Monday, 21 May 2018

5 things to do in Riga

When we went to Riga in March, the weekend was full of sightseeing, eating at fun restaurants and soaking up Latvian culture. The trip was planned very far in advance and as it was our first time in Latvia, we were determined to make the most of the experience and learn all about Latvian history and cuisine. We wanted to cover as many of the sights as possible, firstly because we wanted to see all that the Baltic gem has to offer, but secondly because admission prices are so affordable in Latvia: you can visit museums for as little as 2-3 euros! Therefore I can honestly say that we explored the ins and outs of Riga, from the globally-renowned city marketplace to The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, and it certainly is a fascinating city. If you have plans to visit Riga at some point, you'll find this post helpful as I'm going to share my must-do list for a weekend in the Latvian capital.

Sightseeing in Riga - Kat Last

1. Walk around the Central Market (Centrāltirgus).

Riga Central Market, Latvia

Whilst we were in Riga, we stayed at the Opera Hotel and when we arrived, we noticed that the city market was right on our doorstep. The central market consists of 3 big warehouse-style buildings which are filled to the brim of local produce. There's a meat hall, a vegetable hall and a fish hall, which are all next to each other. If you're a real foodie, you'll adore walking along the aisles between the market stands and looking at all of the incredible food. The vegetable hall was my favourite, as you could smell homemade vinaigrette wherever you walked. Unfortunately it's a bit difficult to bring the fresh produce home though, so you'll have to settle on a Latvian box of chocolates, tea or sweets, which are also available at the market if you walk along the edges of the food halls. If you're not used to big markets at home, you will find the Riga Central Market extremely interesting, as it really is so vast.

2. Take a trip up to the top of St Peter’s Church tower.

Views from St Peter’s Church tower in Riga, Latvia - Kat Last

If you've read any of my other 'Things to do in...' posts, you will know that I really like to visit city viewpoints. In Munich I went up the top of the Town Hall clocktower, in Lisbon I looked out at the city from the castle grounds and in Berlin, I booked a tour of the Reichstag building so that I could see the whole city from the famous glass dome. St Peter's Church isn't as recognisable as those sights listed above, but the views from it's tower are just as impressive. Latvia gets a lot of snow and if you visit during the Winter or early Spring, you are bound to see snowy rooftops from the top of St Peter's Church tower.

3. Visit The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

Latvia has had a very turbulent history over the years and it's actually celebrating it's 100th birthday in 2018. If you're interesting in learning about the German and Soviet occupations of Latvia, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is the place to visit. It's free and only a small museum, but you can learn a lot from a short visit.

4. Explore the Old Town.

Exploring Riga's Old Town - Kat Last

Riga Old Town is full of colourful buildings, fun restaurants and cute independent shops. Make sure you spend some time walking the streets of the Old Town. It's such a peaceful and quiet part of the city.

5. Have a Medieval dinner at Rozengrāls restaurant.

Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

If you're looking for an entirely unique experience in Riga, head to Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in the heart of the Old Town. You get to take a step back in time for a couple of hours, eat Medieval Latvian cuisine in a cellar filled to the brim with historic decor and dine at one of Riga's most popular tourist restaurants. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and seeing as the restaurant is like a tourist attract in itself, I had to include it in my must-do list.

Are you heading to Riga, Latvia anytime soon? I'd love to hear your plans.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga

Before we go away on a trip, I always like to research restaurants to visit in the area that we're visiting. Going to restaurants abroad is a real experience for me and as someone who likes to write restaurant reviews, I find it so interesting to read where locals and seasoned tourists recommend you visit. When I was looking at restaurants to try in Riga, Rozengrāls was high on most lists and once I stumbled across their website, I knew it was the place for us. A themed Medieval restaurant in the heart of the Old Town? We didn't need to read anymore, we were definitely going to head there for dinner on one of our nights in Riga.

Kat Last and Stuart eating dinner at Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

Rozengrāls is difficult to miss if you're strolling the streets of Riga. It's on a very old street in the touristy part of the city, with a very big Rozengrāls sign and a member of staff stood outside in full Medieval costume, carrying lots of menus and trying to entice you in. Throughout the day visitors to the city gather around the entrance, intrigued about what's behind the big heavy doors, that the man dressed in Medieval dress is stood in front of. We arrived at the restaurant at about 5:30 on the Friday night and had no wait at all, which was a real surprise as I'd read online beforehand that it gets super busy in the evenings. I think going for an early dinner helped though as we were able to get a table before the rush.

Outside Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

The entire menu was Medieval themed, so we had a fab time choosing what to eat. For starter we picked a Latvian take on garlic bread: fried rye bread with a delicious garlic sauce and it didn't disappoint - the bread was absolutely delicious. Rye bread is a Latvian specialty and we can certainly see why the locals rave so much about it.

Fried rye bread with garlic sauce for starter at Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

For our main courses, I ordered the chickpea and aubergine hot pot and Stuart had the roast pork. When you compare our dishes, I think Stuart had the much better deal as his pork meal was huge! The photo of him looking at the pork makes me laugh so much, as his face just shows pure delight. My vegetarian meal was tasty nonetheless, so I was still very happy with my food. I have to say that I was incredibly impressed by the amount of vegetarian options on offer at Rozengrāls. Latvian and medieval cuisine is very meat heavy, so it was fantastic to see an entire page of the restaurant menu filled with vegetarian options.

Stuart eating roast pork at Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

Table setup at Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

After we'd finished our meal, it was time to pay the bill and head back to the hotel. The bill came to €40, which is relatively affordable for such a themed restaurant. Rozengrāls was a great place to visit and I'd recommend it to anyone that is visiting Riga anytime soon. It's a tourist attraction in itself, with its authentic Medieval decor.

Medieval flag at the entrance to Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

Medieval decor and signage outside Rozengrāls Medieval Restaurant in Riga, Latvia

Have you ever been to Riga? Do you like going to themed restaurants?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Monday, 7 May 2018

Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea in Canterbury

Afternoon tea at Alice and the Hatter tearoom in Canterbury, Kent

In April, Alice and the Hatter opened in Canterbury: a new Aice in Wonderland themed tearoom. The tearoom is the second tearoom of it's kind in Kent, as there is already an Alice café in Herne Bay. I think the Alice and the Hatter team chose an ideal location in Canterbury, as it's known for it's rich literary heritage, afternoon tea culture and Canterbury is practically a neighbour to Herne Bay. Some of my friends from University visited the café during it's first couple of weeks of trading and after watching their vlog about the experience, I booked a table for my parents, Stuart and I over the May bank holiday weekend. Alice and the Hatter is located on St Margaret's St, in the heart of town. You can't miss it as there's a big sign outside and a small statue of the Mad Hatter at the entrance, and as soon as you walk inside, you are immersed in all things Wonderland.

Outside Alice and the Hatter in Canterbury, Kent

Wonderland decor at Alice and the Hatter in Canterbury, Kent

We were sat at a table downstairs, in full of view of the Wonderland decor and we received our menus, which were covered in Wonderland quotes. Each of the food items were named after characters or referenced the books, which made for a rather hilarious touch, as when I ordered my sandwich, I asked for 'The Hatter'. Alice and the Hatter offers pre-bookable set teas (like the traditional afternoon tea featuring finger sandwiches, scones and cake slices), but we chose to have a sandwich and then a slice of cake after. My sandwich featured pastrami, salami and chorizo, and when it arrived, I gave Stuart the pastrami ham and ate the rest. When you're a fussy eater like myself, you learn to order food of the menu and leave what you don't want when it arrives. The sandwich was very yummy though nonetheless and it came with vegetable crisps on the side, which was slightly unique to your traditional everyday sandwich.

Alice and the Hatter's Wonderland themed menu

Artwork at Alice and the Hatter in Canterbury, Kent

Alice in Wonderland merchandise, Alice and the Hatter

'The Hatter' sandwich at Alice and the Hatter in Canterbury, Kent

After we'd finished our sandwiches, it was time to order some cake. There were lots of types of cake on offer and we all chose different ones, so that we could see all of the different cakes. My Dad ordered Lime, my Mum went for the Lemon & Blueberry, Stuart had Death By Chocolate and I decided to gamble and go for the Candy Floss cake. None of the cakes disappointed and I was so pleased with the Candy Floss cake, which looked so pretty and tasted amazing. We're definitely going to have to head to Alice in the Hatter again soon, so that we can try the other cakes that they have, as there were so many different flavours.

Alice and the Hatter's Candy Floss cake

My parents with their cake at Alice and the Hatter, Canterbury

Stuart and Kat enjoying afternoon tea at Alice and the Hatter, Canterbury

When it came to going to the toilets before we left, I noticed that the door handles match the animated door handles in the movie. They were so cleverly made and I have to say, this is the first time that I've ever felt the need to photograph a toilet door. If you get the chance to visit, the tearoom, make sure you go to the upstairs loo and have a nosy at the decor on the upper floor, as there are intricate references to the movie everywhere.

Animated Alice in Wonderland door at Alice and the Hatter tearoom in Canterbury

Upstairs at Alice and the Hatter, Canterbury

Alice and the Hatter is a real foodie experience. When you first step inside the building, you feel like you're being transported into Lewis Carrol's iconic book and the theming is kept up throughout your entire meal. If you like Alice in Wonderland or Disney, definitely stop here for lunch if you're in Kent for the day. You'll probably need to a book a table in advance, as it's so popular at the moment and you can do so via their website.

The White Rabbit at Alice and the Hatter, Canterbury

Kat Last and Mum outside Alice and the Hatter, Canterbury

Have you ever been to a Wonderland themed tearoom?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Scrapbooking our weekend in Riga

Riga is a Baltic gem, approximately 3 hours from the UK by plane. It has the architecture of Scandinavia and the spirit of London, Paris or Rome, yet it has a distinctly Eastern European feel. We visited the Latvian capital in early March, after finding a brilliant deal last October. For somewhere that's not particularly easy to get to, I was amazed at being able to find flights for £80 each and hotels in Riga city centre are extremely affordable, so booking a trip to Riga was a no-brainer. From the moment we arrived, Riga was photography gold! Everywhere I looked there were beautiful buildings, archways and intricate alleyways. I took lots of photos of all of these things and then picked my favourite photos to print when I got home. A couple of weeks after our trip, I started putting these photos in my scrapbook, alongside my tickets and leaflets from the weekend away. Starting with my Ryanair boarding pass, I filled the next 8 pages with written and visual memories of our Latvian travels.

Pages 1 and 2 of the Riga section of my travel scrapbook - arriving in Latvia and exploring Riga's Old Town

Our hotel had lots of city maps and leaflets in reception when we arrived and you can see these presented on the first few pages. I found some Latvian stickers during our first few hours in Riga and these are also scattered throughout the Latvia pages of my scrapbook. These were such a lucky find, as national flag stickers are not particularly easy to find online.

Pages 3 and 4 of the Riga section of my travel scrapbook - seeing the Daugava River for the first time and visiting a city art gallery

My prints were purchased from Printiki, who I've frequently ordered my photos from since I collaborated with them on a Canada scrapbooking post last September. Printiki prints are much more creative than regular 6 x 4 prints and I love how they look against the black pages in my scrapbook.

Pages 5 and 6 of the Riga section of my travel scrapbook - dining at Rozengrals Medieval restaurant and viewing the city from above

For decorations I used my favourite luggage tags from The Works, patterned washing tape from Hobbycraft and tan-coloured ruled labels from The Range. I used these materials to break up the postcards, tickets and photos laid out across the pages. Speaking of postcards, I found lots of lovely ones whilst browsing gift shops in Riga. I settled on the 3 pictured below, as I felt they were entirely different to other postcards that I've picked up around the world.

Pages 7 and 8 of the Riga section of my travel scrapbook - dining at Colonel Brew Pub & Kitchen in Riga's Old Town and the journey home

I really enjoy scrapbooking our adventures and it was so much fun getting to organise my postcards, photos and tickets from the trip in such a creative way. If you'd like to start scrapbooking yourself, I've written a post about my recommended scrapbooking starter kit, which features lots of the materials that you'll need. Scrapbooking is such a relaxing hobby!

Have you ever been to Riga? What did you think of the city?

Thanks for reading my blog today.