Way, way back a couple of years a go we spent a few weeks in Mexico, where we had the perfect beach holiday. Our days consisted of going down to the beach, ordering Coronas and sitting in the shallow waves drinking beer while the kids played in the water. We would then go home for midday naps, and in the afternoon, go back to the beach and order a couple more beers. We've had similar beach holidays in Oz, and for me, these are the ultimate holidays. Slightly sunburned, salty skin and bare feet and minimum effort or planning.
Latvian beaches, on the other hand, rarely present the opportunity for a holiday of this kind. Mostly this is weather related - having a SOLID week or more of amazing hot and sunny weather is a rarity. Although I have noticed since living here, that the last week of July and first week of August are pretty much always hot and sunny ... so this year, I got busy, threw caution to the wind, and I organized us a beach holiday right here in Eastern Europe.
And it was absolutely bloody beautiful.
We were lucky enough to have a close family fried with a house near the beach, which we rented - not as easy to find as it sounds. My resolutions for that week, which I achieved with style and panache were 1) to not get into the car at all (check!) 2) to eat icecream every day (double check!) and 3) to wear shoes as little as possible (check!).
The house we stayed in was a part of a "colony" of houses in a beachside forest near Rīga. This was established in the 1980s, when a large Latvian factory made a gift of blocks of land to all of their employees - 600 m2 blocks all next to one another. (That's right. Free land to all employees! Gotta say this perk is the best thing to ever come out of the oppressive regime that ruled here for 50 yrs) The location of your block was determined by lucky draw, and after that you were responsible for clearing the land and building a house yourself. This was not an easy task, considering the lack of materials and opportunity for people in the Soviet Union at that time. Nevertheless, a village of sorts was established, with all manner of 80s soviet silicone brick monstrosities being knocked together.
Today, the colony is still going strong, and abuzz in the summer months. Everyone has gardens bursting with berries and apples. The neighbours on one side always have their radio up too loud, and the Russian pensioner on the other side tends to spend her days wandering the fence line dressed in her flowery dressing gown. Supplies in the little corner store have been depleted by the middle of the week, and you spend most of wednesday morning wondering when the new shipment of ice-creams will arrive. When they do, you pad down to the beach along the sandy track, finishing the ice-cream before you get to the beach and wade straight out into the waves.
Although the water was not as crystal blue as Mexico, the beach is perfect for kids, because of its relatively calm waves, and heaps of rocks and shells on the shore, and even a stream flowing in to the sea, which could be dammed, and dug out, and re-dammed, and diverted. Exploring the streets of the colony also had a certain charm...
Because it was so close to Rīga, we had an endless stream of visitors while there. Friends coming up for a couple of days. Because it was already August, we could all see the end of school holidays in the distance, and there were countless toasts drunk to the last hot day of summer. Amazingly, those hot days just kept rolling on.
All good things come to an end though, and now it's already late September in Rīga. Our holiday seems like a distant dream, as the rain keeps coming down - the heating is already on again, and the closest thing to the beach is the massive puddle that is growing in our back yard.