Aug. 20th, 2015

Day 6, Thurs. 20 Aug

The manager of our apartment had told us, if we had to empty our rubbish, we could do so by taking it down to the basement. Having cleared the room, I tried doing this today, but couldn't find the waste bins, so ended up returning it to the room.

Shingo, Stina and his parents arrived a bit late (they'd said 10am and we were beginning to worry), but we set off in convoy; Aya came with us, as she had phone comms with Shingo's car. The journey south took us to Parnu, where we stopped for lunch. The others went to restaurant, but Junko & I still had food, so we ate sandwiches by a little marina, which was probably more pleasant than sitting cooped up in a restaurant.

Back on the road and we soon crossed the border into Latvia. Almost from the border onwards, the road was being heavily rebuilt. While it's very gratifying to think the Latvian government is working hard to improve their roads, one does wonder whether the timing is all it could be, and did they have to have quite so many long sections governed by traffic lights? And so long? It was quite a common sight to see drivers get out of their cars and light up while waiting for the green light.

Although the rural areas are quite attractive, they don't appear to display the prosperity of Estonia. Then, when we hit Riga, the contrast was even more stark. The buildings look shabbier, dirtier and it doesn't have the light airy feel of Tallinn. By mistake, we drive into the old town, and that's nowhere near as attractive as Tallinn. It may be architecturally significant, but they've not managed to clean it up and make it look as nice.

Nor is the traffic as disciplined. Even though I was following Shingo fairly closely, cars and buses pushed their way in and we became separated. We knew the name of the hotel and roughly where it was, but drove straight past it. We then tried looping back through the old town, but gave that up rapidly. Back out on the main road, we tried circling round the old town to our starting point, but then ended up on the wrong side of the river trying to find a route back. It was over an hour when we finally met Shingo and his parents at the hotel. Perhaps it was because it was rush hour, but Riga's traffic is definitely not for the timid driver.

Having dropped Aya off, we went in search of our hotel, a little way out of the main city to the NE. The first obstacle was that, according to the signs, we should have joined the circulatory system that had swallowed us an hour earlier. Fortunately, the traffic had abated somewhat and I risked the ire of the local boys in blue by ignoring the "Right turn only" sign and swung left. Fortunately, the world didn't crash about our ears and, with only a few minor sharp words, we homed in on our hotel. Not a particularly up-market part of town, but we do have a locked car park at the back and the room is clean and adequate. We also have breakfast included. The location is near a busy road, but we can close the window without cooking, so we ought to have a decent night.



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