About an hour’s drive from Riga city center, on a hill in the Lielupe river valley, sits a 19th-century gem. Those of us at WITS who opted for the manor estates excursion had no idea what was in store for us when the bus pulled up outside of the Mazmežotne Manor Hotel.

We fell in love with the hotel’s charming guest rooms with elegant baths, some with terraces overlooking the Latvian countryside.

Afterwards we were ushered into a dining hall to partake of a sumptuous buffet lunch. Along the way we noted that vaulted interior spaces were a remarkable blend of refined and rustic, past and present, combining wood and woven textiles, brick and ancient stones.

All these elements contribute to the success of Mazmežotne Manor Hotel as a sought-after venue for celebrations of all kinds, especially engagement parties, weddings, and anniversaries. But you don’t have to arrive for an event with a cast of thousands in tow. Just book ahead and spend the night in the countryside, where in the summer months, in addition to strolling and hiking and you can rent bikes and boats to more fully experience the nature surrounding you.

As if we hadn’t been delighted enough with Rundāle Palace and Mazmežotne, we moved on a short distance to Abgunstes muiža, self-described on its business card as “a place for your creativity and celebration of life.”

In a scenario reminiscent of summer camp, once inside we were randomly split into two groups for crafts sessions. My project? Decorating a canvas tote, the perfect activity for a handbag freak.

The manor yielded a host of surprises, from pleasant guest rooms filled with antiques to creative work spaces where past visitors had left behind their artwork. This photo shows an example of one project, creating dream catchers.

Speaking of arts and crafts, if you’re an artist looking to spend a bit of time overseas, consider this: the owners and operators of Abgunstes, Janis and Asnate (pictured here), offer free lodging to creative types. The simple requisite is donating a piece of art, created while in residence.

Or, maybe you’re looking for an unusual location for your upcoming destination wedding. Asnate and Janis will be delighted to take your reservation, as they have for hundreds of other happy couples.

At teatime one of the many cats in residence supervised our selection from a buffet groaning under the weight of scrumptious goodies. It was a tough job, showing our appreciation by tasting a bit of everything…but someone had to do it.

Mazmežotnes muiža (“manor”) Hotel: http://www.mazmezotne.lv/en

Abgunstes muižahttps: //www.facebook.com/radosumameka; www.abgunste.lv