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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Liepaja Museum Basement

Turn on your speakers for this post

The basement of the Liepaja Museum holds their antiquities–some of the earliest textiles, metal goods, instruments and pottery.

Ancient pipes

Ancient pipes?

These crowns were made for virgins.

Like this…remember her?

We were in a small room with open shelving displaying ancient jars. Only the three of us fit in the room.

Suddenly, I heard a jar smash, and my heart dropped. I turned to see which of us had had such a shocking accident, only to see this video. That was a terrible, if perhaps accidental, practical joke. But it still makes me laugh.

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The Baltic: Liepaja Museum Textiles

There was an exhibit of early 20th century clothing centered around train travel. I was clearly enamored with the hats.

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By the Baltic: Liepaja 19th Century Interior Museum: Mrs. Hoyer Guest House

The Liepaja Museum is located in a centuries’ old guesthouse with beautiful wooden walls and floors, fireplace and staircase.

There was a wide variety of displays

Some were creepier than others

And some so beautiful

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By the Baltic Sea: Wandering around Liepaja

After the Northern Forts, we went to a nice little lake.

There was a cafe and we had a snack before heading out.

I liked the old buildings and murals as we drove through town.

There is an area downtown with artworks depicting lines from the town’s anthem.

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By the Baltic Sea: Liepaj’s Northern Fortress

Liepāja has always been strategic for battles. It was once home to a navy base, and is the place that the first Latvian government retreated to when pushed out by foreign powers. At the end of the 19th century several cement fortresses were built by Tsarist Russia. At one time, the forts encircled the entire city of Liepaja. In 1919, as Latvia tried to establish an independent republic, the Germans tried to take Latvia by sea. Using the forts, the Latvian army held them off in spite of being heavily outnumbered.

Most of the Liepāja Forts were destroyed in the beginning of the 20th century. The Northern fortifications were blown up twice in attempts to demolish them, but the crumbling facades remain to this day.

The Northern Fort, Fortification battery No. 1., is built on the edge of the Baltic sea. It is open to the public. You can climb around on it, but it is forbidden to enter a structure because it could collapse at any time. It kind of reminds you of being a wayward teen exploring forbidden places, climbing on roofs and things, so it was fun and awesome for photography. Even young children were climbing on top of the forts with their parents.

 

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By the Baltic Sea: Our first day in Liepaja

One of the best things about European hotels is that breakfast is included. It is so nice to just wander down and have a relaxed meal, it saves money, and some people put on a lovely spread. The Art Hotel has its own bakery, so the bread was crusty and the croissants were light as air. They had the European breakfast sausages that remind me of hot dogs, English bacon, and a variety of egg dishes. Like most places they had cold cuts, meusli and yogurt. I wasn’t ready for smoked fish, but I loved the Swedish pancakes!

I explored the area. In the United States, you could tell a dangerous neighborhood by abandoned buildings and graffiti. here they had those things, but it was very safe.

There was also a mall across the square, which was very convenient for stocking the fridge, and a few restaurants behind the hotel and a really cool destination place across the street. The mall even had gelato!

And a very dour busker. (Yes, I did give him money to take his picture).

Since it was Saturday, there was a street market right in front of the hotel! I had a lot of fun wandering around with Bob’s mom.

I was quite taken with this leather hat with cute little horns. The salesman, whose dad makes them, said that local bikers wear them.

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By the Baltic Sea: Art Hotel Roma

The Art Hotel Roma was built in 1881 and has been a hotel since 1882. During WWI it was occupied by the Kaiser’s army. The entire structure is built around a large central square with a much-photographed fountain, and also consists of the hotel’s restaurant, Rosemary, plus a renowned bakery, breakfast room, retail shops and businesses.

This sculpture reminded me of medieval cats

I reserved the “Studio” for 90 Euros because it had a kitchenette with a refrigerator. It was HUGE! But you can get a room for as little as 60 E. Latvia is a very reasonable place to vacation.

The carpeting had a bit of a “Shining” vibe.

And was that a face in the chest of drawers?

Definitely

and faces on the knobs

and faces on the edging. So many little people.

There was art all over the place, in the room, in the halls…

Everyone thought the woman in this painting looked familiar. I finally decided she reminded me of the Mona Lisa.

We sat down for dinner at Rosemary, but the jet lag was hitting me hard and I just went upstairs and crashed. Reports were that the food was excellent.

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by the Baltic Sea: On the Road to Liepaj

It was a four hour drive to Liepaja, and I slept in the back seat for most of the trip. There is one main rest stop, and we took a break there on the way and on the way back. I tried a candyfloss ice cream, which no one over the age of nine could probably eat.

Of course, there were more unusual offerings…like the dreaded herring in a fur coat!

and aspic…

On the way back we ate in the restaurant. I tried the schnitzel, which had an unusual eggy coating.

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By the Baltic Sea: Lido and the Latvian National Gallery in Riga

Friday we went to Lido, a very reasonably-priced cafeteria frequented by locals. The helpings were ridiculous, I had thought America had a lock on giant portions. There were around six fish dishes, even more meat dishes, a giant wok filled with French fries that had stuck together like a fry king, and stuffed pancakes, which are basically blintzes.

Bob’s mom had an interesting catfish dish that was like a crab cake. Bob was very prudent with just a chicken shish, rice and veggies.

I once again proved that I am not responsible enough to navigate a buffet unmonitored. Luckily we all shared. My chanterelles and potatoes were more infused with rich mushroom flavor than anything I have ever eaten. 10/10 would recommend.

Then we meandered over to the National Museum. It was a beautiful building.

The featured display was on Auseklis Bauskenieks, an internationally recognized artist who pioneered Latvian landscape painting in the first part of the 20th century. The entire basement was filled with his haunting landscapes.

As we were walking back to the elevator, a painting in the storage area caught my eye. A provost stopped me as I paused for a snap, and I thought I was in trouble for taking pictures.

But she wanted to guide us to the third floor where more of that artists’ works were on display. Gederts Alias used intense yellows and oranges, which made his paintings instantly recognizable.

I also fell in love with Janis Tidemanis and the vibrant use of color contrasted with black that gave his works a spooky edginess.

Bob’s mom had described Latvian paintings as “kind of European, but not,” and it was very true. They seemed to combine the darkness of Munch with the delicate brushstrokes of Cezanne.

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Back to Desert Hot Springs – I Need a Miracle

I have been obsessing over wanting a jacuzzi, so I booked a weekend at Miracle Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert. The place itself is like a no-frills motel, but the grounds are gorgeous, with a swimming pool, two wading pools, three big Jacuzzis and two small 2 or 3-person Jacuzzis that are fed with natural mineral water. The best part is that they don’t close the pools at 10 pm like most places. They are open 24-hours, which is awesome if you are going to Coachella or barhopping. You can come back at 2 am and still have a nice soak. Plus, they have a spa with really good massage therapists.

Friday, on our way out of LA, we stopped at Agnes in Pasadena for lunch, my new favorite place. I figured, we were on vacation, so why rush? We had a leisurely lunch starting with their beet salad with oranges nestled in a flavorful hummus, and an interesting if not mind-blowing BLT made with fried green tomatoes,

We also split an awesome pasta. Beef cheeks with homemade pappardelle, which they called a “stroganoff.” It came with shaved Gouda, but that was just too weird for me, so I went without the cheese.

I had made a big mistake leaving at around 2 pm for Desert Hot Springs on a Friday. It took us over three hours to get there! We had wanted to go to Cuistot’s “happy hour” between 5 and 6 with less expensive dishes and appealing-sounding bento boxes, but we didn’t get into town until 5: 45! We decided we were tired and ate at Miracle Springs’ Italian/Steak restaurant called “Capri,” which was another big mistake. It was like the worst rubber-chicken-style wedding food ever. Bob was fine with his pasta. I looked around the room and everyone else seemed perfectly happy. I wished I could be as easily satisfied as other people are. It’s a burden being so damned picky. We had a nice soak and turned in early.

I was pleased with the upgrades to the rooms since our last visit. They had painted, but not replaced the ugly carpeting. It’s super clean, but a little run down, like some caulking was cracked, and there were bleach stains on the carpet. I was worried about our room being between the parking lot and the stairs, but it was really quiet and HUGE. The beds had white comforters instead of creepy brown flowery prints, so I was super happy.

They have cool copper elevators. But they need to take out the carpeting. The elevator smells worse and worse as the weekend progresses.

Saturday, we headed into Palm Springs and had a fantastic breakfast at Wilma and Frieda’s. It’s upstairs in a courtyard where Sonny Bono’s statue holds court and is comfortable and hip. There is a big bakery with tempting treats like house made pop tarts.

The shrimp and grits was no great shakes–the grits were too thick, but the short rib benedict—oh my God! It was heaven! They baked their own rusk, probably out of biscuit dough, the eggs were perfect and the hollandaise…wow…I could eat a bowl of it with a spoon! Their biscuits, which you could order as your bread option were HUGE,,,like kitten heads! I could only eat half of the breakfast, and we were too full to even have lunch.

We had lovely massages. My massage therapist and I spent the whole time talking about Snoop Dog and South Park. When I knew the old Twilight Zone episodes he mentioned, he said, “Wow, you’re cultured!”

I laughed, “Because I watch way too much TV?”

He said, “No, I mean…you’re…cool.” So yeah, I over tipped him.

We had a nice soak, then got dressed up for our fancy anniversary dinner at Cuistot. Unfortunately, they no longer have crab gratin or foie gras, but we have to change with the times. We started out with a lovely asparagus dish.

It seemed so expensive for a vegetable dish, but it was loaded with morels and served in a rich truffle-morel sauce. I was trying to have good table manners, but the waiter suggested I sop up the sauce with my bread. That’s called permission, and I went with it.

For mains, I ordered steak frites, a 6-ounce flat-iron steak, that was the least flat flat-iron I’ve ever seen. It was so ridiculously tender. Bob went with Medallions of pork that were also ridiculously tender, in an ingenious mustard and viognier tarragon sauce. Viognier is a full-bodied white wine from the south of France (yes, I looked it up).

For dessert we tried the peach cobbler and creme brulee. The cobbler was a bit sweet for me, which is saying something when the other dessert has a sugar crust on it. It is still my favorite restaurant and “our place” in the desert. They gave us a card for a free appetizer when we return. The food is always amazing, the service is unparalleled. Cuistot may be the best restaurant in all of Coachella Valley.

Our room had a DVD player in it, so we stopped at Red Box to rent a couple movies. But we were so full and relaxed we didn’t even make it through a single one before we crashed.

We woke up early Sunday and had a final soak, then went around the corner to The Cottage Too for breakfast. We had planned on hitting the much-recommended Delicias, but they weren’t open yet. The decor reflected a very classic local roadside spot, and the food was OK. My biscuits and gravy would have been fantastic if it wasn’t room temperature, and their potatoes were above average.

After checking out, we hit a couple of shops in downtown Palm Springs on the main drag. The Little Shop of Treasures had some cool chairs and china that I liked, but I already have too much of both. There was a cute 2-person glider for $50 that would have been awesome for the backyard, but we couldn’t fit it in the car. Bob isn’t big on shopping, so I didn’t spend hours in all the little antique shops near there, but I did want to shop at The Frippery. Such a cool name! They had clothes separated by decade and color, from the 1930s through the 90s in a variety of sizes. It’s weird to think of the 90s as being “vintage,” but it was 30 years ago! It would be weird to take pictures in a little boutique, but I did take this close-up of the fabric of a 60s mod dress I bought.

We knew it would be hard to eat lunch anywhere brunch-y since it was Mother’s day. I wanted to go to Taylor’s Burgers, but as has happened before, I forgot that they aren’t open on Sundays. So we headed over to the Roadfood-recommended Sherman’s Deli. Waiting near the bakery counter for our table was like exploring the Land of the Giants. The cream puffs were as big as layer cakes, and look at the size of this Black and White cookie!!!

When I ordered corned beef on rye, the waitress stated, “Our most popular corned beef sandwich is the Reuben.”

I demurred, “That’s OK.”

“But the sandwich you’re ordering is just meat and bread.”

“Well, I don’t like sauerkraut or Russian dressing…or really, even the cheese.”

She snapped, “Well, you could order it WITHOUT.

I decided it was in my best interest not to point out that getting it without would just make it the exact same sandwich that I was already ordering. But she was sweet as pie for the rest of the meal. As expected, the sandwich was exceptional. The rye bread is fresh, soft and mild, and the corned beef is flavorful and tender. We wisely split the sandwich between us. We impulsively ordered fries, and they were the hottest, crispest french fries I can remember eating. Ever.

I had seen the “San Jacinto” cake in the display case and I just HAD to have it! It was like a tuxedo cake, with chocolate cake and cheesecake, but added a layer of chocolate ganache. It was awesome! It was so big we had to pack up half of it, so we also ordered sugar-free carrot cake and strawberry cake slices to-go, you know, for when we got back home and started being good. It was an awesome weekend and an awesome meal and we did not have to stop to eat on the drive back.

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Oahu Sunday Photo Gallery: Bishop Museum Tikis

I had taken so many pictures of the amazing exhibits at the Bishop Museum, I decided to break it up into two posts.

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Oahu Sunday: Rainbow Inn, Diamond Head Market and Bishop Museum

Sunday was our last day on Oahu. We finally hit the Rainbow Drive In for breakfast. I ordered the Loco Moco and Oliver got pork chops and eggs. I ordered the macadamia nut pancakes that they are known for, but they were out of the topping and just gave me plain ole pancakes. It was good, but I have to say, Gardena Bowl is better. There was a huge line of locals, many of whom were in hotel uniforms, so I suspect a large part of its popularity lies in the fact that it opens so damn early.

We stopped in at Diamond Head Market and Grill to grab snacks for the plane. I wish I had gone there the very first day and loaded up. Everything would have been much easier and cheaper. They had fresh salads and meals to go, plus so many delicious-looking cakes and baked goods. Next time, I guess.

OT dropped me off at the Bishop Museum, as his friend had a bunch of stuff to do before taking us to the airport. Total bonus day, and one of my favorite places I visited in Honolulu.

“Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. The Museum was established to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian objects and royal family heirlooms of the Princess, and has expanded to include millions of objects, documents and photographs about Hawai‘i and other Pacific island cultures.”

There was a temporary photo exhibit of traditional tattoos. The tattoos and the photography were both gorgeous.

The Bishop Museum Café by Highway Inn offers a limited menu of Hawaiian plates, poke bowls, sandwiches, and snacks from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so I had a nice stew for lunch before continuing on,,,

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Oahu Saturday: Island Tour

Saturday morning I went and checked out the local farmer’s market at the community college. The most interesting thing was the machine splitting the sugar cane.

Then OT and his friend Mike, who OT came to visit, picked me up and we got a local’s tour of the island. Mike’s girlfriend recommended that we start at Kona’s Brewing Co. It was right on the Koko marina, and exactly the kind of place I would have taken one of my aunts. OT got a lovely ahi tuna salad (which one of my aunts totally would have ordered), Mike got a burger and I got some forgettable shrimp tacos. For some reason OT kept ordering beers for Mike and pressuring him to drink even though OT and I weren’t really drinking.

A bird wandered into the restaurant to hang out.

Next stop was the Halona Blowhole, where the ocean has worn away an area beneath the lava and drilled a hole right through to the top, so water crashes in and comes up out of the blowhole. (photo from Hawaii.com)

It wasn’t blowing when we were there, due to low tide or global warming. Some daring (aka stupid) people were posing for pics next to the blowhole. It was kind of foolhardy, because you just never know with the Pacific. The Hawaiians say, “Don’t turn your back on the sea.

There was a gorgeous inlet where people were swimming. This is the beach made famous by the iconic love scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, who shared their epic kiss and rolled around in the surf and sand in 1953’s ”From Here to Eternity.” Recent moviegoers may be more familiar with the site as “Whitecap Bay,” from the fourth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

This sign gave me pause.

As we started down the rocks, my legs were wobbly from two straight says of snorkeling. OT said, “Nope. We aren’t going down there.” I tried to insist. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket. But he said, “I’m not taking you to the hospital today.” So, if I insisted on hopping down the rocks and fell, I’d really spoil the fun and he would be telling me, “I told you so,” all the way to the ER. So we drove along the coast looking for a good swimming beach. Almost all of them were full of surfers.

We ended up at a cool little locals’ beach called Waimanolo.

We stopped at a strip mall and I hit the flagship location for Dave’s ice cream, which was opened by David Leong in 1982. There were so many flavors, it was hard to choose. A few of the more interesting ones were Azuki Bean, Caramel Macadamia, Haupia, Lychee sherbert, Poha Berry (Gooseberry), Kona Coffee, and Kulolo–a Hawaiian taro, coconut and brown sugar pudding. My go-to is and always will be mango.

The boys went into a bar, and when I joined them, I discovered that the only other patrons were a large party wearing leis, celebrating while a very old man sang karaoke. He was the only one who sang, song after song after song. In Hawaiian. We stayed there longer than we expected.

Our next stop was a famous lookout known as Pali. So much for the view…it started pouring down rain.

Pali is also the site of one of the most horrible battles fought on the islands. We have always heard Kamehameha was a hero who united the islands against foreign colonizing powers. What they don’t tell you is that those islands didn’t necessarily want to be unified. There was a lot of bloodshed involved. In 1795, Kamehameha assembled an army of 12,000 men. Then he invaded Oʻahu. It is known in the Hawaiian language as Kalelekaʻanae, which means “the leaping mullet,” and refers to a number of Oʻahu warriors driven off the cliff in the final phase of the battle.  The local forces were slowly driven towards to the cliffs at Nuʻuanu Pali. “Caught between the Hawaiian Army and a 1000-foot drop, over 700 Oʻahu warriors either jumped or were pushed over the edge of the Pali (cliff). In 1898 construction workers working on the Pali road discovered 800 skulls which were believed to be the remains of the warriors that fell to their deaths from the cliff above.”

We got lost for a long time on the way back, which I might not have known if we hadn’t driven past Pali 40 minutes after leaving it. The boys dropped me off and I wandered into the bar next to the hotel and drank a Lava Flow, which my friend had insisted upon before I left for this trip.

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