Copenhagen: Day 2

It seemed a sin that we’d been in Denmark for over 24 hours and not yet had a pastry, so that was our mission Saturday morning. We were a bit too ravenous to hunt properly, so we grabbed enormous cinnamon rolls from 7-11 (2 for £2.50…you can’t beat it) and ate them in the hotel room while we got ready for the day.

It seems bizarre but one of the things we’d both been most excited about visiting was the Lego Shop. As soon as we located it amongst Copenhagen’s maze of shopping streets, we knew we’d been right; its guarded by huge Lego soldiers, contains some seriously impressive Lego works, and has some of hthe friendliest staff I’ve come across.

Matthew was in his element nerding out over all the Star Wars stuff, but I was more interested in building tiny Lego people from the endless array of heads, hats, accessories and outfits available. Possibly the most fun I’ve ever had.

After more time than I care to admit, we decided it was time for something a tad more cultural and headed off on a sunny walk towards the library.

This is where Copenhagen’s more contemporary side comes into play and the building is gorgeous (and there was a cool greenhouse-like pop up/event space outside, too). We ventured inside and sat for a while, and it was so cool and peaceful and productive-feeling it almost made me want to write an essay.

We couldn’t visit Copenhagen without paying a visit to Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest theme parks and apparently the place that inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland, so that was our next stop.

Located right in the middle of the city, Tivoli is like a mini city in itself and is crammed with something like 41 restaurants. It’s whimsical and old fashioned in a typically, Scandi-cool way and everyone seemed in very high spirits as we made our way around admiring the scenery and old fashioned fairground games & rides.

We couldn’t stay for too long, though, because we’d made dinner reservations at one of Copenhagen’s most recommend restaurants – Madklubben. Known for their devotion to good value, great food, Madklubben have several restaurants throughout the city and we were headed for the Bistro-de-Luxe, which is a kind of French/Danish “fusion.” The idea is that their menu is small, simple, cheap but delicious, and they have hit the nail on the head if you ask me.

As the restaurant filled up around us, we kicked things off with a £5 glass of cava and some delicious bread that I can only describe as malt loaf.

Foodwise, we went for beef brisket with sides of salad and smashed potatoes. The beef was perfectly cooked and fell apart as soon as you touched it with a fork. Excuse the yellowness of these photos!

We lingered over our wine before moving onto dessert, where I had a delicious baked rhubarb with liquorice panna cotta and Matthew had this marzipan cake, which was also delicious.

If you’re visiting Copenhagen, any and all of the Madklubben restaurants are well worth a visit – Copenhagen as a city isn’t that cheap to eat out in but Madklubben strike the perfect balance and was well worth the money. I am keeping all my fingers crossed that they will come to the UK eventually!

An Evening in Copenhagen: Neighbourhood & Mother

So, we continue. After a much-needed rest in our sun-drenched hotel room, we headed out into the streets of Copenhagen armed with a list of restaurant recommendations (anyone that knows me know that I never, ever go anywhere without researching dinner options in great depth). Our destination of choice: Vesterbro, formerly the meatpacking district and now one of Copenhagen’s coolest districts.

Despite the sunny day, we left the hotel to a light shower that resulted in some pretty spectacular skies and an impressive double rainbow over Tivoli Gardens and the train station. Definitely one of the more pleasurable rain showers I’ve ever been caught in, and our spirits were in no way dampened (lolol).

What we had not considered, though, was the fact that it was Friday night, and all the restaurants in Copenhagen’s answer to Shoreditch were jam-packed. After trying in vain at a couple of places, we decided to put our names on the hour-long waiting list at Mother, and headed off to our original choice Neighbourhood for pre-dinner drinks. On our way, we spotted this seriously cool street/rock art:

Neighbourhood offers gourmet pizzas and organic cocktails, and the menu was filled with interesting natural ingredients – it actually reminds me a bit of Dandelyan’s cocktail list. Predictably, I went for a gin/elderflower/pear concoction, while Matthew played it less safe with a spiced pumpkin affair. They were both delicious and we were pleased to get to experience some of Copenhagen’s surprisingly buzzy Friday-night cocktail scene (even if the bar was packed!).

By this point we were actually past the hour mark at Mother, so we hurried back in the hope that we wouldn’t have lost our table. Luckily, we hadn’t and we were led through the (still packed) restaurant to a table by the window. Mother is situated in an old meatpacking warehouse (in a strip of other, similar restaurants) and also serves pizza, with a huge pizza oven just opposite the door and an open kitchen.

The tables were packed in pretty tightly, so we squeezed in and ordered a beer each. They arrived in moments and they were quite large.

Pizza-wise, I went for the Porcella, which was basically sausage and mushroom. Now I’m not sure if I didn’t notice the mushroom part or if I consciously decided to ignore it, but either way this proved to be a bad choice. Fresh and delicious looking as it was, I do not like mushrooms and I also don’t like cheese, and this was one cheesy pizza. I ended up giving most of it to Matthew – BUT the crust was absolutely perfect!

Neither of us can remember which one Matthew went for, because he ordered in a panic, but it had some really delicious salami on it and he claimed it was possibly the best pizza he’d ever eaten.

Service was speedy, efficient and friendly (by this point we were coming to realise that efficient & friendly are standard everywhere in Copenhagen) and Mother definitely felt like a local haunt – always my aim in visiting new cities. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a pizza fan!

We headed back to our hotel tired and very, very happy – Copenhagen was already more than exceeding my expectations and the following days would only get better!

Falling In Love with Copenhagen (Part 1)

Have you ever visited a city and fallen completely, head-over-heels in love with it?

I have, a couple of times, but none more so than this weekend. My trip to Copenhagen was EVERYTHING. I could honestly probably talk about it for the next 5 years, but I’ll spare you that and I’ll try to keep it to just a few posts.

We arrived late on Thursday and after a 15 minute train ride from the airport, we checked into the First Hotel Kong Frederik and tucked ourselves up ready for a full day of exploring the city.

Friday morning saw bright sunshine, which was a very pleasant surprise as I’d been expecting grey skies, cold, and rain. In search of breakfast, we followed our noses to the end of the road where we came across Cafe Lillebror.

As it turns out, this is one of the city’s best reviewed breakfast spots, but we didn’t know that at the time. As all the tables were taken by chatting locals (always a good sign), we hopped up to the counter seating by the windows and ordered coffee and eggs on toast from the absurdly friendly staff. The bread was definitely not like the toast I’m used to, but it made a deliciously salty contrast to the egg!

We both could have sat there for hours, people watching and admiring everyone’s perfect cycling posture and supercool monochrome (and the staff seemed perfectly happy for us to do so) but there was a whole city to explore. We didn’t have any set plans, so off we set in the direction of the Rosenborg Palace.

The palace and its gardens were picture-perfect beautiful, with daffodils and…other flowers in bloom everywhere and bright, bright blue skies. And of course, a huge statue of a grandfather-esque Hans Christian Andersen. Doesn’t he look friendly?!

Not only are the people in Denmark super nice – even their lions are happy:

We wandered through the city until we stumbled across Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s most famous and arguably most picturesque street. It is jampacked full of buzzy restaurants and pubs, but it was only just midday so we continued on our stroll (we went back and I’ll put pictures in another post!)

Copenhagen is really the most gorgeous combination of ancient, fairytale buildings and clean lines, and round every corner we found new stunning views. We even found one spot where there were 4 trampolines planted in the ground – can you think of anything cooler?!

All this walking made us pretty hungry and Copenhagen has no shortage of coffee shops & bakeries, so we picked at random and landed on Emmery’s. I had the best chai latte I have ever tasted, one of the very best, most pecan-y brownies ever, and we also shared a delicious chocolate muffin.

We sat there for a while, soaking up the super-relaxed atmosphere – it was exactly the sort of place I would love to settle myself down in for a few hours with a fab book and an endless stream of those chai lattes. But we had places to visit – namely, Christiania.

Now, Christiana is officially one of my new favourite places in the world. It’s a self-confessed “freetown” and it has a fascinating history that I’ve been swotting up on since returning – but basically, it’s a whole town of hippies that exists almost entirely independently of the rest of Copenhagen. Known primarily for its stance against hard drugs (but very, very pro marijuana – it used to be sold openly on Pusher St), it is also one of the city’s most visited spots but it retains its hippie-cool authenticity.

The “green light district” (central Christiania, if you will) has three rules: don’t run, have fun, and no pictures. That means I can’t really share much, but trust me, it is worth a visit and I wish we could have stayed longer!

Having explored the city far and wide, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours’ recuperation before heading out for dinner. However, I think I’m going to leave it there for now and cover the evening’s activities in another post – we tried some great spots and they definitely deserve their own spotlight.

Huge congratulations if you’ve managed to get even this far…I promise the other days were (a little) less action-packed!

Snapshots in Greenwich

Some photos from a (slightly) hungover stroll on the first day of spring.

I honestly have no clue how I’d managed not only not to visit Greenwich before moving here, but also not to really have even heard of it. I think it’s easily one of the most underrated spots in London and the absolute greatest place to spend a Sunday.

Places visited: The Queen’s House / Tulip Staircase / The Water Gate / National Maritime Museum / Greenwich Park / Royal Naval College

Mudchute City Farm

I don’t need to tell you that Canary Wharf is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. You’d never know that there is a huge great farm quite literally at its feet – but, as we found out last week, there is.

I’d come across Mudchute City Farm somewhere online and read that it is one of the biggest city farms in Europe, but still I could hardly believe it actually existed just a stone’s throw away from both the Wharf and, most importantly, my house. On that gorgeously sunny Sunday last week, Matthew and I decided to go check it out. Sure enough, after a 5 minute DLR journey and a short stroll through Asda’s carpark (I bet nobody thinks there is an enormous ASDA lurking in the shadows of the Wharf, either, do they?), we found ourselves in what seemed to be the most rural of countryside.

I won’t lie, I was beyond excited. I’ve been to a couple of city farms before (hey, Kentish Town) and they have mostly consisted of a couple of sad looking horses, but this was the real deal. To my delight, the first animals we saw were these gorgeous long-eyelashed alpacas (possibly llamas…I’m not sure).

As it turned out, you could buy bags of carrots from the farm’s courtyard to feed the animals, which hordes of children were doing. This meant that the alpacas weren’t remotely interested in me, but I took a picture with them anyway. (Next time, I’m buying carrots too).

The farm put all the animals to bed about 4pm – no party animals here – and as we got there they were putting the donkeys in their coats and leading them away. But I couldn’t resist a shot of them with Canary Wharf behind!

The sheep were particularly popular with the carrot-wielding children. My favourite was this guy, and his crazy impressive horns.

And there are also plenty of goats. They’re cute, with super silky floppy ears that I love, but not nearly as cute as their pygmy counterparts. The pygmies were even too small to get a good picture of, but trust me – I want one.

Continuing on our wander, we found more munching sheep (it must be said that Mudchute’s boast of 150 animals seems to come mainly from sheep).

And one last treat: one delightful pig, who, again, was not at all interested in posing for my camera. I think I got a little smile out of him in the end, though…

I don’t know how well known Mudchute farm is but as far as I’m concerned, everybody should go there. The Docklands area is a funny old place, but this is definitely one hidden gem. You can get all up close and personal with the animals, they all seem happy, the staff are all friendly, it’s completely free; what more could you ask for?!

There’s a little cafe and a courtyard for picnicking, too, and there’s also a lot of parkland around the farm which we’re definitely planning on utilising when it gets a bit warmer. I’m also hoping that the farm will have some baby animals in the near future; a baby pygmy goat would definitely be something I could get behind.

To visit Mudchute City Farm yourself, just hop on the DLR to Crossharbour and follow Google Maps through the ASDA car park. When you spot a llama, you’ve made it!

Portugal 2014: the NIGHTS

Evenings in Portugal are my favourite things of all. I love coming off the beach, easing the inevitable sunburn with a cool shower and lots of aftersun, and getting all dressed up for dinner before a few snacks (peanut crisps, anyone?!) and a pre-dinner drink. This time, our house was up on the golf course and the walk down to the Praca (centre of the resort) made for some pretty ridiculous sunset views.

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The praca itself is always buzzy, with 8 or so restaurants specialising in various worldly cuisines (told you it wasn’t a place for Portuguese authenticity!) and dinner is always washed down with a mojito or two and copious amounts of wine. Casal Garcia is a Portugese vinho verde that is cheap as chips in supermarkets (and slightly less so in restaurants – but still cheap!) and the most delicious, drinkable wine I’ve come across.

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Something of a first-night tradition of ours is Sandbanks, which is a bit more Portuguese: gorgeous seafood with even more gorgeous sea views.

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And of course it’s not a trip to Portugal without a visit to Julia’s Beach Bar, a walk along the beach to some of the best views ever.

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It was only when I got home and looked at my pictures that I realised quite how many prawns I’d consumed (seriously, pretty much everyday) but without doubt these were my absolute favourite – and, in fact, was easily my favourite meal of the holiday and possibly ever: Spiaddini di Gamberoni at La Terrazza. I never, ever order pasta at restaurants but broke the trend for a night and it was the best life decision I could possibly have made. The whole thing was PERFECT.

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Cocktails are another key part to any Portuguese holiday of mine. This year I found a couple of new faves, including this cucumber-y gin concoction and the most delicious frozen strawberry margaritas of all time. A few of those = the perfect way to end, begin, or enjoy any holiday evening!

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As I flew home I was treated to the most spectacular sunset yet, which I only thought to capture as the sun disappeared below the clouds. It was very fitting for the end of what will probably be my last “family” holiday in the sense I’ve known it this far and certainly my last trip to VDL for a while…happy memories always!

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Portugal 2014: the DAYS

So holiday season is officially wrapping up and autumn is on our doorstep. I’ve just returned from the most gorgeous 12 days in Portugal and I’ve got over my post-holiday blues long enough to share some (read: an absurd amount of) pictures with you all!

I’ve mentioned this before, but VDL is probably not the kind of place you go if you want a slice of authentic Portuguese culture. However, it is the kind of place you go if you want guaranteed sunshine, a whole lot of relaxation, and men who bring champagne sangria to your sunlounger. This year, as we have done almost every year since I was 15, we headed out there, and this time we had quite the crew in tow.

It was a holiday devoted to absolute relaxation, so most of our time was spent on the beach or on the roof terrace (which was complete with a gorgeous little plunge pool).

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Midway through the week, we headed out to Vilamoura for a dolphin cruise. We started out, though, with breakfast on the marina.

 

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Unfortunately, we saw precisely zero dolphins! It was such a shame as we’ve done dolphin safaris a million times before and always seen loads, but naturally when we had such a crowd of family and friends in tow, there were none to be found. We did get a good couple of hours out on the ocean though and a little trip through some of the caves that line the coast.

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Long lazy days on the beach were followed by pre-dinner green beers and cocktails, and those by sunset walks down to dinner and (more) cocktails – but given that I’ve already crammed this post full to bursting, those tales will have to wait for another post!