Saturday, 23 February 2013

Tour de Copenhagen - Essential Winter Kit

One of the things I have really enjoyed since moving to CPH is the ability to cycle pretty much everywhere.  Since last September, this includes to and from work, via Master T's vuegesttue.  Which he seems to very much enjoy.  Although, I think the natives are slightly bemused by the renditions of 'old McDonald', 'baa baa black sheep' and particularly 'Nelly the elephant' as we cycle along the road.

However, when the weather was fine, dry, and balmy, cycling was quite a pleasure and no bother.  But, if you remember from my last post, which I don't blame you if you don't as it was so long ago, I was starting to have sartorial dilemmas on what to wear so as to look cool and refined like a true Copenhagenite, whilst also staying dry during the autumn showers.

Subsequently, the dilemma has developed as the temperature plummeted and has basically been hovering around zero, often below, rarely above since early December.

Studying fellow Copenhagenites for hints and tips it has become apparent that there is no shame in being completely bundled up with multiple layers.  So what have I learnt:

1.  Hat - essential.  Only once, actually twice now have I made the mistake of heading out without a hat.  An ice cream headache is nothing on the wind billowing around what seems to be a head of hair not as lush as in its heyday.  Can be coupled with ear warmers, or actually for the real Nordic look, just the ear warmers if the wind chill is not so bad.

2.  Scarf - as mentioned before, a true statement of being a Copenhagenite, usually the more voluminous the better.  Preferably also one that can be pulled up around the face for those truly brisk days.

3.  Gloves - I thought the pair of gloves purchased last year from a well known outdoor adventure store, marked windproof, waterproof etc would be perfect.  Not quite it seems.  A ride home a few weeks ago, during which the wind chill I was later told was -10 dec C, resulted in my hands resembling frozen claws by the time I got home required me to look for an alternative solution.  The solution however, was remarkably courtesy of my biker friends who advised a pair of silk inner gloves would do the trick.  And indeed they did.  There's also something about wearing silk gloves, I'm not quite sure how to describe it.  Or perhaps, best not in a public domain.

4.  Boots - whilst a fine pair of leather shoes from a reputable English shoemaker, may look smart and improve one's stature.  They are not the most practical for keeping one's feet warm.  Boots are therefore essential, paired with some thick walking socks.  Keep the smart shoes in the office, and wear sturdy and warm boots for the commute.  Particularly as I have my eye on a pair of serious snow boots, usually worn by Nordic trawler men, but it seems perfectly acceptable also to be worn by men, women and children alike to keep the elements off the feet during the Danish winter.  And these have a bit more edge than a pair of Hunter wellies.

5.  Coat - well yes, I hear you say.  Now if you remember the last post, this is probably the most difficult decision.  Long, short, rainproof, windproof, smart, practical, rugged, the types are endless.  In my experience,  windproof is an essential requirement but also packing some warmth.  But, not too much as having overly wrapped up once or twice and arrived at work a damp sweaty mess, it's essential to get the under coat clothes right.  And I'm now afraid to say, that for the first time since being a kid, I am wearing vests again.  Again perfectly acceptable behaviour for men here.  Admittedly I did raid my father's wardrobe over Christmas, but I must say his endless supply of fine cotton vests from his childhood shops in Calcutta really hit the spot.  Not to mention, he's not going to miss a handful.  But back to the coat topic, I have noticed that the coat brand of choice seems to be from Fjall Raven (no idea how to pronounce), purveyors to the Swedish Crown no less or from Canada Goose.  Although for the latter, I think the nice fur trim looks more elegant tucked up around the face of an attractive young lady.  Like Mrs B of course.

So, so far, so obvious.  It mainly just seems to boil down to having the right gear, but maybe taking care  of branding and fashion choices.  Like most times.

Les pieces de resistance however have been:

The beard:  I noticed that as the temperature cooled, the number of beards seemed to increase proportionally.  I first thought that this was a fashion fad, as indeed it seems to be at the moment.  However, having decided I couldn't be bothered to shave over the Christmas break, I suddenly realised the practical benefit of a beard when out on the bike.  It was a real help in keeping the face warm!  The only downside however is that Mrs B, Miss R and Mstr T have been viewing me with suspicion and scepticism since.  My colleagues however have been very complimentary and I am now saying that I am going "full Viking" which has gone down very well.  Outside our house that is.

The long johns:  And I am not talking any long johns, as available from Marks & Spencers.  I am talking about the King of Underwear from the ex King of Tennis.  Bjorn Borg ("says ja!") long johns.  Available in funky designs and with a waistband a teenager would be proud to wear above his / her jeans, these have been the secret weapon in keeping warm on the bike.  Clearly however, its difficult to say other than from my own personal opinion the coolness and attractiveness factor of this item of clothing...

Essential winter kit - says Ja!

I now truly feel, after 10 months of living in CPH, I am embracing my inner Dane.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Trench, Driza-Bone or North Face...?

All good things come to an end as a wise man, or woman, once said.  With the end of summer, came the advent of new employment for me.  After an official 6 month 'break' (and a somewhat longer unoffical one), if being chased around by 2 small children whilst moving a household lock, stock and barrel from London to Copenhagen counts, the day arrived from which I now have to get up every morning and look a different kind of respectable to the one required for the school run.

And, if the truth be known I was very excited and really quite looking forward to it.  Just the prospect of being able to spend my day speaking with adults about proper grown up things.  Surely a better prospect than having long days stretching out in front of me, getting the chores out of the way and then doing constructive things with my time like improving my 5K and 10K PB, sitting on the beach, hanging out in fancy cafes and restaurants etc.  

The feeling though of starting a new job, with a new employer 12 years after I changed jobs previously was very much like the one I remember when a new school year came round.  Except this time, I didn't go to work wearing a uniform so that it had room to grown into.  I did however, have to forego my planned haircut, due a crisis associated with our CoI (Captain of Industry), so my new company pass has my 'man of leisure' locks scraped across my head in some resemblance of respectability, instead of my customary short back and sides.

The new office.  Need to work on that window seat.
Having survived my first month successfully, I can report that working in Denmark seems a very pleasant experience.  Just some of the little things make a difference.  On my first day, I was presented with a very large bunch of flowers which brightened up our flat very nicely.  Only the 3rd time I think I have ever received flowers...Mrs B take note!

Welcome flowers.
At the end of the week, the Friday routine starts with a team meeting over breakfast where we shoot the breeze and actually take an interest in each other, over fresh 'bolle' of different types and wienerbrød from one of the many and quality bakeries nearby.  Note, there is also nothing called 'Danish pastries' here.  There is instead a vast array of cake type things, with complicated protocol determining whether it is 'wienerbrød' or 'kanalstang'.  And yes, I have no clue what the differences are, but I am yet to try something I haven't liked!

Returning to work has also meant that we have had to figure out a new family routine, that ensures that Miss R and Master T get to kindergarten and vuggestue respectively on time, not to mention ensuring that our CoI is in the office to keep the corporate machine from grinding to a halt.  But, so far, the routine is working well.  As the vuggestue is nearby, I normally take that shift, either on the bike or car, and our CoI takes the kindergarten shift as it is kind of on the way.  Completely by chance, it has worked out that our flat is in the centre of our work / school runs, with our CoI needing to go 10KM north, and I 10KM south.  But, things can get a little hectic when one of us has to wrangle both mini Bs of a morning, evening or sometimes even both.

The two other main things I have had to consider with the new work, is how to get there.  Being the 'City of Cycles' I have invested in a new city bike on which I have so far managed 2-3 days a week cycling to and from the office.  Master T also seems to enjoy the bike back transport to and from nursery and so amazingly exercise is being built into the daily schedule.  Only once have I managed to get drenched in an autumn shower.  This of course leads to a second question, how to fit in with the local cycling crowd and look practical yet stylish.  So far, I have tried 3 options and any feedback is most welcome.  It's also a very nice change to be able to wear (smart) jeans to the office.  It's all very different here in Denmark.

Option 1:  The Classic Trench (after I got soaked)!

 Option 2:  The Practical Driza Bone.

Option 3:  The Functional North Face Tri-Climate.

The one other thing to resolve is whether to scarf or not to scarf.  (Thanks to my fellow blogger London Lou for the insight here).

A real benefit of cycling is that it's nice way to see the city.  Whilst my route is standard most days, the occasional offsite provides the opportunity to get off the beaten track.  A recent trip down towards Ørestad meant a trip along some newly built flats and offices along some of the old canals which then brought me out just by the DR Byen metro stop.  For you wondering how to pronounce that it is:  Deh Err Boon.  Of course.  The pronunciation is the most challenging thing about the Danish language we have realised.  Anyway, the metro stop is by the offices of the Danish national TV broadcaster and an old concert hall.  It also has a very cool sculpture by it.  This is one of my favourite Denmark photos so far.

With all the extra effort being required to figure out the new routine and then remember that weekends then become filled with chores and child related activities, the time available for gastronomy exploration  has been limited.  We did manage a trip out to Islands Brygge to visit the branch of Scarpetta there.  Food was once again very good.  The set menu at 395 DKK (I think from memory) covers 5 dishes, of increasing size and robustness; salad, to soup, to fresh pasta, to some slow cooked pork belly.  (Yes I know that only mentions 4 things).  A small but very elegant wine menu is also available.  My only slight complaint would be the service as they were understaffed.  But the lovely girl managing front of house actually did a great job, with enthusiasm and a sense of humour.

The location in (on?) Islands Brygge feels like it is at the end of the city, next door seems to be some industrial wasteland, but it faces the water and if you are lucky enough to get one of the 2 window tables you'd be treated to a great sunset over the city.  One to remember for the next visit.

I also managed to gatecrash a dinner for some of my new colleagues.  This was at Bistro Boheme in the city centre and the team had a private room and everything.  Its clearly a place catering to the well heeled and office crowd, judging by the number of suits and smart dresses.  The food was excellent, very traditional bistro and the best steak I've had in a long time.  Looking down at the restaurant through the window of our dining room, the buzzing 'main' restaurant also seemed to indicate a popular following.

Vi ses... 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The End of Summer

Worryingly the gap between my posts seems to be getting longer.  I'm sure as the nights start drawing in and there is less incentive to go outside, I'll have more time again to keep my one follower (I am flattered) and other regular readers (thanks for taking the time) updated.

It is the last weekend in September and this blog has been slowly composing (or is that decomposing) in my head since the first one.  Summer is definitely long gone, and when I sat at my desk earlier this week, with the rain lashing against the window it was very clear autumn had arrived.  The last few days of summer was not without its highlights though.

Miss R started her new year at school which was very exciting, for her as well as for us as it meant that all of a sudden we had opportunities to make some new friends as well as catch up with a few we made previously.  The benefits of having been at the school even for a few weeks was very obvious over the summer as it meant a regularish schedule of play dates and the odd trip here and there.

Before Miss R returned to school though, she and I had some quality time together as Master T started vuggestue (for the 2nd time).  Despite an initial start, it was the middle of the school holidays and as such, his 'stue' was shut and none of his pedagogues were there to give him cuddles.  So we decided to postpone until normal service was resumed and after a few small hiccups and him looking at me very balefully when I went to pick him up in the evening, pleased to report he is very well settled with his pedagogue, a lovely if slightly intimidating Icelandic lady, reporting his 'trainee viking' progress daily.

Anyway back to Miss R.  Fortunately our Master T less time coincided with some lovely weather and so we took advantage of our annual zoo passes, the proximity of Bakken - allegedly the oldest fairground (and rollercoaster, so rickety it can't be safe) in the world and of course not forgetting the beach.  

This father and daughter quality time soon ended though, although not without us remarking to each other daily just how quiet it was in the flat without Master T rampaging around it, and school started again.  The first few days were part time to ease them back in gently and then all of a sudden, I had whole days to myself stretching ahead of me.  Our CoI in the office, Miss R and Master T in school and nursery respectively.  Bliss.

Fortunately, I met another father at the school in the same predicament as me.  We took advantage of the situation to see how 'the other halves' spent their days.  Clearly this had to involve some coffee mornings and we explored "Books and Company" in Hellerup, who not only have a great selection of books they brew excellent coffee.  We also enjoyed impinging on what is clearly 'mom' territory (yes, deliberately written US style).  In the nicest possible way.

The one stroke of luck that we had was that the last week in August was Copenhagen Food Week.  As we were both on the run in to re-starting employment, we celebrated our last day of freedom and carefree days, at least between the hours of 08.45 and 14.50 with a slap up lunch.  I'm painfully aware that the gastronomy updates have been sadly lacking recently but I am pleased to say that I have not been slacking in this respect.  Our lunch was at an excellent bistro in Østerbro called Aaman's.  It's located in an area that has something to do with potatoes - I haven't got to the bottom of what that means yet, but I can report it was an excellent experience.  It's a very smart looking restaurant, with just the right balance of 'cool' and 'traditional' and the food is very traditional Danish fare.  By that I mean, there was herring with different dressings, tartare, roes, cheeses accompanied by a very tasty microbrew.  An excellent way to end the summer and fortunately, or not as the case may be, the need to pick children up from school and vuggestue meant we had to leave before ordering too many more glasses of the beer.

We also had a our last visitor of the summer.  My delightful and slightly eccentric cousin from the US.  She was a hit with Miss R in particular and we had a great afternoon exploring Christianshavn which included lunch at the Cafe Oven Vande with the young and funky crowd.  Perfect for Miss R and Auntie M, perhaps I was a bit conspicuous.  Their 'most of the day' breakfast platter is well worth a mention and with the sun shining a great spot to sit by the canal and people watch.

The evening treat with Auntie M was dinner at the Nimb Brasserie.  A very picturesque terrace with a very traditional bisto menu which was well cooked and presented, albeit the service took a little time to warm up.  One of my highlights was actually the pre-dinner Hendrick's Cucumber Sour.  Most recommended.  We also managed to time our trip for Tivoli's 115th (I think, memory's a bit hazy..!) birthday so our meal was finished off by a superb firework display.  Perfect location for our visitor.

And that, was pretty much the summer.  We're now settling into a much more visitor less routine.  I have finally landed some gainful employment, more on that next time.  Summer is feeling a long way behind us, not to mention a long way off with the Copenhagen Autumn and Winter stretching out in front of us.  Whenever I go past the local beach now, it's pretty deserted, cold and blustery although there always seems to be a naked man on it on Sunday mornings which is a little disconcerting.

The empty racks at Svanemøllen Strand.
Vi ses!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Retreat from the Danish Summer

Apparently, this summer in Copenhagen was unusually wet.  But, most people we've spoken to seemed to also say that last summer was the same, and the summer before that the same.  So, not sure if that is meant to be reassuring, or we just need to resign ourselves to a few years of cool, wet and very unpredictable weather.

So, despite having initially had very good intentions of exploring Denmark and some more further afield parts of Scandinavia, we plumped for the more guaranteed sunshine of the mediterranean in July.  That was the easy part.  The not so easy part was how to actually get there, especially seeing as it was a relatively last minute decision after our CoI got all the necessary permissions and exemptions.  

Flying would have seemed obvious, with some relatively good connections, but given the time between us deciding to go and the time we were about to travel, then flight availability seemed less than ideal with post midnight hire car pick ups followed by 2 / 3 hour autoroute driving not at all appealing.

Driving was the next obvious choice, but it would have been a good 1,800 KMs each way.  Probably achievable over 2 days, but quite a chunk out of our valuable time in the sun not to mention very likely to try the patience of a certain Master T.

What occurred to me eventually was a memory from my dim and distant younger days, reading about overnight party, I mean sleeper trains.  This option was duly investigated and we realised we could travel in relative comfort from Copenhagen Main Station all the way to Toulon, via Koeln and Bruxelles for changes.  We also thought it might be quite an adventure for the little people.

Master T and I managed to book tickets from a very helpful lady at Copenhagen Main Station, the process only disrupted by a very impatient Danish man shouting at our helpful lady as to "how long it was all going to take...been waiting ages...etc".  What I've realised now having been in Denmark a few months now, is that if someone is being a bit obnoxious and rude, the best approach seems to be blunt in return.  Of course, I could never be rude.  So I firmly told the very rude individual how busy I was too, wrangling a small child, and that there was another queue available.  That seemed to do the trick. So, tickets booked, we looked forward to our epic journey.  With perhaps a little trepidation.

Arriving at the Main Station for our Friday evening journey, I suddenly felt that we were going back to basics.  Master T was in a carry frame on my back, CoI was carrying a rucksack with clothes for the whole family and a trolley case of amusements for the children.  And, to ensure my balance, I had a rucksack of food strapped to front.  Most of the other travellers, seemed on average a good 20 years younger, not to mention a bit more smelly and they looked at us with a mixture of amusement and bewilderment.

When the "City Night Line" rolled in, I was at first a bit concerned at the slightly dishevelled looking nature of the train, but once we'd found our compartment and settled down for our journey everything was good.  Having read a few other posts about this journey, we'd packed a picnic for all, and once the children had been put to bed, CoI enjoyed a glass or two of a decent red, albeit standing in the corridor outside.  But it was a fun way to travel.  Sleep was easily achievable, lulled to sleep by the motion of the train.  And despite, the early start in Koeln for our connection to Bruxelles and the very long TGV ride down to Toulon, I would recommend it as a good way to get the family across Europe.  Just pack lots of DVDs for the children.  Which, we also found a good way to make friends, as the traveller sitting at our table on his way back home after some Death Metal music festival was busted by me as he was watching Peppa Pig over Miss R's shoulder!

After this experience of overnight train travel across Europe, I'm quite taken with the idea of visiting more places by train.  Looking at the City Night Line route, there are a lot of opportunities to get to Holland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland just to mention a few, plus of course the ability to connect to almost anywhere.  Standing in front of the departures board at Paris Gare du Nord, on the way back, I suddenly felt very nostalgic for good old fashioned espionage films where the plot flits across the major cities of Europe.

Next time, it's time to reflect on the remainder of "summer" as it is now officially over, not to mention normal life seems to be in the offing for all concerned.  Oh, and some gastronomy updates are overdue as well....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Vugesttuen Adventures

Events for settling into our new Danish life continue to happen thick and fast.  The latest achievement is Master T starting his new nursery (vugesttuen) which is great news.  I just need to have Miss R back in school come mid August and I am on the beach for the rest of the summer.  Assuming of course that summer actually decides to put in an appearance.

Getting Master T into nursery however, was not without its traumas....

On the face of it, the process for applying to nurseries here in Denmark, seemed very straightforward.  Once of course we'd had a bit of local language help to navigate the København Kommune website oh and of course getting our CPR numbers, the key to life in Denmark.  Not a difficult thing, just a bit of a long lead time with only one argument of what constituted a birth certificate for each of the children.

Quite simply, you look up the nurseries in your area and then select 2 based on your preferences of location, recommendation, waiting list and the other nebulous factors us parents use.  This choice is submitted online and a confirmation email sent - sounds all a bit like internet shopping.  Received wisdom also suggested that the average wait was around 6 maybe 8 weeks for a place.   So, 4 weeks after the application, with my thoughts slowly turning towards the prospect of paid employment sometime this year, and not having heard anything I thought I'd contact the Kommune to get an update. Imagine then my shock when the return email stated that with our chosen nurseries, we should expect to get a place in Spring 2013!  All of a sudden, the rumblings of a nursery place shortage coupled with living in Copenhagen's equivalent of nappy valley started to make a lot of sense.

What to do?  Clearly one option was to just sit it out.  I mean, it's  not like I'm not enjoying the time with Master T and Miss R.  However, for the sake of my sanity and probably Master T's future development I thought it prudent to try and do something about this.  There is of course the option of the alternative Danish nursery system where all they seem to do is take the kids to a forest and then let them hunt bears.  But, somehow I couldn't see Master T being up for this.  He will however be taking his daytime naps in a pram outside the nursery building which is a very Danish thing to do.  But, I'm feeling reassured that they'll bring them in if it gets too cold, which I believe means single degree Celsius rather than waiting till minus numbers appear...

Calling the Kommune was an interesting experience.  Apparently the problem was Master T's birthday being in January not to mention us seemingly choosing one of the most popular / apparently coolest places (it just happens to be 200 yards from our front door).  However, the helpful ladies at the Kommune sent some suggested alternatives with an indication that the wait lists were more reasonable.  So CoI (Captain of Industry for new readers) and I went to see them and made a revised short list.  Following up on this revised list, we were effectively told the same thing, albeit maybe autumn / winter of this year.  So cue another call to the Kommune - we couldn't be the only people in this situation.

This time, I mentioned we were not first language Danish speakers.  In reality, no Danish language ability speakers at all (if they hadn't twigged already) and all of a sudden light appeared at the end of the tunnel.  Apparently some nurseries have 'language places' which are reserved for people like us i.e. numpties when it comes to speaking Danish.  This can reduce the waiting time significantly, although "no guarantees" were given, and would mean Master T start a nursery sooner rather than later.

So once again, a revised selection sent with clear indication for the preference of a language place based on the suggestions from the Kommune.  This was acknowledged at approximately 14.00 on the relevant afternoon with a comment stating it would be likely we would have a "good chance" for a nursery place.  By 17.00 we had an offer sent through...hurrah!  

Looking back, I realise that the lady at the Kommune was trying to intimate without actually saying so that we should apply to nursery X because they had a language place available.  But clearly, moving to the end of the process without actually going through all the preceding steps wasn't possible.    I am appreciating Danish efficiency but there is still a certain amount of 'that's just the way it is' when trying to get things done.  Or maybe that's civil departments the world over.  

But no complaining, Master T is sorted and I'm now looking forward to some quality beach time once Miss R is also back at school.  (Did someone say "get a job!")

No gastronomy updates this time, but no fear, will rectify this soon enough.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Gastronomics Anonymous

Good evening friends, it has been an awful long time since my last post.  Life in Copenhagen suddenly seems to have become very busy over the last few weeks, what with more visitors, R starting school and navigating some of the finer points of how to get a nursery place for T.  More on the latter in the next blog.

Today however is all about congratulating A&T and S&K (named in alphabetical order to show no favouritism) for being our first 'friend' visitors.  We also have A&T and S&K to thank for being a selection criteria for our place here.  When we were looking at places, we knew that 'the gang' had already booked their flights out, so consequently, we knew we had to try and find an suitable space which would not require sleeping bags on floors, or camping in gardens and other such indignities at everyone's advancing ages when everyone now expects levels of comfort approaching boutique hotel standards.

The activities of the week during the gang's stay focussed on avoiding the Golden Jubilee celebrations, taking in a bit of culture and doing a lot of gastro tourism.  

The highlight of the week must of course be dinner at Noma, the recognised 'best restaurant in the world.'  Getting there was in itself no small effort, as our excellent babysitter, having previously been booked well in advance and reminded several times, that if she wasn't able to do any other night of the week, 'Noma night' was the critical one.  Unfortunately she got a better paid job.  Fortunately, she had a friend who could step in at late notice, despite train cancellations to let us get to Noma just by the skin of our teeth for our reservation.

But the efforts were well worth it.  The food was absolutely out of this world with ingredients, textures and flavours that were quite mind boggling and things that you or I would never have thought about putting together on a plate following some very intricate culinary stuff.  Accompanied by the recommended flight of wines, it made for an amazingly indulgent evening.  

Would I recommend going again, I hear you ask.  Absolutely.  What I loved about Noma was the informal nature of the place and the genuine enthusiasm from the international chefs who clearly took great pride in their cooking.  There was no pretence and snootiness and in fact they assumed (in a nice way) you wouldn't know what had been put on the plate so it was all explained in a manner that really made you want to eat it.

So what did we eat - about 11 or 12 courses of food I think as the details started getting a bit hazy towards the end of the night.  Some of the things that really stood out for me, although it was hard to pick favourites were; Pork rind with blackcurrant leather, pickled quails egg on smoking hay (see picture below), raw razor clam with mussel nice and frozen horse radish, beef tartar with wood sorrel and dried juniper with a final dish of caramelised pear and pine parfait. The wines were a tour around some of the more unusual regions and specialities.  All together a fine meal and a fantastic experience of 2 starred Michelin dining...hopefully the first of more.

If I had to try and be critical of the restaurant, the pace of the food being presented was sometimes a little relentless.  But, it all worked and we all had a wonderful time.  I am sure we will return.  Although my recommendation is that it is a great place for social dining with friends and less for a romantic meal a deux.  

The rest of the week was taken up sampling things at the other end of the scale and everything in between.  On a trip to Helsingør to visit Hamlet's castle, we ended up in a real local's place - the Borgerkroen at Strandgade 75, where all that was on the menu was smorrebrød, which is jolly tasty and deceptively filling.  Not to mention of course the local pils.

At the middle of the scale, we managed to convene a session of the 'Friday Night Curry Club' although this time on a Monday night.  We tried out the Bindia Indian restaurant on the Trianglen.  Definitely not a flocked wall paper and chicken tikka massala joint this one.  Much more contemporary in look and feel - and to be honest something that instantly sets my alarm bells ringing.  However, on this occasion my fears were unwarranted as we were treated to an excellent selection of modern Indian cooking which left the taste buds tingling not to mention being grateful for the walk home to ease the digestion after the extremely generous portions.  The other middle of the scale visit was to Scarpetta in Nørrebro where Italian food is served in starter size portions, which after 7 courses of the taster menu was plenty. For a Copenhagen restaurant, the prices for food and wine are very reasonable, coupled with very informal service and of course excellent food.  Actually trying to think if we've had a bad meal out here yet.

We also took the opportunity to do some non food related things as well (we really did!) and actually get out and about to see some of the sights and sounds of Zeeland.  Helsingør castle was excellent and well worth a visit, Grandad T would have loved the maritime museum display.  Fredricksborg castle was grander still although the planned picnic in the picturesque grounds was prevented by torrential rain.  Which continues to be a theme here in Copenhagen.  

For the kids (and the children), the highlight was a trip to Bakken which is about an old fashioned a fairground you can go to complete with creaky roller coaster rides, dodge 'ems and a log flume from which there is no chance of emerging with any piece of clothing dry.  Something which I discovered after darling daughter R persuaded me to her on it....I don't know where she gets her charm and persuasive powers from....

Till next time, which will be quicker than this one...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

First visitors

Good evening from CPH.  It's been a little while since the last blog update.  Things have been busy with even some form of routine settling in.  And, we've had our first visitors.

So where to start....cycling.

Use of the Christiania bike has been steadily increasing with regular trips to the supermarket, the park and most importantly the beach.  Yes, the weather has finally got a lot better.  I have discovered that it is possible to do a good skid, with even a bit of 'fishtailing' with a suitable road surface by standing hard on the pedals.  It's probably prudent not to try and go for the full 180 degree or doughnut as I suspect the whole cabin would over turn which is unlikely to be appreciated by R and T.  R has also finally got her own cycle which she is very proud of.  We've had one try without stabilisers so far and I'm just waiting for my back to recover before we have another go.

Now the weather and its impact....There has been a good 7, maybe even 10, consecutive days of sunshine with temperatures in the 20s.  As a result, we've realised that Danes are total sun worshippers.  Every available area of parkland and beach has been covered by Northern European bodies emerging from a long winter, steadily turning all sorts of shades of pink, red, brown etc.  It's also quite alarming in the Faelledparken as there are shades of Munich's Englischer Garten, with many of the sun worshippers stripping down to bare minimum levels of covering.  Both male and female, young and old.  Now that was something else that almost made me lose control of the Christiania.

The prize for being our first visitors goes to Grandma and Granddad who came and stayed for a week.  Timing their visit perfectly for a bank holiday and mostly brilliant weather.  This was a great visit for many reasons, least of all as it meant there was someone else to pander to the demands of R & T, and particularly most appreciated when Rhia wanted to go for a paddle in the sea and Granddad was a willing volunteer.  That man clearly does not feel the cold!

During our visitors' week, a lot day trips were undertaken some of which are more recommended than others.  The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is a great trip up the coast from Copenhagen for a fix of art.  The Henry Moore sculptures were excellent as expected, however the current exhibition was a little inaccessible, at least for my tastes.  I was much happier in the children's wing, where T and I discovered the most enormous buckets of Lego bricks, and R spent time painting and generally making a mess.  The cafe was also another highlight, particularly the view over the sea as it drops down from it's perch on the hillside.  A hillside incidentally which was very popular for small children to roll down, and down, and down.  A day trip was also done over the bridge to Sweden to visit the beach at Malmo.  An impressive drive over the sea, unfortunately once we were there, a less than impressive picnic on the beach as a result of the squally weather.  But, like good Brits, we persevered though in the wind and rain.  The first time I've worn a wooly hat in May for a picnic.  It was nice to pop over to Sweden, but for £60 (return) in tolls, the weather's going to have to be really good, and / or we need to investigate the cheaper toll options.

Finally, gastronomy update.  Not too many more places tried since the last time - a lot of good cooking at home though (by me, ahem).  Gustavs Bistro warranted a return trip with Grandma and Granddad.  Excellent food again, although bemused by a veal escalope coming out more like a steak than an escalope. Secondly, with the great weather and our new favourite babysitter, (R's new BFF), CoI and I discovered Cafe Bopa a few blocks away on Løgstørgade.  A very elegant looking spot situated on a square with lots of mature chestnut trees.  Lots of tables and an appropriate scattering of beautiful people.  Decent wine list and small cafe menu.  No one seemed to go for much other than the moules frites or the burger.  We plumped for the burger each which was well made and cooked.  Washed down with a chilled Australian white it was a great way to while away a hot summer evening in Copenhagen with the odd blast of music from the Carnival at Faelledparken.  The only odd thing about the cafe was the adjacent petanque pitch (?) which seemed to have a gathering of 'lads' on a 'lads night out'.  First time I've ever seen petanque as an activity for such an evening - it's those crazy or trendy Danes I guess.  I suspect the one girlfriend that had been brought along also thought the same as well given her bored and pained expression.  Or maybe it was the crazy heels she was wearing....just an observation.

Keeping fingers crossed for more sunshine!