Symphony of the Seas: Hooked Seafood

For one of my lunches with the meal plan, I chose Hooked Seafood. They had a huge oyster bar, with a friendly man busily shucking. Even though I don’t usually eat oysters, I’m a fan of the aesthetic.

I liked the decor. I would kill for some of those big glass floats.

Upon being seated, you were served a big, flaky cheddar biscuit to bring on those eastern seaboard vibes.

I chose clam chowder for my first course. It was good, but nothing will ever measure up to The King’s Head chowder.

I wanted two mains, and one of the things about cruise ships is that you can order as many things as you want. My server told me it was discouraged, but that he would make an exception. Both dishes had an original twist. The lobster roll was seasoned with lots of Old Bay. It was accompanied by the proper Kennebec chips.

The fish and chips had an unusual coating, but I really liked it.

I finished up with a lovely coconut cream pie. Pro tip: They had the same pie and many of the same desserts at the buffet.

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Symphony of the Seas: Wonderland

I had purchased the meal package that allows you to dine in one of the themed restaurants every night and have lunch on days at sea. The first restaurant I chose was “Wonderland” because I am really into Alice in Wonderland, and molecular gastronomy. You enter through a portal that I assume is falling down the rabbit hole. They could have done more with it, painting it in a spiral or adding clocks.

A gentleman greets you and walks you to your table. He was the Johnny Depp version of the Mad Hatter, not the Gene one, but he was adorable, and so charming. I felt immediately at home and comfortable. Where he really shone was with the children. I watched him interacting with them, and they LOVED him.

The menu comes with a paintbrush and water. When you paint the menu, the courses appear. Once you “brush” the menu at Wonderland. You choose dishes based on five natural elements — Earth, Sea, Fire, Ice and Sun. Really, the elements thing was kind of unnecessary. But it was cute. I forget how many choices you have, and I would have asked for more had I not been able to try everything I wanted, but it was enough for me. The plates were all small bites, which I liked, because I could try more. The server told a cute little story with each of the courses.

From “SUN” I chose Baby Vegetables in the Garden,” which was adorable, and had superfresh and delicious baby vegetables.

Also, reconstructed caprese salad. They took a tomato, mixed it with a bunch of stuff I can’t remember, then re-packaged it to look like a tomato. The other tomatoes are just blanched and skinned, then there is goat cheese snow. It was excellent.

From “WATER” I tried Liquid lobster served with bone marrow and caviar, from FIRE, a shrimp wrapped in and from AIR I had a Chicken and the Egg, which was a deviled egg in a nest. They were cute, and the egg had some real showmanship, but taste-wise they were kind of meh.

I also had a very delicious cone with wasabi, crab, and avocado mousse. Also, what I now realize is sea bean. I covered up my ignorance by pointing out the sunset.

I also had a short rib and mashed potato that was supposed to look like chocolate cake and whipped cream, but really just looked like a short rib and mashed potatoes. The dessert was an exciting reveal.

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Cruise: Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas is a GIGANTIC ship! It holds the title of being one of the world’s biggest and cruise ships. It has a total length of 1,188 feet, holding up to 5,400 passengers and 2,394 crew members.

There are 16 decks with an onboard skating rink, surf simulator and a zip line suspended 10 decks above sea level. There are different “neighborhoods, which I liked. The main area was called The Promenade. There was a coffee shop with small sandwiches and pastries–a good place to grab breakfast on the go. There was a pizza place that was very popular, but I wasn’t into the pizza. Still, it was a really handy place to refill my all-you-can-drink soda bottle. This is also where you can find little shops, buy WiFi, make restaurant reservations, book excursions, and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with.

I really recommend you get the all-you-can-drink soda plan and the specialty dinner plan. It’s not that expensive, and your dining options and experiences are much better. The only thing about the drink cup is that there are no washing stations. So bring a little bottle of dishwashing soap so you can wash it in your room.

I liked the Central Park area. I thought it would be New York themed, but it was actually a lovely park with real plants. Some of the fancier restaurants were here, plus a really nice breakfast spot, The Park Cafe, with a nice bagel spread as well as hot items.

The funnest area was the Boardwalk. It had a carousel, a candy shop, an arcade and the slides and rock climbing activities.

There was a candy store with gelato, (not included), and fun activities like making burgers out of cake.

They had the best included food on the ship at Dog House, where I had an awesome bratwurst, but I was so tired after snorkeling that I didn’t take a photo. Blogger fail! BUT I lifted a pic from the Royal Carribean website…

The front of the ship had a theater where we saw a very profession production of Hairspray!, one of the main buffets, which had a good Filipino and Indian section, probably because it was such an international staff. I was also pleased with the tiny bangers and mash. There was a smaller buffet only open early that was in a nice, enclosed terrace. The desserts were often the same desserts as in the fancy restaurants.

I only ate breakfast in the dining room since I had the specialty meal package. It was good, and service was fast.

On the upper desks there was wakeboarding, a full-on waterpark and a bunch of jacuzzis. I avoided this area mostly because there was no shade and the pools were really crowded, though the jacuzzis were not. A shade over the jacuzzis would have been nice.

As for our room, we got an interior room. There were some interior rooms with cool-looking “virtual windows,” but we got the basic one for about $500 each for 5 nights in the Caribbean. I didn’t get pictures before our suitcases exploded all over the place.

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Miami: Party People!

My friend joined me Friday for an overnight in Miami. The hotel let me switch to a 2-bed room.

She had also never seen Miami, but only had one night. So I thought, well, the most Miami thing to do is eat Cuban food. We headed down to Puerto Sagua. The restaurant has been cooking up Cuban specialties in South Beach Since 1968. There were a ton of cops there eating and hanging out in front. The servers only spoke Spanish. It surprised me how many monolingual people there were in such a touristy area. They were equally surprised at my mediocre Spanish. The pork chops were a little dry, but my shrimp, and of course the black beans and rice and plantains were fantastic.

Then it was time to party. But I only knew one place to go, and it was so conveniently located! Back to the Palace!

The person next to us had the cutest doggo.

This guy was really serious about snapping his fan. He would look into the eyes of other people with fans and snap very decisively, making them keep time properly.

My favorite drag queen sang Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and was hilarious! She had a bottle of “booze” that she liberally splashed all over us and blew “cocaine” everywhere. We were in hysterics!

The next morning we went to the beach and did a little window shopping.

I went and posed in a parked car, shocking my friend. Until she decided to do the same thing.

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Miami: Joe’s Stone Crab

There are a lot of places called Joe’s, but none can compete with Joe’s Stone Crab, the first restaurant to open its doors in South Beach. In 1913, Hungarian immigrant Joe Weiss and his wife opened up a small lunch counter on Miami Beach serving fish sandwiches. Researchers came to Miami in 1921 to work on a new aquarium, and one of them approached Joe about serving stone crabs. He balked, as everyone thought they were inedible. The researcher brought in a bag of crabs one day, and the rest is history.

Joe’s has been on my bucket list since I started seeing chef André Bienvenu at LA Food and Wine events. He couldn’t feed stone crab claws to hundreds of people, and it wasn’t even stone crab season when the event was held, so he conjured up imaginative dishes like pork belly cones with guava BBQ sauce and Reuben sandwiches grilled on an elaborate mechanism that smashed the sandwiches between two hot household irons. Cool as that was, it made me crave the crab claws. There was only one place to get them, and I had a reservation for lunch.

The fancy dining room has been visited by everyone from Frank Sinatra, Amelia Earhart, and Will Rogers to Barbara Streisand, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. 19 US presidents have eaten there, and it is a required stop for chefs. Coincidentally, one of my favorite chefs, Brooke Williams, posted a picture of herself with a slice of Joe’s key lime pie a month before my trip, and I was like, “Damn, I’m gonna have that key lime pie too.”

From Brooke Williamson’s Facebook page

I took an Uber to Joe’s, and waited about 10 minutes for my table. I was able to check out the historic pictures.

The patio chairs look like scallop shells.

There were some interesting cocktails, but I wasn’t planning on drinking much, and I had already had a mojito at the Palace.

The dining room was elegant, with crisply starched white tablecloths.

One thing about Joe’s — it ain’t cheap. But it’s so worth it. Another thing about Joe’s is that some of their dishes are weird. The chopped salad includes beets, Feta cheese and honey roasted peanuts. I have eaten candied pecans in a salad with goat cheese, but Feta and honey roasted peanuts just doesn’t sound right. The cole slaw came with a big dollop of pickle relish.

The crab cakes looked appealing, and I have been in the mood for shrimp cocktail lately, but one should always eat locally, and I had never had conch fritters. I had heard that conch is not sustainable, but I wanted to try it just once. It was a mistake. If you think clams are chewy, wow, they were almost impossible to chew. It was like there were bits of rubber tire in the fritters. I couldn’t eat more than a bite. My server noticed, and kindly took them off my bill. So, I added that to her tip. I didn’t blame the restaurant, I guess it’s just not my thing.

What IS my thing? Crab, dammit! And definitely stone crab! It is priced according to claw size. But it is measured by weight, so the smaller the claw, the more claws you get. But I like big stuff. I ordered large at the server’s recommendation. I later held them up to show a nearby table that wasn’t sure of the right size to order. Because I’m annoyingly helpful.

I noticed a big sharing plate of hash browns at another table, and they looked so good I ordered “Joe’s Classic Meal” — a full order of stone crab, coleslaw, hashed browns, creamed spinach and key lime pie. I mean, I knew I was going to get the pie anyways. $112.95. I was so excited I totally forgot to order the insider-recommended fried chicken, which is only $8.95 for half a chicken. It just seems wrong to even look at the Steaks and Poultry section. Or mahi mahi and grouper. Unless it’s not stone crab season, in which case I probably wouldn’t even come. Because they are glorious.

Look at them! Served chilled and pre-cracked, they easily slip out of the shell. The meat is sweet and clean-tasting. They are served with drawn butter and Joe’s famous mustard sauce. I didn’t think I would like the mustard sauce, but I was all about it. It was more like a Dijon aioli. The coleslaw, as I mentioned, was weird, the spinach was meh, and the hashed browns were good. Next time I would just order the crab – and the chicken. The key lime pie was on the tart side, without cream cheese (probably considered an abomination here, but I add it to my recipe), but very good. Maybe I’m not as pretty as Chef Brooke, but here you are.

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Miami Friday Drag Brunch

Wandering around the neighborhood I discovered the famous Drag Bar the Palace was just two blocks from my hotel. It has been going strong for over 30 years. I made reservations for the Friday drag brunch. I woke up really early, though, and really hungry, so I wandered over to the Sandwicherie and ordered a brie sandwich.

As I made my way to the Palace mid-morning, I noticed Gianni Versace’s mansion, which is now open for lunch, which is really weird to me. He was shot to death on the front steps, and I always imagined them to be really grand. I was surprised by how small they were, so I took a picture of them. A man noticed me, and I overheard him telling his friend sadly, “Oh yeah, it’s infamous.”

The Palace had a huge patio. The waiters kept double-checking that I really was there alone, and people seemed to be noticing it. I am used to going everywhere by myself, so it was weird to feel awkward. A nearby couple toasted me, like, “Hi, you’re not alone!” Pretty soon we were hanging out and having a blast. I even ordered a Mojito.

My chicken and waffles were a mixed bag. The chicken had a delicious curry batter, but the waffles were kind of dry and boring. Fresh fruit plates and pancakes were in the “to share” section, so I did not order them, much to my chagrin. Maybe that’s why people felt sorry for me for being alone.

You have to bring lots of dollars to tip, which made me think of mariachis, but turned out to be more of a stripper vibe. The queens were awesome, lip-synching and dancing around the tables.

Even the waiters were festive and sexy, dancing and “thaaawaaap-ing their fans along to the music loudly.

I figured I had been as entertained by one of the dancing waiters as by the drag queens, so I decided to tip him. He shook his booty in my face for me to tuck the dollars in his waistband, then just kept on shaking it. I gave him a few playful spanks, then I didn’t know what to do, so I just mugged at my friends.

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Miami Thursday Part 2 The Everglades

In the afternoon I decided to go on an airboat ride. Getting there was difficult, without much payout. The double decker bus was stuck in traffic most of the way and our driver was road raging, laying on his horn. He also drove in a really jerky way that made you hang on for dear life. There were handwritten signs saying: DON’T FORGET TO TIP THE DRIVER. MANDATORY $5. I thought, “Not bloody likely.” I was sitting up top in the back, which I discovered was the party section. People were openly drinking mojitos and White Claw.

The woman next to me had been speaking exclusively in Spanish for the entire ride, then suddenly she announced, “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work,” and she laughed hysterically for almost 5 minutes. The bus passed a building with this huge sign on the side. I was unable to get a pic, but it was so awesome I looked up the ad for you.

The Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston was a small area next to a freeway with power lines running over top. When you’re in the Louisiana swamp, you KNOW you are in the swamp, but this was different. Maybe it was just that particular park.

Everyone was hyped up to see alligators. The guide would turn off the engine and everyone would sit perfectly still with bated breath until it became clear no alligator or heron or other denizen of the everglades was going to pop up to model for a photo. It was nice to be out on an open air boat and would have been enjoyable to just buzz through the tall grasses. But due to the search, we were in a constant state of being disappointed. It’s like the saying, “Golf is a good walk ruined.” I did see a heron fly off in the distance, and we saw these ducks.

The guide groused that the water is now too deep for most animal’s liking. He complained that “they” had mismanaged Florida’s water. I wondered if “they” were the Bureau of Global Warming or some imaginary enemy, but it seems in addition to the sea levels rising, there is a history of diverting fresh water away from the Everglades for human use. Read more about it here if you’re interested.

The park had a small alligator attraction. I am not a fan of roadside animal attractions. The holding pens are always too small. They called it a “sanctuary” but I have to wonder what requirements need to be met to be called a sanctuary. Is it just to alleviate our guilt? I felt bad for this caiman, but considering they are an invasive species in Florida, and still hunted for their skins in many countries, I guess it could be worse.

The park had a pair of mating alligators in what seemed to be too small of an enclosure. The male, named Cannibal, had eaten all of its previous mates at another park before moving to Sawgrass Park and meeting his match. There was a photo op available holding one of their babies, but when I saw the jaws were Duct taped shut and a lot of people were waiting to hold him, I got skeeved out and left.

When the bus arrived back in Miami, the driver was amenable to dropping people off at red lights near their hotel, instead of having to wait an hour or more to get back to the tour office and the take another of their buses back. When I recognized my neighborhood, I hopped out, and you can bet I tipped him 5 bucks for that pleasure. I was so tired I just stopped at Taquiza a block away from my hotel, which had an intriguing menu and hand pressed blue masa tortillas.

I ordered a Mahi Mahi taco and a huitlacoche taco. The fried fish taco was crunchy and flaky and awesome. I thought I loved huitlacoche, also known as “corn smut,” a fungus that grows on corn. But I had only had it as a kind of seasoning in corn tacos, not big, generous mouthfuls. I found it kind of off-putting.

I also had squash blossom quesedillas, which are one of my favorite things, and a corn on the cob with mayo and Cotija cheese, known as “elote,” which just means corn in Spanish. It was a nice dinner and relatively inexpensive for SOBE.

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Miami Thursday: Part 1 Sunrise over the Sea

I woke up at 4am this morning and lazed around researching restaurants and activities online until it got close to sunrise. Having grown up at the beach, beaches don’t impress me as much as most people. But watching the sunrise over water, when I usually see the sunset, was still exciting.

On the beach I met a man from Turkey and another from Bejing and we took turns taking pictures of each other. It was nice to hang out with people.

So I am not an influencer and I don’t force my boyfriend to spend hours taking pictures of me from behind doing yoga poses in beautiful locations. So here is one to make it up to you.

I stopped at a little stand called La Sandwicherie and got the most amazing ham and brie sandwich on crisp baguette plus an egg, tomato and mozzarella sandwich for later. It is apparently a chain, but I was told they were all owned by French people. And French people take their baguettes very seriously.

The Sandwich stand was across the street from Anthony Bourdain’s favorite dive bar in Miami.

So, when I arrive at a new place I have two questions:

Can you jaywalk? YES! Traffic lights here are only a vague suggestion. You can recognize tourists by their willingness to wait for a light. Locals are practically suicidal, playing frogger with traffic.

Do you smile at strangers? Yes! You say hello, how are you doing…I made best friends with my cab driver and the guy at the sandwich shop.

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Welcome to Miami!!!

“Is Miami America? Is it a state? Is it the South? … I love Miami for the same reason I love the places I love most around the world… it’s the mix here, this big, messy, dysfunctional hell-broth of people from all over the world that make it so awesome and make it a place I want to keep coming back to. Also the food’s good.” – Anthony Bourdain

I had a bit of a cough the night before flying out to Miami, so I took a Covid test (negative) and tossed my cough syrup into my carry-on. I realized that it was a little more than the three ounces allowed onboard, and I didn’t want to scare seatmates by coughing, so I took a big swig before going through security. It’s pretty gnarly stuff, so I was super wasted on my flight. I shamelessly ate a whole submarine sandwich like Dawn Davenport in Female Troubles and tried to watch Three Thousand Years of Longing, which honestly felt like it was three thousand years long. Can I just say, Beats headphones are awesome??? Bob lent me a light pair for the plane, and I am never giving them back.

I arrived at the Marlin Hotel around 5pm and immediately went to sleep. I woke up around 8pm and ordered takeout from the hotel restaurant, Osteria del Teatro. I had the most amazing porcini pappardelle. I didn’t take pictures because it was just pasta in a takeout container, and I was sleepy, and whatever.

The Marlin Hotel is a cool, art deco boutique hotel with a really comfortable bed. It was quiet in spite of being just off of a major thoroughfare. When people talk outside of your room it sounds like they are right there in your room with you, but it has only happened twice. The other visitors here are international. In fact. SOBE, (or South Beach, for you clueless mortals), is a pretty international place. South-South Beach is the douche-y red rope neighborhood, and North Beach is super rich. Around 13th street you will find the sweet spot, the West Hollywood of Miami. In other words, the gay neighborhood, which is always my favorite place to stay. The streets are cleaner and safer, the restaurants are better, people are friendlier, and if you are looking for a sex shop or dungeon, you can often find one…not that I am. Or EVER have. EVER…

The room is really nice and has a very comfortable bed.

The towels were even Art Deco.

There was never anyone on the tiny elevator, and there was one time I really needed to get to my room to use the facilities. Like now. The elevator door closed right in my face. I slapped the elevator door with the palm of my hand and cried out, “Why are you leaving me???? Don’t leave me!!!!” The door opened up and there was a gentleman standing there. On the ride up, I said, “I’m so sorry. I thought I was having an overly dramatic moment with an inanimate object, not a human person.” After a beat, I softly sang a line from Dreamgirls to the elevator, “And I am telling you, there ain’t NOOO way, please do-o-o-n’t go…” He totally got the joke and laughed. Which is another reason to stay in the gay neighborhood—jokes about musical theater land.

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By the Baltic Sea: Sweden Really has its Shit Together

I had no idea how beautiful Sweden was. I expected the countryside would be beautiful, but we were staying in the city. The buildings in Stockholm are GORGEOUS. Buildings that are hundreds of years old are sprinkled amongst the newer, more modern structures, mainly because Sweden escaped the bombing that destroyed many of the older buildings in the rest of Europe. In the old town, Gamla Stan, there are buildings that date back to the 1200s.There are also buildings influenced by everything from 14th century German architecture to art deco.

Stockholm is a collection of fourteen islands, so there is water everywhere, making it even more picturesque. Unfortunately, for the most part, the water is too cold for swimming. I had thought, from my google map, that the places I wanted for visit were really far from each other, but nothing was more than a 15-minute Uber ride or streetcar ride away, even with traffic due to construction.

On the long drive from Liepaja to the Riga airport, we listened to Swedish tutorials, but we really only retained “Thank you,” which is “tak.” People seemed to appreciate it when we said, “tak,” but they may have been smiling at our pronunciation. In spite of Swedish being a Germanic language, I found it very difficult to pronounce, with many of the phonemes further back in the mouth than in English. After a few hours of repeating after the tutorial in the car, my mouth hurt. Speaking Italian made me feel melodramatic. Speaking Swedish made me feel drunk.

We were only in Stockholm for four days and we were in the business center or tourist spots, so I don’t think I got a good grasp on the culture. My two standard questions about a new place are really based on international visitors more than locals. For crossing the street, it seemed like New York City rules. Pedestrians often crossed the street in a big herd, so whichever thing was bigger, the vehicle or the crowd, had right-of-way. A lot of taxis also took Uber fares, and they seemed very impatient with any pedestrians when they were making right turns.

As for whether or not to smile at people, it was all over the place. I tested out smiling, nodding, a single blink, all to various levels of success. Sometimes people smiled back at me. Maybe they were westerners? A single nod seemed to be the safest bet, but you could also just ignore people you passed in the hotel or on the street. People were all weird in the hotel elevators and mostly pretended to be invisible, but they stood with their back to whichever wall they were near, facing the center of the elevator, not all facing the doors like in America. The only chatty strangers were English people.

Everything is super clean, including the sidewalks and streets. There are three kinds of public transportation, and they never take more than 15 minutes to arrive. It’s very quiet, and I immediately discovered from the stares I received, that I am too loud for the city, and I needed to speak in hushed tones. With free health care, education, and long maternity leaves, it’s a paragon of democratic socialism. People in America complain that they must have to pay too many taxes for all of that, but in reality, the average American pays just as many or more taxes. Sweden really has its shit together. Now, if they could only do something about the winters.

The people all seemed content, if not happy, and Bob’s mom observed, “They aren’t constantly afraid of being invaded,” which was kind of more of a commentary on Latvia.

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Baltic: Cili Pizza in Leipaja

A block away from my hotel was Cili Pica (pizza). Although the hotel included breakfast and we often ate lunch when sightseeing, Bob would head back to his mom’s apartment in the evenings, and I was often wandering around looking for dinner. Cili Pizza was a locals spot, with no one speaking Engliah, and they were irritated with me on my first visit because there was something going on with my credit card. I think it was because it didn’t have the tap function, which we are making sure we have before our next trip. After seeing my genuine curiosity, and either my goofiness or charm, the servers took to me and brought me Coke Zeros while I waited for my to-go orders, which took a really long time. Everyone in Europe is aghast at my consumption of Diet Coke. The long waits gave me ample time to trip out on their childrens’ menus.

They also had interesting giant bugs as part of the interior design.

Their pizza was really good, but too big for just me, so I tried some other menu items, like burgers, and a trippy Baltic dish of deep-fried rye bread with a cheese-mayonnaise garlic sauce (In Lithianian it is called Ķiploku grauzdiņi). It’s translated as garlic bread, so expect a surprise if you order that.

I went once to this shop and had amazing kebab, but it was kind of a long walk.

Most of the time I just window shopped while waiting for my food.

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By the Baltic Sea: Latvian Comfort Food

We went out to eat at a Lithuanian/Latvian place with Bridin’s cousin Aija. The restaurant was named Cepelini, which is also the name of their humongous dumplings. There is some crossover between Baltic cuisines, with a lot of influence from Russia. Also referred to as zeppelins, for obvious reasons, these are traditional Lithuanian potato-meat dumplings. Grated potatoes are formed into giant footballs and stuffed with a variety of fillings, then boiled. Ours were filled with finely chopped bacon and topped with sour cream and additional bits of bacon. Bridin had no idea they would be that large and ordered one for each of us.

Since we didn’t know the zeppelins could be an entire meal, we had ordered even more food, including Kotletes, a classic Latvian dish. Most countries have something similar, from doner to meatballs to meatloaf. The fried minced meat patties usually contain chopped onions, garlic, and other seasonings, plus egg as a binder.

This is karbonade, a thinly pounded pork cutlet that probably is a wiener schnitzel brought by the German invaders, although it is heavily battered rather than given a light crumb coating.

Latvians love dessert soups, and we ordered a variety of light custards in fruit sauces,

This little guy decorated the yard.


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By The Baltic Sea: That’s Sure a Big Organ!

There was a concert at Liepāja Holy Trinity Cathedral, home to the seventh largest organ in the world. At the time of its creation in 1779, it was the number one largest organ in the world until till 1912 when a bigger instrument was built in Michael’s Church in Hamburg. But, the title of the biggest manual organ in the world still belongs to the organ of Liepāja Holy Trinity Cathedral. The church itself, of the late baroque age, was built in 1758.

Although it is Evangelical Lutheran, the church was very similar to a Catholic church. It was beautiful, gold and gilded, and I enjoyed taking pictures, although they don’t do the place justice. You have to take it all in at once.

There was a gentleman who accompanied the organ for certain songs. I can’t remember any of them offhand because it was such an emotional experience for me. The music was beautiful, and the organ filled the space and reached deep inside you. The hardness of the pew and the ornate surroundings reminded me of my upbringing in the Catholic church, and by extention my mother. Almost exactly two years after her death, the grief was still hitting me hard.

After the concert, I snuck up to the choir loft to check out the organ, and there was a very festive atmosphere after such a successful performance.

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By the Baltic: Liepaja Market

Bob’s mom treated me to a massage, which was awesome, although the massage therapist kept talking about Elon Musk. Maybe I am lucky that not everyone speaks English. Afterwards we went to a little bakery. I was disappointed that there were no fresh baguettes that day. The woman behind the counter said, “You get a day off work, don’t you? So, the baker gets a day off too!”

We walked across the street to the open-air market. The chanterelles were unbelievable! And so cheap! I would eat them with cream every single day if I lived there.

There were ready-made snacks as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

There was a closed flea market building. I couldn’t resist peeking in the window and saw these strange items for sale.

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By the Baltic: Liepaja Seashore

Bob’s Mom lives in old Soviet Block housing. It’s a bit dreary on the outside, but inside it is safe and cozy. The best part is that it is right across the street from woods and the beach. There is a stream on the other side with swans.

We went to a restaurant in the mall next to the housing called Olive.

It was kind of international fusion. I ordered Thai noodles that were a bit sweet. Bob ordered a seafood salad that came in a big Parmesan tuille.

A nice walk through a safe-feeling copse of trees put us right on the beach in under 10 minutes. The water is very warm. We did not go to the Nudistu Pludmale.

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