Monday, October 27, 2014

The Trogir Diaries:Day 2 - Monday 15th September 2014


Waking up to our first full day in Trogir, it's the simple things which bring the most joy.  The sight of the mountains from our hotel room window.  The idea that you can eat breakfast on the hotel terrace in September, when doing the same thing at home would probably involve thermals.  Blue skies and beautiful sunshine, without unbearable heat.  Life is good.

The Riva is Trogir's promenade, lining one side of the island all the way from the Kamerlengo Fortress at one side, to the busy Ciovo bridge at the other end.  In-between there's a long line of restaurants, (some pictured above) and many of which we will experience for lunch and dinner before the week's out.

One major must-do tip if you're going to Trogir: wear some very comfy, cushioned footwear as on almost every street you are presented with the Croatian equivalent of the 'Paris-Roubaix'!!


Today's mission is to investigate day trips and excursions available from Trogir.  We'd researched this in advance and one particular one jumped out: a full-day excursion to the famous town of Mostar in Bosnia.  With it being September though, there was less variety of excursions available due to the drop in tourist numbers.  However there is still a decent selection - Krka Waterfalls/Plitvice lakes for nature lovers, and numerous canoeing/kayaking opportunities for the more adventurous, and lots of different island-hopping options. 

Luckily, Mostar was still on the agenda.  It's a good job we checked it out today, as the trip leaves tomorrow!  Happily booked for our Bosnian adventure, it's time to check out some more views of Trogir from Ciovo and the bridge.



I mentioned the main square last night, where we rounded off the evening.  Here's what it looks like during the day. 


Time for a little Eurovision reference now: Trogir is the town where the video for Klapa s Mora's "Mizerija" was filmed.  Some scenes were filmed in the main square.  Later on in the week I would even sit on the same wall where Klapa s Mora sat :)  #starstruck

There are some little delights to be found down the little maze of streets in this town.  This is one of them: a much-photographed gem.


We've had a lovely relaxing day exploring Trogir.  The canal at the back of the island maybe doesn't get the same love as the Riva, but it has a nice park and lots of little boats on the canal.


It also boasts a very impressive footbridge which takes you over to the very busy main road which you cross to get to the Tommy supermarket.  Where we buy soft drinks and bottled water.  Rock on!


We have a very early rise - as in middle-of-the-night - for our trip to Mostar tomorrow.  So it's early dinner and early night tonight, but still time to fit in some Croatian white wine...


Early to bed - Mostar tomorrow!  Just one more thing - I can finally get a mobile phone network.  What a relief!

The Trogir Diaries: Day 1 - Sunday 14th September 2014

...or to borrow from Bill Bryson, should that be "notes from a small island"?

Croatia has been one of my unfulfilled holiday ambitions in recent years, and the opportunity arose this year to finally fulfil that dream.  Dubrovnik was the first destination I targeted, but with spiralling costs it looked as if it wasn't possible to get there without risking bankruptcy.  £700 for a week's bed and breakfast, and having to commute every day from the Lapad peninsula into a packed old town?  I think not.  Next on the agenda was Pula and its surrounding areas, but again the accommodation situation didn't really meet our needs. 

With the introduction of direct flights between Glasgow and Split, I began to check out the alternative destinations in and around that area of Croatia.  Do you ever see a picture of a place and immediately fall in love?  That's the way I felt about Trogir when I saw it for the first time.  Love at first sight.  Small, compact, historic, quaint and beautiful.  But would it be enough to hold our interest for a week? 

Then the city of Split came onto the radar, but Trogir just wouldn't go away.  And on revisiting the idea, Trogir became the ideal candidate for a holiday after 6 traumatic months in which life, work and health have all presented massive challenges.  Time to slow down the pace, relax and recharge....and the decision was made. After one of our best ever holidays I can honestly say that it was the right decision.

Our flight took just under three hours, and the descent is one of the most breathtaking and beautiful that I can remember, providing an unforgettable welcome to Croatia.  (Sadly I don't have any pictures of this).  You fly over the Dalmatian coastline and the numerous islands, and finally flying directly over tiny Trogir itself, before landing at Split Airport which is actually closer to Trogir - only a 10 minute journey, which is a very nice difference to all those holidays we've had when the transfer time is nearly as long as the flight itself.  Split Airport is like one of those very small, provincial but effective airports which you come across on European jaunts, and the process of passport control and collecting luggage is probably one of the quickest we've ever experiences. 

Croatia had a hellish summer, weather-wise.  One of my friends at work recently took a cruise calling at various Adriatic ports - with a thunder and lightning storm in every one.  But today, the sun was shining, and the weather just perfect; mid-20s temperatures.  It may be Sunday but we learn very quickly that it's anything but quiet....


Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring like you mean it....

Trogir is very small but seems to have a disproportionate amount of ancient churches with big belltowers attached.  Like the 16th century belltower at St Lawrence's Cathedral (pictured above).  Bells ring out here not just on the hour, but at random intervals throughout the hour: six weeks on from arriving in Trogir I'm probably still hearing bells even if they're not ringing.  Anyway we are staying in a hotel at the rear side of the island, facing a park and the canal behind it.  I'll write more about the canal in a later post. 

I had wondered if, nearing the end of the tourist season, Trogir would have many tourists. I had never even heard of the place until a few months ago.  As it turned out, there were still a lot of tourists there - predominantly German or French-speaking, or from the Nordic area.  We hardly heard any British voices during our stay there.  I also wondered if there were many tourists in the town from other parts of Croatia or indeed the former Yugoslavia. 

Trogir is a town.  Or is it an island?  Well, it's both.  It's a town on an island, connected on one side by a bridge to another island (the much larger Ciovo) and on the other side, a bridge to the 'mainland'.  The appearance of the town is medieval and unspoilt, and the whole town is pedestrianized apart from the road which runs the full length of the back of the island, from the Ciovo bridge onwards.

Once you cross that road, you find yourself in a green space with this view. 


This was the beloved, serene Adriatic which I always imagined.  And now we are here, and it's amazing how very quickly we find the peace which we needed.  How could you ever tire of that view? 

Despite its size, Trogir is a town-planning triumph, with every inch of space packed with little shops and numerous restaurants.  I had done some pre-holiday research on Trip Advisor so was prepared for what the restaurants had to offer.  There's the traditional seafood-based Croatian cuisine, but fans of pizza and pasta will find much to enjoy here.  There is also one particular speciality named Ćevapi which is a type of kebab meat which is big in the Balkans.  So when faithful travelling companion's in the Balkans....


In other news, there is a minor cloud over the proceedings, as since arriving in Croatia, my brand new all-singing-all-dancing phone hasn't been able to connect to a network and enable me to keep in touch with home.  Technology - hmph!

This aside, it is a great feeling to finally be here, away from it all....and beginning our research into Croatian beer.  We are sitting in a little café-bar on the main square, which I would imagine is the main place to be on Fridays and Saturdays, but as befits Sunday it's a lot quieter tonight.  Still a few people around though.


Ah, a beer with a matching glass.  It's just like being in Flanders, eh??  Cheers!  Or should I say, Živjeli!

Hello again: time for a catch-up

Back in blogland again after a few weeks' break.  I thought it was about time that I finally published my Trogir diaries so these will appear on here over the next week or so.  Tonight I'm going to publish the first two days of what was a fantastic week in this little Croatian town. 

As usual I am very busy, and very tired, and don't always have the time or energy to blog.  I haven't even followed Swedish Idol this year - what's wrong with me?? - but one thing which is always a regular feature on this blog is my year-end chart which I've already started preparatory work on.  Bit of a challenge as I haven't really made much effort to seek out new music for most of this year, but I have about 35 songs so far so I'm on my way. 

I guess I've probably had PED (post-Eurovision depression) this year in addition to all the other crap stuff going on in my life.  But happily, Eurovision season 2015 is under way already, with the good news that despite Albania's lack of success at ESC over the past couple of years, they aren't quitting the contest after all so it looks as if Festivali i Këngës no. 53 in December will be choosing the country's representative once more.  Serbia and Bosnia are back - the latter rumoured to be represented by Hari Mata Hari again - and crikey, even Luxembourg's considering a comeback some time!  Turkey and Eurovision are never never getting back together: they stomped off in a strop and created Türkvizyon which many Eurofans hated but I really enjoyed and hope to watch it this year if time (and internet stream) allows. 

Of special interest to those who follow the United Kingdom's entries, is the news that the BBC has put an open selection out there and is accepting song submissions up to 7th November.  Given the increasing xenophobia and Euro-scepticism by certain politicians in this country, not to mention their increasingly xenophobic and Euro-sceptic followers, can you really ever see the UK winning ESC, ever again?  The EBU obviously had this in mind so to keep Royaume-Uni on side, we have been awarded the 60th anniversary special, to be held at the Royal Albert Hall and presented by Graham Norton and Petra Mede. (How many times do I have to say it - you should have chosen Glasgow!  The Hydro/SECC/Clyde Auditorium complex is a Eurovision venue just waiting to happen). 

Ireland's also going for an open selection but sadly not using "The Hit" format which I thought would have been a great idea. 


It won't be long until we find out the songs and performers competing in Melodifestivalen 2015.  The biggest news there so far is the return of Måns Zelmerlöw to the competition.  2014's Melfest winner (and faithful travelling companion's new fave) Sanna Nielsen will be back next year but this time as co-presenter with comedian and TV host Robin Paulsson.  Let's face it, they can't be any worse than this year's twosome who were probably the worst Melfest presenters I can remember in all my years of watching the contest! 


Over the bridge to Denmark now where the DMGP has a new logo (pictured above).  As usual in Denmark there's none of your heats and semi-final faffing about (watch and learn, several other ESC countries!!), it's just straight to the final, quality over quantity, and always a fabulous show regardless of whether or not you like the songs.  The DMGP final falls on 7th February, the same night as the 1st Melfest heat but I'm choosing Denmark this time round, particularly as I missed the DMGP final this year due to a spectacularly incompetent judgement call :(

I haven't heard any of the songs in the Swiss free-for-all so far, but another Sebalter-style surprise would be very nice.  Lots of rumours flying around about the Netherlands' representative next year.  They will have a lot to live up to after the success of Anouk and the Common Linnets over the past couple of years; another quality artist and song will boost their chances again and we could be looking at a possible Dutch ESC winner in the next couple of years.

Norway is also on a high, thanks to Carl Espen's success, and NRK has received a very high number of entries.  No dates or format info for MGP as yet, but I'd imagine they'd run with the same one as this year.  Jenny and Erik are great hosts so I'd love to see them back at MGP.  Talking of Norway, their most recent winner Alexander Rybak will be auditioning and writing for artists at the Belarus final which will be another national selection.

Finally, we learned last month that the slogan for the 2015 contest will be "Building Bridges".  Hopefully this will not be too literally interpreted, as I have visions of construction work going on behind the artists as they sing....!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: August-September 2014


Even if you have been living on Mars you will probably not have escaped the recent Scottish independence referendum, which provided the perfect opportunity to fill the schedules with speculation, debates, polls and documentaries.  The centrepiece of the campaign was the 3 live TV debates, the first two between First Minister Alex Salmond and Better Together's Alistair Darling.  My own view was that these heated, shouty debates would have done nothing to convince any 'don't knows' to choose a side, nor would they have convinced anyone to switch sides.  The 3rd debate, screened on STV, was perhaps the best of the three debates: it rested Salmond and Darling in favour of a multi-party political subs' bench and a wider range of views.  However I am in no doubt that the mainstream media in this country chose to focus on negativity, gave us limited information and ignored a number of relevant arguments during the campaign, which (in my view) contributed to the No victory.

Debates aside, what did a cross-section of the Scottish public think? BBC1 Scotland gave us "MIBBES AYE, MIBBES NAW" with a mixture of determined yes/no voters and a few undecided trying to be convinced/converted by their friends and colleagues. 

This month's TV review is as much about what I haven't watched, as what I have.  For I remain queen of the backlog.  I haven't seen the last series of Wallander, I'm still working my way through the most recent series of Grey's Anatomy, and I now have the latest Nordic import to add to the to-watch list. "CRIMES OF PASSION" (BBC4) which stars ex-Wallander sidekick Ola Rapace, well that's been Sky Plussed and am ever hopeful that I'll catch up with it before 2014 is out....

Due to my pre-holiday preparations I even managed to run up a backlog of "CZAS HONORU" (STV Glasgow).  So we're now into series 2 and what do we know?  Major Czeslaw was killed in the operation to spring Wladek from jail/hospital whilst Bronek must be very confused indeed as there's a new actress playing Wanda!


You won't often find me watching/enjoying an ITV drama, but I am partial to these biography dramas from time to time.  The BBC has previously broadcast dramas about Morecambe and Wise and also Kenny Everett, so ITV has obviously realised that there is some mileage in this game.  Earlier this year ITV broadcast an excellent play "Not like That, Like This" with a terrific performance by David Threlfall in the role of Tommy Cooper, and the latest subject for a 'lorra lorra' dramatisation is Cilla Black.  Sheridan Smith is excellent in the lead role of "CILLA" in the three-part series which ends tomorrow night.  It's not complex or mindblowing by any means, and often boring in parts, but sometimes you just need to sit back and switch off for a while. 


I guess the same could be said for all the cooking/baking shows polluting the TV schedules.  So if you've got a cake to bake and got no clue at all, just sit back and watch the experts.  I always enjoy a mix of cooking show and travelogue, and caught up with a couple of them lately - "JAMES MARTIN'S UNITED CAKES OF AMERICA" (Good Food) saw the celebrity chef touring the bakeries of the U.S. east coast and checking out all the treats which they had to offer.


Meanwhile Gino D'Acampo's back with "GINO'S ITALIAN ESCAPE" (ITV) - what's not to like about an Italian chef, an Italian travelogue and Italian food?


The telly's full of cooking shows - visual comfort food, if you like.  And reigning comfort food champion is without doubt "THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF" (BBC1).  With the move from BBC2 to BBC1 came an added dose of sensationalism (hello Bin-gate) and an increase in complaints about presenters Mel and Sue's allegedly "smutty" innuendos.  Which I happen to enjoy :)


Oh and one more thing - I've just discovered "FAT - THE FIGHT OF MY LIFE" (Pick TV).  Can  Jessie Pavelka come round and sort out my obesity crisis please?? 


Talent shows.  Let's face it, telly is bursting at the seams with wannabe singers.  If it's not the X Factor - run for cover!! - or The Voice (which was OK for 5 minutes and then I've never seen a talent show go so stale, so quicly) then back in August, Channel 4 decided to put a new spin on it with "THE SINGER TAKES IT ALL" which was a cross between everything which has gone before, sprinkled with Alan Carr and copious mentions of apps.  Oh how very 2014 of you Channel 4! We lasted one episode, which was one episode too many.  Simon Cowell was probably rubbing his hands with glee as here, finally, was something which made X Factor look decent.  Yes it was that bad. 

The dark evenings are here, and of course this signals the TV channels to bring out their big guns.  X Factor.  Strictly Come Dancing.  Downton Abbey.....where are all the new ideas?  Autumn telly's like groundhog day, isn't it? 


"STRICTLY COME DANCING" (BBC1) has had its traditional weekend double-whammy launch, kicking off this tedious, tiresome ratings battle with Cowell's never-ending tabloid filler.

Of course there is no Brucie this year, as he's finally decided to hang up his keep-dancing shoes (he will return for Christmas specials etc though) and now Claudia Winkleman has been upgraded to Tess Daly's full-time presentation sidekick. 

There have been some significant changes to the professionals line-up: out go Artem Chigvintsev (now on the U.S. Dancing with the Stars), James Jordan (axed, while his wife Ola remains), and Anya Garnis (demoted to the choreography team) - welcome to the new arrivals Tristan MacManus and Joanne Clifton (sister of Kevin-from-Grimsby) whilst Trent Whiddon has joined the show as a late replacement for Robin Windsor who had to quit due to injury. 

Although I still enjoy the show, it must be said that after all these years - we are now in series 12 - its best days are behind it.  The judging panel - now just a parody of themselves - are clearly only going through the motions, whilst on this opening weekend some of the professionals looked as if they'd rather be elsewhere.  And then you can always rely on Dave Arch-and-his-fabulous-singers to mess up the hits of the day.  But regardless of all this, I'll "keeeeep watching!"


I distinctly remember back in the early days of "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) reading somewhere that there were only going to be two series made, and then it would end.  Great idea.  Leave them wanting more.  But this is not Denmark, and Downton has become an international TV juggernaut.  After an unspeakably dull 4th series, the soapy drama of toffs and servants is now into series 5 and you wonder where it will all end.  Another stale long-running dead horse being relentlessly flogged by ITV. 

My next TV review will be in November - in the meantime I'm going to catch up with all my Nordic subtitled dramas :))

Monday, September 22, 2014

Swedish Idol 2014: the finalists


I was so caught up in pre-holiday preparation, followed by a fantastic holiday (diary to follow shortly!) and completely forgot that the latest series of Swedish Idol is on the way.  The elimination process is over, and the final 12 finalists are now known.  I haven't seen or heard any of their performances yet so don't know anything about this year's contestant but I'm sure we will become very familiar with them over the coming weeks.

The finalists:

Fanny De Aguiar, Lisa Ajax, Mollie Lindén, Niklas Musco, Petter Hedström, Philip Spångberg, Rolf Öhlén, Twyla Lidén, Charlie Diar, Matilda Gratte, Josefine Myrberg, Ludvig Turner.

Who will succeed Kevin Walker in the 10th edition of the contest? Answers to follow!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Break time!

Right then, all blog posts have been posted and now I'm taking my traditional summer break time away from the internet, to take a rest, catch up with some neglected jobs at home and to prepare for our forthcoming holiday to Croatia. 

Enjoy the rest of the summer everyone and have fun!

The Copenhagen Diaries: Days 4 and 5 - Thursday 22nd May 2014/Friday 23rd May 2014

Day 4: Thursday 22nd May 2014

Another day in paradise....it's still hot, bright and sunny, and I'm still struggling to cope with the heat in a hotel room with no air conditioning!  After a day in Sweden, today was all about Danish things and needless to say that includes a Danish pastry...well, actually, it's not really a Danish pastry of course, it's a 'Wienerbrod' but that aside, if you're on Strøget and looking for a Danish pastry then there is only one place to go - Lagkagehuset.  (You'll probably recognise this picture from my Twitter feed)



Lagkagehuset is basically Danish pastry heaven.  You may end up hanging around for about 10 or 15 minutes trying to make your mind up about which one of about 30 or so pastries to have - and that's not even taking the fabulous fruit tarts into account!

After a stroll around it's time for lunch.  Things took a bizarre turn as we ended up at a city centre restaurant which claims to serve the legendary 'open faced sandwiches' with a bizarre twist: there was no bread in faithful travelling companion's open faced sandwich.  This is a long story and I won't bore you with the details, but anyway several weeks later, we discovered that this was not an isolated incident in that particular restaurant. 

Today we slowed down the pace in the hot hot heat, and after the trauma of lunch we came across a Moroccan tea house for some much needed calm....and mint tea.


Following this relaxing break, we strolled round to the Christiansborg area - well, I had to take a quick peek at 'Borgen'.  We also encountered a military band parade. It was probably the hottest day yet, and we were flagging in the heat.  We eventually headed back to our hotel via some more of Copenhagen's fine central shopping streets.

Tonight was our last night in Copenhagen, and there is only one thing on the agenda: Tivoli.

Tivoli is one of Copenhagen's must-see attractions and of course we were not going home without a visit there.  None other than Mr Scooba-dooba-dap-dap-di-di-die himself, Basim, was playing a mini-gig in Tivoli tonight, but he was on stage just a bit too early tonight to fit into our schedule, therefore I had to give him a miss.  After dinner tonight - which is another long story, again I won't bore you with the details - we eventually entered the hallowed gates of Tivoli.  To call Tivoli an 'amusement park' is an understatement.  It's a beautiful, fabulous, scenic attraction which appeals to all ages and tastes.  If you live in Copenhagen, season passes are reasonably priced and it would be a great place to hang out for an evening and go for dinner, drinks or snacks at the many restaurants and bars in the park.  Here are some of the sights of Tivoli.





I would recommend that if you're visiting Tivoli, go in the evening, watch night fall and the park turn into an illuminated gem.  Every part of the park is lit up, including the spectacular Nimb hotel:




Just before closing time, Tivoli stages a fabulous sound and light show on its lake, which is an absolute must-see, and the perfect way to end the last night of our holiday.  But the night was young, and there were still a few Danish beers to be had before bedtime.  It turned out to be a very late night, including a trip to a karaoke bar (as observers rather than participants!) but even in the wee small hours, Copenhagen remained a very safe place.  We've visited so many destinations over the years, but I can honestly say that Copenhagen feels like one of the safest cities I've ever visited.

Day 5: Friday 23rd May 2014

I'm not doing a separate entry for Friday, because this mainly involved travelling home.  But I just thought I'd officially introduce you to the three newest residents of EuropeCrazy HQ, who lined up for a photoshoot in our hotel before we headed to the airport! Meet Rasmus, Lars and Troels!


Above: Rasmus, Lars and Troels: bound for EuropeCrazy HQ. 

However there was still a little time this morning to revisit the city centre. Today, Rådhuspladsen hosted what looks like some kind of energy-efficient/environmental festival, which seems very appropriate for a city which chooses the bicycle over the car.  That's been my main memory of Copenhagen - the cycling culture, and my despair that this just can't be recreated at home.

So as I said on Twitter during my holiday, we were going to have a lot of sad to undo on our return home.  Copenhagen left its mark on us - and I don't just mean the unplanned sunburn!  It's a fabulous, welcoming city which everyone should visit if they can.  It's a scenic, laid-back destination which is perfect for a city break. We had a brilliant holiday and hope to return again someday.

The Copenhagen Diaries: Day 3 - Wednesday 21st May 2014

Today....a special guest appearance by Sweden's third biggest city and 2013 Eurovision host = Malmö.

But firstly, on our way to the station, I couldn't resist the opportunity to photograph Copenhagen's famous Radisson SAS hotel which of course made an appearance in the last series of "The Bridge":


Whenever we go on holiday we always try to have a day trip away from our destination and this one . Malmö is just a half hour's journey out of Copenhagen Central Station, and for fans of "The Bridge" like myself it was an iconic pilgrimage.  It has to be said though that the bridge looks a lot scarier on TV than it was to travel on: the actual travelling time on the bridge lasted only a couple of minutes (I timed it!).  But before we got there, one more Eurovision-related pilgrimage site, as the train stopped at the Malmö Arena station, which was very exciting for this Eurovision fan :)


The weather in Malmö was equally as hot as in Copenhagen.  There were some must-do things on the list: the first of which was (yet again) adding to my moose collection.  It took no time till that was quickly resolved in the tourist information shop:  the latest addition to my moose-family is called Lars and here is a picture of him chilling out later on, back at our hotel:


We also bought T-shirts in the adjoining souvenir shop and then headed over the river into the old town in search of lunch.  I didn't really know what to expect from Malmö, but it was architecturally prettier than I imagined.  And on the usual shallow note, faithful travelling companion most definitely approved of the city's female population.  (At this point I would have to be controversial and say that for me, I preferred Copenhagen's male hotties over those in Malmö!)

Beyond the imposing square named Stortorget, there is a lovely and quaint little square called Lilla Torg (part of it pictured below: note similar bike-obsession to Copenhagen!) with a variety of restaurants and dagens rätt options, so we had no problem finding lunch.


Another day, another boat trip in the scorching sunshine, this time on the city's canals which spanned both the large industrial and port area, and into the beautiful parkland.  And yes, there was even a sighting of Malmö's famous skyscraper, Turning Torso.



The boat trip ended in the late afternoon but there was no respite from the baking heat, so we sought some shade and retail therapy.  No trip to Sweden would be complete without a trip to a CD store: Folk and Rock has a good, if more alternative/specialised selection, but I have to wait till Åhléns. before buying the latest in the 'Absolute' series - Absolute Svenska Hits, a compilation which at that time had just been released. Check out the track listing at http://www.ginza.se/product/absolute-svenska-hits/445533/

Unfortunately we couldn't stay around in the city as we needed to get back to Copenhagen to get ready for our night out, in this instance a wallet-busting meal at another very nice restaurant.  And - it goes without saying - a late-night trip to Heidi's Bier Bar and its usual soundtrack of cheesy Europop and DMGP classics!

The Copenhagen Diaries: Day 1 - Monday 19th May 2014 / Day 2 - Tuesday 20th May 2014

It has been three months since our holiday in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.  You had probably given up on ever reading my trip report but finally here it is.  Enjoy!

day 1.....

Suitcase - check.  Travel documents - check.  Desperate need for hygge - check :)

To put this holiday into context, all I'll say is that it marked the end of a very difficult few months. And it turned out to be just the tonic we needed.  Never expected sunburn though!

Day 1 was all about the travelling.  The most significant thing on arriving at Copenhagen Airport = good weather.  I'd read all the weather reports in Eurovision week in despair, where the fans ended up doing a literal interpretation of "dancing in the rain" and I hoped for dry weather.  In the end, we got more than that - much, much more.

Of course I had done some pre-holiday research on how to get from the airport to the city, but the one thing you can be sure of is that I will have a meltdown at a ticket machine.  Which I did, yet again, and had to call on the services of a friendly young Pilou Asbaek-lookalike hanging around the DSB ticket area :)

If you are staying in central Copenhagen, which we were, then the most appropriate travel option is the 5A bus which leaves from right outside the airport.  The 5A takes you from Kastrup through the Amager area and our first sighting of Copenhagen's famous red buildings.  And on our first trip to Copenhagen, it's not long until we saw....

...people on bikes.  Not people on bikes a la Tour de France, or the 'look at me, I'm in lycra' brigade which you occasionally get over here - the people who dare to travel on our car-polluted roads, that is -  oh no.  Ordinary people, in ordinary clothing, just going about their business.  Yes there are cars on the road, but the concession to cyclists immediately overwhelms and delights me.  Wide cycle lanes, which we can only dream of.  I may already have found hygge, within about 5 to 10 mins of leaving the airport. 

Also, passing Tivoli on our way in, I spotted the 'Join Us' banners still hanging outside this famous tourist attraction.  The Eurovision circus may have moved on, but I'm making it my mission this week to see if there are any "leftovers" so that's the first one crossed off my list. 

My pre-holiday planning has delivered the goods and we make it to the hotel without any grief.  (Note to self: I really should have been some kind of travel agent.  I love travel planning and can't get enough of it).

After arriving at the hotel and checking in, it was time to go out for dinner and explore central Copenhagen.  We were immediately struck by the laid-back nature of this city.  The prices were expensive, yes, but even after just a couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere, it became very apparent that there is an incredible quality of life here, compared to back home.  Now I'm not saying there are no problems - when you're on holiday you only see one side of the story after all - but yet again I couldn't help but note the differences between home (where you're constantly on edge) and Copenhagen's city centre which might well be one of the safest places we've ever had the pleasure to visit.


After a  very nice dinner, we went in search of late-night hygge.  Which we found very quickly in the Tyrolean-themed Heidi's Bier Bar, a top hangout offering beer at 29kr before midnight and "Fest Hos Mange" amongst their 'apres-ski' playlist.  Hygge and Mange Makers - now there's two things you'd never expect to find in the one sentence.  But we're on holiday at last, and what a wonderful wonderful feeling!!

day 2...

On our agenda today: Strøget (the pedestrian bit); Nyhavn (the picturesque bit) and a canal boat trip. 


So it wasn't long till my first Eurovision moments: the Copenhagen Souvenir shops on Strøget were selling 2014 ESC t-shirts half price.  And then we came across a bakery selling 'Join Us' cakes (see above).


Strøget (pictured above) is a very, very long shopping street in the centre of Copenhagen.  There's international and Danish chain stores, small boutiques, clothes shops, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants.  Keep walking from one end of the street to the other and you will end up at Kongens Nytorv, the gateway to Nyhavn.  One minor problem with this square, and the town hall square, and I guess a few others in this city, is that they are not being shown off to their full potential at present.  Sorry for feeling a little bit selfish about this, but that's just a minor point.  It's going to look this way for a few years to come, because the city is undergoing a massive expansion of its metro system, hence the building-site feel.  We never used the metro system during our holiday so I can't comment on how effective it is, but I'm sure it provides a very good service, if the efficient and frequent service of Copenhagen's buses is anything to go by. 


The bright sunshine baked down on one of Copenhagen's most recognisable landmarks: Nyhavn.  A row of multi-coloured buildings, the smell and seafood and the constant flow of canal boats carrying tourists out on the canal tours.  The pictures looked good, but it is even more stunning in real life than we could ever have expected. A truly 'wow' moment.  And it was now time for lunch. 

Regular readers will know that eating out is one of our main holiday pleasures, but I expected Copenhagen to present a few more challenges to this almost-vegetarian.  I do eat chicken though, and eventually managed to find this amongst the seafood paradise of Nyhavn.  I thought I'd also try a Somersby pear cider!

 
Our lunch was soundtracked by an enjoyable laid-back band playing songs by the Beatles and other artists.  The combination of the boiling sunshine and the lack of shaded canopies resulted in some serious sunburn.  And that's with sun protection too!  That's how hot it was today.

Faithful travelling companion is always open to exploring local food options on holiday and he didn't hang about: lunchtime today was all about the famous smørrebrød, the open sandwich... the fish trio!


After lunch, we walked the very short distance to the canal boat station and began our boat trip around the city. 

For those of a conventional tourist persuasion, the highlight of sailing out into wider waters would being the much-anticipated viewing of one of Copenhagen's most famous tourist attractions = the Little Mermaid.  However, for this Eurovision addict, there was only one must-see attraction today:


...yes I mean Refshaleøen, a.k.a Eurovision Island!!  And as you can see, the Join Us sign was still up, two weeks after the contest.

Here are some more sights from our very enjoyable canal boat trip. 




We really enjoyed this canal boat trip, which covered a vast area of the city's waterways before returning to its original departure point in Nyhavn.

By this time it was mid-afternoon, and it was still very hot and sunny in this amazing city.  We headed back up Strøget, stopping off for a coffee at Baresso, which is Denmark's equivalent of Costa Coffee, with branches all over the city. 

On our way back, we discovered a shop called Fona, which reminded me of FNAC in France - one floor selling tellies and other electronic gadgetry, and another floor selling CDs and DVDs.  In these times of downloading, streaming and the like, the one thing I regret is the disappearance of record shops from the town and city centres of Europe.  Going into record shops abroad used to be one of the big highlight of our many foreign trips, and over the years this has uncovered various musical delights for both faithful travelling companion and myself. 

I bought the latest 'More Music' compilation which is like a Danish version of 'Now That's What I Call Music' with a mixture of Danish and international hits.  Rasmus Seebach's live DVD was on offer at a good bargain price.  As a recent convert to his music, I couldn't resist this purchase.

After some more sightseeing we headed back to our hotel before going out for our evening meal.  We began exploring more of the city centre and discovered Tivoli as night was falling...


...and bumped into Hans Christian Andersen...


...before arriving at Rådhuspladsen.


After dinner just a couple of streets away, we returned to Heidi's for some late night hygge and research into obscure Danish beer. Very pleasantly surprised to hear a few DMGP oldies on the playlist tonight! But we have an earlier night, as we're off to another country tomorrow!