There was no snow in Ventspils, only pale blue skies, fresh paint in the Old Town and a white-sand beach strewn with shiny round pebbles and grey Baltic waves. Down by the port, we took pictures of cows and had lunch in the castle. "Well, how was that?" asked the waitress, bringing out carrot cake and a second plate of garlic bread.
We trawled around the town: a bracing stroll along the beach, a go on the swings at an open-air museum and a hop over the turnstiles at a football stadium where Newcastle didn't actually play, then stopped off in a log-cabin pub for a couple of pints of Uzavas, Ventspils's local brew. Three hours and one desperately needed toilet break later we were back in freezing Riga, hands in pockets, faces buried in our scarves.