Denmark/Sweden Diaries: Helsingør to Helsingborg

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

We set an alarm to wake up at 8 a.m., then each packed a small backpack with clothes for the next two days. We were back on the move. With helpful directions from our local friends, we took the metro to Nørreport, then transferred to the train line that goes north up Denmark’s east coast. We ran into a brief, humorous hiccup at the billeter machine when the couple in front of us asked for help buying their tickets in French. Unable to to assist, we tried asking the man standing behind us, who turned out to be Dutch and was equally confused. Between three languages and a lot of fumbling, we all eventually figured out which tickets we needed to purchase.

Kurt and I took a 45-minute train ride along the coast while lounging in comfortable seats and charging our phones. European trains are so fast, smooth, clean, and efficient. Our stop, Helsingbørg, was at the end of the line. It was a short walk from the station to our destination, Kronborg Castle. The Renaissance-era stronghold, situated on the Øresund Strait, was Shakespeare’s inspiration for Elsinore, home of Hamlet.

a woman stands in front of a Danish castle

Elsinore

We started with a guided tour of the dungeons, at the statue of Holger Danske near the entrance. Holger is a Danish historical figure and icon whose likeness rests below the castle until the day he must rise up to once again protect and defend his Mother country. The statue is really cool and it made me wonder how many young Danes have tattoos of it. During the Swedish siege of the castle, the Danish infantry were forced to hunker down in the dungeons for  6 weeks. They lived in squalor and cramped quarters, and their only rations were salted herring for every meal and 8 liters of beer per man per day, made from kitchen scraps.

statue of Holger Danske

Holger Danske

We did a self-guided tour of the rest of the castle, exploring the King and Queen’s quarters, the ballroom/banquet hall, the chapel, and the courtyard. An exhibit showed all of the live shows of Hamlet that had been performed in the courtyard; the 1937 production on the grounds of Elsinore starred Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

castle courtyard

castle courtyard

We walked 206 steps to the top of the castle tower, where we could walk onto the rooftop and get an aerial view of Helsingør and Sweden, just across the water.

a man stands on front of a view of the Oresund strait

Kurt on the rooftop

After we finished the Castle tour, we walked around Helsingør and found a small bar that served a traditional Danish lunch. We had curried herring, liver mousse, roast beef, mushrooms and bacon, and rye bread. The sun had come out, and the seaside town looked picturesque next to the sparkling water. We walked back to the train station, where we bought our tickets for the Scandlines ferry to take us to Sweden.

After a brief 20-minute ride across the strait, we arrived in Sweden! We showed our passports at the gate and walked into Helsingborg. It turned out that many of the attractions we were interested in seeing closed at 6 p.m., so we dropped off our things at our hotel and headed right back out.

Kärnan is a medieval tower located in the heart of Helsingborg, the sole remains of a larger seaside fortress. After hearing all about the “bloodthirsty Swedes” during our Kronborg tour, it was funny to read the depictions of the war from the Swedish point of view where they bemoaned the many times the Danes had occupied their side of the strait. Kärnan was surrounded by a large park with a hilltop view of the sea, so we took a stroll and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Karnan tower

Kärnan Tower

As the afternoon grew later, we took a walk along the water and stopped for a glass of wine at a seaside restaurant. Most of the people we saw walking along the water were tall, blond, and dressed in head-to-toe black; the local lewk was Scandinavian goth realness.

seaside view of Helsingborg, Sweden

Hej Sweden!

One thing I noticed in both Sweden and Denmark was that as soon as the sun came out, people flocked to outdoor spaces to drink in the rays. The waterfront path became packed with joggers, walkers, and groups of friends grabbing chairs or patches of grass to lay out and enjoy the beautiful day. In that way, Scandinavia reminded me a lot of Chicago. After a long, dark winter, we flourish in the longer days of late spring.

It had been a long day of walking and sightseeing, so we made it an early night with a quick shawarma dinner and a shared bottle of wine back at the hotel.

Advertisements

Denmark Diaries: The Word of the Day is “Beer”

Monday, April 16, 2018

We woke up feeling the effects of our impromptu bar crawl, and a hefty breakfast was in order. Luckily, a delicious brunch place, Sokkelund, was in easy walking distance–and even better, they served coffee refills. I had scrambled eggs with salmon and avocado.

After fueling up properly, we were ready to start our day. The Carlsberg Brewery was a 20-minute walk away, most of it through a scenic park. One of the many things I loved about Copenhagen was the amount of green public spaces. The path wound its way past ponds filled with swans and a tree onto which dozens of people had tied handwritten cards and pacifiers with ribbons. In Scandinavian traditional folklore, once a baby gave up their pacifier  they would write a note thanking it for its service and tie to a tree in remembrance.

tree covered in handwritten notes with pacifiers tied to branches on ribbons

pacifier tree

The area where the Carlsberg brewery is located is currently being developed into a whole village complete with apartments, restaurants, and shops. We arrived at the brewery just in time to miss the tour, so instead, we bellied up to the bar for some samples. Our bartender told us that Chicago was his favorite U.S. city (second time in two days!) and it reminded him a lot of his hometown Glasgow.

plate of oysters

We ate most of these oysters before we took a photo

For dinner, we went to an area called Kødbyen Meatpacking District, or “Meat City.” As the sun slowly set, we sat outside and ate oysters from Kødbyens Fiskebar, then crossed the plaza to check out Warpigs  Brewpub and their BBQ selection. As soon as we walked into Warpigs, I felt like I was in a Chicago bar (which makes sense, given Mikkeller’s partnership with Three Floyds). We got a few different beers, the pork shoulder, pork and beans, and pecan pie, and everything was fantastic.

plate of BBQ pork and beans

We also ate most of this pork before we took a photo

After two back-to-back meals (don’t judge, we’re on vacay), walking to our next destination sounded heavenly. Too bad we stumbled onto the next place we wanted to check out within 400 meters: Fermentoren Beer Bar. We descended the steps into the small, packed bar and knew that we’d struck gold yet again. The bar had an excellent selection of craft beers on tap, so we found an open table where we could squeeze ourselves and camp out for a while.

beer

beer

On the last leg of our walk home, we made one final stop at a bar that totally intrigued us from the outside with its Western-themed motifs and obscured windows, a place called HH Ranch. As we stepped inside, I could swear we just transported to rural kitschy America. The bar was decked out in wood paneling and log cabin decor, and the barstools were made out of western saddles. There was even a Johnny Mnemonic-themed pinball machine(!!).  The place was a total trip. We had one final lager and then called it a night; we had big plans for the next day.

 

Denmark Diaries: Towers, Roller Coasters, and Beer

Sunday, April 14, 2018

I woke up around 3:30 a.m. local time to the sound of chirping birds (apparently, the title of Happiest Country on Earth includes wildlife because those birds sounded chipper all night long). After tossing and turning for a bit, I managed to fall back asleep until…11:30 a.m. Oops! Kurt and I didn’t want to sleep away half of our first full day, but so it goes. We rose and showered, then met up with our friends. The kids were ready for lunch and Kurt and I for breakfast, so we took the Metro two stops over to Nørreport, in the heart of the city. Right by the train stop, we went to Torvehallerne, which is a large market with indoor and outdoor vendors and tons of food stalls, booths, and wares. I went for a traditional porridge breakfast made with fresh organic ingredients from Grød along with my morning (noon) coffee, and Kurt got a Danish sandwich, coffee, and a beer (a.k.a. vacation mode). After lunch, we said goodbye to our friends who had family errands to take care of, and Kurt I headed out to sightsee on our own.

Our first stop was Rundetaarn, or Round Tower, an architectural project of Christian IV built in the 17th century. The tower consists of a 209-meter long spiral ramp, built because the King wanted to be able to ride his horse all the way to the top. I love horses and tales of extreme hubris, so we needed to check it out. About halfway up the tower there’s a coffee shop and art exhibit, and then on the observation deck, you get a fantastic 360-degree view of Copenhagen. Selfies were taken.

skyline view of Copenhagen

Not a selfie.

We wandered around the shops of Strøget for a bit, then found a sidewalk cafe to rest and enjoy a beer. The table seated next to us consisted of two British men around our age, so we ended up chatting with them for a bit, commiserating on the rough state of our countries. When we told them where we were from, they got really excited and told us that Chicago is their favorite U.S. city, which is always nice to hear.

We did a bit more walking until we saw the top of the swing ride at Tivoli Gardens, so we headed in that direction. Tivoli is the second oldest operating amusement park in the world and our friends mentioned that it was a ‘must’ for our trip. We bought entrance tickets, then strolled the grounds and checked out the incredible gardens and classic rides and games. We saw the swing ride that lured us to the park like a beacon, and I couldn’t get over how high up it went. Definitely put the dinky swings at Six Flags to shame.

swing ride at amusement park

a hard nope for me as an acrophobic

There’s an extensive food court adjacent to the fairgrounds, so we got some desserts and hung out inside until a light rain passed through. As the evening grew later, the lights throughout the park turned on, revealing colorful lanterns. I tried getting a picture of Kurt under the lights using his fancy camera, but struggled with the shutter for so long that a random passerby approached and said to me “I can’t take it anymore; go stand next to him and I’ll take the photo.”

couple stands on walkway under colorful lanterns

photo taken by a man tortured by witnessing my ineptness

After leaving Tivoli, we continued our walking streak, burning off the calories from the schnitzel and chocolate mousse I’d consumed. We realized two key facts: we were less than 2 miles from our friends’ house, and there was a Mikkeller bar located on our direct route home. Wins all around! Our nighttime stroll turned into a lowkey pub crawl as we stopped for pints at Mikkeller, followed by a German bar, and ending at a neighborhood bistro.

man sits at small bar table attached to wall

Table for two

We returned home by midnight, the pints helping lull us to sleep (and onto a closer proximation to local time).

 

Denmark Diaries: Arriving in Copenhagen

Friday, April 13/Saturday, April 14, 2018

On a lovely Friday the 13th evening, Kurt and I embarked on a trip to Denmark to visit some friends living abroad and explore Copenhagen. We wrapped up a hectic work week, then took a quick Uber to O’Hare Airport where we’d be departing from on IcelandAir. On the plane, I watched The Greatest Showman  and tried to nap, then we had an hour-long layover in Reykjavík (oh hai Iceland!) before landing in Copenhagen around 12:40 pm the next day.

At the airport, we ran into some confusion when, after picking up our bags and reaching the exit doors to outside, we thought we missed Customs entirely and accidentally snuck into Denmark. (Later, we learned that since we went through Customs in Reykjavík during our layover, we didn’t need to show our passports again in Denmark because both countries are in the Schengen Area.)

We bought train tickets at the billeter machine, then took the Metro to Fredericksberg, a residential area within Copenhagen where our friends live. Once we arrived at the correct Metro stop, we ducked into a Starbucks to get some free wifi and find the directions for the 5-minute walk to our friends’ home.

image of Copenhagen street and a bicycle parking area

Copenhagen!

After settling in and then catching up a bit in our friends’ living room, we all took a walk together around the neighborhood for a tour of some local food, coffee, and bar options. With their two young kids in tow, we grabbed a hot dog and coffees and sat in a park where the kids could play and draw for a bit. I observed two young girls taking turns rollerblading on a 4×8′ apartment building balcony.

For a late lunch/early dinner/whatever meal was closest to mine and Kurt’s whacked-out internal clocks, we went to the Laundromat Cafe. Kurt and I instantly recognized it because we had had a drink at their Iceland location a year earlier. The great thing about visiting friends with kids is that everyone’s up for getting ice cream after a meal, so we followed lunch with a trip to Social Foodies, a dessert shop with philanthropic interests in helping marginalized communities in Africa. (Even more of a reason to eat ice cream every day!)

IMG_9437

Fredericksberg, Copenhagen

The sun was setting by the time we got back to the house, and Kurt and I said goodnight to our friends who began their bedtime routine for the kids. We did some light unpacking, then passed out pretty quickly ourselves after a long day and night of traveling into a time zone 7 hours ahead of Chicago.

The Last Year of My 30’s

Today, I turn 39 and enter the last year of my 30’s. I’ve enjoyed this past decade so much, and I ain’t scurred to enter the next one. Here’s a random list of things I did in my 38th year:

  • toured my old high school for our twentieth reunion
  • bought an old Chevy Astrovan and turned it into a camper
  • went on writing retreats in Indianapolis and Milwaukee with great friends and writers
  • cried watching Wonder Woman in the theater
  • saw U2 perform Joshua Tree at Soldier Field, recreating one of my first high school concert experiences
  • became obsessed with Twin Peaks: the Return all summer
  • swam in Lake Michigan and Waupaca’s Chain O’ Lakes
  • had a sibling karaoke reunion at Sidekicks, my fave divey bar
  • saw Arcade Fire play a Lollopalooza aftershow at the Metro and Winn Butler ran into me when he jumped into the crowd
  • SAW A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE
  • sang karaoke at a pirate bar in Delavan, WI
  • road tripped to Maine with my husband and our dog, checking off 4 new states
  • hiked to the top of Cadillac Mountain then ate an ice cream bar
  • saw Stephen King driving in his Jeep Liberty
  • hosted our first Thanksgiving in our house
  • added a Loch Ness monster to my early aught’s tramp stamp (it’s now a Triassic stamp!)
  • started meditating every morning
  • saw Magic Mike Live in Las Vegas
  • took a train ride in a sleeper car and sang karaoke in New Orleans
  • said goodbye to my beloved cat, Ginger Spice
  • practiced yoga 27 out of 31 days in March
  • visited two new countries, Denmark and Sweden

Looking at this list, I feel so hashtag-blessed to live my life. Who knows how many years we all get to share with each other, so I hope to cram each and every year of life as balls-to-the-wall as this one. OH HAI 39!

30* Days of Yoga

*ish

For the month of March, I set a challenge for myself to do yoga every day, aiming for 30 practices total (giving myself a rest day halfway through). I mostly completed my goal, practicing on 27 out of 31 days. So, I took a few days off but if there’s anything I’ve learned from yoga, it’s to be forgiving to myself when I’m not perfect. In order to fit 30-75 minutes of yoga into my daily routine, I eliminated my usual cardio workouts from my week, instead focusing on getting on my mat.

This was the perfect challenge for me at this time; I’ve been wanting to expand my practice and increase strength and flexibility while also maintaining my daily meditation habit. I mostly went to power vinyasa studio classes which run 60-75 minutes long. On the days I practiced from home, I used the Cody App which I like for the variety of classes. As a former roller derby skater and Crossfitter, yoga is a big change of pace for me. In the last few years, I’ve been leaning towards the more slow and deliberate pace of yoga and Pilates, mostly because of the limitations I have in my knee after my injury 7 years ago and subsequent surgery. I can’t do All The Squats anymore, which makes me sad. But with yoga, I’ve found a way to increase my strength that doesn’t also make me constantly fear injury. And spoiler alert–I’ve gotten pretty damn strong and I kinda even love side planks now.

prayer twist, Wonder Woman-style

A few takeaways about the 30-day challenge:

  • I made SO much more dirty laundry. Most of the studio classes I go to are in a 93-degree heated room, and by the end I’m so sweaty my fingers are pruning. Obviously, this results in a ton of drenched leggings, tank tops, and yoga towels.  #laundryeverydamnday
  • I went to the doctor for my annual physical, and I was nearly an inch taller than I was last year! That’s what daily stretching will do for your spine and overall posture.
  • Blocking out time on my calendar helped me prioritize fitting the daily practice into my crazy schedule. Much like with my vision board, seeing it on my list of to-do’s for the day was the key to sticking with it.
  • My body awareness has become more heightened. I notice all the tiny differences in flexibility on my left side vs. my right, my strengths (quads and hammies) and tightness (my lower back has zero desire to bend but I’m slowly making gains but will likely hate camel pose forever).
  • Taking a selfie in a yoga pose using a 10-second iPhone timer is the greatest challenge of all. Everything on Instagram is a lie. It takes a village to get that perfect image you just scrolled past of a social media influencer in perfect Eka Pada Galavasana in front of a waterfall in Belize.

Now that my self-imposed challenge is over, I’m adding cardio back into my routine a few times a week, but I plan to keep yoga as my main form of exercise on most days.

lizard pose with quad stretch

Wearing My Traveling Pants: Las Vegas and New Orleans

In the early months of 2018, I planned weekend trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans within 3 weeks of each other. If you are thinking to yourself, this sounds like the best idea ever, you are correct. Traveling as much as possible is on my 2018 vision board (see last post!), and though visiting these two cities in particular did nothing to forward my healthy-eating-and-living-related goals, they were super fun trips and #NORAGRETS. Each trip had a particular in mind–a journey, a quest, a DESTINATION:

Las Vegas
The trip’s main quest was to see Magic Mike Live. Believe me when I tell you that it’s not what you think it’s going to be–it’s one of the most entertaining shows I’ve seen in recent memory. You can read the full review over at Heauxs Magazine.  I lived in Las Vegas the year I turned 21, so it’s a city near and dear to my heart, full of fuzzy memories, bad decisions, and fantastic stories. This past trip is no exception.  Plus, I got to ride a mechanical bull which is my fave thing in this world (shout-out to my former Urban Rodeo League team, the Buckle Bunnies).

Vegas highlights via foto:

Art-O-Mat – local art vending machine

Year of the Dog

Neon Boneyard


New Orleans
The New Orleans quest involved taking an overnight train from Chicago to Louisiana and singing a whole lot of karaoke. I’d never traveled in a sleeper car or eaten in a dining car before; it was very White Christmas (but with no snow and lots of beer) and I loved it. I’d been to New Orleans once before and was eager to revisit it. We hit two karaoke bars (Cat’s Meow and Kajuns Pub), toured an historic cemetery, and ate a ton of amazing food. In Airbnb adventures, I now know what it sounds like when someone drops a 5-lb wad of Mardi Gras beads into a steel drum.

Feast your eyeballs on these NoLa pics:

I made a lot of “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” references for you fellow theater nerds

a surly local

tour of St. Louis Cemetery

omg we ate so much delicious food

Furreals, if I could visit both these cities every year until the day I die, I’d be so happy (but only during the winter because I can’t handle extreme hot weather, I’m basically a Stark).  Both cities are all about celebrating in the moment and indulging every whim. The kale salad in the fridge at home can wait for me.