Sunday, July 19, 2015

Copenhagen Continued

Dad resting by a windmill

 Dad & I spent the last two days making good use of our Copenhagen Cards. We walked through countless museums, including the Design Museum, Rosenborg Castle, the Amber Museum, and the Theatre Museum. We also got a lot of exercise!

The stairwell to the dome

   My dad humored me and agreed to climb the 250+ spiral stairs that lead up to the top of Fredrik's Church. The stair were no more than 4" wider than our shoulders. I was questioning my judgement about halfway up when it dawned on me that we would have to take the same tiny staircase back down. I am by no means claustrophobic, but part of me wasn't all too pleased at my choice to cram myself into this tiny stone stairway that climbed 60 meters into the sky. Once we climbed through the hatch at the top it was evident that I had made the right decision, although I think my dad was still wondering why he listened to me! The view from the top is impressive and there are a few wooden benches to sit and catch your breath. After walking around the dome and taking a few photos dad & I were ready to make our descent.

A view from the top of Frederik's Church

  We walked through the city at night and had a few drinks at La Fontaine, a little jazz club that hosts live music on the weekend. Well most weekends, just not this one. Oh well, the atmosphere was dive bar-chic and the canned music they were playing was good. After we got back to the hotel we watched the Tivoli Garden firework show from the comfort of our hotel room stairwell. My dad started reminiscing about the fireworks at Expo '86, and told me a charming little story of how my parents managed to lose me for about 15 minutes, and had to go to lost & found to claim me. I no longer feel bad about forgetting my computer on the train and making him go back to the station with me to get it.
 Today is dad's birthday, and to celebrate, we took another canal cruise because it was included in the Copenhagen Card and who doesn't love a free boat ride?
 I got to watch my dad's sprinting prowess a few times as the wind blew his Carlsberg hat of his head and down the street, and once into the train station.
 There is so much to see and do in Copenhagen, 3 and 1/2 days is a good start, but not nearly enough to see it all.  We're on the train now back to Gothenburg, and I will not forget my computer when we get off!
A Balmain gown at the Design Museum
Crown from Rosenborg Castle

The King's Private Box at the Court Theatre
Jurassic Park in the making at the Amber Museum

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Canals of Copenhagen and Carlsberg Brewery

My dad & me

 Today Dad & I hopped on the Open Top Tours double decker bus and took it over to the first stop on their canal tour route. After a bit of a wait we climbed aboard the open topped boat which took us through the canal system around Copenhagen and under the numerous low bridges that cross over them. We cruised past the Little Mermaid statue, the old stock exchange building and Eclipse - the second largest personal yacht in the world, wowza!

Cruising through the canals

The Marble Bridge

The Eclipse

The Queen's library in the castle

   After we cruised around for an hour Dad & I got off the boat so we could explore Christianborg Castle. Entrance was free thanks to our Copenhagen Card. We walked around the castle and down underneath it to see the ruins of the past 2 castles that sat there before the current castle. After walking around for an hour or so, we rode a city bus back to the central train station and grabbed a Polser hotdog from a street cart on the sage advice of a friend of mine. Great suggestion David!

 Then it was back on the Open Top bus over to Carlsberg Brewery's visitor centre. Admission was free with our Copenhagen Cards again, and we were each given 2 free drink tickets. We walked through the old brewery and Dad, who used to work at Labatt's, explained the brewing process, and shared some found memories. Then we enjoyed our free drinks in the open courtyard that featured a pretty good DJ. We left the brewery and got caught in a flash rain storm on the way to the metro, but it was nothing a few seasoned Vancouverites couldn't handle. The Copenhagen metro trains are impressive! Clean, big, and very easy to navigate.

 Back to the hotel for a quick break, then next door to Astor Pizza. Great pizza for a good price! It's still pretty early here, so we might head over to a jazz club.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hejdå Stockholm, Hej Copenhagen!

My dad and I bid the beautiful city of Stockholm farewell today, and boarded the high speed train to Copenhagen. The trip took 5 hours and went by fairly quickly thanks to the free wi-fi on board. The only bummer was our seats faced the back of the train. If you ride the train through Sweden you will enjoy the sights of farms, small towns, forests and lakes, unless you are riding backwards, in which case you see the sights whirling past you in a blur, as you are being flung backwards at 120 mph. Do you remember those old Volvos that had the rear facing seats? I remember one of my friend's mom's having one. We all used to fight about who got to sit in the coveted back seat, until the the car started moving and whoever had the honour of sitting in the back was now green in the face & clutching a plastic bag.
 After 5 hours of looking at anything except the windows we got off the train and out of the station. We looked at google maps on dad's phone, then we looked past the bike racks and saw our hotel. We checked in and made our way down the street to the modern & very helpful visitor information center. We purchased a 72 hr Copenhagen Card, which grants us access to 74 museums and attractions, unlimited access to the bus and metro systems, and discounts at numerous stores and restaurants. We decided to go back to the hotel to plan our stay. My dad sat down at his laptop, and I went to pull mine out of my suitcase; CRAP!!!! The front pocket of my suitcase was empty, I had left my laptop on the train! My heart dropped to my stomach as I realized my husband was going to be pissed. How could I have forgotten it? Oh well, back to the train station to see what we could do. The woman at lost & found was very helpful, and told us what train she hoped it would be on, which was set to depart in 8 minutes. Dad & I raced off through the station and on to the platform & into the train; no laptop. Bugger! We ask the train attendant and she calls the train we were on. It had just left the station and my laptop was still on board, and as luck would have it the attendant was coming back to Copenhagen in 4 hours. I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked back to the hotel, impressed by how fast my dad could still run. I texted the hubby to let him know of my mental lapse, and subsequent good fortune.

The train station from our hotel

A few hours later it was back to the train station again, and the very friendly & helpful Carl handed me my laptop, oh I could've kissed him! But I decided to just get dad to shake his hand while I beamed like a kid on Christmas. Back to the hotel to text hubby a photo of me and the laptop, just to set his mind at ease, and let him laugh at me, then out for dinner.
 We walked over to a little Thai restaurant down the street. It had good reviews on Yelp, and was packed with locals. The food was really good! Then we decided to pull out our Copenhagen Cards and use them to enter Tivoli Garden, an amusement park that first opened in 1843. Next we walked along a few of the streets that lined Tivoli and past by City Hall. Then it was back to the room for the night, I have had enough excitement for one day!

Tivoli Main Gate

The Pantomime Theatre at Tivoli

A view from Tivoli Garden

Copenhagen City Hall

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Day At The Museums

Riddarholm Church

My dad and I spent the morning wandering around Riddarholm Church which was built in the 13th century. This picture does not do justice to the building, so I suggest you google it and look at all the people who are clearly better photographers than I am with my iPhone 4S (yes I realize it's time for an upgrade!)

Royal Robe which I probably wasn't supposed to photograph

Then we walked through the streets of Gamla Stan so we could be at the royal palace before it opened. We toured through the treasury, located in the vault of the castle, which houses many of the royal crowns, swords and this beautiful robe worn by one of the queens on her coronation.

Tre Kronor Museum
We also walked through the Tre Kronor Museum which is located in the belly of the castle and tells the history of both castles that have sat on that site.

The Queen's throne
Then we headed upstairs to see the royal chapel before our guided tour of the royal apartments. Our guide led us through many of the ornate rooms of the castle and educated us on the history of the Swedish monarchy. The guided tour is about 45 minutes long and is included in the price of admission to the castle. I highly recommend it! One of the great things about the ticket to the castle is it grants you access to the Treasury, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Royal Apartments and Gustav III's Museum. There are free guided tours offered at designated times at each of the exhibits, and your ticket is good for 7 days, so you don't have to see it all at once. 

After we walked through the castle we headed across the street to the Royal Coin Cabinet, a museum that houses coins from all over the world. The funniest thing about this museum is that entrance is free, but you have to pay to use the washroom. The only thing unfortunate about the exhibits was that about 80% of the information was written only in Swedish. English explanations were few and far between. If you're a coin collector, or interested in the history of money in Europe than check it out.

Viking Helmet
Our next stop was the Swedish History Museum. It houses a Viking exhibit, some great hands-on exhibits for kids, a few long and vague films regarding Swedish history, as well as an exhibit about Christianity's influence on Sweden through the years. There's something fro the whole family here, from your kids, to that artsy aunt of yours who would probably scoff at my amateur iPhone photography.

After all that we had a very late lunch in the train station and went back to the hotel room to rest our feet. We came back out for a walk and found that it had rained while we were in our room. We walked through the freshly washed streets and found ourselves at the very Scandinavian Kebab House for dinner.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sightseeing in Stockholm

 Dad & I were awake early this morning. We headed upstairs and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the free breakfast. They even have a fresh squeezed orange juice machine! After breakfast we headed over to Gamla Stan (old town) and wandered through the cobblestone streets. We walked around the outside of the royal castle and down to the water and then back over to the hotel, because apparently nothing is open before 10 am, and it was barely 9. Back to the breakfast bar for another glass of OJ and another latte.
The cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan

Looking up to the palace from the water

 We decided that the best way to get around town was aboard one of the many double-decker tour buses that can be seen circling around the city. There are at least 3 different hop-on hop-off bus tour companies that operate in the city and they all seem to have free Wi-Fi. We picked Red Sightseeing Stockholm, because they have a combination ticket that allows you to hop on & off their buses and boats for 72 hrs.
 As we headed for the bus stop I ran into an old friend and his girlfriend from back in Vancouver. I knew he was going to be in Stockholm for work while I was here, which was a huge coincidence. An even bigger coincidence is that his hotel is only 2 blocks down from us! You know the saying, it really is a small world after all!

 After a 20 minute wait at the first stop we squeezed onto a fully loaded bus and scored the last two seats up top. We popped our free but ill-fitting ear bud headphones into our ears and dialed into the English channel. We heard all about the different buildings and bits of history along the way through Gamla Stan, Djurgarden, and all the way up to the cruise ship terminal at Frihamnen. We got off the bus, hopped on a boat and toured around the different islands that make up the city. We got off the boat at Djurgarden so we could check out the Vasa museum. Unfortunately for us, it seemed as though all the passengers that had come from the 4 large cruise ships in the port had all decided to head there too. After seeing the line up snake through the courtyard out front, we decided to check out the Nordic museum instead. The building of the Nordic museum is stunning, the exhibits inside are a little underwhelming. Lunch at the Nordic museum was good, and afterwards we headed back over to Vasa museum and walked right in. The Vasa museum houses the war ship Vasa that sailed, and sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. The ship is impressive, and the lengths they've gone to to salvage and restore her is even more impressive! After that we got back on the bus and looped around to the train station, and got off just 2 blocks from our hotel.

The Nordic Museum Buiding
Vasa as viewed from the stern

 After a quick rest, dad & I headed out for a traditional Swedish dinner: Chinese food from Hong Kong Restaurant.
 Most museums and attractions seem to open around 10am, but Vasa museum opens at 8:30am (which we discovered too late to do us any good)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hej from Stockholm!

Hej (hello) from Stockholm!

 This morning my dad and I hopped on the tram to the Götenburg central train station and boarded the high speed train to Stockholm. There is something special about train stations, they have more soul than airports, or maybe even a tiny bit of magic. The train itself was roomy inside, with plenty of leg room. The ride was smooth and almost silent, just a very faint hum from the engine. We enjoyed the sights of the lakes, trees and farmlands that lined our path. The trip took 3 hours, which seemed to go by quickly. I read my book and we visited the bistro car for a snack.

Once we arrived in Stockholm it took us a little while (and some wandering around in circles) to get our bearings. But once we found our hotel we had a decent handle on the lay of the land. We took the train to Djurgården and walked around. Stockholm is stunning!

Tomorrow we are going to take a sight seeing tour around the city, so tonight we are taking it easy in out tiny little hotel room. OUr room is 1 level below the ground. It has no windows and it's a bit of a shoebox, but hopefully no daylight means a good night's rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My Thoughts on Flying Solo

I have been flying by myself since I was sixteen & my mom sent me over to visit my cousins in England. I was excited about venturing out on my own, and I've kept that attitude for the last 17 years. This is the 5th time I've taken a solo trip; after England, I flew to India & back by myself (but traveled with my husband's family once I got there) San Francisco, and Jamaica. Some people hate traveling alone, and I get that, but I find it way easier. You only have to worry about yourself and you get to set the pace of your travel day. I also find that flight attendants are that much kinder to you - if there's an open seat or two, I usually get to move over and stretch out. This trip was no different, I was seated in a row of four, and my lovely flight attendant asked if I wanted to move over to an empty row of two with a window seat, score! All was great, until some woman decided that she was going to switch seats and sit right next to me, bummer! Oh well, I still got the window seat, I just couldn't put my feet up & fall asleep. My flight from Paris to Gothenburg was over sold, and they were asking people to take the later flight instead. I took comfort in thinking they wouldn't bump me, since what good is only one seat to them. I was right, or someone else took the compensation willingly & flew out later, either way I got on the plane and settled in next to a friendly older man from Philadelphia. Your bags seem to come out faster when you only have to wait for one! So off I was in Gothemburg with my baggage and was met in the greeting area by my dad. Another successful solo trip! Sure there are a few downsides; I find it hard to fall asleep in the airport by myself, but I have my little method of stacking my bags and using my purse as a pillow, so I can rest. I guess the most important thing about traveling solo or in a big group is your attitude. If you can laugh at the bad stuff, and smile to everyone around you, you will have a great trip; if you're stressed and irritated, then things aren't going to go you way. Have a plan in place, but be prepared for some additional adventures along the way!