Editorial staff go cruising for bruising

  • 2001-04-19
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Latvia is fast becoming a country with more and more Western style services, as any visitor here would testify. The latest fad is to rent a limousine for a few hours and cruise around while sipping complementary champagne.

So we here at the newspaper figured that it is up to us to sample this delight and report for our readers if the rumors about what can and cannot be done in a limo are true. So, after a few quick phone calls, a limo was booked for two hours.

The huge white Lincoln was waiting for us, its engine purring like a self-satisfied cat, outside a swish hotel on the edge of Riga's Old Town. The sight of it recalled images of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick – the great white whale.

Inside, the champagne was chilling under the mirrored ceiling, surrounded by a mint green lining and disco lights. The seats, in gray and black leather, were very comfortable, but the room was not really that spacious so we had to watch our heads when moving around.

Our driver Boris said he'd been driving limousines in Latvia for eight years. He assured us that he is probably the most experienced limo driver in the Baltics.

As the lengthy vehicle pulled out and plowed into the traffic, reactions were immediate. Drivers honked their horns enthusiastically, waved and smiled. One of the more intriguing features is the possibility to stare out of the limousine while no one can look in.

Before long, we rendezvoused with the beach in the coastal town of Jurmala just outside of Riga. The horizon of the Baltic Sea is actually even more romantic than usual on a rainy day when toasted with champagne, while thoughts drift to the limousine driver patiently awaiting one's return for more luxury cruising.

Summed up, it could have been a short trip with long memories of a well-spent afternoon in Latvia - until it was time to pay. Suddenly, what we assumed was a previously agreed price of 15 lats ($24) per hour was tossed out of the window like a finished cigarette.

Some time between departure and arrival, it turned into 50 lats per hour, despite the fact that a quick double-check with Boris before take off confirmed the price as 15 lats. But what probably happened was a language-barrier mix-up between the words 15 and 50.

Luckily, after a brief tussle with the company director, the contracted price was paid and everyone was happy again.

If you have any thoughts or doubts about renting a limousine for an hour or two, make sure the price is checked beforehand, double-checked and then triple-checked, just to be on the safe side. It shouldn't be a sin to have a little feel of Beverly Hills in Riga, even if it's only for 60 minutes.

The travel company Talga offers both white and black Lincolns for 50 lats ($79) and 40 lats per hour, respectively. But the price will be lower per hour after the first and, of course, a cooling bottle of champagne is included in the price tag. Talga can be reached by telephone at (371) 722-2802. After the small dispute over the price for our limo ride, the company we used refused to give their name. But these limos should, we were told, really be rented for a 50-lat charge per hour, and that price won't decline by the hour the longer the car is rented. Still, the champagne is included and it's possible to watch TV - if you're not too busy having fun. Mobile (371) 925-8999.

However, if you prefer to ride on the cheap side, you can choose the old, white limo usually parked in the Old Town directly opposite the Pepsi Forums nightclub. The price for that is 10 lats per hour. Mobile (371) 652-8887.