My trip to Copenhagen involved 9 people from three different starting points. My aunt and uncle from Miami drove to Tampa to meet the rest of the group (minus me) there. Then the group was flying from Tampa to Atlanta to then connect with me at Hartsfield to catch the flight to Copenhagen. Needless to say, everyone was excited and eager to get the show on the road a few months after the trip was first conceived.
The flight over to CPH was mercifully very smooth. Not so the reception by the Danish immigration official who, for some strange reason, threw my 68-yr old Mom’s passport back at her so that it went all the way to the edge of the counter and fell to the floor (she had not said anything to him so he could not have taken issue with her on anything she said). That must have satisfied some power trip or, we hoped not, given us a first glimpse how we would be treated in Denmark. Fortunately, the latter did not seem to be the answer. But, Denmark, those first impressions count… In any case, after some initial confusion for some family members as to currency conversion and the ATM machine, we proceeded to load 9 of us in 3 taxis and head to the hotel – the Copenhagen Marriott where my points took care of the rooms (!!).
The hotel is beautiful and has a good location along the canal which gives it great views over to Christianhavn and, on the opposite side, to the city. The area where the hotel is does not have restaurants or shops right there, though they are a 10 min walk away which is not too bad.
The red “M” is the location of the Marriott
After settling in and a quick break from all the traveling, we opted to do a Hop-On/Hop-Off (the yellow route) the first day to orient ourselves and take it relatively easy for my parents, aunt, and uncle (less walking). It was a great way to get our bearings as well as see some of the city. As we got off the bus after having completed a loop, the green route bus was about to leave on its last run of the day so we jumped on it to get to see other parts of town like Christiania and Christianhavn. The ticket for the bus was valid for 2 days which was perfect as we then took it the next day as a way to move between the attractions that were furthest from each other. I normally would walk everywhere but given the group, it made tons of sense to use the bus to our advantage.
One of our first stops was the Little Mermaid. I personally do not quite see it as something worth all the attention – there are so many statues in most cities – but because it is so famous, I agreed we had to see it. I expected to be further from land that it was. Mercifully, the bus made a 15-min stop there since there is not much else to do right there and saved us standing waiting for the next bus… Our next stop was to see the Anglican Church , the Resistance Museum (http://www.copenhagenet.dk/CPH-Map/CPH-Resistance.asp), and the Gefion Fountain . All this was next to the Kastellet or citadel dating from 1662 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kastellet,_Copenhagen) which we did not get to explore to my chagrin. The Resistance Museum was free, as were other museums in the city, and was very well laid out to present the story of Denmark during WW II. I enjoyed learning about WW II from the perspective of a country other than the big ones (Germany, France, the US, the US, and the USSR) and to learn about the courage of those who tried to resist and fight.
Copenhagen does have a few current and former palaces all in relative close proximity. Amalienborg is the one where the current monarch resides. It is one of 4 buildings placed around a plaza that is open to the public. Another of the 4 buildings is where the crown prince lives. We got there, by coincidence, when the change of guard was taking place. It was unique in that there are guards at each of the 4 buildings so the change of guards was longer than I am used to.
After walking around Nyhavn, a canal lined with colorful and beautiful buildings (though maybe too crowded), we walked down the Stroget, the pedestrian shopping street in the city center. As it turned out, Carnival was being celebrated (though it was June!) so the walk became much more interesting than originally expected!
Our most memorable meal in Copenhagen was a small place called Restaurant & Cafe Nytorv, sort of hidden away in the middle of things, fairly close to the Stroget. I had a fried pork place that was delicious. And the decor felt more like a smalltown eatery than a restaurant in a European capital, which was exactly what I was hoping for so big thumbs up.
It is worth noting that exploring the opposite side of the Stroget from Nytorv gets you to where a church and a university are. The residential streets in that area are worth walking around as they give a different feel for the place.
Other key sights were the City Hall Square, the Tivoli Gardens (which we actually did not visit), the Danish Museum, Rosenborg Palace, and Christianborg Palace. Lots to see in this city and, unfortunately, not enough time…
So here is my countries-visited map as of today… Filling out a part of the map seems a possible criteria to determine my next set of destinations. Well, I would not pick probably based on that but it sure is tempting!
For example, Ireland and Portugal would close up a good part of Europe. Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica would close up Central America – and so close to home! South America looks more daunting with the 3 “Guianas/Guyanas” and Venezuela being part of what is left… Africa, well filling out a part of the map quickly would not be possible. But the map shows that perhaps I need to put some red in western Africa… I also see a big pocket in southern Asia where I need to paint red…
I seem to have been hitting the Balkan area in the last 2 years by serendipity really: a wedding in Bulgaria, a wedding party in Greece, hopping from Italy to nearby Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro, and -soon- a hike in Romania for an orphanage. I think God wants me to cover the Balkans so I may add Serbia or Moldova when I head to Romania! (I realize I am stretching the definition of the Balkan peninsula!)
In the end, it will boil down to when I can travel, the local season (for example, Greenland in January would not be my choice), cost, possibility of traveling with someone, etc. I love the uncertainty because all options are open!
As of May 2012 : (added Caribbean islands and Balkan countries)
As of June 2011 :
I, for one, am glad luggage has evolved since the days when this was what you had to lug around an airport and through security. OK, those were not the things of the time but this trunk still had to be moved around! (From a small museum in Madison, GA)
About 2 weeks ago, I embarked on a family trip with my mother and stepdad, my sister with her husband and teenaged kids, and my aunt and uncle. The reasons for the trip were many but we more than anything wanted a grand trip all together to give my niece and nephew a great memory of their first trip to Europe and for the rest of us to get some R&R. We chose a cruise as it facilitated a group of 9 people traveling together since the cruise ship offers many options for at-sea days and there is no moving from place to place every few days carrying or rolling luggage around, something the older ones in the group would not have been able to easily do. We have done cruises before together and knew the cruise dynamic works well for us giving everyone things to do and space when needed. Much as I may have enjoyed driving around one or more European countries, it would not have made sense with a group like this one.
We decided on a Baltic route as it was new to most of us and because if we were ever to do it, this time of the year was perfect. I personally had a goal of getting to sample a few of the countries in the region to know where to focus future trips. The destinations involved were Copenhagen, Tallinn, Warnemunde (but really, Berlin was the target), St. Petersburg, and Stockholm. I had been to none of these cities though I have been to Germany a few times. I will write separately about my impressions about these places but St. Petersburg, in particular, was top of my list of places I have not seen in Europe.
Copenhagen is where the cruise departed from so we planned to spend a couple of days there before and after the trip. We wanted to arrive early in case there were issues with the flight over – so we would have a couple of days of “cushion” especially given the size of the group.
The cruise line was supposed to be very decent and we got cabins with blocked views (by the lifeboats) which were cheaper -obviously- than the ones with a view. But we chose them as it allowed us to get some sunlight in the room for the little time we spent there and not feel like we were in a box. That was a good choice. My cabin was even better as it faced the space between two lifeboats so we could actually look out! The ship was no different in design and options as past cruise ships I have been in which was good and bad. Good because I had liked them but bad because there was nothing new to discover. It may have lacked a little in activities on at-sea days which was surprising.
The biggest shock of this cruise vs. all the other ones we had been on was the food. My past experiences have been that I look at the dinner menu and I want EVERYTHING on the menu. This time, I generally struggled to find a main entree that I REALLY wanted. I was surprised at that (others in the group felt the same way). I cannot quite put my finger on what was off with the menu but it proved true every night. However, the pasta served as first dish was outstanding every night and that was the most enjoyable part of my nightly dinner. Desserts were generally OK except that the first night’s creme brulee was almost egg soup. After hours or in between meals, the choices were extremely limited (mostly to pizza) and the ice cream machine was off!!! (Contrary to past cruise experiences.) So overall, the dining experience was not up to snuff for me. On the bright side, I only gained one pound!
The onboarding and disembarkation processes were very efficiently run though perhaps that assisted by the fact that there were 2 embarkation ports which meant the load was split. However, organization of the cruise tours was equally efficiently run so perhaps this is a strength for this line.
The drawback for me of taking a cruise is the limited time at port. I wish, for example, the visit to St. Petersburg has been split over two days as my Mom experienced on a past cruise there. Seeing these towns in two days even is not enough but I sure wish we could have spent one overnight in any of these towns. Given the limited time, we left the boat as early as we could which meant we had an early wake-up time every day. We had 3 days in a row visiting ports so by the 3rd day we were fairly exhausted as we also did a lot of walking in the cities visited. However, I do not regret it as there is no way I would have missed seeing as much as I could but so much for the “rest” part of R&R!
Last December, I finally fulfilled a dream almost 19 years old: to go to Punta Arenas and see the Chilean Patagonia. I have written about the trip already in the blog but I thought this picture merited a Photo of the Week entry of its own. This is a home in Puerto Natales, near the hotel where I stayed and not far from the waterfront. The mix of colors and dominance of the blue of the exterior of the home really caught my eye.
Puerto Natales Home
Note: Though I already posted a picture this week, I decided to just “go crazy” and post more than 1 since I will not be posting in the next two weeks
A new add-on to the blog… I have so many pictures from the places I have been to… since pictures sometimes say more than 1,000 words (or “1K” words to be more modern…), I’d thought I’d share them. No use just having them on my laptop! Though I will not be able to post the next couple of weeks (I may post a second one this week to make up for it), no sense waiting to kick it off!
This is from a trip in 1998 when we took a felucca down the Nile for a 24-hr voyage. We slept on the felucca, outdoors (a first for me). It was cold in the evening and we had blankets that probably dated to the 1950s when they were last washed. But they were heavenly given how cold it was… Waking up to this in such a unique place in the world was a great experience and one of my best memories.