Thursday, 19 June 2014

Copenhagen

Many of you know that I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with everything scandi. I have wanted to visit Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo for a very long time. I have wanted to travel to Tromsø and see the northern lights, go to Svalbard and frolick with polar bears, and sail around the Swedish archipelago, pretending I’m in an episode of Wallander. So it is with great joy that I can now tell you about my girls’ weekend in Copenhagen.

The flight to Copenhagen is 1 hour and 45 minutes so we were very relieved that the minimal travel time would not eat into our trip. We managed to book ourselves on a flight that left at 7:30am, which meant boarding the plane at 7:00, getting to the airport at 6:00, leaving home at 5:00 and waking up at 4:30. Ugh, is the only word that can express my general feeling about that, because as my friends and family know, I am not a morning person. The ungodly hour was just the beginning of our journey with Easyjet (or Sleazyjet, as I like to call them) - Europe’s low budget, low comfort, pack them in like lambs to the slaughter, no frills, no knickers, airline. Even the airports hate Easyjet, positioning all their departure gates at the arse end of the airport. Walking times are written in huge bold letters on the floor, telling you it will be another 10 minutes until you reach your gate. As we had decided to take only carry-on luggage for convenience, we were now groaning under the weight of our bulging backpacks.


Once at our gate (and already halfway to Denmark), and with the toilets out of order with the nearest one located back in the departure lounge, we opted to cross our legs. We realised we had half an hour to wait to pee, and suddenly wondered why we had to be at the gate so bloomin’ early. Why would it take 30 minutes to board such a tiny plane? Oh... we then noticed all the people who had ignored the ‘one item of hand baggage’ rule. Dozens of women and men with handbags and manbags were being stopped by the Sleazyjet staff, and instructed to put these extra items in their suitcases. The area was dotted with people desperately trying to squeeze two bags into one. It was quite a spectator sport: boyfriends stood with arms crossed, rolling their eyes and sighing, as girlfriends sat on erupting cases, struggling with the zip; some women tried to tuck their smaller bags under their armpits and would be faced with a torrent of tuts from other passengers, who were all thinking, in their ‘queue nazi’ heads... that woman hasn’t put her handbag in her suitcase, that’s not fair, should we alert the staff? Others simply put on three layers of clothing and tried to squash into the minuscule seats, once on board!


The heat and cramped conditions on the plane were not kind to passengers either, especially the ones feeling slightly under the weather, and we soon discovered this within our own party. Feeling overheated and nauseous, my friend managed to keep it together for an hour but just as we were about to land, she decided she must go to the loo! This, we soon realised, was seen as some sort of terrorist activity. Air stewards, strapped into their seats for the descent and landing, did not want to see a pale horror-stricken face running towards them! They shouted at my friend to return to her seat and thrust a sick bag in her clammy hand. Nice. As we left the plane, we thanked the lovely air staff for their handling of the situation, and gave them back their generous gift, of single vomit sack - now full! Nothing says appreciation like a full sick bag!


Once out of the airport, we easily found our way to the area of Nyhavn, where we would be staying. We had opted for an Air B&B flat, which is basically where you borrow someones apartment or house for a few days and pay them. It’s perfect when you don’t really need any facilities apart from a bed. But it was surprisingly lovely... a huge open plan flat, situated in a quiet walled courtyard, a bedroom each, and a small picturesque balcony overlooking the magnificent dome of the marble church. We had lucked out.


We spent the day sightseeing on an open-top bus which was quite hilarious because the english translation kept cutting out and we would hear things like: “On you left is one of Copenhagen’s oldest building, designed in... Denmark is very popular with the Swedes because of their lower drinking age and you often... the little mermaid can be see at the water’s edge on your left”. And so it continued, for 3 hours! We got an amazing array of half facts which I’m sure will be very helpful when we next visit!


The following day we visited the free-town area of Christiania, which started as a hippy commune back in the 70’s. A like-minded group of people decided to convert a vast area of land containing disused army barracks, and lived there for free. It is now an autonomous neighbourhood with about 850 residents, covering 84 acres of prime Danish real estate. People work in their own shops, build their own houses, and educate their own children. It also has a tolerance for class B drugs, meaning that when we visited for breakfast, we were happily munching on Danish pastries and sipping lattés, whilst being surrounded by the sweet aroma of canabis smoke. Gosh the morning went quickly!! We then went on a wonderful boat trip around the harbour, and up small canals, seeing just what a beautiful and architecturally stunning city Copenhagen is... you must always see cities from the water (if they are on the coast, of course), it gives you a totally different perspective. 


That evening we went to Pluto, not the planet (for we had left Christiania), but one of Copenhagen’s most popular restaurants. We had thought of going to Noma, for their infamous tasting menu, but at £180 a head (without wine), we thought, um, no. So we opted for this place instead... still a 12-course tasting menu but at half the price!! The food was incredible and the beauty of a tasting menu is that you eat things you might never order yourself, and have mouthfuls of surprising and unusual morsels. After dinner we took ourselves out into the balmy night and chatted and people watched. We were suddenly joined by an incredibly handsome young man called Joakim (pronounced yoo-ah-kim). I had noticed (only vaguely, ah-hem), a table of young good looking very well dressed men in the restaurant, and Joakim was one of them. After introducing ourselves he told us they were all from Bergen, in Norway, and that they were on a stag do. In fact, there were 12 of them and two stags. As we continued to chat, one of his group took a photo of him chatting with us and he suddenly announced, “oh by the way, this isn’t a bet!” We all looked at each other a little flummoxed and then burst out laughing. Maybe it’s the confidence of our particular group of girls, but we never once suspected the reason a gorgeous late-20’s man would be talking to us was because he had been dared! Oh my god. We were horrified. Safe to say, we were obviously fairly entertaining because a few more of the bachelor party joined us before they went off to a strip club. Nice. No matter how charming, handsome and well dressed a group of young men are, stag parties are simply the same, the world over!!


One of the reasons I had booked the achingly hip Pluto was because I had learnt that many actors dined there, especially the cast of Borgen (I know, I’m sad!) We didn’t actually see anyone we recognised the night we were there, but over the weekend we saw Lars Michelson and Peter Mygind, both Borgen regulars and fairly yummy. I did try a little covert photography but managed only a distant blur, so here is what they look like (purely for reference).




On our last day we traveled north and went to the Louisiana museum, a stunning modern art galley perched on a cliff edge, surrounded by manicured lawns and aqua blue sea... absolutely gorgeous. And it had the most incredible collection of art, from gigantic Warhols and Hockeys, to towering Giacomettis.


Over three days we packed a lot in. We ate and drank particularly well... Denmark being a big foodie nation. Every single meal we had, from a snack in a coffee shop to our expensive tasting menu, had the same attention to detail. As well as the food, the people of Copenhagen look uber stylish too, and are an annoyingly good-looking breed. Tall, slim, pale eyed and fair haired, tanned, well dressed and relaxed. I’m not sure how relaxed I would be if I stayed longer than 3 days though... it is incredibly expensive! Take your average London spend, and times it by half again. Even the Danes must find drinking costly because we noticed something slightly unusual... a plethora of people, from young teens to chic older ladies, were walking around with cans of Carlsberg. No brown paper bags and no problem. To counter balance the cost of eating and drinking, however, public transport is cheap, the streets are spotlessly clean and it all runs very efficiently. They do pay one of the highest rates of tax in Europe but you can see where it goes. They are happy.


I would move to Copengagen in a snap. In fact, so enamoured was I with the average Danish man, that my friends suggested I set up a website called danishdating.com, meet a Viking, move to Copenhagen and finish my novel. Simple.