I traveled to Latvia for a work trip with Travelport and decided to extend and spend the weekend in Riga to see the city and an old friend. I left on Halloween (had a kitchen pass from Brendan) and arrived the next day, Thursday, November 1 on a DEN-ORD-BRU-RIX 2 stopover itinerary on United and Air Baltic for the final leg. I easily grabbed a taxi for about 30 Euros at RIX and arrived at my luxurious home for the next 4 nights – the Grand Kempinski Riga hotel. I promptly took a nap, and then by the time I woke up it was time for dinner with some work colleagues at a restaurant near the square with the Laima clock meeting point, across from a popup Christmas market. It was only a few minutes walk from the hotel. It was a very pleasant evening and we enjoyed the walk over to Livu Square. The food was delicious (I ordered a caprese salad and a vegetarian stew – I was delighted to find more than a few vegetarian options in this part of the world, which was a difference from when I used to live in Prague). The highlight was….
We woke up at 8AM for a day of Skyline Drive, starting with Brendan meeting Susan at 830 to feed the donkeys, cows, sheep, dogs, cats, and chickens. I prepared coffee and the French toast that was dropped off the previous day while he was out (by prepared, I of course mean “stuck in the oven”, since it was all already done for us). Today’s breakfast turned out even better than the day before – we really enjoyed the homemade organic lamb sausage, the apples, and of course the French toast with fresh butter from the farm. We especially loved the fact that these hearty breakfasts were enough to fuel us for the entire day. As this was our final day on the property, we again took our time in the morning with breakfast, finishing our puzzle, and savoring the last views of the sunlight dancing on the river. Susan was more than kind, offering a check-out literally whenever we wanted since she didn’t have more guests until the weekend, but we got out by 1130AM so that we could take Skyline Drive back to civilization at our own pace. We took our basket back up to the main house….
In the morning, we slept as long as we wanted (10AM) since we could cook our breakfast any time and take it easy until we were ready to go to Luray Caverns. This was really a wonderful thing. Not only were we not under any rush or timeline, but we could eat in stages, starting with some delicious organic coffee. We then started preparing breakfast which consisted of oat bran muffins (as easy as dumping the dry ingredients with oil and an egg in to a mixing bowl, mixing, and distributing in to the muffin tin nearby), elderberry jam, blackberries, bacon, grape juice (which was surprisingly delicious) and eggs from the farm. It turned out great, except for overcooking the bacon slightly to burn off the fat. After breakfast we set out for Luray Caverns, the highest rated caverns in the Shenandoah’s. It took us an hour to get there and the scenery was splendid. Moreover, being a Tuesday, there was very little traffic and no crowds at the caverns (and very few children). The entry fee was steep ($28/per person), but we were also paying for natural air conditioning for 2 hours which helped ease the pain. Luray Caverns….
The next morning, Labor Day Monday, the plan was to check out wineries, since we learned about Veritas Vineyards from some people in the glass-making class. Given our challenges with mornings, we asked Wendy in advance to wrap up our breakfast since the only time that was offered was 8AM. We ambled down around 10AM and ate our delicious breakfast sandwiches and blueberries at our leisure. We decided to take it easy and spend our Labor Day enjoying the fruits of other peoples’ labor. What better way than to take in some wineries? We painlessly checked out and made our way for Veritas Vineyards in Afton, but got sidetracked on the way by Bold Rock cidery where we stopped for an interlude. Brendan had some of this cider the night before and really enjoyed it, and randomly, here it was again! It was universe telling us to drink cider, clearly. We enjoyed the Disneyland-esque approach up a long windy, tree-lined walkway, greeted at the top by an exuberant and friendly blind man who welcomed us loudly to the cidery. We were primed with magic. We ordered a cider sampler from the bar and found a spot in the large, multi-roomed….
We had an awesome night’s sleep after only 5 hours for the previous 2 nights, and both being sick – so it felt good to get some rest before our big Monticello day. We started the day with a breakfast of waffles, bacon, and fruit – very tasty. We met some nice couples also staying at the B&B from North Carolina and Hampton, VA, respectively. The older couple was from Durham, and the lady worked at Duke University, although the typical bifurcation between the community and the school was evident after I told her I graduated from there (she preferred UNC!). The guests were very pleasant, but it was clear this God-fearing inn attracted a certain type of clientele, the kind two atheists can only tolerate in small doses. That said, even Brendan admitted that it was not so invasive that it was bothersome. Our first full day we decided to set out to Charlottesville to experience Monticello, UVA, and…some glass craft magic (more later). After some debate, we made Monticello our first stop – only to learn that the house tours were being scheduled two hours out. This put a bit of a wrench in our plans, as it….