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Em + Allie Do Scandinavia

Over the past couple of years Scandinavia has been on my mind. This area of the globe is known to be the some most expensive parts of our world. When I would doubt the trip, I would remind myself "you can't take the money with you" and pretty much just said F it and booked it 3 months out. One of my best gals, Allie, decided to come along! We spent 13 days exploring, spending money we didn't really have, laughing, learning, navigating and negotiating the unknown, oohing and ahhhhhhhhing, riding bikes, walking + hiking miles upon miles, eating, shopping and being extremely thankful for the most wonderful weather.

Allie and I are like sisters, we bicker then hug (or sometimes cry) and move right along. Our traveling styles are very different but that is what makes a trip like this fun. We learned alot about one another and ourselves. We took time / space when we needed it and we pushed each other out of our comfort zones.  It was because of these things we grew in ourselves, our friendship and learned we're more capable than we think. I'll always be grateful for those 13 days wandering Scandi.

We visited during Summer Solstice. We were in Iceland on the actual solstice. While there was only 2 hours of dusk light, it was cloudy so it was hard to take it in.

In the other countries we visited, the sun would rise around 3:30 or 4am and would set between 11:00 pm and midnight. However it never got dark. It's like the sun would dip below the horizon, take a short nap and pop back up. These cities sleep during cold dark months then come May, they all begin to wake up. By June, people are back to their cheerful warm bodies, welcoming the long days of light.  So much so, that bedtimes are not strictly enforced during the light months. It wasn't uncommon to see kids (often unsupervised) out playing and walking the streets.
Iceland: Western Side
Second time around and I still loved it; even through the fog, misty rain and chilly temps. The country has a magical essence about it and I was thrilled to share it with Allie. After traveling through the night, we arrive at 6:00 am a little weary yet excited to start our two week journey. Renting a car in Iceland is a must if you want to venture from the city. We decided to use the same rental car service as the last time I was there. Even though I had a tough go with a car from during my solo trip, there was comfort in knowing the company, where to pick up and to have direct personal contact information if it was needed. We were pleased with the car and within minutes we were on our way to chase waterfalls.

Since I got a speeding ticket last time I was in Iceland, Allie wouldn't let me drive. I wasn't happy about this. Those of you that know me, know that I like to drive - not ride. It is rare to see police on the roads in Iceland. There are small electric boxes sporadically placed along the roads. If you are going the speed limit you get a smiley face. If you are speeding you get a sad face. My sad face in 2016 resulted in a ticket. We'll find out in 9 months if Allie's sad face also results in a foreign speeding ticket.
We had 27 hours in the vast land and we wanted to pack in as much in as possible. We drove south to the town of Vik with stops along the way.  We noticed bold purple flowers all over the place! Wild flowers were plentiful and the lands were lush green. Baby sheep were hopping around open fields, horses galloping and playing in pastures!

Seljalandsfoss was pounding water into her pond, the amount of water falling is incredible. Much more than last time I was here. We walked around the back side and continued on to the "secret fall" that is Gljufurarfoss. The crowds gather at the big Seljalandsfoss, but if you follow your curious instinct and walk along the trail and don't stop when you meet the stream, you'll find yourself walking between two boulders (this time in ankle deep water). Then boom, you're inside. And it's worth it.
Just down the road is Skogafoss . Again the water was much more forceful than last time I stood here. Since it wasn't full sun and clouds were hovering in the sky, I didn't get to see the famous rainbow. Legend has it that some trolls buried gold in the wall behind the fall. This fall (and others) used to be the coastline. The flat lands and ocean now rest about 3 miles away.
When you stand in front of something so massive (50 feet wide, 200 feet tall) and you hear the strong rhythm of water pounding against the earth you have a overwhelming feeling of just how incredible this life we live is. So much has happened before us or before anyone we've ever known. This land is pristine and virtually untouched. In places we visited the experience became profound when I would take the time to think about where I was. I could really imagine the first inhabitants over 1,000 years ago and how they likely saw what I was seeing. This is a powerful realization to have when standing alone, in front of something like this waterfall, in a country that dates back to c. 870 - 930. 

Our tummies were growling by this point so to Vik we go. We found a cute little cafe right in town and have coffee, pizza and a burger. 
Black sand beach + basalt sea stacks are on the way back to the city and were next on our list. Reynisfjara is a volcanic sand beach with fine grain black sand. It's pretty dramatic against the white grayish water. It's been voted top 10 non tropical beaches in the world, by people who know their stuff; National Geographic.

The waves here are powerful. They don't look big at first glance, but if you stand at the shoreline and watching them roll in, they are massive. There isn't a lot of land between Antarctica and the beach so  the waves have the entire length of the Atlantic to build strength.

Keeping with Icelandic folklore, the basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar are believed to be trolls. The story goes...trolls saw a ship at sea and waded out to bring it ashore, but before they got the ship to shore sunrise creeped up on them, thus instantly freezing them and the ships (the three standing structures in the sea) into stone! 

Fun Fact: Over 1/2 of the Icelandic population believes in trolls, elves and fairies. They even put tiny little houses all over the lava fields for them! I bought a little troll pottery house from a little Icelandic Handcraft Market
The World Cup was happening while we were traveling. In Reykjavik, people were in full blown party mode when we arrived to Loft Hostel to check in that evening. I can't say enough great things about this hostel. It's my second time staying at Loft and I would recommend it to anyone. It's in the center of town, has an awesome rooftop deck, large kitchen, clean rooms + bathrooms, friendly staff and a huge lounge area.

We're pushing 30 hours of no sleep at this point. We grabbed dinner at a local Italian place, walk the streets and then gear up for the Blue Lagoon. I got to tell you, I was a little skeptical of this place as it's rather touristy, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you Allie, for making us do this! We spent about 3 hours wading through the steaming water trying to find the hottest spots, sipping wine and bubbles, hanging in steam room + sauna and standing under the waterfall to let hot water pound my very tired shoulders.  I was in such a state of delirium by the time we left, I gifted a lucky Blue Lagoon goer my favorite Sezane scarf.
Finland: Helsinki
We flew over water, fields of open land and farms before landing in Helsinki.
Much to our surprise and maybe the reason for the cheap(ish) castle hotel room, Helsinki is pretty empty during summer solstice weekend. Shops, restaurants and markets were closed. Streets were empty and the city quiet. People flee the city this particular weekend and head to their vacation homes. Glo hosted a free breakfast down in the basement. This in itself was such a treat. We should all be eating Scandi breakfast meals in a castle cellar. There was a long wooden table with very well staged buffet of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, hash browns, toast, loaves of bread, jams, salted butter, fruit, charcuterie meats, cereal, cheese boards and oatmeal with all the toppings. Kettles of hot water for tea and coffee and a juice bar filled the beverage table.
Our room was a corner room with big windows to let in bright light. After settling into our space, we walked the city. Helsinki is dubbed the 'Design City'. The country has several famous designers and architects. There is such detail on every building, store front, cafe, park, etc. While we didn't experience the vibrancy of Helsinki, an empty city does have its perks. Insert no lines, waits, crowded sidewalks or parks. Along the waterfront there were boats turned bars and cafes. For those that did stick around, it appeared they were all in the same beautiful tree lined park, Esplanadi. There was plenty to do and see here: watch a magic show, jugglers, bubble extraordinaires, lay in the sunshine and eat fresh made gelato. This park opened in 1818!
Helsinki is such a detailed city with a grid pretty easy to follow. We walked along another waterfront admiring more churches, historic buildings and people watching before finding dinner. We saw a man passed out on a bench laying down surrounded by beer bottles and women passed out sitting up against a light post, with a bottle of wine in her hand. We must have missed a big celebration the night before!
We had dinner at Kappeli.  Not knowing it's charm or history, the vibe drew us in. The glass windows look like blown glass. The trim and window details were ornate. The exterior full of outdoor seating, blankets, heaters and a bar. Inside, the walls were adorned with artwork from local well known artists and vintage chandeliers. Locals call it The Chapel. It's been around since 1867. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was known for the renowned poets, artist and writers that would hang out here. When it first opened it was a bakery and lemonade shop! Over the years Kappeli has evolved, enduring face lifts, ownership changes, menu changes, but the charm is still here, 151 years later.
I heard about the berries of Scandinavia and how delicious they are. We found a fruit stand and selected a strawberry basket.  These were, hands down, the best strawberries we've ever eaten. EVER. It was in this moment we were happy we brought our travel water bottles, everyone drinks out of the city's water fountains! Perfect snack.
All over the city there was art installations and your eyes are drawn to all these different aspects. Helsinki Cathedral was one of these works of architectural art... and lucky for us, literally empty. The Cathedral was opened in 1852 and is of Neoclassical Style. There is a big green dome that can be spotted from afar! The inlay stone work around the entrance of the Cathedral is simple but so aesthetically pleasing!
From here we wander over to the Kamppi Chapel. The Chapel of Silence was on my must do list. A long time friend lost her husband just a couple days before we left and having a moment of silence for JBird was really important to me. Old classic Cathedrals make you stand in wonder and question how something like it was built hundreds of years ago... but Kamppi Chapel and it's silence, echos of energy and clean lines make you focused and present in why you are there. It's located in one of the busiest areas of the city and when you walk in a calmness instantly covers you. It's simplicity was peaceful. The chapel was completed in 2012. Both interior and exterior walls are made of wood. The exterior is made from finger jointed spruce wood planks and are treated with a transparent wax. The interior walls are made of oil rubbed alder wood planks. The benches inside the chapel are also made of solid wood. I sat, prayed and lit a candle for Jonathan.
There are so many eclectic shops! A few favorites were: Marimekko- a Finnish design house with bold colors and design. In my next life I would like to own a gift shop like Madeby or Tre...both full of delightful artwork, clothing, home goods, decore, smell good things, make up, bags, furniture, etc.. Lifestyle Store are what Finnish people call these dream shops.

Hietalahti Market Hall, was a neat spot to pop in for a drink or bite. The building is 115 year old and now home to a weekend flea market, gift shops and a couple dozen cafes, drink shops and eateries!

Estonia: Tallinn
Since Helsinki was a ghost town, we decided to pop over to Tallinn, Estonia. This day trip is one I had to persuade Allie to endure. Turns out it was one of her favorite days! From the waterfront of Helsinki, we took a 2 hour ferry across the Baltic Sea. The "ferry" was really like a small cruise ship! It had a bar, shops, cafes, balconies and lounge areas!
Tallinn, Estonia is what storybook dreams are made of. We had about 5 hours to get lost in the Old Town. Cobblestoned Old Town Tallinn is like stepping back in time, it's so dang charming. Inside the Old Town walls there is a little city made up of pastel colored buildings, outdoor cafes, history buffs, souvenir shops, wooden shops, chocolate, christmas shops and people walking in awe.

In 1265 a defense wall was built 2.4km long. 1.9 km of the wall still stands today. The wall was built to be 14-16 meters high, 3 meters thick and 46 towers. 20 towers still stand and many you can go up in!

The cobblestone streets wind and turn with each corner revealing another picture worthy scene. Handcrafted wooden doors, shades of color as far as you can see and window boxes with gushing flowers.
Being close to Russia, you can see and feel the Russian influence weaved throughout Tallinn. To my surprise, I learned it's also the most digitally developed country in Europe! The city of Tallinn only has about 400,000 people living in it, so it's small, relatively speaking.

We stocked up on small pieces of artwork, local Kalev chocolate and ornaments before snuggling up under blankets for lunch at Clayhills Gastropub! We had mushroom risotto and grass fed burger with local cheddar cheese with tomato and warm onion salsa.  Like Helsinki, Tallinn is overflowing with lots of gifts shops. We particularly loved, Rode.

We noticed a few things during our day trip: 
- So many stray cats 
- People love to drink. Lots of people were drinking booze at 7:30 am!
- We literally saw no (apparent) Americans in Estonia
- Lots of store has beautiful hand stitched linen
- Taxi cars were Lexus, Mercedes, etc.

Sweden: Stockholm
We land at 6pm and uber to the hotel.
I was getting sick before we left USA, but it had really kicked in by Sweden. Our first night we stayed in the city center. All I wanted to do was get good food, medicine and go to bed. We checked into our swanky hotel, Haymarket. We decided early on in planning that we would do half hostels, half hotels... I was really thankful for this plush room and bed with blackout curtains on this particular sleep! It was in Stockholm we found you can't get a cure-all pill for sickness. You must explain what you have and buy medicine for each symptom... dry cough, wet cough, scratchy throat, body aching, natural sleep aids, headache, watering eyes, running nose. $70 USD later I was stocked with boxes and bottles of things I hoped would do the trick. To get Melatonin you have to have a prescription from the doc! The nice lady at the pharmacy did a great job of explaining each medicine and I then wrote a short description on a sheet for me to carry with me.

Bolognese from a local corner spot on our walk back to the hotel was dinner. It was divine. I do not recall the name. I was in bed asleep by 9pm.

The next morning, I woke up feeling not better but not worse. Our area was thriving with people, markets, cafes and musicians. There was a big farmers market right in the square outside the hotel doors. We stumbled across a teeny coffee shop + bakery called  Fabrique. There was standing room for just a few people, one small table outside and several bar stools inside. You could literally smell the goods from the sidewalk. Hot tea was something I knew I needed to have that morning, the lady working the shop could tell I was sick and told me she had the right tea for my 'condition'. Allie and I each had a Swedish cinnamon roll called Kanelbulle and it was delicious.
We poked around until check out time then made our way to Old Town. A 17th century building was our home for the night. It was called Old Town Lodge, a quaint 19 rooms with 47 beds. The room was simple with white walls, one side table, 2 lamps, big windows, tall ceilings and creaking hardwood floors. Our room was on the ground level with windows that opened to a window box of red flowers hovering over a cobblestone street. Each morning breakfast was served in the tiny kitchen then strangers gathered at several community tables.
Since I had essentially missed our first Swedish night, I knew I had to push on despite not feeling 100%. We wasted no time to leave the room seeing what this part of the city had to offer. We rented bikes for couple hours and biked around, shopped and saw as much of the city as we could. Everyone here was very nice, easy to talk to and willing to help with questions and directions. There were lots of green areas and boats in the water. Boats turned bars lined the waterfront and stately buildings sat in the background. The building that stands out along the water is The Grand Hotel. We went inside to use the restroom and take a peek inside. Since we were not guests, we could only use the restroom and stay in the main entrance lobby.  After seeing how elegant the restrooms were, I can't imagine what the rest of the hotel looks like.
While Allie shopped around I biked over to Djurgarden. This place is spectacular and dates back to the 15th century. It might as well be called the Museum Island! So much history sits over here. Grona Lund is an amusement park dating back to 1883- I didn't ride, but it was fun to walk through. There is an old neighborhood made of wooden buildings dating back to the 18th century. There is an Abba Museum and Vasa Museet  which houses the only almost fully intact 17th century ship. It took it's main voyage in 1628 and sat on the bottom of the sea for 333 years.

Once back in Old Town, we just couldn't get over how many unique doors there were!
We drop our bikes off and meander around the streets casually going in and out of shops. We bought wooden butter knives, ornaments, postcards, and Dala Horses. We even found the most narrow street in all of Stockholm! Trying to find something good for supper, we looked at menu after menu and were finally sold on a gentleman very good at his job who lured us in. We sat outside people watching, drinking wine and eating dinner! While sitting here, we noticed that people drink hot drinks (coffee, tea) out of glass, not mugs. I asked for honey for my tea after dinner and they were out but the host- the one who lured us in, ran across the street to the market to purchase some for me!
After supper I put on some comfy clothes and began my nightly walk! Old Town island is much quieter than the mainland so the streets were practically empty, which was fine by me. I enjoyed walking, taking snaps, talking to the few people I did see.  As I walked the neighborhoods, I imagined what life in a place like this could be. While walking in the evening I could see what this imagary life would look like. Windows open with music playing, couples dancing, people cooking, mothers rocking children. A small peak into people's lives. 

I had been told about this old Viking bar that was cool to pop in, Aifur.  I had never felt more like I stepped back in time than when I drank my glass of wine in this bar. Low lighting, big wooden furniture, people dressed the part, large community table and plates of food and little drinking cubbies tucked throughout. One spot you have to climb a ladder to get in! By 11pm I call it a night. The following snaps are taken from 8:30-11pm.. no darkness!
This night stroll was the best way to spend my last night in this city!

Norway: Bergen
Welcome to one of the expensive countries in the world where crab legs run you $125, bolegense $35, burger $23 and a glass of wine $25... but man it this country breathtaking!
Bergen was our first stop. Cobblestone streets, white wooden houses, flower boxes, parks, water, high peaks, friendly people are what make up the town of 270,000 people. The waterfront is full of shops, cafes, fishing boats, luxury boats and people snapping pics of the iconic peaked building fronts.

We arrived at noon and took a taxi to the Marken Gjestenhus, our hostel for the next two nights. The hostel was very clean with comfy beds and shared bathrooms. The rate was $79 each for two nights. Bergen is a very walkable town so we headed out on foor to find lunch. After a short walk, we find ourselves a corner cafe where we each ordered a cheeseburger and fries. We are pretty sure is was reindeer meat with lots of herbs and seasoning. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. Allie hated it. Across the street is the cutest McDonalds you ever did see!

Right in town there is a tram that will take you to the top of the mountain to get views of the city and to play with local goats. The ride up is only about 10 min then you can spend as much time as you wish up top. If you are feeling up for the hike and have the right shoes you can hike down, it takes about 45 minutes.
The Bergen waterfront is famous for peaked wooden buildings full of shops, art galleries and cafes. There are all these nooks and alleyways winding through the buildings.
Gift shops in Scandinavia are actual dreams of mine that have come true, then Bergen goes and throws a "blomster" (flower) shop in there too! Solstrand Blomster is what my florist cousin, Moonlight Iris and I have always dreamed of teaming up to do!
Graffiti covers many buildings in Bergen. Book shops had big windows to let light in and colorful chairs to sit out and read. Coffee shops were full of people drinking coffee and beer. Umbrella ceilings provide shade. Music was flowing out of bars, open windows and live music weaved throughout the streets.
It was an early night for us because we had Norway in a Nutshell the next day! This was fairly touristy, but if you are limited on time, I highly recommend it. It really was Norway in a Nutshell. The trip is from 8:00 am - 6:30 pm. You can plan your day or overnight stay how you want. Our day was bus, boat and train! The bus ride was rather enjoyable, the windows were large and we secured a front row seat. We drove along a road from the 1900s that was a horse road only for mail. Our bus somehow maneuvered down a zig zag that road that was two-way until 7 years ago! The bus dropped us at the base of a fjord where we loaded onto a "luxury" ferry. You could also opt for a traditional ferry that was $20 less expensive, louder and older.
Our boat is quiet and the scenery is hard to believe. It was windy AF outside but I just couldn't go in. I had to see it all. I did pop in for a snack and hot cocoa when my wind blown face needed a break. An old Russian lady in front of me didn't have enough money for her food and they didn't take cards. I paid for her meal and the cashier treated me to some of the best cheesecake I'd ever had! The lady didn't speak English but smiles and hugs are an universal way to say thank you. I had so many questions about the settlements we saw and sadly no one to ask! How do these people get here? Where do they grocery shop? Do they get mail way out here? How do they leave their house in the dead of Winter? The list goes on and on. You would see pockets of communities all along the fjord. Some as small as 8 homes and a church. Always a church. If I could change one thing about the boat portion of the tour, that would be it-  a person to answer questions! In the end, it just gave me a long list of things to google!
After a couple hours slow cruising through the fjord, we landed in the village of Flam. Flam sits at the end of Aurlandsfjord and is just 6 feet above sea level.  This little village is home to a 17th century iconic style wooden Norwegian church. While only 350 people live here, the small village gets around 450,000 visitors per year.  I was more than pleased to be one of them. The Aurlandsfjord that leads to Flam is the innermost arm of Sognefjord, the world’s deepest and second longest fjord, which stretches halfway to Sweden. As much as I can try to explain this area, there really are not justifiable words. It's something that needs to be seen in person to grasp how grand it is.

From here we board the train. The train ride is 12.6 miles long and said to be the most beautiful train ride in the world. It climbs almost 3,000 feet in elevation, passes through a couple villages, one tunnel and past several waterfalls before landing in the Myrdal Station. Construction started in 1924 and was completed in 1940 and is one of the world's steepest railway tracks, on a normal track.
We switch trains and then get back on the bus that returns us to Bergen. We land in Bergen and I begin my nightly wandering, the longest of the trip 4.5 hours. I explored the neighborhoods full of white houses, have a strong cup of coffee, walk through the seafood market, both sides of the marina, up the hills to see the overlook of the city and have a solo dinner with plenty of people watching!
 

These city overlook images were taken at 10:45 pm!
I end the evening at 11:30 after many miles walked and some live tunes.

Norway: Stavanger
A taxi carried us from the airport to the marina where we purchased ticket for the ferry to Tau. While we wait for the 12:45 ferry, we walk around the port and grab lunch at a bakery. It was hard to choose what to get, everything looked and smelled devine! Kanelsnurren was full of fresh baked breads, sammies made to order, juices, fruit bowls and the most beautiful artisan chocolates. You can drool and admire design on their instagram.
The ferry dropped us in Tau where we hopped on a bus for a 30 min ride to our Mountain Lodge for the evening. The lodge is at the base of the Preikestolen Hike. We walk down a grave and dirt path to our building and find the cozy bunk room. Our room looked out onto the grounds, located on the lake. After a mental adjustment and pep talk, we began our hike up. We were told the hike should take about 4 hours round trip, we did it in 3.5. We didn't rush, took plenty of breaks when the elevation gain created heavy breathing. We trekked up and down, across boulder fields, woods walkways across water and finally arrive... almost 2,000 feet up and looking into Lysefjord.
Me!
Allie!
The hike down was a breeze compared to the one up! Once back, I walked down to the lake for a (chilly) swim. When I see water, I usually just have to get in, despite the temps! I sat by the fire to warm up and wait for a freed up shower. We walked from our green roof building to the main building for dinner. We split Samon and "local by the farmer flank steak". Maybe we were drained and tired but my goodness, it was delicious!  Over dinner we discussed the coming days and the magnitude of what we just saw. The fjord is so remote, it only has two villages (on either end). Cruise ships looked like tiny toy boats, the color of the water would look blue with one blink and bright teal in another.

Exhausted and no where to do my nightly walk, we call it an early night!
Breakfast was severed up early and was a spread of cheeses, breads, fruits, oatmeal with all the toppings, eggs, bacon, coffee, juice, milk! We said our goodbyes to the beautiful property and jump on a bus back to the ferry.  We've got about 4 hours to kill in Stavanger and luckily the ferry house has lockers!

Stavanger is the sweetest little port town. Again, white neighborhoods, delightful shops, cafes, old churches and people just loving the outside life. We walked all over this town, did a little shopping, drank $4 bottled Coke window shopped. We found a market and bought handmade wooden spoons and troll string ornaments.
I saw the Stavanger Cathedral and knew I had to go in. It didn't look like a traditional Cathedral, it was much smaller in scale. The original structure was built in early 12th century. in 1272 a fire did severe damage and it was rebuilt in gothic style, much different from the original Anglo-Norman style. The baptismal font is made from soapstone and dates back to the 13th century. The pulpit is very impressive and hand carved from a Scottish craftsman in the 17th century. The pulpit spans the complete history of the bible starting with Adam and Eve at the foot of the stairs and finishing with the triumphant Christ crowning a the top of the canopy. The detail is unreal.
Once we arrived at the airport for our flight to Denmark, we wished we had more time in Stavanger. Our flight was delayed 5.5 hours. At first we were bumped b/c of our "type of ticket" and they oversold the flight, even though we were given seat assignments> I asked to speak with someone in upper management and a lady appeared a few minutes later to fill out or compensation paperwork.  The next flight was only an hour and half later, but that flight was then cancelled. 3rd flight is a charm, right? Instead of getting to Copenhagen at 5:00pm we arrived at 1pm! Fret not, we were refunded that flight of $250 and $50 in airport charges (dinner, water, snacks, etc). I learned along ago, in some cases you don't ask, you tell them what you need!

Denmark: Copenhagen
Oooooooooh Copenhagen how we loved you! Tired and slightly annoyed at our travel hiccups we arrive to Hotel Astoria around 11:30 pm only to find they didn't have our reservation and they are full for the evening. I pulled up the email confirmation and showed the front desk clerk the strand of emails I had with another employee. He makes a phone call and starts speaking in Danish. He comes back to us and explains that the person I was emailing with was with the hotel group, Brochner Hotels, but not specially Astoria. Apparently she never moved us to the correct hotel. This was a mishap that finally worked in our favor. Of their 6 hotels, they had vacancy at Hotel SP34, one of their 4 star hotels. He confirmed the room would be ready when we arrived and we would have a glass of wine on the house. We took a very short taxi ride to our new hotel and were gleeful when we walked in. The interior was hip, cool, modern and just our style. We bellied up at the bar, have a glass of vino and get checked in. We loved our room. The two beds were extremely comfortable, the bathroom spacious and stocked with REN products, nightstands, table for two with coffee, huge closet space and windows that open up to the city streets. Since we had booked the "Superior Double" at Astoria, this is what they gave us at SP34. SP34 should have been $750 each for 3 nights but they only charged us $272 each which was the Astoria rate! We snuggle up and are excited to make the best of our next couple days, since we lost 1/2 day!
Breakfast was included in our stay and we took full advantage. The eatery attached to SP34 is Vaekst. It like its we're eating in a  greenhouse! The breakfast spread was the best yet. All organic and freshly baked and made in house. There was a  juice bar, smoothie bar, coffee bar, hot tea bar, a dozen or so types of bread, several butter and jam choices, cereals, fruits and eggs and meats + cheese!
Needing to stretch our legs, we decided we would walk today and bike the next day. We walked to Indre By, a busy area of town. Here we found piazzas full of people and folks playing music, making art and looking up at the beautiful buildings. This area also houses the famous Nyhavn HarborFrederik's ChurchCharlottenborg Palace and  The Little Mermaid.

Nyhavn is a harbor full of fishing boats, cafes, galetto stores, bars, boat tours and artist all lining the water with colorful 17th century buildings nestled in. The harbor was constructed in 1670 and took several years. Swedish prisoners dug the harbour. The first bridge opened in 1875 and was made of wood. It was replaced with current bridge in 1912. The oldest house in the harbor is No.9 and it dates back to 1681... that is 338 years old!!
I purchased some hand crafted and painted wooden ornaments from an old Danish man who spoke zero English. He had kind eyes, hands of a worker and a contagious smile. From here we sit and people watch while eating our gelato. We pop into a bar for a to-go drink, just because we can!

We keep meandering and come across the Charlottenborg Palace. The palace was built for a Military General who happened to be the illegitimate son of King Frederik III of Denmark and Norway. Since 1754 it's been the Royal Danish Academy of fine arts and sadly closed while we were there! Just past the palace is Frederik's Church. The green dome dominates this area and pulls you in. Locals know it  as the Marble Church. It's of Rococo style and is gorgeous. There is so much to look at, the detail is impeccable, the colors, curves, no empty spot in the entire structure. To drive the point in even more, it took 145 years to complete and opened in 1894. The dome was inspired by St. Peter's in Rome and is the largest dome in Scandinavia.
The Little Mermaid sits in the water not too far from here. We decide to walk along the waterfront to find her. It's a small bronze statue showing a mermaid becoming a human. It's inspired after the tale written by Hans Christian Andersen and has been an attraction since 1913. Along the way we passed a waterfront cafe with a bike out front that said Raleigh!
By this point in the day we had done lots of walking and were ready for dinner! Yelp told us to try Restaurant Puk.  We got the steak, veggies with wipped potatoes and it was divine! We sat outside so maximize our people watching. Next door was Sorens Vaertshus, a pub with a hundred or so people outside watching the World Cup. Denmark was playing that evening. Local Danes and all the visitings people were ready to cheer the team on! After dinner we walk back toward our hotel and stop in a pub around the corner and watch a little bit of the game and notice how people are just drinking anywhere and everywhere, that would never fly in the states! I scoot back to the hotel to grab a sweater and then I had back out. I was tired, but how often will you be in a country, while they are playing in the World Cup?! I walked back to Sorens and cheered as Denmark played, met some folks from NYC and Cali and then bar hopped with them after a very sad loss.

Our last full day was bike day! Our hotel had bike's for us and thankfully they had baskets. Freetown Christiania was our first stop. This is an area full of free spirits and artist living in a commune of sorts and chasing euphoria. There are around 1,000 residents covering the 19 acres. People have been habitating here since 1971. Cannabis trade were tolerated until 2004. Danish common law now supposedly includes this area. However, I'm going to just go ahead and say, authorities seem to just turn a blind eye. Christiania's dwellings are former military barracks and warehouses. The community is home to people painting, practicing yoga, meadiating, children playing, a flea market, a farmers market, cafes, art galleries, lots of bikes and smokers and a green zone where no cameras are allowed. I found out the hard way when a middle aged hippy woman  made me deleted several photos she saw me take. I was taken back by how abruptly she ran over to me and demanded the deletion... so I obligated.
Three yellow dots are the symbol of Freetown Christiania 
The elegant department store that is Magasin Du Nord was our next stop. The department store looks like something out of the movies, it is 150 years old and had a full gourmet market in the basement!

We lunch at Torvehallerne.  I've never seen so many bright colored raw fish, beautiful sandwiches, fresh baked goods, juices, flowers, produce market, wine stores, healing creams, smoothies, sweet treats, beer shops and happy people in one space. And to make it more of a natural high, there is a lake right across the street with lots of green space!

Noma is long considered one of the best places to eat in the world. Not only could we not afford it, we couldn't get a reservation. I settled for Hija De Sanchez, former Noma chef.  She is from Southside Chicago and a Mexican American. This badass has worked alongside some of the best of the best. Seeing a void in culinary food in Europe and not wanting a fancy eatery of her own, she set out to bring authentic Mexican food to Copenhagen... in the form of a taco hut. Those two tacos were the best I'd ever had. Period. 
Tivoli Gardens is a must stop. It's magical. It's loud. It's peaceful. It's thoughtfully designed. It opened in 1843. Grounds spread over 20 gated acres right in the middle of the city. It's the second oldest operating amusement park in the world and has one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world. The property consisted of rides, shows, gardens, games, gift shops, art galleries, aquarium, food markets, lights strug about. In case you don't want to leave, there is even a hotel on the grounds. The entire place gives a sense of wonder. The founder declared once: "when people are amusing themselves, they are not thinking or talking politics" and how true he was. My phone died and I was only able to snap 2 pics.

We spend the rest of the day biking around, looking in more lifestyle shops, ooohing and ahhing, trying to not get hit by other people cycling and admiring this city. In the bottom of our hotel was a good burger joint... Cock's & Cows Copenhagen. After a long day in full sun and 11 miles biked and walked, I could think of nothing more I wanted than a big burger and fries! 

The next day we have a leisure morning with our free breakfast and neighborhood bike strolls before heading to the airport. It was the perfect end to our trip!











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