Denmark Adventures: Day 4

Day Four

Our first full day of sightseeing sans Timothy. We decided to head off to the Statens Museum for Kunst – the main art gallery in Copenhagen. John and I were both excited to see the special Matisse exhibit, and arrived at 10:00 sharp, anxious to see some art. Did I mention this gallery has free entry? Sign us up!

It was suspiciously quiet as we approached the grounds and, sure enough, the gallery was closed on Mondays.

After a quick photo-op…

…we headed off to the King’s Garden across the street. There were art exhibits scattered throughout the lawn so we let poor Abby (tired of being cooped up in her stroller) down to play. So we played peek-a-boo with one outdoor installation.

Rosenborg Castle is located within the King’s Garden, and houses the Crown Jewels. We opted not to pay the entrance fee to enter the castle, but did admire it from outside, and strolled through the adjacent gardens.

A few minutes walk further, and we were smack-dab in the middle of Copenhagen’s Botanical Gardens. While they were lovely, I’ll admit jet-lag was starting to weigh heavy, so I was anxious for any opportunity to stop walking or sit down. Abby, on the other hand, thought only of stretching her wee legs, and was thrilled with all the green space to explore.

John took a moment to pose with this statue…a pretty good likeness…twins perhaps?!

The main hothouse in the botanical garden – a frequently photographed landmark in Copenhagen.

We went inside, but poor Abby had enough sightseeing for the morning. John climbed to the top for a better vantage, while I found the nearest bench and parked myself with Abby.

After lunch at Tim’s and a well-deserved nap for everyone, we headed off for a stroll downtown. There was no specific destination in mind – we just walked. It was a beautiful afternoon – one of the warmest our whole trip.

Here is a good perspective of the quantity of bikes we encountered. Like this many at every turn. Bikes are ubiquitous. This is the bikes outside one portion of one train station.

Navy barracks – there are row upon row of these buildings, which look quite stunning.

Another stop by Nyhavn – such beautiful colours.

Magasin – a Harrod’s-like upscale department store. This was actually one of the first buildings we saw upon arriving in Copenhagen.

One final stop for the evening, along the man-made lakes just a minute from Tim’s door. This is a beautiful location, and we walked/biked around portions of these lakes many times.

Denmark Adventures: Days 1&2; Denmark Adventures Day 3

Denmark Adventures: Day 3

Day Three

Our second morning in Copenhagen started at dawn – the sun was up early, and despite dark curtains, Abby noticed and decided to start the day in boisterous fashion. I was less enthused, since her bed was a mere meter from my head. So I told her to lay back down and go to sleep. And then, more specifically, to close her eyes. So for half an hour all I heard from her side of the room was “Close eyes, eyes close”…over and over and over again. Cute, but made it impossible to sleep.

After a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, Abby promptly (at 9:30 local time) walked into the bedroom, sidled up to her bed, and announced “nap.” It didn’t take much convincing on my end, and we both slept for almost 3 hours.

One of those “dead-to-the-world” naps. Generally a light sleeper, we were able to move around the room talking at full volume, and not a peep from our little sleeping beauty.

The impromptu nap impeded our ability to accomplish much before church (at 1:00), so we lazed around Tim’s apartment, biking to church in beautiful sunlight. Abby wooed the congregation behind us during the opening, and then went to the nursery for the service. When we picked her up she looked equally serious (perhaps better translated as scared) and grown up (sitting in a chair with a cup of juice, which she had of course crushed to smithereens). While Tim took a highchair back to his apartment, John and I headed out to Assistens Kirkegård – a famous cemetery near Tim’s church. Built to hold the overflow of lower-class citizens, it became more increasingly vogue to have your final resting place in this spot, and famous “residents” include author Hans Christian Anderson, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and physicist Niels Bohr.

On our way to meet Tim we snapped this picture of a city bike. These are accessible across the city, and allow tourists (locals of course all have their own bikes) to hop on and hop off while touring the area. Each bike comes equipped with a map on the front handlebars (pinpointing the main tourist spots). A deposit of 20 kroner unlocks the bike, which you get back upon return.

Another bicycle-related shot;  this gives perspective on how wide the bike lanes are within the city – in some places, wider than vehicle lanes.

By the time we were able to rendezvous with Tim, it was close to 4:00. We walked down the Strøget again, pushing our bikes to avoid crowds:

Fountain in a central square on the Strøget

The Round Tower (lots more pictures to come; we visited this later in our stay)

And of course Abby loved being along for the ride.

Our destination was Christiania – or freetown – an alternative community on the fringes of downtown Copenhagen. Originally a military zone, squatters took over the land about thirty years ago. Although drugs are sold openly on the premises, we never felt concerned for our safety, and it is one of the top tourist destinations in Copenhagen today.

The “Green Light District” – the only spot pictures are prohibited.

Lots, and lots, and lots of graffiti…

This red rectangle with three yellow circles is the logo for Christiania.

This colourful house was the home of a community artist (originally from Boston but has lived in Christiania for 20 years). On our return trip we actually purchased one of his paintings.

The sunshine in this last photo doesn’t do justice to what was to follow – torrential rain, right after we had finished a picnic lunch on the banks of a lake within Christiania. It was time to head back to the apartment to finish supper (we had company coming over), and there really wasn’t any suitable place to take cover. So we ventured out into the downpour…and were soaked within seconds. The rain came down in sheets, and I had to pull off to the side of the road once because I just couldn’t see. Within ten minutes the rain calmed down to a drizzle, but it was too late. We were all wet and miserable, and Abby was very vocal in her disapproval of the situation. Neither her mood, nor my own, was improved when a car drove by and added insult to injury by completely drenching us once again.

A hot shower later, we were all in a better state of mind. And after feeding and sending Abby to bed, we enjoyed a relaxing supper (with some amazing beef bourguignon plus fixings, and homemade chocolate mousse all prepared by Tim). His friend Johanne joined us for the meal, and was a spectacular proponent for Copenhagen telling us all the “must-see” gems of the city. She also taught us about the concept hygge – a Danish cultural ideal of quality time spent with friends/loved ones, generally involving wine, candlelight, and good food. For the rest of our visit we joked each time we lit candles for supper (how very European) that we were establishing some hygge! A fantastic ending to a soggy day.

When we headed to bed, Abby was awake standing up in her pack-and-play. “Daddy, daddy. Up, up, please, please. Poop. Done.” Her first “sentence.” And whatcha know, she was done. After a quick diaper change it was off to bed.

Denmark Adventures: Days 1&2

Denmark Adventures: Days 1&2

For obvious reasons – well, obvious once you learn we took over 3,000 pictures on our vacation – I’ve decided to break these posts into installments, tackling several days at a time. Depending on how energetic I feel, I might come back and revisit a few specific themes (Danish culture, bikes, traveling avec enfant), but for now I’ll just focus on recapping our various adventures. Feel free to give this the “National Geographic” treatment – you know, stopping only to look at pictures and captions, completely ignoring the text (of course that’s not how read the NG **cough, cough**).

Day One

Thursday was a relaxing day and a bit anticlimactic really. Since our flight left at 10:00 p.m., we spent the day engaged in “normal” activities, almost forgetting we were about to board a plane for Denmark. Our good friends the Stotts chauffeured us to the airport so we didn’t have to worry about parking our car, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. We checked in easily saying a thank-you for the “family” line in security (I am willing and ready to exploit every perk of being a parent, see comments below re. free food). Once through security we took Abby to the play area for a while – she looked adorable in her little yellow PJ’s – and was completely oblivious as to why she was awake so long after bedtime!ImageImage

We were able to pre-board about 30 minutes before the flight, and Abby was thrilled. She kept saying “plane, plane, plane” over and over…and over again. We were originally assigned a seatmate, but they kindly moved so we could have the extra seat. I moved over to the window with Abby and she was enamored with all the airport activity.Image

She fell asleep on take-off, and slept until I woke her up with my relentless fidgeting (plane seats are soooo uncomfortable when holding a toddler). She cried for a few minutes, but then settled back in Daddy’s arms for most of the rest of the flight. The other kids on the flight were excellent too, but neither John nor I got any sleep. On the plus side, we were awake to devour Abby’s free meal – pizza, a chocolate bar, pretzels, and juice (see exploitation comment above)!

We arrived in Iceland about 5:00 local time; after going through security a second time (to meet EU regulations) we put her into one of the awesome buggies they provide.Image

Abby loved her wheels. We ate some snacks, wandered around the airport, and got Abby changed into some fresh clothes. We were able to board early yet again, and left for Copenhagen (København if we’re being nationally correct) about 7:45 local time. Abby fell asleep on take-off and was marvelous. Again, we devoured her free “meal” of Icelandic yogurt (a high protein, low-fat yogurt called Skyr) and a banana while she slept. We touched down and gathered our luggage without incident. All arrivals at the Copenhagen airport filter into the same central location – it was crowded and devoid of a familiar face when we arrived. Of course I worried there had been some miscommunication, but after a few minutes sweet relief – a glimpse of Tim’s face through the crowd! We were all exhausted (John and I were both running on about 1 hour of sleep; Abby had about 4), but after a quick metro and bus ride (quick because we didn’t have to figure out Copenhagen’s public transit system – Tim did everything for us), we arrived at our temporary home.

Tim has a fabulous apartment and Abby fit right in, walking from room to room, gathering each and every shoe from the entry way and dragging them around the place. She refused to nap, so after a quick lunch and a bit of unpacking, we headed off for our first glimpse of the city.Image

The graveyard a few minutes walk from Tim’s apartment. We used this “shortcut” almost every day. Cemetery’s are popular spots for the locals, and we routinely saw people picnicking or lounging among the tombstones.

We walked quite a distance seeing Nyhavn canal, the opera house, various art museums, and the Strøget (the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe) before taking the train home. Abby was exhausted, and fell asleep for a good chunk of the walk; poor thing wouldn’t lean back in her stroller, and despite our best efforts remained in this awkward position for quite some time.

After a shower and delicious supper we put Abby to bed. She woke once in the middle of the night, but I laid beside her bed and sang until she settled down (meaning when I finished a song I no longer heard “again, again”) – aside from that, we didn’t hear a peep until 8:00 the next morning.

Day Two

After waking,  we headed off at a leisurely pace to the supermarket a few streets over from Tim’s. It was interesting to note the cost of different things in comparison to home: wine, milk and cheese are remarkably cheap (although as the fat content in milk increases, so does the price – the result of a “fat” tax), diapers are comparable, and ice-cream is outrageously expensive from a North American perspective. On our way home we stopped at a local bakery (a stone’s throw from Tim’s apartment), and bought some fresh-from-the-over-pumpkin bread and danishes (which were, not surprisingly, amazing). Abby approved of her first Copenhagen breakfast:

After a nap for Abby, we headed off on bikes – an activity which wasn’t without incident. How to put this diplomatically: John and I are not tall, Danes are not short, and bike seats are put at very un-North American heights. In the end neither John nor I felt comfortable taking Abby, so Tim did the honours. I’m sure locals shared a few chuckles watching us maneuver around – likely suspecting we’d never ridden a bike before.

First stop was the cruise ship port close to Tim’s.

Another interesting observation – random exercise gear set up along the boardwalk (including a board of instructions) for anyone who suddenly felt like working out on their walk home.

Next up was a stop at the Kastellet military barracks (where there were preparations for a big charity walk the following day). We made sure to stay out of some wedding pictures being taken nearby, and let Abby walk around the ramparts…

…and took some pictures of the windmill and cannons (you can see the bride and groom in the background, along with all the white tents in preparation for the walk).

A quick bike ride and we were at the famous Gefion Fountain; according to legend, a Swedish king promised a peasant woman that she would be granted all the land she could plow in a 24-hour period. She turned her four sons into oxen, and the resulting land mass was removed from Sweden and thrown into the sea, creating Zealand – the island on which Copenhagen is located. Interestingly enough, the largest lake in Sweden resembles Zealand in size and shape.

A few more minutes of biking and we arrived at the The Little Mermaid statue – one of the more famous landmarks in Denmark. Very underwhelming (about 4 ft) considering all tours consist of a stop of the place. It is a monument to commemorate the work of one of the most famous of Danes – Hans Christian Anderson and his story of The Little Mermaid (which I had never heard before arriving in Denmark and is pretty heartbreaking).  It was commissioned by the founder of the Carlsberg brewery, and has seen some rough days – the statue’s head has been removed various times, she has been blasted into the water with explosives, and a bikini has been painted on her just to name a few of the acts of vandalism.

We biked past a sand sculpture exhibit, viewed the opera house yet again, and then ended up at Amalienborg Royal Palace – where Danish royalty overwinter. Dating back to the 1700’s, the “apartments” are quite beautiful (although small and understated compared to other palaces we would see).

This picture – aside from highlighting the palace proximity to the Marble Church – also shows one of the many styles of bike we encountered in Copenhagen. This is a “Christiana-style” bike, used to carry everything from kids, to adults, to dogs, to groceries around the city!

The palace is situated just a few hundred meters from the Marble Church (or Frederik’s Church). It was beautiful, and we spent a few minutes walking inside.Tim was actually lucky enough to see a production of Handel’s Messiah here last December. Count me jealous!

Or final stop was a stroll through the Parliament-Christianborg Palace-Royal Gardens complex.

Poor Abby was getting so tired, and fell asleep on the way home. She was (uncharacteristically) dead to the world. Feel free to ignore the gratuitous pictures of my adorable sleeping baby. John thinks I take too many pictures like this but really, does it get any cuter than this?

We even managed to take her out of the seat without her falling asleep.

And thus ended our first full day in Copenhagen. Stay tuned for more recaps…