Copenhagen – end of March 2022
Mother & Daughter
On Love in all its facets
The adventure actually started the night before since I slept at Shannon’s flat in central Amsterdam which was so much fun!
Day 1 Trip Nyhavn – Amalienborg- Frederikskerk- Round tower- Rosenborg slot and more
Up at 4:30 am, ugh. By 5am we were showered and dressed and walking the 5 minutes needed to central station past the deserted coffee shops. Train not too full of partygoers on their way home this time and by 5:30 am we were at Schiphol for our 7am Vueling flight (63 EUR return! Yay though sadly so bad for the environment- I am so good on all aspects but travel am finding very hard to give up on).
Shannon (almost 20) works one day a week during her studies in Zoku, a hip work/sleep hub for global nomads and they also have a branch in Copenhagen, so we are cashing in on their Xmas gift to her: a night for two in one of their amazing lofts.
Landed to zero degrees but vividly blue sky and dazzling sunshine.
Easily found the metro: electric, fast, modern with doors that slide open like a shuttle which means you cannot access the tracks (or jump or fall) and before we knew it we were at Zoku. The building is beautiful, and the design feels the same, yet is different. One thing which does not change is the trademark friendliness of the staff. Lorenzo treated us to a coffee and took time to answer our questions about the city (a map would have been great) and Shannon did her best to not cringe at my battery of questions.
We feel rather disoriented but happy and the luminosity is simply dazzling. We left our stuff in a locker, got back in the metro and exited at Nyhavn, the glorious harbour with multi-coloured houses and cafes facing the boats, an image often used to portray the city.
We are so happy and excited to be here, and it is wonderful to share the feeling. Walked right along till, soaking up the amazing vibes and ended up opposite the stunning opera house (one of the most modern opera houses in the world and also one of the most expensive ever built – at a cost of 2.5 billion DKK.
From here we wandered on to the Christiansborg (seat of the Danish parliament) and perfect timing, ended up at the castle of Amalienborg just as they were performing the traditional “changing of the guards” (noon). Shannon was quite taken aback at how strict and formal it still was, but I guess some traditions need preserving. To my lay eyes their hats look very much like the tall beaver hats the guards in London wear, and find it incredible how long they can stand so still.
We came to Copenhagen as a family once before when we lived in Berlin, but I had forgotten how glorious and royal it was. A perfect mix of old yet perfectly maintained and clean. Queen Margrethe the II, born in 1940 is still on the throne and Amalienborg is her primary residence.
We could see the glorious dome of Frederikskerk, known as the ‘marble church’, in the distance and enjoyed the rich rococo architecture inside and out.
This is the perfect temperature for us to not fall asleep as the night was short!
We found a lovely Italian restaurant in the Sun nestled opposite the Cathedral for lunch and Shannon got a lot of attention from the Italian waiters (I am starting to get used to this!) and to make it special an accordionist settled on the cathedral stairs and did a very good job of Italian canciones. Lovely to rest our feet from all the cobbles and watch the world go by. We shared a dish of cannelloni and ricotta and a pizza margarita and a glass of wine (each!), holiday vibes! The cathedral was surprisingly light inside and all marble, the Vor Frue Kirke, the Church of our Lady which forms like a half dome outside which is quite unusual.
Fully sustained we made our way to the Rundetår, the round tower, built in 1642 by Christian IV as an astronomical observatory and houses the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. We enjoyed walking all the way up and were rewarded with amazing views all around.
It was useful being so high, as from here we could locate the Rosenborg slot which was also on our wish list. We are starting to run out of steam so there was some friction but shared the enjoyment of the beautiful gardens of this 17th century castle built in Dutch renaissance style, red brick, green roof with little turrets, a real fairy-tale castle. We did not enter, though viewing the Crown jewels was tempting!
We continued on past the beautiful Royal Danish Theatre, which we will see from the inside tomorrow as we have tickets for the ballet Jewels and though our feet were killing us, we walked back the 4 kms to Zoku in the Sun, troopers all the way, via Freetown Christiana, along the lake and ended up in the university area with wonderful modern buildings surrounded by nature. At first view it looks as if student lodgings are a lot more available here than in Amsterdam where Shannon is studying political science and housing is a nightmare. Shannon found the campus uncannily similar to hers at UvA.
Phew we were happy to reach Zoku, collect our belongings and what a shame to hear at the reception that all they have left is an XL loft for the two nights! (one her Xmas gift, the other night on me with her great employee reduction). These lofts, like in Amsterdam and undoubtedly Vienna where they have another Zoku, are spectacular, a huge window, sitting area, dining area, kitchen, great bathroom, and our bedroom mezzanine!
Peeling off my knee-high boots after all that walking was close to orgasmic…
We were very tempted to crawl under the white starched sheets, but it is already 5:30 pm so we put on a pot of tea, booked the ballet tickets and chilled a bit. We had wanted to see a musical as Shannon is still in the throes of the “Book of Mormon” she has now seen three times in Amsterdam. Wrote this and even did some editing work for a client.
What I love in the Zoku approach is that everything is centred around the guests needs, the style is funky and I love the design. The message on the wall in this one seemed tailor-made for me “ Start less- finish more”. Hum…. indeed.
We went to the lounge area, oozing international nomad high-end vibes as people work, discuss etc. Like Amsterdam it is like a glass house with tremendous views, a sunny rooftop terrace with a swing, plants and international staff who just seem set on helping you in whichever way they can, Lorenzo the Italian and Sergio the Portuguese were simply adorable, and mostly interns visiting from other hospitality centres around Europe.
Boy the Gin & Tonic was divine, made from local Gin with orange and rosemary, followed by a bottle of three woollen sheep white wine (Expensive!!!). We just felt like snacks so gorged on smoked almonds, olives and a delicious cumin hummus with pine nuts and homemade pitta bread. We sat chatting as the Sun set and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude to have this mother & daughter time together. Usually we see each other so fleetingly, here we really have time to be together, sure there are prickly moments too, but I guess this is how we learn about how we come across, about the gap between intention and response, about differences and how to embrace them to broaden our horizon and understanding of others.
Alcohol sure is expensive here but it was well worth it.
We were back in our room by 10pm and happy to snuggle up under our wonderful duvet. Only bad news is that I seem to have caught a cold as the temperatures have been yoyoing dramatically and I am worried my snoring will be even worse than usual! The Hague is now covered in a thick blanket of snow!
Thankfully I have brought earplugs, shame she can’t fit in more than one pair!
Day 2– Kastelett and little mermaid – Frederiksberg – Raadhuds – Meat packing district – Copenhill- Royal theatre
Another gloriously sunny day for us which distracts me from my filthy cold which I hope to shake before my visit to Belfast next week to see my 95-year-old Nan. (Visit in the end got postponed as I drove to the wrong airport! Was all for the best as she actually caught Covid but had recovered by the time I DID make it there a few weeks later).
This loft is a perfect place to do yoga as so spacious, did my usual chanting as Nichiren Buddhist, and we made our way down to the communal area for breakfast which Shannon found lacking compared to the Amsterdam spread (she is in charge mostly of Sunday brunch), no fresh fruit for example. But delighted in the avocado and poached eggs with delicious brown bread, an oat milk cappuccino and freshly pressed orange juice. The sun streams into the open kitchen which makes it a lovely place to start the day even if the views are less far-reaching than in Amsterdam.
Bit of a hiccup as we had not really discussed expectations and Shannon was hoping to lounge about here and though I have no huge to-do list I really want to go out and wander about. We thought about renting bikes but in the end were glad we did not, for sure it is sunny but there is also a strong and bitterly cold wind. So, we ‘kerfuffled ‘a bit more on where and how and settled on a metro day pass. Shannon is great at directions, which metro, where to change etc. There are only four lines, and everything is well signposted which makes it relatively simple. It is modern, very deep, and efficient, though the pricing system per zone was less obvious.
We ended up however exactly where we wanted to be, on the Zealand side of the city in a very picturesque housing area which looks as if these were previously barracks, a glorious burnt orange colour before moving on to the kastelett, which is a citadel, and one of the best-preserved fortresses in Europe, laid out like a star. Such a pleasure walking here in the bright Sun but crisp air, trying to ignore our throbbing feet. There are operational barracks as well. Shannon is right, there do seem to be a lot of military here, whether on land or on sea.
Feeling sad and guilty to be dragging Shannon around, she is obviously tired. Sometimes I am too enthusiastic, and I regret deeply this is not what she wanted or had expected. We all have different ideas of travelling and it is not fair when one imposes on the other. I know how hard she studies and to be honest I am shattered too but it just seems such a shame to not make the most of being here, within reason of course. I am all for having coffees and not over-filling the agenda, but I do need to do something. I am just so happy to be here with her.
We walked right along the edge to the little mermaid of course who has not moved much since we last saw her about 12 years ago. This pretty bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen is actually quite unassuming. It depicts a mermaid becoming human, inspired by iconic Dane Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. It was donated to the city by Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen (Carlsberg) in 1913. Apparently, he fell in love with the character after watching a ballet performance at the Royal Danish Theatre and had his wife, Eline Eriksen pose as model.
We also saw the gigantic bronze fountain Gefion by the marina which probably looks impressive when full and spouting water everywhere but empty like this (I guess as winter) looked rather sad and out of place and incongruous next to the small Anglican church of St Albans.
We saw a lovely café by the water and once we had admired a modern statue of a giant made out of recycled zinc, we escaped the cold for a well-deserved cappuccino and Danish pastry smurre with cardamom enjoying the view.
Back in the metro we headed on to the huge, baroque Frederiksberg castle and gardens which were beautiful but got into a difficult discussion about various issues and pain which cut me to the core. We move apart as we self-reflect but thankfully find each other again. I find having children one of the most wonderful things on Earth and so enriching but also a source of never-ending worry and I must stop thinking I must and can solve things for them, however much I want to see them happy and pain-free…
The metro day pass was a great idea, so on to the townhall, on the Radhudspladsen. It is one of the tallest buildings in Copenhagen (105 metres) and striking, built in 1892 and inspired by the City Hall of Sienna, in Italy. However, the square is huge, and the bitter wind was howling through it so we did not dally long. We had hoped for a nice café, but it was all modern shops and food chains and bustle, so we took the metro to Central Station and admired from the outside the attraction park Tivoli which only opens April 8th, in less than a week.
We wandered around the meat packing district, Kødbyen, so-called as it was indeed where they slaughtered and packed the meat and which is now a buzzing, revitalised scene where the huge warehouses and have been revamped as funky bars, cafes, and clubs
After our heavy-duty talks we decided it was time for ‘happy hour” and had 2 amazing cocktails each which seemed to be composed of every alcohol under the sun, certainly vodka, gin, passionfruit and rhubarb.
It was perfect. Surrounded by people of all ages and genres, sun on our face and blankets on our laps enjoying the chill music and vibes. We both agreed it was great fun and the cold probably avoided the alcohol from going straight to our heads.
This gave us the momentum to give “Copen hill” a try though we had been warned it was not the easiest place to get to. After a metro and bus ride, it was easy enough to spot, but took some wandering around a rather run-down housing estate to actually get to it. Copenhill is basically a clean energy plant where they recycle waste into electricity, boasting a dry ski slope and recreational hill. Built in 2019, it won the “World Building of the Year” award at the world architectural festival. Of course, we disdained the lift and walked the 85 steps up above the ski rental and snowboarding hire shop. It is also the world’s highest climbing wall. The recycling does give off a faint but strange smell and there were clouds of something white, but it was fun. There was no skiing, but we did enjoy après-ski (beer) at the top, sitting on a sheepskin rug enjoying the view.
We are so bushed but managed to stay awake in the metro on the way back, popped into the supermarket under Zoku for some food which heated while we dressed as we have the ballet tonight, Shannon’s idea!
The ballet Jewels is by Balanchine divided into three sections: ‘Emeralds’ on music by Faure, ‘Rubies’ on Stravinsky and ‘Diamonds’ on Tchaikovsky. It was an absolute treat even though we were so high-up we could almost touch the ceiling! The Theatre itself is of course very royal and glamorous (there were people in the royal box but no idea who they were). The huge room is very ornate, boasting a huge chandelier and an amazing painted ceiling. We followed the habitues in sitting at our designated seats until it started, before moving down to any free seats.
We really loved it and it was fun also to see that even in evening or cocktail dress, many women still wear tennis shoes! Good for them!
Emerged in the evening city, dazzled, and thankfully it was only a short trip back to Zoku where we collapsed in bed, happy.
We are so tired but pulled out of bed by yet another glorious winter day. Shannon had hoped we would qualify for the brunch, but it was not to be, and in effect we were lucky to get any breakfast at all as a fire alarm had gone off in the kitchen that night, so the gas has been switched off. But we did still enjoy and then went up to chill in our room till the 12 o’clock check-out.
Once more we left our stuff in a locker, musing on how fast all Corona regulations have been lifted across Europe. For now, the mask is only mandatory in the plane and that too will be stopping soon. No checks, no PCRs, no QR codes…
The sun is as dazzling and the wind as cold and though we are both fit, we are aching all over from the kilometres we walk every day.
We took the metro back to Frederikshavn and walked along to the acclaimed modern “Black diamond cultural centre” looking for the Danish Design Centre, each accusing the other of being wrong and staring in frustration at our google maps. All we could find was the architectural centre.
Suddenly tiredness took over and we both exploded, many a harsh word were exchanged, and we had a full-out row about kindness and respect and generosity, judging and putting-down and both stormed off in different directions. I feel shattered, defeated, this is so far from the special treat I wanted to share where we would both fill each other’s emotional banks to the brim.
It turns out the Danish Design Centre is simply no longer open to the public; they just have their offices there.
Sat in the Sun feeling numb then wandered on to the huge Christianborg castle trying to work out where she was and feeling utterly miserable. So much love, so much frustration at it not coming over in a way that the other can actually feel it. Sat on a bench in the Sun and chanted for inner peace, for harmony, for our hearts to find each other even if the words are coming out all wrong, and sure enough we did, but both wary and cautious.
It felt time for something funky, so we entered free town Christiana, a sort of huge commune housing over 1000 people, with the status of “free state” since the 70s. Colourful and fun with many higgledy-piggledy houses of all sorts. We walked further than expected and my need to find a loo was pressing but we ended up by finding a lovely organic café where I had (finally) a Danish ryebread sandwich with salmon and Shannon enjoyed the local pork belly and we went all out with some frozen cheesecake and a ginger carrot cake discussing depression, helplessness and love.
Time then to collect our belongings, head back to the airport and happily settled into an Irish pub (where else?) and enjoyed some Murphy’s catching up on our social media, letting all the impressions and emotions sink in and trusting that love always wins the day.
Intense and real.