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Monday, 15 February 2016

Three nights in Copenhagen

So, on a city break, how do you decide where to eat? Do you rely on Trip Advisor or wander around, peer through restaurant windows, and hope for the best?

Perhaps you read blogs, read up on the local tourist information bureau website or ask the locals?

Well,  in all of the city break adventures my daughter and I have had so far, in Florence, Prague and elsewhere,we try everything.

On our first night in Copenhagen, we were tired, oh so tired after being on the road since 4am. A bitterly cold night, we didn't want to go far from our hotel close to the Forum on the metro.

Our first choice, from reading up on the internet, we found to be closed so we decided to ask advice from one of the receptionists at our hotel.

"How far and how much? " she asked.

" As close by as possible and not too expensive" was our reply, and we struck gold with a restaurant we wouldn't have found ourselves but only a minute's walk away.

Scarpetta just off the in Norrebro is a gem -warm and full of locals eating a civilised Sunday supper. Beautifully polished wine glasses and cutlery, and friendly waiters also made a good impression.

So did the menu...I'd started salivating reading the five course taster menu which is a fusion of Italian knowhow and Danish ingredients.

Intriguing and tempting, but on the other side of the menu were some of the same dishes, in small portions which other diners were ordering three each of and sharing them, so we decided to do the same. We enjoyed the softness of the leek risotto with crisp buckwheat , fresh pasta with mascarpone, salsiccia and spinach , and fried cabbage with  crispy chicken skin & pecorino . All delicious, with a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc, we were warm, full and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

The following night, we went somewhere different. Reading up on the eating out scene in Copenhagen, the meat packaging district in Vesterbro is THE popular area at the moment . But as our taxi pulled in, early on a dark,mid week winter's night, the area looked deserted, cold and it was as if we'd wandered onto a film set of some East German Cold War film set in the 70s.

Lucy and I looked at each other , but then we saw the lit up sign, Warpigs. Lucy had decided she needed meat so here we were to visit the place where an American whose mission in life is to smoke and cook meat.  there's a microbrewery at the opposite end to the kitchen.

It was heaving inside, and we were lucky to get seats at one of the long tables set in out rows. It's a question of squeezing in and asking if you can join the others. Very useful as it happens, because you could see what  they had chosen from the menu.

Meat obviously, you choose what meat you want, how much of it, (it's weighed in quarter pound, half pound and pound servings. Order mac and cheese and coleslaw on the side, and that's basically it, served on a tray with paper towels to mop up the mess afterwards. We both went for the pork, and Lucy decided to get some barbecued ribs too. I've never eaten such densely flavoured ribs in my life's the Texan way I'm led to believe.

We washed our meal with a half pint of a light ale....fruity, full bodied and brewed in one of the tanks here.

But the night was still young and lovely though the beer was, I couldn't manage another. Lucy and I fancied a glass of something different,  so it was on to Pate Pate., a restaurant about 35 yards down the road.

A completely different vibe here....starting with the lighting. From the harsh industrial lighting of Warpigs, to warm candlelit tables of couples and groups of friends  sitting quietly chatting. Obviously we didn't eat, we were still digesting  all that meat, but we perched on a couple of stools and had a glass of prosecco each whilst reading the extensive wine list on the chalkboards, and gazing at bottles and bottles..

It would have oh so easy to order another and another, but prosecco doesn't come cheap in Copenhagen so we ubered back to the hotel....

For our last night in Copenhagen, we decided to stay close by in Norrebro and eat at Bodega. We'd read good things about this tiny restaurant with an equally small menu.

 As we walked through the dark streets we passed by little bars and eateries full of people and candles. This is the most multi cultural area of up and coming area, which is not afraid of showing its working class roots, but so different to ten  to twenty years ago when the dealers and gangs were around here.

We like Norrebro and we loved Bodega. It may be small but we received a huge, friendly welcome. A dark grey interior, lots of candles, and intimate little tables. We sat in the window and had a glass of wine while we decided what to eat.

We shared a starter ...a duck terrine with a layer of fat...."that's to keep out the Copenhagen cold "said our lovely chatty waiter. It looked like pure stodge, tasty stodge, but with the accompanying bitter sweet jam, and spiced cream,  it blossomed into a something completely different.

For a main, Lucy chose a burger as had quite a few people here....juicy, huge, tasty , she couldn't finish it, while I had pasta with smoked salmon .This was creamy, comforting, and yes, I managed the lot!

 We were the only tourists there and as we sat with another drink, we really enjoyed the background  music. So many good tracks to listen to....we wished we could have been there at  the weekend when a  DJ is on the decks.

So, three very different nights out and places to eat in Copenhagen...and the bills were very similar spending about £25 a head on food and a couple of drinks. All with a really good atmosphere, excellent friendly service and not breaking the bank. And there's so many others to choose from. So, next time Copenhagen, next time.....

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Three days in Copenhagen

It was my daughter who first mooted the idea of another little adventure back in November.

"There's some cheap flights  around at the moment. Do you fancy a city break for a few nights?"

"Do bears poo in the woods?" was my first reaction. Of course I fancied a trip away with my darling daughter. I asked her what the options were.


And that was this time two weeks ago we were flying off to ..yes, you've guessed...Copenhagen.

We arrived on an early morning flight from Luton  and made our way straight to the Avenue Hotel, on the border of Frederiksberg and Norrebro. Check in was at 3pm at this small boutique hotel but we winged it, getting there not long after midday.

Remarkably our room was ready, so after a quick freshen up we were off  for our first sightseeing expedition around to Nyhavn .

This picture perfect part of Copenhagen is rightly popular with tourists, even on a cold and windy afternoon on the last day of January.

The historic and beautiful,  brightly painted buildings which line the quays stood out against an iron grey sky The rigging on the old wooden ships rattled in the wind as we walked past what in previous centuries had been a busy port, and the gateway to the inner city and Kongens Nytorv.

At the end of quay a boat was filling up with passengers for a tour of the canals and waterways. We debated whether to catch this one or go for a cup of hot chocolate first. But the decision was made for us...this was the 3pm tour the last of the day, and we got on board.

The tour lasts an hour with a commentary in Danish and English, and it's a really good way to get an idea of the lay out of  the city and where the various districts are. You get a sense of place, both in the past and present.

The wind whipped around us as we puttered around by the Opera House , the Experimentarium, an old Danish warships and the old Barracks  and even seeing the Little Mermaid. That was the only disappointment for me of the whole trip. From the water, all we could see was her backside, she was much smaller than I'd imagined, and she was surrounded by Japanese tourists all trying to take photographs.

On the other hand, as we made our way back , the waterways around Christianshavn were a delight. Bridges across the water which were  so teeny tiny, we could touch them, the bars along the side, the houseboats , there was so much to take in. Oh and the beautiful Church of our Saviour"  It's spire edged with gold and an  exterior staircase winding its way around the spire. Yes you can climb right up to the top for some apparently fantastic views of Copenhagen, but no, we didn't!

It was so cold by now, Lucy's teeth were chattering....we needed a hot drink when we got off the canal boat. Close by in Nyhavn is the Union Kitchen, an uber cool place that serves everything from breakfasts and brunches, to coffee, lunches and then is still raring to go at night with cocktails .

We didn't eat chocolate and coffee for us, but the food coming out looked very inviting which included lots of balls..

And then time to go back to our hotel. Now, call this a moment of madness or what you will, we decided to walk back to get an idea of the city as dusk fell. After such an early start to the day I was feeling jaded to say the least by the time I staggered into the lobby.

When booking a hotel online, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, it's like box of never know what you gonna get.

Well, we struck lucky with the Avenue Hotel with lovely comfortable beds and an inviting bar and sitting room filled with photographs and bookshelves,. A place to while away the hours of dusk on deep sofas in front of the fire after busy days out sightseeing, and going at night to eat.

And the new owners of this hotel have introduced a very civilised ritual of offering all hotel guests a free glass of wine between 5 and 6pm. Something that Lucy and I enjoyed every night!

But back to the hours of daylight... with only three days in Copenhagen, how do you decide what to see and what to do? As a history buff, it would have been so easy to just do a whistle stop tour of the palaces, castles and museums, but on our next day, a rainy, soggy day, we decided to go shopping, and visit the freetown of Christiana. Established back in the early seventies by a group of hippies, it is completely independent of the Danish government and stretches around an old military barracks which had been abandoned.

There's restaurants, a concert hall and on Pusher Street you can buy hash. You could smell your way there, the unmistakeable pungent aroma of weed was permeating the air around. On a chilly wet winter's morning there were plenty of buyers, but there was a dispirited air about the whole place and we didn't linger long. I can't show you what it looked like, because in free Christiana, photographs are banned. In summer I bet there's a completely different vibe .

So on to the shopping, and one thing Copenhagen has in abundance are design shops.
 Now if there's one thing Lucy and I like are those sort of places, and we loved Hay House on Ostegarde.

Spaciously and beautifully set out, I fell in love with some chairs and Lucy could have bought the whole stationary department, and as we wondered up a beautiful staircase to the next floor , I found a nice spot to sit for a few minutes.

We also liked this shop on Norregade called Notre Dame

This is a shop where temptation is all around, especially in the lighting department. There was one lamp I really wanted to buy, but I would have had to wear it as a hat to get it on board the plane home.

And then it was back to the hotel via the University area of the city and the thousands of bikes there to freshen up for another evening out and then our last day with two of my favourite places to see in Copenhagen..

But that's another story for another blog coming up soon.....