Travel Bug: Copenhagen Day 3

Saturday was a wonderful day to explore the main palace in Copenhagen – Christiansborg Slot. There were many tours available that day, ones to see the ruins of the original castle, the kitchens, the reception rooms and even the royal stables. We wrapped up the day with our first European football match at Parken Stadium.

Christiansborg Palace is a beautiful palace. While it is grand and opulent, it is done so in an understated tasteful way where its humble decor made it an easy place to appreciate. The most interesting fact about Christiansborg Palace is that it has had over five iterations – of which two were built because of fires to the palace. Christiansborg was originally known Absalon’s Castle. Bishop Absalon lived in this fortress to protect the city of Copenhagen from incoming ships from the sea as it developed and grew in the medieval ages. Unfortunately due to many sieges from pirates, and even Denmark’s own king, Absalon’s Castle was no more.


The next iteration of the palace was Copenhagen Castle. Over the course of 300 years, it had gone through several renovations to accommodate the wants of the king. The new castle included a moat and heavy fortress walls. However, at one point, the castle got too heavy and unstable, that the walls collapsed on itself. Which at that point in 1731, the very first Christiansborg Palace was built. Both the ruins of Copenhagen Castle and Absalon’s Castle remain today and are preserved for the public’s enjoyment. The fortress walls and original stone used to built the castles are still intact today. It was fascinating to see the original walls.

When Christiansborg Palace was completed in 1745, it was the largest palace in all of Europe. Unfortunately before the turn of the 19th century, the palace met its untimely death by fire which started in the kitchen. Christiansborg Palace 2.0 was smaller but was short-lived as after it’s construction in 1828, it too burned down in 1884.


The current Christiansborg Palace is the third of the Christiansborg Palace and has yet to burn down (though though the chapel burned down completely in 1992 and had to be rebuilt…) The Danish palace is unique in that it houses the Parliament and the Queen’s Reception Rooms but is not the place of residence for the royal family (they reside in Amalienborg Palace.) This unique way of the joint government and monarch makes for an interesting dynamic between royalty and the people. One where the monarchy is respected and kept relevant, but knowing that the power lies with elected official. dsc_3555

The main highlight of the palace is the Queen’s Reception Room. This is where one would go to be knighted or hold audience with Queen Margrethe. She hosts many official functions at the palace well attended by many political dignitaries and celebrities. The main hall is filled with 11 tapestries, commissioned in France by many Danish companies for the Queen’s 50th birthday and woven together by Le Mobilier National et les Manufactures Nationales de Gobelins et de Beauvais in Paris. The famous Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard  designed all the tapestries telling the history of Denmark; woven within the tapestries are the stories of the monarchy, the development and growth of Denmark, the transition of Paganism to Christianity and many world events. 

In the evening we were treated with a football match (how could I resist?!!) of home team København FC against visiting Silkeborg of the Danish Superliga. København FC beat Silkeborg 2-0 in a riveting match (mostly focused on attack in the first half.) Attending our very first European football match was a dream for me, the atmostphere is completely different and totally unique from any other sporting matches in Canada. There is loud chanting and stomping, even singing from all the fans. Everyone knows the chants and songs and the stadium just trembles with the voice of the supporters. My dreams of watching a football match in Europe fulfilled.


Travel Bug: Copenhagen Day 2

Day two was the start of our self-tour of Copenhagen. There wasn’t much I knew about Denmark before planning for this trip and admittedly even after then I don’t have a clear picture of what makes Denmark, Denmark. So thanks to some friends, the blogosphere and Google, I was able to put together some semblance of a well thought out itinerary to get the most out of Copenhagen.

The morning started off at Strøget, a major shopping district in the heart of central Copenhagen. There are so many shops in this area from designer brands, sport stores, souvenir shops, to restaurants and everything in between. What I loved most about Strøget is the design of the district. The paved cobblestone walkway inbetween European style apartments made it fun trying to navigate the area. Do not be mistaken, it is not a closed off pedestrian area, once in a while you might see an oncoming car and there isn’t a shortage of bicyles to watch out for. There are many hidden treasures and fun stores, one of my favourites being Flying Tiger. It has a random selection of home items from cat beds to trivets and stationery. Everything is really affordable and great for souvenir gifting as almost everything in the store is “designed in Denmark with love.” My other favourite store is of course the Lego shop. Lego stores are always fun but this one in Strøget tops all other Lego stores I have ever stepped in. This particular Lego store housed some pretty fun Lego models (like life sized Lego people riding bikes) and a motif of the city of Copenhagen. Needless to say, I could have stayed a lot longer at Lego but there was a lot more we had to go see!

A short ten minute walk from Strøget lies Tivoli Gardens, one of the highlights and MUST SEEs of Copenhagen. This garden-amusement park hybrid definitely lives up to the hype and has much to offer. It is here that shows how seriously Denmark takes themed days. Brimming with pumpkin patches, scarecrows and a multitude of other Halloween-themed displays, Tivoli was in full festive mood! It made walking all over the gardens so much more amusing. At some point we started playing spot the scarecrow (as there are well over 100 displayed in and around the park.) There are also many themed rides throughout Tivoli but we decided to wander around every nook and cranny we could find and ended up finding so many cool little shops. My absolute favourite one is the candy shop Bolchekogeriet Almuegaarden which has the famous Danish pulled- candy. They have a special warm lollipop fresh that comes out of the candy machine in six different flavours on a daily basis. This sweet treat cannot be missed and make great little gifts. The attention to detail makes Tivoli a wonderful place to visit. 

To wrap up the day we took a free green  shuttle from Vestoport to the Carlsberg Brewery. It was an incredible time and here my first blog guest, my lovely travel companion Lyris will regale our adventure at the reknowned Danish Brewery.

The original Carlsberg brewery we visited is the first of its kind which opened its doors in 1847; the roan brick building built in the stately Danish fashion consists of three main buildings surrounded by a high brick wall enclosure, and an iron wrought gate at the entrance. Excited to be at our first Danish brewery, Yvonne and I hopped off the shuttle bus and began conversing, only to be interrupted by two gentlemen walking just alongside us. They asked where we were from and seemed interested in befriending us, but we promptly lost them after we received our passes as they (presumably) sped off to redeem their beer vouchers, while Yvonne and I leisurely conducted our self-guided tour. Carlsberg brewery imparted a look into the original brewing of Carlsberg beer, political developments and business entanglements, how it managed to add to Copenhagen’s international prestige and how Carlsberg helped shape Danish gastronomic culture. 

Shelves lined with 150 years of Carlsberg bottle labels, bottle redesigns and their offshoots greeted us from the stairs in the first room attested to the tenure Carlsberg has maintained since it has been founded. Cavernous ruins bathed in an effervescent blue light, and flickering shadows of workers in the background were reminiscent of days past: When workers would knead the barley in the cool damp concrete basement of the brewery in order to prepare the barley malt. We were invited to operate the antiquated machines used before brewing was an automated process, and to stroll through the stables where the Danish Jutland workhorses were kept—the same breed of work horses that would transport the beer into town from the brewery. Although they don’t serve the same function as they did in days of yore, the horses still pull carriages around the brewery for children and families. Yvonne is a horse lover, whereas they are not as much to my liking, but the workhorses were magnificent, regardless. Yvonne’s face lit up with delight as she went about the stables greeting nearly every horse, some receptive to the attention and while others gazed off into the distance in their pen. We wondered as to why the horses were still kept at the stables, and a stablehand informed us that it was one of the tenets as long as the Carlsberg franchise continued: to always keep horses at the stables and to still have brewing operations at the original building. 

Moving on to our first tasting session at the back of the merchandising shop, a very handsome man (Alex) with a velvety deep voice gave us a brief detail of the beers we could choose. Yvonne chose a deep coffee and whisky flavoured black ale and I opted for the golden ale thinking it was more of an amber. The amber washed clean on my palate with only a hint of bitterness. Yvonne’s port was much more decadent by far with a deep coffee bitterness and a hint of whiskey (or so she says) and notes of berries (or so our bartender says). We walked around the gift shop and snagged a couple of branded merchandise. One cooler-lunch bag for Yvonne and Carlsberg boxers for my gent back home. What could be more hip than Danish beer branded boxers?

Finally, our last stop was the Carlsberg bar above the brewery where we could claim our last beer voucher. We seated ourselves and two familiar faces greeted us from the corner of our eye. The two gents from the shuttle bus asked if they could sit with us, so we all settled together. One is a Norwegia and the other a blonde Fin. They had come together on an annual man-cation and had known one another from their university days. We talked over the course of the night and jokingly named them our Scandinavian boyfriends. 

Overall, the Carlsberg brewery was quite the experience: we made our first Scandanavian friends in Copenhagen, learned more about Carlsberg’ roots, and had the chance to sample domestic Carlsberg drafts (Tuborg!!) that aren’t available in Canada. All in all a fantastic day two in Copenhagen.

Travel Bug: Denmark – The Happiest Country

We finally made it! Even though we had a rough start to this trip, with delayed flights, rushing through customs and being on separate flights we arrived in the area of Østerbro in Copenhagen to our lovely Air BnB. 

Stepping onto the Metro from the airport heading into the city, I was a bit skeptical about Copenhagen. To be honest, the only thing I knew about it was that The Little Mermaid resided there and Danish patries are delicious. Regardless, I am here and am actually in love with the city after wandering around our neighborhood block for 30 minutes.

There is an atmosphere of an easy-going relaxed feel. People are quite reserved but it is never cold or rude. Once you get a Dane involved in conversation though, warmth and friendliness just pours out of them. 

Maybe it lies with the whole mystery of hygge (“HOO-ga”) and Denmark being the happiest country in the world for the third time in five years. This warmth and comfort invites you into the conversation and lifestyle of the Danish people. Stepping into a remodeled 500 year old flat complex already has me in love. I am never truly at a loss for words yet I find it hard to explain why within minutes I am already making plans to move and live here. Maybe it is just the atmosphere, the aesthetics of architecture, the big city vibe without the crazy metropolitan feel. Who knows. All I know is that for the next week there is an adventure to be had and I can’t wait to explore every inch of Copenhagen.

Here’s some lovely bills from the happiest country

Turning 25

It has been a long time since I have written here. I have neglected my blog and have left it to turn to dust…no longer! I am back and there is a fairly decent reason for my silence. 2016 has been a crazy year of change and so much has happened that I don’t even know where to start.

This is year is a major milestone for me, I am finally a quarter-of-a-century years old. I don’t know if this is a major turning point for everyone, but this year has been huge. The biggest decision and change for me turning 25 is moving to Toronto. Yup. I am back in the Big T.O. I quit my job, left my home (again,) and am back.

It’s insane. I’ve only been back for a one and a half months and I have a hard time believing I actually picked up and left Edmonton. To a certain extent it feels like I am on a prolonged vacation, but in other ways, this is very real. I am back in the city, I am in need of a full time job, AND I AM BACK IN TORONTO. There are days this feels like a dream and then days where I am back and have absolutely no idea what I am doing. All I know is that “Yay! I am back,” but I need to set up life here, I need to DO SOMETHING. And so for the last five weeks I have lived in a chronic state of ups and downs.

Yet…I know this is where I need to be right now.

Being back here has been amazing. I have reconnected with so many friends and family; I volunteered at TIFF; I have a part-time job; and I have gotten a taste of Toronto’s start-up scene. There have been so much I have learned about myself in the last five weeks I can only keep pushing forward and enjoy every second of being here, of being present.