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!

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Dubrovnik: Day 3

We’d planned to have a bit of a lazy morning and a wander down to Gruz Port on our final day, and that’s exactly what we did. We were both amazed by the sheer size of the cruise ships in the port – I’ve never seen one in real life and they are MASSIVE, but sadly for us the weather was even less on our side this morning than it had been the whole trip.

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We braved the drizzle for a while, but eventually had to take solace in a supermarket (not that horrible really, I love foreign supermarkets) and then drifting back to the hotel.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit concerned at this point as to how we were going to fill in our last afternoon. However, while we were milling around the room (as I recall we’d gone back to pick up our raincoats), our prayers were answered and the sun came out. I glanced out the window to see gorgeous gorgeous blue skies, and so I threw that raincoat back into my suitcase and we dashed back out. Turns out, when the sun comes out in Croatia, the sun comes out, and it was already SO warm. I was practically bouncing with excitement as we wandered down the “promenade” and settled ourselves at a beachside bar for lunch and a couple of my new favourite thing ever, lemon beer.

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Newly inspired, we set off on a cliffside walk around the headland which was just impossibly gorgeous.

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I was particularly taken by this bar (part of the Hotel More if you’re going), right on the water. Talk about prime location?!

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There were all these little rocky inlets that I could happily have spent hours sunbathing on had there not been more threatening clouds in view. We settled on one and made our way down to the water…

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It would all have been very romantic if it weren’t for the fact that as I dipped my toes in the water, a crab scuttled across my foot, nearly causing me to slip on the seaweed into the sea, and then a wasp plagued us as we tried to self-time a photo. Then my camera died, and we decided it was time to call it a day.

After an idyllic couple of hours reading and eating ice creams in the gorgeous hotel gardens, we headed up to the room to freshen up and then it was back out to dinner. We’d seen a sign for the Atlantic Kitchen on the main promenade, and TripAdvisor promised us a hidden gem so we trekked up into the hillside to find it. We had kind of been anticipating gorgeous views across the water, which we didn’t get, but the restaurant was gorgeous anyway and given the evening sunlight, we asked for a table outside.

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To start we shared calamari and scallops & chorizo – first time trying scallops for either of us and we were both impressed. For the main course, I had prawns (story of the trip), which came with potato wedges (traditional Croatian fare? maybe not but they were yummy)

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Rory went for surf & turf, and then had to figure out how to tackle a langoustine…

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The restaurant definitely caters for British tourists but in a less offensive, more upmarket way than most, and there were plenty of other nationalities there too. Shortly after our mains, the skies opened and it started pouring down, but we were nice and dry under a canopy so we decided to order more wine/a brownie/Baileys hot chocolate and wait it out.

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Our plans for post-dinner drinks were scuppered by the rain, but we were happy anyway and returned to the hotel very satisfied. I am SO happy that the sun finally showed its face on the last day – we finally got to see Croatia in all its glory and it was worth the wait!

Despite the weather we had, I would absolutely return to Dubrovnik (maybe later in the summer). I want to go on a boat trip and go sea kayaking and drink lemon beer in all those stunning cliffside bars! We had such a lovely time and I’d totally recommend it for a minibreak of your own!

a weekend in paradise

I have a very special relationship with Portugal. I’ve gone there almost every year since I was about 14, and while we’ve been to several other places, nothing beats a little gem called Vale do Lobo in my eyes.

Vale do Lobo is not what you’d call a slice of authentic Portugal, but it is a bubble of sunshine-y, luxurious perfection on one of the most gorgeous coasts in the world. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of brilliant holidays here, the most memorable being the 3 weeks I spent there over my 18th birthday. With views like this, who could resist?!

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This year, my parents and sister were heading out for 11 days. My brother and I were supposed to be joining them for a long weekend at the end, but after the crash he couldn’t join them. Being the caring family that we are, we decided to invite my old travelling buddy Sophie to come along. We headed out there on Thursday night and, even though we were absolutely knackered after a spontaneous night out in London the night before, headed straight out for cocktails with my parents. I have a pet waiter there and a love for watermelon martinis, and although there were none of them available, my boy Tiago remembered who I was for previous years so I was a very happy bunny!

For the rest or the weekend, we spent the days relaxing on the beach or by the pool, and loving the gorgeous gorgeous scenery:

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And the evenings enjoying sunsets at some of my very favourite restaurants. One of my favourite places in the world, Julia’s beach bar is a walk down the beach from VDL and was a must-do for our first night (as it should be for anyone that is staying anywhere nearby!). This is actually where I spent the night of my 18th with all my family and it holds some very, very good memories – we always go at least once every trip, and we always make the walk during the most perfect light.

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The food at Julia’s is great – their prawns are AMAZING and the largest I have ever seen, and Portuguese speciality peri peri chicken is always a must, along with the African Rice. They are both pretty spicy though, so beware!

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But the real reason to visit Julia’s, aside from great service, atmosphere and food, is the views. If you can get a table “outside” (there is a covered and uncovered area), prepare yourself for one of the most gorgeous sunsets you will ever see. It is perfect. This time, we were lucky enough to also get a glimpse of Venus, just there above the moon!

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Another of my favourite restaurants is Sandbanks, which is on Vale do Lobo itself and specialises in seafood. This time, we ended up with arguably the very best table in the restaurant, and over my prawn & monkfish kebabs we watched yet another unbelievably beautiful sunset over my favourite beach.

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Nights in VDL, however, are a slightly less civilised story. It is home to one of the most infamously hilarious places in the world, a little club called Gecko. I wasn’t really planning on going this year – it is famously frequented by sixteen-year-olds and I have also been at least a billion times in my life – but when my sister arrived before us, I was delighted to find that some old friends of mine were also out there. On our second night, we were joyously reunited: I met them when I was here 3 years ago and we were out there at the same time 2 years ago, too, but I hadn’t seen them since then so a reunion was long overdue!

For old times’ sake, the boys soon persuaded us to join them in Gecko, and so after several dubious rounds of Blue Lagoon, we ended up there after all – and not on just one night, but two!

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It hasn’t changed one bit, but we have got older, and we were left feeling distinctly middle-aged after being told pityingly by some seventeen or eighteen year old girls “don’t worry – you don’t look 21!” Devastating! We also bumped into one of the boys we had befriended just a week earlier at Lucy’s, which was a lovely surprise and it was great to see him again.

Post-Gecko, tradition dictated that we headed back to the boys’ villa to sit by the rooftop pool and watch the sunrise, which always happens somehow and is always a highlight of my holiday. This year, we made the very happy discovery that Jake has acquired a tiny and adorable French bulldog puppy since I last saw him. Few things beat coming back from a night out to play with a puppy!

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Out of the four nights we were in VDL, we spent two of them staying up all night at Jake’s house, which left us RIDICULOUSLY tired (and especially hungover and zombie-like for the hellish flight home). However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There is quite honestly nothing that beats sitting on the roof terrace watching the sun come up over the Algarve coast, before heading home through scenery like this (even if you are headed directly for the airport).

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As I said, VDL isn’t exactly authentic Portuguese culture but I love it. It was lovely to spend some time with my family (although minus my brother, who stayed at home but was well looked after, for those who are wondering!) and it was nice to spend some time relaxing. And on the flipside of that, it is always nice to indulge a little in some good old fashioned debauchery while we still can. I LOVE my Portugal boys and it was so, so nice to see them again – they are always what makes the holiday and I’m never entirely sure that I’ll see them again so every moment counts!

I say it a lot, but I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. I’d stay there all summer if I could, but it’s back to reality and the various disasters that haunt my life…although this weekend does, I think, bring a trip to Southwold, so I guess it’s not all bad!