Chronicles of one girl's journey to London - from conception to eventual migration.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

36 HOURS IN COPENHAGEN

. . . or KĂžbenhavn if you are a native.

First, a little backtrack. Jessica arrived in London on Saturday November 19th. Qas, Sara and I picked her up at Gatwick. Our first order of business was to attend Mel's hen-do - the bride of the wedding I will attend in a couple of weeks. Basically, we had a great week with Jessica, and it culminated in a trip to Copenhagen with Julainne.

Saturday, November 26th
We left VERY early, took a taxi to Gatwick in the dark and, with no luggage to check in, made straight for our Easyjet departure gate and were off by 8am!

The flight to Copenhagen is only an hour and a half and they are an hour ahead so we were on the ground by 10.30am their time. Once again, straight through passport control. We headed to the station and made it into the city centre by about 11.30. Copenhagen has one of the easiest train systems I have seen yet, and it's all very modern and clean!

We took a little stroll around to find somewhere to eat and (as you do when you are in Denmark) we went to McDonald's for a quick, cheap bite. Denmark still uses the kroner or DKK instead of the Euro and their currency is slightly inflated. So you will pay 68 DKK for a meal in McDonald's but that translates into £8.50. Have I mentioned Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world?

Anyway, we ate our overpriced burgers and fries and then headed to our hotel to drop off our bags. It was right next to the famou Tivoli Gardens. While we didn't go IN to Tivoli Gardens, we did stare in wistfully and take pictures from the other side of the gates. We had budgeted very little for our two days there and Tivoli Garden's 95 DKK entry fee was too high. They had a lovely Christmas festival going on inside too.

Tivoli Gardens entrance
Next, we went Christianshaven. This is what the Danes call an "alternative lifestyle neighbourhood" and is meant to be bohemian and very hippie. When we went there, though, it wasn't much at all. It was very quiet for a Saturday afternoon though it is still a very pretty part of Copenhagen.

In Christianshaven, there is a spiral-topped church called Church of our Saviour. Those who choose can climb to the top (current cost: 30 DKK) via 400 steps. 150 of these steps are outside at the very top. While Jessica and Sara opted out, Julainne and I decided we wanted to up our previous record of 366 from Bruges. So up we went! And up, and up, and up. The climb is steep but the view is worth it!


After, we walked through the old palace that is no longer in use, and then headed to the hotel to check in and freshen up. We had now all been awake 12 hours but it was only 4pm!

We had 2 rooms in the Cabinn City Hotel and they were so cute. We had bunk beds! And the shower was just a tap stuck to the ceiling in the middle of the tiny bathroom.

I love bunk beds!

We had a few bottles of wine and then went out for dinner and a night out. It rained sideways on us the whole time, though, and the wind was so bad it broke both mine and Julainne's umbrella. We ended up at Nyhavn, the famous canal of colourful buildings and ducked into a bar there. After a drink each, we headed back to the hotel for much needed sleep!

Sunday, November 27th
Checked out at 11am and headed to find some breakfast. We were after the elusive Danish pastry. It's not as commonly found as we thought . . . well, we didn't know where to look yet. Anyway, we eventually found Lagkagehuset and it is basically wall to wall pastries and bread. And they are delicious!

After, we went to see Nyhavn in the day and it is rather pretty! Despite the endless spitty rain. The canal that runs down the middle also has the clearest water I have seen. Apparently you can swim in it. I have vowed to return and do just that one day.


After that, we headed over to see The Little Mermaid. She is quite a trek from the main area of the city but definitely worth it! She was the final stop on our tour and the prettiest. For those who need a brief history lesson, she was created by sculptor Edward Eriksen at the request of Carl Jacobsen to commemorate the Hans Christian Andersen story. Most of us know the Disney version, and it is similar to the original.


Then, we were off to find a meal where we were repeatedly told that near Christmas, Danes do not serve hot food in restaurants. Instead, they have a Christmas menu that comprises of a lot of herring and pork with bread, cheese and other cold salads. I really wanted to try this but Sara and Julainne are not fish eaters so we moved onto a place where we managed to get some chicken, rice and salad.

By this time we were absolutely exhausted from two solid days of walking in the rain and wind. We had a long time before our flight so we just sat in the hotel's lobby to rest. The wind really kicked up around this time (it even ripped a door off its hinges in the lobby) and our take-off was very shaky.

All in all, a great trip though! I would like to go back in the summer as it looks like it would be a beautiful place to be when it's hot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CULLING THE CYNIC

London makes you distrust people. It's true. Londoners watch others warily, belongings and children hugged protectively to themselves.  Cynicism is everywhere.

On the tube, people sigh in exasperation at the gall of other commuters - ones who take up too much room with a bag at rush hour, ones who over-extend their use of the arm rest, ones who don't know to move further down the carriage and, worst of all, ones who try to get on the train before everyone has gotten off.

This same cynicism exists when people stop you in the street for directions. Do you know that most Londoners think that people stop you so that their accomplice can quietly steal the belongings you may not be guarding now that you're in a conversation? That's probably not the case at all. London is a confusing place, even natives sometimes need a moment to figure out where to go!

This morning on the tube, I noticed a woman doing that sigh, eyebrows furrowed in a frown, mouth turned down. Why? Because she was being jostled a little as someone else tried to get on the carriage after her. My thought was how I would love to tell her to just get off the damn train and not travel during rush hour because that's how this works at this time of the day lady!

And then I realized . . . London, you are making me cynical. What I would have normally thought was that this little lady was just having a bad morning. Or maybe she'd been jostled around for so many weeks and months on this same tube that she just didn't feel like it today. I know I feel like that a lot on the tube!

You'll see cynicism everywhere in London but the little angry lady on my tube today made me realize that I am falling into their trap. I do not want to. I'm Canadian in nature: trusting, polite and maybe even a little naive. But I will take that over jaded and bitter any day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BIRTHDAYS IN CAMDEN

Today is my intern's 21st birthday (the fact that I have my own intern still thrills me and will one day probably get its own entry).

After work, we decided to celebrate in Camden, starting at The Cuban in the Stables Market.
To start, if you haven't yet been to the Stables, it is well worth checking out! These were genuine stables once upon a time and now house several bars, restaurants and fetish shops (Cyberdog being a very famous one).

So, The Cuban is usually a pretty sexy place to spend an evening. On a Tuesday, however, not so much...
It was quietish and then only got worse when they turned today's friendly England v Sweden match on FULL BLAST.

We shuffled out quickly and then headed to Proud - I've blogged about Proud before and it's still up there as one of my favorite bars in London. We found out we had to pay to get in though so abandoned that idea and headed to a random pub for £2.50 Jaegerbombs! By now, we'd all decided we were starving but this pub's kitchen was closed so we headed across the Camden Lock to Ice Wharf. It's a bar operated under the famous Wetherspoon's brand, and so had cheap food till late enough.

Camden is a great place to spend a night, and there is something for everyone. Definitely a place worth checking out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

TAXI!

There are two types of cabs in London. One is a black cab, the other is a minicab. Both are regulated by the Public Carriage Office.
 
A black cab is also known as a hackney cab, and can be taken simply by flagging one down on the street. They are run on a meter and so can be more expensive to use than other types of transport. They are usually black, hence the name but are increasingly being seen in different colours or splashed with advertisements. However, all will have the little "Taxi" sign on them and are usually the same size or shape, unless you are taking a van. For those not used to it, it's also quite a treat to travel in them because they have seats that face both ways so you can take your journey backwards (my favourite way!)

A typical London black cab

Then, there is the minicab. As metnioned, these are regulated as well but these are essentially private cars for hire on a pre-booked basis. So, each driver owns that particular car, or there is a fleet owned by a minicab company. You will see a lot of minicab offices on high streets. They're popular because they don't use a meter to gauge cost. Instead, you are told the cost based on their discretion. You can negotiate this, by the way. Something that is very important to note with minicabs is that must always be booked. This is for your safety!

For those already in London, you might have seen those minicab adverts on the tube from CabWise. They are dark and dramatic but deadly accurate.


An intern at my office has a chilling story to tell. She got into a minicab outside a bar. She thought that the person at the door worked for the bar, and that he was helping patrons book minicabs home. Usually, if a bar is doing this, they have a clipboard where they record your name, the name of the driver of the cab you'll take and the licence plate and registration number of the cab. That way, if something were to happen, they would know who to go after.
This was not the case with the intern. She got into the cab and then woke up some time later - still in the cab - with no wallet and no recollection of what had happened or how much time had passed. She was lucky that she hadn't been assaulted in any way but the police also have no idea who her driver was or what car he was in. It's an unfortunate event, but serves as a good lesson. Book the minicab in advance and perhaps try not to travel alone. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

FIREWORKS + RUM

Today was the Lord Mayor's Show and Fireworks. Sara and I watched the parade bit of the show on TV from the comfort of our couch (followed by several episodes of Big Bang Theory) and then went down to Victoria Embankment to watch fireworks live. They lasted 10 minutes, which really, is enough when it's the middle of November and you're standing on the edge of a dirty river (Yes, I'm looking at you Thames)!

After fireworks Sara and I walked through Somerset House as well, which is very grand!

I had plans to see The Rum Diary with Qas this evening so Sara and I parted ways at Clapham South and off I went to see Johnny Depp take on another Hunter S Thompson novel. It was awesome! Go see it. A nice comeback from pseudo-gay pirate and MJ-based chocolatier that we've gotten so used to lately.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BLOGGER'S BLOCK + A VISIT

Oh dear, bad blogger. No updates, no interesting information, no tidbits, nothing shared. And so much has happened. I think . . . I can barely remember!

So, I have now decided to make it a goal to blog once a day until the end of 2011 (a pre-resolution resolution?) Shorter posts and a little more love. I have no excuse. I sit at a computer all day during the week, even eating my lunch in front of it as it's a great time to catch up with friends in different time zones. I have a smartphone with the Blogger app installed on it and I have constant access to the internet. But I've noticed that everyime I actually open the app, or click through to this New Post screen, my mind goes blank. Blogger's block is a thing right?

So, what do I have to say today? Nothing too special really. It's been a great month, though. After Frankfurt (still in love with the city), it was a quietish couple of weeks until my mother arrived.

[I always pause before typing the word mother. I call her mama, mommers, mum, mom, mummy or mommy - big difference between those two spellings. So when I type mother it feels cold and distant. Like we are in some uptight Bronte novel and I am Miss Clara with tendrilly curls, pouty mouth and rolling eyes and she is insufferable and stuck up, desperate for me to marry the Baron Von Boringstein for his fortune and excellent reputation.]

Anyway, she arrived in London on a Thursday morning. We didn't really have anything major planned except for a dinner on the Saturday for friends at the house. Beyond that, it was just about spending as much time as possible together as we hadn't seen each other in exactly a year, and it would be another 6 months before I was back in Toronto. She also cooked several weeks worth of meals and froze them for me. I'm spoilt. She left about 10 days later and I miss her. A lot!

That was the end of October, and now here we are in mid-November. There are a lot of exciting things coming up. They are:

1. Jessica visits
2. Denmark for 36 hours
3. Philippines
4. My birthday!
5. Christmas
6. New Year

And then, my word, it is 2012 and the reality of going home hits very, very hard.