I can hardly believe it, but another year is about to come to a close. And what a year it’s been! I spent the first half reconnecting with friends and family in the U.S. before pulling up stakes again and moving to yet another continent in June. All told, I visited eight states, five countries and four UNESCO sites in 2014.
Without further ado, here are my favorite experiences of the past year:
1. Moving to Riga, Latvia
Obviously this one’s hard to beat. We moved to Riga at the end of June and enjoyed three blissful summer months getting to know our new home before the rapid onset of winter. I’ve been so busy exploring Riga that I haven’t had a chance to write much about it yet. I plan to rectify that in the coming year, with posts about my favorite restaurants, cafes, shops, museums, parks and more!
2. Exploring Latvia
After a short time in Riga I was extremely excited to explore further afield in Latvia, a country I knew precious little about before the move. In the six months we’ve lived here, we’ve visited the coastal city of Liepaja, the mountain hamlet of Sigulda, a country palace that would make the Hapsburgs proud, and a resort town on the Gulf of Riga. But there is plenty more of Latvia for me to discover, with Jelgava, Kuldiga, Ventspils, and Cesis on the short list for 2015.
3. Visiting Tallinn, Estonia – TWICE!
I made my first visit to Tallinn in August, and loved it so much that I took my mother back for Christmas. I have a new goal of enjoying the beautiful old city during all four seasons. Two down, two to go!
4. Wandering Through Prague’s Terraced Gardens
As if a trip to Prague isn’t special enough, we spent half our time there traipsing about magnificent gardens spread along Castle Hill. We were able to enjoy sweeping views of the city’s red rooftops, with hardly a soul in sight.
5. Visiting Niagara Falls
Despite growing up in Virginia and living in New York for five years, I somehow never made it to Niagara Falls. That changed in June with a road trip up and down the U.S. East Coast. We made visiting the Falls a priority, and it was definitely worth the wait! The sight of all that water rushing over the cliff, and the sound of it reverberating through the gorge, is awe-inspiring. I want to write about the experience, but quite frankly, I can’t find the words.
6. Dinner at Komi
I’ve eaten a lot of memorable meals around the world, but the best unequivocally was this past year at KOMI, a Greek restaurant in Washington, DC. There is no menu; rather, the chefs prepare a multi-course tasting to delight your palate. We enjoyed a total of 16 courses, each more exciting than the last. What began with an unassuming sunchoke chip topped with aged cream and trout roe ended in the mad marriage of white chocolate and vichyssoise olives. Other thoroughly-delicious-but-sometimes-challenging ingredients included foie gras, sea urchin, goat, tripe, and duck hearts. My favorite dish was a pudding of candied olive oil, sea salt and dark chocolate. My mouth waters at the memory of it, nearly a year later!
7. Spending a Day in Helsinki
During my second visit to Tallinn, I took the ferry over to Helsinki and spent a day exploring the lovely city. Since it was December, the sun set at 3pm and I was barely able to scratch the surface of Finnish culture in that short amount of time. A weekend trip will be a must for next summer!
8. Eating All the Barbecue in Texas
Another adventure I have yet to write about is a June weekend in Dallas, Texas. We toured the set of the eponymous television show, cheered on cowboys at a rodeo, saw where President Kennedy was shot, tried on Stetson hats, and ate tacos and barbecue. It was an amazing weekend that was overshadowed by our little overseas move, but I hope to share more about it – if only to go through my photos of the delicious food!
9. Exploring Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
With a week in Prague, we had enough time to take a day trip to explore a little more of the Czech Republic. We opted for Kutna Hora, site of the famous Sedlec Ossuary, or Church of Bones. But we discovered that the medieval town has much more to offer, such as a UNESCO-listed cathedral and a miniature version of the Charles Bridge. A post about this special place is forthcoming!
10. Tiptoeing Through the Tulips at Longwood Gardens
Often there are treasures in our own backyards waiting to be discovered. While I was home in the States, a friend and I drove to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania to enjoy the springtime flower display. And it was magnificent!
11. Festivals Galore
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about Latvia is joining the country’s many cultural celebrations. From Riga’s birthday and Latvia’s Independence Day to the annual Festival of Lights and Winter Solstice, it seems there’s a party for every month! I am very much looking forward to New Year’s Eve fireworks by the Daugava River and the Summer Solstice jubilee in June.
12. Having a Charming Time in Amish Country
Buggies, and bonnets and bucolic scenery, oh my! Driving through Ohio’s Amish country is always a delight, and a must whenever I’m in the area.
13. Eating Buffalo Wings in Buffalo
On the way to Niagara Falls, we stopped in Buffalo, NY and ate our body weight in wings at Anchor Bar, where the classic dish was invented. “Epic” is one way to describe it. Another is “filling.”
14. Sitting Front Row at Riga Fashion Week
I watched three shows by Latvian and Lithuanian designers while sipping champagne and ogling the local equivalent of the Kardashians. Four months in country and already front row at Fashion Week – what will 2015 bring!?
15. Getting Chased by Elmo in Times Square
What are your favorite moments of 2014? Do you have any special plans for the coming year?