG park. it’s called the Bastion Hill park (or Bastejkalns park), and it was the closest to our hotel. right next to this park there is the Freedom Monument. we always walked through this park when going to or from the Stockmann supermarket where we bought our daily needs. there are plenty of statues in this park, but i only took a picture of one that seemed rather special for me. 😉 there’s a canal running right in the middle of this park, and surely enough, in the summer there are plenty of boats for rent if you want to have a small water tour along the canal.

another special thing about this park is the lock bridge. the superstition goes something like this: when a couple gets married in Riga, they go to this bridge and put a padlock onto the bridge. the stronger the padlock the better, because it also represents how strong their marriage bond will be. and then, they throw away the key to that padlock to the river (or canal in this case). at the time when i saw this bridge, i had never heard of this thing. but apparently, now that i searched about it, you can find this lock bridge thing elsewhere too. nonetheless, it was a pretty special sight to see, and it just so happened that when we were there in the park, there was a young couple getting married there. 🙂

Riga’s Old Town

since our hotel is right there in the Old Town of Riga, this area is also one that we could not help but to go through every day. the buildings here are surprisingly in very good conditions (at least from the outside), it could be that the people of Riga had done quite a big renovation right after they had their freedom from the Soviet Union.

there are sooooooooo so so many restaurants and shops like you wouldn’t believe, but there they are! there are also traditional markets on the street, where the stuffs are sold from wooden carts/wagons. the one nice thing about these shops (and also those that are outside the Old Town) is that they’re open up to later time in the night than in Finland. there were lots of small shops that were still open till around 10 pm at night in the weekend. that sure was a rare sight, since everything in Finland closes already at 6 pm in the weekend.

i must say that i know nothing about the names of these buildings i took pictures of (like some specific church or whatever). i took pics of them just because they look nice and very different from the view we have here in Finland.

Riga Streets

these pics were taken when we walked outside the Old Town. some areas are as well kept as in the Old Town, but some are unfortunately in quite sad conditions… again i’m only speculating, but they are most likely leftovers from the Soviet Union era.

the first few pics were taken when we took a walk on the second day in Riga. we walked a bit more to the northeast direction from the Freedom Monument and there were actually lots of churches along the way. but since it was around 8 or 9 pm on a Sunday, most museums and churches were no longer open for viewing.

the warehouses in Spīķeri district are worth to see, and it was also my intention, however we only got the time to go there during the last day and decided to look at the Riga Ghetto museum instead. the Spīķeri district is basically old warehouses that have been turned into rather hip & arty places, with all kinds of hip restaurants, (modern) art galleries, and i think also shops with things from new & upcoming Latvian designers. it sounds promising, but i guess i do need longer time to be able to enjoy it (and also better weather!). if you have the chance, do go and visit this area!

Riga’s Central Market

every city or town in Europe has one, whether it’s called central market or market hall. this one was built inside an old hangar, so of course my husband insisted on seeing it.

it turned out that the “market” isn’t just inside the old hangar… but also outside and all around it. basically, it’s almost as big as Jakarta’s Blok M, and it actually looks like it too. 😀 got pretty nostalgic just because of that, though i can’t say the same thing about the prices. the things surprisingly cost more here than, say, the Dappermarkt in Amsterdam. weird, huh? though the quality of the things actually look pretty much the same. inside the hangar, the products cost around 50 cents more, but otherwise, the “collection” itself is pretty much the same whether the booth is located outdoor or indoor. and as to what it is exactly that they sell? pretty much everything and anything, from fresh meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, to clothes, bags, sandals, toys, etc.

i didn’t take pics of the market outdoor, because i wanted to keep my purse safe. it was so crowded, i could barely keep an eye on it (and still see the booths at the same time!). i didn’t get any good findings here, since all the clothes i kind of liked costed around 15-20€ and i figured i could get similar item for the same price from Finland as well. there was just nothing that special that i felt like i had to get. we did end up getting some stuffs just because we felt a tiny bit sorry for the seller (an old lady).

Foods in Riga

ahh, now this is the most fun part! as i said earlier, i wanted to try local food, and in the end i did not get to try local food, but instead found a new favourite and ate Russian foods (well, that is almost local, i guess).

the first four pics are from my new fave: Wok to Walk. if you have it in your country, lucky you, but we don’t have it in Finland (though we do have Singaporean wok restaurant that’s reeeeaaallly good too). the system is a bit like Subway, where you get to choose what kind of noodle/rice you want as the base, and the side dishes (meat/veggies/mushrooms), and the sauce. then, if you eat it at the restaurant, you can choose whether to eat it from a plate or from a box. they ask for your name at the cashier (think Starbucks), and will call you by name when your order is done.

we saw an ad of this place in one of the tourist maps, and thought that it was just one of those fake Asian restaurants. but when we were walking in hunger (and rain) on the first night, we smelled something really good and came upon this restaurant! so we went in, and decided to try it. it was Saturday night, so the place was rather deserted, but so what! we did our orders (i took Udon noodles with shrimps & squids, and hot Asia sauce–the hottest sauce there was!), and took a seat at a windowsill. yes, we literally sat on a windowsill with a small round table in the middle, just enough to hold our foods.

the chefs were loudly talking to each other, shouting above the sizzling of the woks, and i felt just like at home, as in ‘Jakarta’ home. the interior of the restaurant was also meant to look ‘humble’ and street vendor-like, very down to earth and warm.

they wrote & pronounced my name correctly (what a big difference with Starbucks!), and we happily ate our noodles while looking outside the window at the rainy night and people walking by. very nostalgic and wonderful feeling, and the price? about 11-12€ in total for both of our meals combined. it wasn’t of course that kind of BIG portion, but it was enough even for us who love to eat!

we liked the place so much we ended up eating there again on the third day just before we left Riga… it was again rainy, but this time it was lunchtime on a Monday, so it was jam packed full of people, tourists and locals (students & executives) alike. i really wish this restaurant would come to Finland one day, preferably soon!

the rest of the pics are from the Russian restaurant called Uncle Vanya, or Tēvocis Vaņa. about 2 days before going to Riga, i quickly searched for any good restaurant we could try while we were there, and found this at the number 8 from the list of best restaurants in Riga in Trip Advisor. it was very close to our hotel, but whenever we passed it by, it looked rather empty, so we waited until the second day to try it.

and it was lucky for us that we did! we went there at around 3 pm, so it wasn’t a rush hour anymore. we easily got our seats, though not long afterwards there were many customers coming in.

as we were looking at the menu, the waiter served us appetizers, on the house, which consisted of black breads (kind of like Finnish limppu) with green butter (obviously mixed with some herbs, which explains the colour). hmm!! very yummy! we then said our orders to the waiter.

not long after we gave our orders, the waiter came back again bringing something in jars… one for each of us. then he said to us that they were 3 meat pâtés, compliments from the chef. wow! we certainly didn’t expect this! the jar looked rather suspicious, it was as if there was fog inside… we opened them, and there actually was smoke in the jar, not going anywhere until we poked the pâté with our spoons. only then did the smoke start to evaporate! cool! 😀 it was reaaaally good, and the bread slices you see in the pic were actually very thin and crispy, very very good indeed!

after two free appetizers, the waiter finally brought our real appetizer, one we actually paid for. 😀 we both ordered borsch soup, and so it was served from a humongous bowl (!!), poured by the waiter to each of our bowl, and then we each also got a slice of bread and a cup of sour cream/smetana. in case you don’t know what borsch soup is, it’s beetroot soup with pieces of meat, and the sour cream is meant to be poured into the soup. this was my first time eating borsch soup, and i nearly died and went straight to heaven from the deliciousness. it’s THAT good.

for the main dish, my husband went for the safe option of beef stroganoff (well, he did say it was VERY good, probably best he had ever tasted), while i opted for a more exotic choice: cooked veal tongue. i mean, as an Indonesian, i can tell you that i LOVE eating cow’s tongue dishes, but i certainly never tried it in any other country’s way than the Indonesian way! and if it was possible, it was even BETTER than the borsch soup. very tender (since it’s from a veal), just perfectly seasoned, and worked very well with the horseradish sauce it was served with. cow’s tongue had never tasted better than this!

after the main course, though we felt almost so full, we decided to still order desserts. chocolate pies were our choices, and though the name hinted “pie”, it was actually kind of like chocolate fondant, where it’s shaped like chocolate cake but with chocolate melt in the inside. and they were just perfect! the chocolate melt was perfectly warm in contrast to the cold vanilla ice cream, and the texture of the cake itself was also just perfect. this restaurant’s chef really knew what he (or she) was doing, plus, we were again given compliments in the form of blackcurrant shot drinks, one for each. that’s 3 free numbers we were given in one seating, how generous of them! and though i generally don’t like alcoholic drinks, i drank it out of respect and because, hell, i was on holiday! i suppose it was good, though i really can’t tell, since i know nothing about alcohol/shots. 😀

in the middle of our eating, i suddenly got nervous to see the bill because i didn’t have that much cash with me at the time, but i really shouldn’t have. the total damage turned out to be around 50€, which–compared to the prices of similar restaurants in Finland–is quite reasonable. this was for a 3 course meal with a bonus of 2 extra appetizers and shot drinks, and perfect taste all round. the atmosphere was also very comfortable and homey, you get the feeling of visiting an old friend’s house or even dining at your own home, but with a waiter serving you instead! well worth the money! i highly recommend this restaurant if you want a more special place to eat at or just curious to try authentic Russian foods.

Sightseeing in Stockholm

i’ve now been to Stockholm around 5 times, and almost each and every time we also went to the Old Town. i think i’ve pretty much taken pics of it before this trip, the only thing different this time was that we went to the Royal Palace area, and also to the seaside.

when i said we went to the Royal Palace area, i meant that we didn’t actually go inside the palace. to do so we needed to pay admission fees, and since we weren’t in Riga anymore, the fees are quite pricey and they only work for separate sections of the palace. different section needs different ticket, and since we were already going back in the afternoon, we decided to do it some other time. we did go to the free-pass areas, and i managed to take a few pictures.

then we continued walking to the seaside because my husband wanted to show me some steamboats. from there, we could see the old town buildings from a literally different point of view. we went past Birger Jarl, an old cruise ship that has now turned into a floating hostel ever since it stopped sailing in 2013. there’s still the small bridge by which passengers could get into the ship (nowadays used for hostel customers to enter the ship). i think it would be nice to stay there one day.

so this is the end of my “short  holiday” post series (not so short if you count it by the many pictures and words!). all in all, i had such a great time, and like i said before, it really felt like luck was on our side the whole time (except for the weather), as we got so many delightful surprises from here and there. it was an unforgettable experience, and i personally highly recommend Riga as your next holiday destination!

thanks to all of you who have patiently followed my stories, have a great weekend! ❤

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3 museums in Riga (short holiday, pt. 2)

we had 3 days and 2 nights in Riga, and only 1 of those days was actually rain-free. in this sense, it was good that our plan was that we had no plan. 😀

i have to admit that i didn’t know much about Riga, or Latvia for that matter, before i went there. i knew a bit of the history, but other than that, i had no idea what to do or see there. but after googling about it, we decided that we at least would go around the old town and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. i also wanted to try eating local food somewhere, and maybe, if we have the time, i’d like to see the Art Nouveau museum, but that was about it. we had no other destinations or plans, and just planned to go along with the flow.

when we arrived there, as i said here, we had to wait several hours until we could check in to our room. during the last half an hour, we were tired of walking in the rain so we went back to the hotel and waited in the lobby. we found lots of tourist maps and guide booklets, so we took those and read them to kill more time. that was how we found out about more things to see there in Riga, which i will tell about later.

since we took too many pictures to fit in one post, i am again going to divide them to 2 posts. this post is solely for the museums we visited while in Riga.

anyway, we spent the first day just walking around the hotel, which was right where the old town is. it was so convenient to be able to walk everywhere as it was raining the whole day, everything was nearby and if we got too cold, all we needed to do was walk back to our hotel.

the next day was sunny! right after breakfast, we went to our first museum. it turned out that the Art Nouveau museum was a bit closer than the other one we planned to go to, so we headed there first. the walk there was so nice, we got to go through lots of parks with all kinds of statues. we found the museum with no difficulties. 🙂

artnou1

 

the admission fee for this museum was 5€ per person, which is like half of the price of admission fees in museums in Finland. to take pictures with any camera, you need to pay an extra 1.50€, which i happily did, because it’s only 1.50€! yes, please.

so here are the pics, some more crappy than others since it was only taken with my mobile phone camera, but nonetheless, i think i can share a bit of my happiness with you. 🙂

a bit of a background story: i have always been interested in art nouveau ever since i knew what it was. there is just something romantic about the swirls and curves of this style, and though i can’t really be friends with real life plants, i like seeing them implemented in the design of everyday objects.

there is a few of buildings with this style in the whole Finland, but not nearly as much as in Riga alone. so visiting this museum was like heaven to me. the building was built in 1903 by Konstantīns Pēkšēns, who was also a Latvian architect, as an apartment building in which he himself then lived until 1907. the museum part is where this said architect lived in, which is on the first floor. some objects in the museum were originals, meaning that they actually were objects from the house, and some of them were from other sources but also originally from the same era. there was actually another exhibition in the upper floor, but we didn’t go there this time.

there were mainly women visiting this museum, the few men who came were husbands of these women. it had a very cheery and joyful mode throughout the museum, especially in the kitchen where there was a “maid” serving self-baked cookies, and upon seeing the old-fashioned toilet. 😀 my husband enjoyed this visit as much as i did, because we also learned a bit about history and art/design here. so do visit this museum if you have time in Riga! it’s definitely worth the 5€ you’ll spend! for more info, click here.

our next stop was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. we chose to walk from the seaside, passing the harbour and back to the old town.

we found out from the internet before going to Riga that this museum did not have a specific admission fee, but instead we pay with donation. since we paid 5€ each for the other museum, we figured it was only sensible to pay the same amount here.

it was almost dead quiet there in the museum. not because there were no visitors (there were plenty), but because of the topic of the museum itself. it was such a different atmosphere than the previous museum, and it’s no wonder. even though we could take pictures (so long as we made a donation), i decided not to. not even of the building, but if you want to know more, feel free to go here and view the photo gallery.

as i said before, i almost had no clue at all about Riga or Latvia. this museum provided information of everything i should know about the history of Latvia from 1940-1991, and more. as the name suggested, it was the era when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, and on to the hands of the German Nazi, and back again to the Soviet Union.

we went here because we thought it would be interesting to know what happened. and it certainly was interesting, but also quite heartbreaking. we could clearly see how the country suffered & struggled for many decades, stayed strong through it all, and finally reached its long deserved freedom.

i can’t really explain all the emotions i had during this visit, it’s hard not to get emotional seeing all the injustice and go too deep about this matter. i don’t think anything i write or say will do any justice to the actual history, so once again, i urge you to visit this museum when you’re in Riga. you will feel blessed and appreciate your own life more after you do this, take my word for it. 🙂

we thought that was all we could do for this holiday trip, since after this museum, we only had time to eat (real late lunch/dinner). the next day was the last day of our time in Riga, and we didn’t plan on going anywhere, but ended up going to an area where another small museum was.

it’s called the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust in Latvia Museum. we got to know about this museum from one of those booklets we found at the hotel’s lobby, and since we were already walking to that area, we decided to stop by.

just like the Occupation museum, this one also only accepted donation for admission fees. this museum was of separate buildings and in one big area, but we only went to a few of them.

again, i’m sure from the name you can pretty much guess what this museum is all about. Riga Ghetto is an area where Jewish Latvians (and later Germans) lived during the time when Nazi occupied the country. some buildings in this area were prisons, and some were “houses”, though there really wasn’t that big of a difference between the two back then.

as it was our last day in Riga, we didn’t have much time to do a thorough visit of this museum, nor did we take the guided tour. we went to 3 different parts, first of which was the front part, that had walls bearing the names of the victims of the holocaust period and also a bit of the history. they also had pictures of the non Jewish Latvians who helped hide some Jews in their houses (bless them!).

the next place we went to was a small house that–if i’m not mistaken–was an original house that survived. the inside had been renovated though, and the upper part of the house showed examples/models of how a typical Jewish house looked in those days.

then lastly, we went to one of the prisons that was holding a small exhibition of its own, collecting stories about the victims of the Latvia holocaust from the things they left behind, the letters they wrote, and just bits and pieces of information they could find about them. it was eerie, sad, and yet we looked upon them and knew that their story, what they did, was not for nothing. it was again a one of a kind experience that you just have to go through yourself to understand what i mean. i recommend this museum with warm heart, and for more info, please go here.

covering 3 museums in 2 days was quite an accomplishment for us who did not even have any plan. it was made possible thanks to the fact that everything was so close to each other there in Riga (at least in the downtown & old town area), that even when you do not plan anything beforehand, you can just find something interesting and go along with it. had it been better weather on all 3 days we were there, we could’ve probably covered more, but all in all i am very satisfied with these 3 museums. 🙂

next up is my experience in Riga (minus these museums) & Stockholm!

6 days, 5 nights, and 4 beds (short holiday, pt. 1)

last week my short summer holiday officially started! for this short holiday, i had 1,5 week off from work (the rest of the summer holiday is coming soon!). my husband had suggested that we did something different for this short holiday. instead of spending the time in just one holiday destination, we would be spending time in two destinations and also en route to these destinations. so our itinerary was: Helsinki-Riga-Stockholm-Helsinki, with flight first to Riga, and then cruise ship to Stockholm, and also cruise ship to Helsinki. the cruise ship means we would also spend the night on the ship.

i will write about the Riga & Stockholm experiences itself in separate posts, this is now just for the accommodations. 😉

anyway, everything went so smoothly from the beginning to the very end, even with rains and everything, and we even got more than we expected!

the plane we took to Riga was a propeller plane. i’ve never been in one before, and neither had my husband (except in simulators). it was an exciting ride, especially the taking off (very quick & swift) and landing. since it was a propeller plane, the sound in the plane was also not as loud as in jet planes.

we arrived in Riga at around 12 pm, and as we came to the hotel we were told that the check-in starts at around 3 pm. to kill the time, we went around the hotel to grab lunch and walk around the parks. when we came back to check-in, the receptionist had a pleasant surprise for us: the bathroom in our room had a jacuzzi! 😀 i don’t think all their rooms have one, so it was really a nice surprise. i’ve never even been in a jacuzzi before! 😀 we of course used it for both nights that we spent there, it was so relaxing, especially after a day of walking around in the rain.

 

breakfast was included in the room rate, but even if it wasn’t, there was a small bakery right across the street and a “Street Fries” booth right next to it. i managed to find 70 cents to try this bun (i didn’t quite catch the name, if you know what it is, do tell!).

bun it was a lot like kue soes of Indonesia, with somewhat hard texture on the outside and soft in the inside, and had a cream on the inside. instead of sweet cream like kue soes, this one had (probably) quark or something sour-ish, very good and refreshing! unfortunately i didn’t get to try the Street Fries, but they are basically potato fries (you can choose between Belgian fries and Home Style fries, which is slightly bigger cuts than French fries) eaten with dips. they have about a dozen different dip sauces and each costs only 50 cents, whereas the fries itself costs 1.40€ for a big-sized paper cone. yes, THAT CHEAP!

since we were going to depart from Riga by a cruise ship that leaves in the afternoon (around 5 pm), we needed to keep our hotel room for a bit longer than the usual time for check-outs. the hotel was fully booked when we were there, so we were advised to ask about late check-outs in the morning of our departure. we did, and were told that we got to keep the room till 2 pm for free of charge, but afterwards we needed to pay a small amount (forgot how much). so we decided to stay till 3 pm, it was nice enough for them to let us keep the room for 2 extra hours for free.

not long after we got back to our room after asking that, we got a phone call… it was the receptionist, telling us that we got to keep the room till 3 pm for free after all! 😀 another pleasant surprise from them!

at first, we were planning to walk to the harbour to board the ship, since it really wasn’t that far. but it was raining quite heavily when we checked out, so we decided to take a taxi instead. we were prepared to pay for this small comfort, but even in a small traffic jam the taxi ride only costed 4.40€! 😀

in the ship, our cabin was at the front part, so we could see where the ship was going.

there was a bowl of fresh fruits waiting for us, and the mini bar was jam packed full of all kinds of soda and liquor (which were all included in the cabin rate). i was so exhausted from our extensive walks around Riga for the past 3 days, so we ended up only taking a small stroll around the decks, the shop/supermarket, and ate dinner, and then headed back to our cabin. i fell asleep almost right away after shower, and didn’t wake up when (said my husband) the ship hit a bit of a storm that caused big waves & rocked our ship for a while.

breakfast was also included in the rate, so with new full energy the next morning, we arrived in Stockholm.

we had the same ‘problem’ again when we were going to check-in, since we arrived in the morning and the check-in time wasn’t until around 3 pm. and again, it was slightly raining that day. but, the show must go on. after leaving our stuffs at the hotel’s storage room, we went downtown to grab a bite & look around.

right away we noticed how ‘expensive’ it was to go around in Stockholm when staying at a hotel outside of the downtown area. we chose this hotel because it was so close to the harbour (and there was also nostalgic reasons for my husband), but everything we wanted to see was downtown, and also the restaurants we could go to were there. in Riga, everything seemed so close, and we practically got around everywhere by foot. we had no expenses at all for public transport, except for getting to the hotel from the airport and from the hotel to the harbour (and only because it was raining).

it was a nice standard room at the hotel, so Scandinavian with all the woods in the interior & furniture, and also the style was still kind of back in the 80’s. the interior of the whole hotel itself was clearly still in its 80’s. it was cute! we stayed at the standard room, so there wasn’t even any fridge in the room. the view was to the sea, so we could see the ships coming in and out of the harbour. it was a real nice experience!

other than slightly rainy, it was also kind of cold that day, so we only went out again once after checking in, just to get dinner. the next day promised to be warmer & sunnier, so we decided to do more exploring the next day instead.

the breakfast, as you guessed, was included in the room rate. it was Scandinavian style, and there was a place to eat the breakfast on the terrace. we almost did, until we saw the seagulls. i HATE seagulls. so we chose to eat indoor. right afterwards, we again asked for late check-out. it was possible for a small fee per hour, so we decided to keep the room till 4 pm. then, it was time to go to the old town (more on those later). when my feet couldn’t take it any longer, we went back to the hotel and checked-in to the last ship of our trip.

everything was fine when we checked-in, until we left the check-in booth and saw our key cards. the card always shows what room/class we’re staying at, and this time it said some class that was more expensive (like around 400€ more expensive… and luxurious) than what we paid for. thinking that there must be a mistake, we went back to the booth and asked them to check. the representative didn’t even hesitate when he answered that no, there hadn’t been any mistake… his boss told him earlier to upgrade our cabin class for some reason, free of charge. ❤

that was probably the best surprise of this whole trip! suddenly we were treated like VIPs, for God knows what reason. 😀 this particular ship we were going with was just recently renovated as well. some new stores were built, the tax free store got enlarged, and some cabins got retouched, including this cabin that we were just upgraded to.

we went on board, and as we entered our “VIP” area, we were greeted with our own “steward” (who served all the guests in this same class, not just us, LOL!) who called us by our last names and showed us our cabin. there was also a lounge just for the guests of this cabin class, with small bites to eat and stuffs. for free. the steward asked if we’d like to book any restaurants for dinner, as he would do it for free. gosh, it really felt different when we’re treated as VIPs! we told him we’d look around first, since we had no idea where to eat yet.

the cabin was just as big as our previous hotel rooms, there was a bathtub in the bathroom (usually in the ships, there are only showers), lots of drawers and closets for us to store our stuffs, a TV room, and we could also sit on the window to watch the sea. there was fresh bowl of fruits again waiting for us, a bowl of candies, and everything in the fridge was once again included in the rate. it even had a blu-ray/dvd player. between me & my husband, this was the biggest cabin we’ve ever stayed at on a ship. he had never stayed at this kind of luxurious cabin, and me? i didn’t even know this kind of cabins existed, LOL.

though we had a view to the sea again from our cabin, since the weather was kind of good & warm we decided to see the departure from the sun deck. we got to see our hotel room that we just left minutes ago, and said goodbye to Stockholm. then, it was time to decide where to eat.

after choosing the restaurant we thought would be best, we first asked them directly what time we could get a place to dine there. they said since we didn’t book it earlier, the earliest time we could get was at 8 pm… and it was only 6.30 pm at the time. gaaak, i could die in hunger!

so we went to seek our steward, and told him we would like to eat at this particular restaurant and was told that the earliest we could get was at 8 pm. could he possibly get seats for us earlier? he most certainly could.

with a small phone call, he got us seats for right there and then. 😀 that, ladies and gents, is how amazing (and sad) a VIP treatment is.

we went back to the restaurant, and the same usher who told us earlier that we could get a place there at 8 pm was now telling us how there were always some “reserved places” for certain conditions. i guess that means for VIPs like us, ahem.

it was very good food, but we didn’t stay for dessert… because we had the lounge at our disposal, with all kinds of small bites for FREE. 😀 yay!

since our cabin was so comfy, we again mostly stayed in there. we watched the sunset while eating our desserts (we were allowed to bring the foods from the lounge to our own cabins) and just relaxed on our last part of the holiday trip.

the breakfast on the next morning was also a bit special. when we booked for the cabin, the breakfast was also included, but it was at a “normal” buffet restaurant. now, since we got upgraded, we got a special breakfast at a… well, let’s just say, a more posh restaurant. 😀 at first, we were slightly worried if the selection wasn’t as big as the normal buffet restaurant, but we needed not to get worried. there was of course less amount of food, but there was also only a few of people who could eat there for breakfast (yep, only the VIPs). right away, we got a glass of champagne (for breakfast???? apparently so!), and on the table there was a small menu of warm breakfast that we could choose one from, and they would then prepare it for us. we ordered ours, and while waiting for it to be prepared, we took the food from the small buffet. there was a (probably) duck liver pâté, omelette rolls with fish roes, fish roes with smetana to be eaten with toast breads, all kinds of sausages and cheese… and there were even carrot cakes. ahh… it really was the perfect way to end our trip.

so here are a few tips i can give you for this kind of holiday trip:

1. always check the time for check-ins at the hotel you are going to stay at. if they have it at 3 pm and you’re arriving way earlier, ask if they have a safe storage room where you can leave your bags while you walk around. be prepared for small discomforts like having to carry around your bags for a few hours, but most of the hotels do have safe storage rooms.

2. this trip is certainly more special to me than just going to places with planes. you get to experience everything slowly and enjoy the process & view of getting to one place from another. but it can also be tiring, especially since this means you have to pack and unpack everyday. bring as small bag as possible, with minimum clothes (i chose to bring dresses as they were easier to put on and i didn’t have to worry at all about mix & matching them!). a foldable shopping bag is a good problem solver for me, it didn’t take any space at all and if i had to carry around maps, umbrella, drink bottle, and other stuffs, i could just unfold the bag and put everything–including my usual purse–in it.

3. if possible, bring as small cash as you could. it’s always easy to get carried away and forget to protect your bag from thieves and also to stop yourself from spending too much. having no cash might not seem like a big deal (there’s always credit cards and ATMs, right?), but it does help when you’re in the midst of the euphoria of buying something at a market with no credit card accepted and have to walk away to the nearest ATM… the walk there clears your head a bit and you will hopefully decide not to buy the thing after all. 🙂 plus, if you carry cash to different countries with different currencies, you will end up always losing a bit of your money when you exchange them.

4. find hotels nearest to the attractions you want to visit. it might be that some hotels have cheaper rates somewhere further away, and you would think that it saves money that way, when it doesn’t. you could end up spending just as much anyway for the public transport, plus all the extra effort & time to take those public transports.

5. on a short holiday like this, having an itinerary is good, so you will know where to go to, etc. but avoid making a minute by minute or even hourly schedule, as you will then be too stressed about keeping up with the schedule rather than enjoy your time there. not having a too strict itinerary also gives you a chance to be pleasantly surprised by things you didn’t expect to see or find just around the corner.

that’s all for now! i’m not that good in giving tips, and i guess these are things most of you already know anyway. :p all in all, i must say i thoroughly enjoyed this holiday, and wouldn’t mind doing a similar kind of trip in the future.

coming up next are the Riga & Stockholm experiences! 🙂 and happy Midsummer to you all!