Copenhagen

After a long, cool and rainy spring, summer finally arrived, but it was late June before we had any heat at all, and even then, it was in the upper 90s for just 2 days. We still hadn’t forgotten all the long hot nights last summer without any A/C and so we were determined to be prepared and find ways to beat the heat this summer.

As much as we absolutely loved traveling to Italy last summer, we had been warned not to go South in August and we soon saw why (see Florence post).

This year, we splurged and bought a portable A/C unit for our apartment to use in our room during hot nights and it has been one of our best investments here in France. We have slept like babies most nights and though we have been met with some grumbling from the boys (their rooms ARE pretty hot at night), we have an “open floor”policy every night- anyone is invited to grab their fatboy beanbag and join the party in our room. A boy has taken us up on that offer on a night here and there.

When we were planning our August trip for this summer, we decided to head north instead- there are many beautiful countries that we’d love to visit during our 3 years here, but as time is flying by, we are realizing that we have to be selective about where we want to take the boys before we move back home.  Scandinavia has been one of the top areas we wanted to go.

As we usually do, we let Chuck plan our itinerary and surprise us with where we were headed. This year, he would be able to take 3 full weeks off, so this meant we’d be able to go to a few different cities and spend a good amount of time in each one. Copenhagen, Iceland and Scotland!

When thinking about Scandinavia, we had talked previously about maybe heading to Norway, or maybe waiting until Christmas one year to go to the North Pole in Finland which is actually where Santa’s workshop is located. I’ve always thought it would be incredible to see the Northern Lights!

But, Copenhagen in the summer is still one of our fondest memories and most favorite cities we ever visited when we were younger and we were dying to go back and take the boys.

And since we would be that far north, we HAD to go to Iceland. The summer months are the best time to go and it is so cheap to fly there,  so it just made sense that we would go this time. We found it cheaper to fly out of Geneva, a 3.5 hour drive from Clermont-Ferrand. And, though we would not be staying to visit, we were excited to drive into Switzerland and get a quick peek at the Alps off in the distance!

As soon as we pulled into our parking spot, Chuck received a text that the first leg of our flight (Geneva to Zurich) had been cancelled. We loaded up anyhow and headed into the airport to find out what to do next. Luckily, we’d been put on another direct flight to Copenhagen that left a few hours later, but would get us into Copenhagen earlier. Great news! Not so great news- we’d be sitting in the Geneva airport for the next 6 hours. The most expensive place on earth, it turns out. As in, 1 happy meal and 2 medium McDonalds meals were $45. My salad Nicoise was $25. 5 bottles of water were $40. It was kinda painful to be blowing through the euros just starting a vacation . But unavoidable- our crew was hungry.

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Several hours later, we had an uneventful flight and were so excited to get to Copenhagen! As we drove into town in the cab, we were absolutely amazed at just HOW MANY bikes there were in Copenhagen! Chuck had mentioned that they are one of the biggest bike-commuting cities in the world and it had to be true. Even at 11:30 at night, everyone was travelling by bike. Everywhere! There were bikes parked out in front of every restaurant, every bar and alongside the sidewalks outside of apartment buildings, houses.

When we arrived to our place, we had some trouble finding the key the owner had left, but after 20 min or so, we had luck. It was after midnight and Own and Wells were literally falling asleep sitting upright on the steps.

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We had a great place on Rantzausgade, we were a 15-20 minute walk from central Copenhagen, 10 minutes from some great neighborhoods.

We couldn’t wait to explore. This was the longest leg of our trip and we spent almost all of our time walking around, exploring and loving the Danish people and their way of life. Never have I seen happier, more laid back, beautiful women, men and children just living cleanly and happily and the most friendly of any culture we’d seen yet.

I’ll include lots of photos of our time in Copenhagen, but I could write for hours, so I”ll keep the writing more brief. Here were the highlights from our trip:

The Bikes!

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outside the train station

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Jaegersborggade– this was an absolutely charming street full of shops with handmade items, vintage boutiques, bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and breweries.

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We headed straight there on our first morning and found a wonderful bakery, Meyer Bageri, selling all things doughy! It was here that we first found Kanelsnurre, these cinnamony dough rolls… they reminded us so much of our beloved cinnamon sugar bagels from Panera!

IMG_3636.JPGThough our intention was to try different coffee shops each morning, the coffee here at the Coffee Collective was so good that we returned every single day! Even if in the afternoon!

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One of the best parts of our trip was meeting one of my dearest college friends (and roomate!), Alexa, and her family/friends for breakfast one morning! I got a message that she was on her way to Copenhagen at the same time that we were and so we were so happy to be able to meet up! Though we’d met each other’s oldest child when they were both 1 at a friend’s wedding, we’d never met her son, Will and she’d never met Owen or Wells!

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Oh my goodness, it was sooo great to be able to catch up with Ward and Alexa and their kids over coffee and breakfast (and meet her best buddy, Paige!); I wish so much that we’d had days more together! Getting to see this beautiful friend after so long was so good for my soul….

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They also had a great pub, Mikkeller and Friends, home to a phantom brewer with over 50+ craft beers on tap that sat across from the best park we’ve found yet.

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so charming and cozy inside!

The Parks!

There were so many cool things for the kids to climb on- big planes, a track with ride on toys, ping pong tables and they were even playing Michael Jackson!

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lots for this guy to climb on!

All in all, I think we visited this huge playground 4 times in 6 days. The boys loved it!

The parks in Copenhagen are so charming. Walking down a busy street, you can peek through a gate and see these super long tree-lined paths, with little gardens and benches tucked here and there. We also found a little cemetery where Hans Christian Andersen is buried.

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Istid

This was an nitrogen ice cream shop on Jaegersborrgade that happened to be owned by the same woman that also owned the apartment we were staying in. She had the coolest framed posters around the house with ingredients that go in some of her flavors- salted caramel, licorice, and others! It happens to be the first nitrogen ice cream shop in Scandinavia!

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Each order is customized- they dump the ingredients in a mixer and then quickly add nitrogen which instantly freezes the mixture into the yummiest, creamiest ice cream! It was such a unique experience! The boys say this is the best ice cream they’ve had 2nd to Florence.

 

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Nyhaven

This is a popular area in downtown Copenhagen that sits along the water and is most famous for its multicolored buildings. There are lots of old boats and ships parked along the canal and tons of people sitting outside enjoying the sunshine.

 

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Malmö, Sweden

A 35 minute train ride from Copenhagen, we thought it would be fun to take the Øresund Bridge, a 5-mile bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark and visit Sweden for the day. This bridge is the longest road and rail bridge in Europe!

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Malmö is the 3rd biggest city in Sweden. One thing I found interesting to read was that Malmö has really just seen a revitalization within the last 18 years after a huge crash in the 1970s related to collapse of its ship-building industry resulting in the highest unemployment rate in Sweden for many years. With the opening of the Øresund bridge (and subsequent economic mixing with Denmark) along with the opening of Malmö University, it is growing quickly and is filled with young people, the average age being under 35. In recent years, it has attracted many IT and biotech companies (source: Wikipedia).

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We didn’t have a lot of time to sight-see, but we did visit some shops and walk to one of the more well known squares, Lilla torg, to have lunch.

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The kids’ pizza was actually “rabbit” shaped (according to the waitress) but we thought it looked more like a fish.

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Malmö had such a nice downtown with a canal flowing through the middle… look at these cute paddle boats!

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One thing we had to do while in Sweden was to find Swedish fish. We went to a candy shop we found during our explorations, and the nice woman in the shop showed us the which of the many bins of beautifully colored gummy candy was the most popular and traditional in Sweden.

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Licorice is also really popular here in Scandinavia, but other than myself, no one else was a fan…

Tivoli Park

We decided to visit this awesome little amusement park in the city at night because one of the things I remember most clearly about this magical place when C and I visited 20 years ago, was the lights everywhere that night and how beautiful it was! When we got there, we decided to check out the rides. The lines were quite long and it was nearing dinner time, so Wells and I were able to talk Owen into joining us on a roller coaster before we ate.

I still can’t get over how they can have this amazing old beautiful amusement park with several roller coasters in the middle of the city!

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The sunset that night was beautiful!

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We had dinner at this great restaurant in the middle of the park- Owen’s swedish meatballs were so delish! Better than Ikea 🙂

One thing Tivoli is known for is it’s flavored popcorn…boys picked out cotton candy, strawberry and lime to save for the plane ride.  We also gave them a few kroners to use to play games or rides… Charlie and Owen chose the shooting game (I’m sure this has nothing to do with their recent love affair with Fortnite)…

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Wells chose to try (and try and try and try…) to win a plush toy from the claw game. But we all know how that goes…

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When he was out of money and empty-handed, Chuck told him he’d try ONE time to see if maybe he could win.

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I went to check on C/O riding bumper cars and when I came back 10 minutes later, this is what I saw…IMG_3499

Chuck’s competitive side really came out. They were STILL trying to win. I didn’t even ask how many Kroners they’d spent! Poor Wells. It’s a tough lesson, those Claw games..

National Museum of Copenhagen

We aren’t typically museum people, but we thought it would be intersting to learn a bit about the history of Denmark. When we got to the museum, we saw a fencing team practicing in the courtyard, which was cool to watch.

We learned about how many species roamed the earth during the Ice Ages that are now extinct. Part of the exhibit featured an auroch, one of these gigantic bulls that were the most dangerous animals in the forest, weighing over 1000 kg! The last of them died in Poland in 1627.

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The most interesting display was this one that had the soil layered from oldest on the bottom to most recent era on the top and the types of debris or litter you would find in each that was characteristic of that time period. For example- rocks and bullet shells early on, shoes, bottles, trash and toys today….

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But, the best part of the museum was the children’s area. They had this great exhibit about what life was like for Danish children through the different eras….

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cooking over the wood-fire stove
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these were the beds that children slept in… so small!

JT

As part of Wells’ 7th birthday present, we had seen that JT would be in Copenhagen at the exact same time that we were, so of course we had to get tickets to see him in concert.

That night, we took the tram out to the coliseum where he was playing and stopped to check out the mall and to kill some time before the show- JT wasn’t supposed to start playing until 9:00.

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When we arrived, I was once again amazed with the number of people that rode bikes to the show.

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this guy couldn’t wait to get his dance on…

When we arrived, there was a great DJ playing up on the stage, so we went to the general admission area we’d bought tickets for. Wells as usual was feeling the music 🙂

Next thing we know, a big guy in a black suit walked up to us and asked us if we were a family of 5 and if we’d like to be upgraded to the VIP section… WHAT!? Ummm. Yes. Chuck was a little skeptical; sure that there was some catch. But we were reassured that there wasn’t and if we agreed, to follow him.  Next thing we knew, he handed us VIP bands and escorted us to his “section” in the VIP area. We were sooooo close to the stage! We couldn’t believe it!

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Just a little short clip…

At one point, he was handing out shots to his dancers and backup singers and out of the corner of his eye, caught Wells hands up in the air, so he asked him if he’d like one 😉

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We couldn’t get over how nice everyone was to the boys. At one point during the show, a woman walked up to us and gave each of the boys one of JT’s guitar picks. And the security guys were so great about tucking them up near the stage so that they could see more easily!

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Our guy came over and gathered our 3 to come right up to the stage for the end of the concert because JT would be running by, hitting everyone’s hands as he ran off the stage, so he put them right up front and told them to hold their hands up high…

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Unfortunately, JT was facing the other way on his way out….

What a night. All 5 of us were on cloud 9 on our way back. The boys were completely zonked and fell asleep on the way home. Chuck and I still couldn’t believe how lucky we got! We have been to many many concerts in our life (even JT!) and never! NEVER have we been this close to the stage! Once again, we found ourselves saying that, though they can’t possibly realize it now, one day, we hope they will realize how lucky they have been….

Hygge

The last (but perhaps my favorite part) thing that we loved about the Danish people is how happy they seem. Of course, we were visiting in August, and the summer is very short but so enjoyable, so we were probably visiting during the peak of their best weather. Because Denmark is so far north, they have long winters with very short days and lots of darkness. But yet, they are known around the world as one of, if not THE happiest people on Earth. What gives? There are obvious factors such as the significance of socialization within close social networks, and the welfare model  (they see high taxes as an investment in their society and the well-being of each of its members, which ultimately reduces risk, uncertainty and anxiety among citizens about their financial status, etc.) I was talking with a gentleman in a gift shop about the Danish government’s support for its citizens and he was explaining just how well all citizens are taken care of, whether it’s unemployment, maternity leave, etc. It’s as if the security they feel translates significantly into peace, happiness and a general contentedness with life.

There is a word to describe a significant practice in their culture known as “Hygge”. From everything I’ve read about hygge, it is fundamental to the Danish culture and the absolute antidote to the depression, sadness, annoyance or discontentedness that can come during the long, dark, cold days of winter and difficult seasons in life. It is not easy to find an exact English translation, but essentially it is the “art of getting cozy”.

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It is HUGE over there! The word just pops up here, there, and everywhere related to either candles or warm blankets in a gift shop, or a hot cocoa in a coffee shop. It is literally about creating a cozy atmosphere, with people we love and are close to, at home or at a friend’s home, candles lit, fire burning, warm drinks in hand (often tea, coffee, or mulled wine). As the biggest candle-burners in the world ( I read that 85% Danes say candles are the most significant component to creating hygge), Danish have candles burning everywhere! Boardrooms, classrooms, at the office. Fire hazards? eh.

I first heard about hygge last year during our first winter here in France and after some reading and putting it into practice, I have to say that it literally changed everything. I”m obviously a beginner at this hygge thing so I”m still learning…. There are definitely long, rainy, dark weeks that really get to you. Last year, I went an entire 2 months without wearing sunglasses. But I have come to love these days for the most part because its a chance to “hunker down” at home, with the boys, with blankets, candles and something warm (sadly, no fireplace) and practice some good old hygge! The boys say that these have been some of their favorite times, which I think is because everyone feels cozy, safe, secure, warm in our apartment, away from the weather, the darkness, the mental exhaustion of learning and trying to speak French. Hygge is what makes our home feel like home.

Just one of the many things that makes this culture so unique and fascinating. We really enjoyed our time in Copenhagen. And, speaking of cold weather and warm blankets, we were off to Iceland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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