Lucky to be invited to celebrate the first birthday of our Costa Rica co-conspirator, we headed to Rīgas Central Station and bought tickets to Jūrmala on Saturday. The Latvian word for seaside, Jūrmala incorporates the beach resort towns that stretch 20 miles along the Baltic Sea between Lielupe River, the Gulf of Latvia, and Ķemeri National Park to the west. Only 16 miles west of Rīga, it is a popular summer destination for the city-dwellers and contains many summer homes for those escaping the city heat. Famous for beautiful old Art Nouveau houses and beaches of fine, white sand and rather safe swimming conditions, specific areas of Jūrmala have century old reputations as spa destinations.
|The trip started here, in Rīga's Central Station|
We hopped off the train at the Lielupe station, which is the easternmost of the more than dozen small resorts together comprising Jūrmala. From the railway we headed north into a pine forest, with sandy paths crisscrossing the forest floor and emerging onto tranquil residential streets. The waves were audible almost from the moment the noise of the departing train had faded, and other than an occasional car or voice the woods were peaceful and quiet.
Although in more recent years large McMansion-type houses have sprung up throughout Jūrmala, the more modest family-style homes still remain, with scrupulously tended gardens and several generations of family coming together in the summers. We joined our friends to celebrate the first year of a beautiful little girl: plenty of good food, good friends and good times meant that the celebrating lasted throughout the day.
It was afternoon when we first headed to the sea. A short stroll through the pine forest that separates the beach from the houses and cars and then our shoes were off, the sand soft and cool underfoot. A strong wind meant the waves were choppier than usual, and the air was a little too cool for three little boys to spend too much time in the water. However they enjoyed their time in the sand and surf, and once lips began to turn blue we hurried back inland.
It was a beautiful day spent with friends, and as daylight started to fade we made the return trip to the beach to watch the sun set. There aren’t many things more romantic than a sunset over the Baltic Sea, and this is why I would add a trip to Jūrmala to every Rīga traveler’s itinerary. We waited until the last bit of sun dropped into the Baltic and then hurried back indoors, where we sang into the night to ward off the chill.