Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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!

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