Saturday, May 28, 2011

River Road

Despite gray skies, it's time to get out for a walk.

We pull off along River Road in Minneapolis, walking mostly along the bluff-top trail since the lower trails are still a little wet.

While I'm admiring how green and summery everything is, my walking partner is watching for eagles.


I love the fact that you can walk almost anywhere along the river through the cities and see eagles. What a great thing in an urban area!

(Sorry for the lousy photo quality, but I didn't have a good camera along.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Photo - Our Saviour's Church (Vor Frelsers Kirke)

This is the view from the water level, sitting in a boat on the canal and looking up. The stairs actually wind around the exterior of the tower, which provides good views all the way up. (The top of the tower was our next stop.)

Photo of the week is part of "Photo Thursday," started by Nancie at the Budget Travelers Sandbox. Please visit her site for links to more great photos.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Denmark Travel Details

Denmark is a small country with a good road system, making it easy to get around by car or bike.

A couple links for country-wide information:
Note that it is not unusual for towns in Denmark have the same name. They are differentiated from each other by a letter that indicates the island on which the town is located, for example, Nykøbing F would be the Nykøbing located on Falster, as opposed to Nykøbing M (Mors) or S (Sjælland/Zealand).

Travel

Flying to Copenhagen

As noted, we ended up taking this trip because I happened to see a $650 roundtrip fare on KLM and it was available for a couple of days. I hadn’t seen a spring (or even fall) fare to Europe that low for years, so figured this was a fluke. I didn’t expect it to last more than 24 hours, but it was at least 48 hours before I actually booked it – by which time the fare had actually dropped a few dollars more. (The final fare was $632 round trip.) Best of all, because it was a KLM flight operated by Delta, we not only got our regular miles, but qualified for bonus miles under a promotion Delta was running at the time. Thank you, Delta.

Copenhagen’s Kastrup International Airport is a bright and airy place with interesting art along the walkways and funky modern lighting in at least one of the dining areas.

A train goes directly (well, fairly directly) from Kastrup to the central station (Copenhagen H). http://www.copenhagenet.dk/CPH-Map/CPH-Central-Station.asp It is easy, inexpensive, and quick and the station is very centrally located (Tivoli is, literally, across the street). The station itself (a rather frothy Victorian structure) ouses a variety of services – including storage for luggage of all sizes. (Something we needed.)


Driving in Denmark

We didn’t bother getting a car until we are ready to leave Copenhagen, picking it up at the airport on our way out of town. Driving was straightforward in the countryside and rural towns, although a road that looks major on the map may well be a very narrow strip of pavement.

Usually there aren’t many other cars, so the driving is easy.

Although much of Denmark consists of islands, there are good roadway connections between them, many of which include signature bridges.

Travel between Denmark and Sweden
The ferry between Helsingør and Helsingborg is pretty expensive for a 20 minute trip. We paid about $80 for a drive-up fare for vehicle and two passengers.( It would have been less had we reserved a particular sailing at least two weeks in advance.) There is frequent service between the two countries from here.

While the ferry between Denmark and Sweden is expensive, so is the Øresund Bridge, which cost us about $60. The bridge is magnificent, however, a really impressive bit of engineering.


Visiting Copenhagen
The best way to tour Copenhagen quickly is to take a canal or water bus tour. As noted, we took the waterbus offered through DFDS Canal Tours. The ticket price is a little higher than for the other company, but DFDS operates as a bus and a tour ticket allows visitors to hop off at any of four stops (by the Little Mermaid, Christianshavns Torv, Gammel Strand, and Nyhavn), which would allow a brief visit to most of the major sites in the city over the course of a day. An English-speaking guide provides information on the sights along the way.

Copenhagen is a very walkable city – all one really needs to get around is a good map. There is a good interactive Copenhagen map on the web, along with maps of the Greater Copenhagen area and the city proper.


Copenhagen is a good city for visiting palaces of all sizes – and there are interactive maps available, as well as tourist bureau maps.

The greater Copenhagen area has a wealth of museums of all types – while we did make it to the National Museum, l we didn’t get to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Danish Resistance Museum (which I remember fondly from a college tour visit many, many years ago), the Karen Blixen home and museum (no, I haven’t gotten to her home in Kenya yet either), the Museum of Danish Design, or the David Collection of Islamic Art.

We did do a little shopping, but mostly just window shopped because Copenhagen is such an expensive city. It’s hard not to do some shopping though, as the city seems like one big shopping mall, with beautiful, stylish merchandise on display everywhere. The Strøget pedestrian corridor and adjacent streets have all the big international stores as well as illustrious Danish institutions like Illum. We preferred the funky little shops scattered across the city.

Lodging in Copenhagen
Really interesting, tasteful hotels in Copenhagen itself are expensive. We ended up staying at a new Omena Hotel not far from the train station in an area filled with budget hotels. Omena is a Finish chain noted for having clean, bright, simple inexpensive rooms in the heart of major cities. The location was convenient and, while not the most scenic of neighborhoods, it was clean and safe. The room was small, but larger than I expected, with a functional layout , a table, a few small appliances, and free internet. There wasn’t much of a view, but there was a little courtyard garden below our window and a big screen TV on the wall that was more than sufficient for watching hockey (Finland played both Sweden and Russia while we were there, something of great interest to my cousins) and the Eurovision competition.

One of the ways Omena keeps its prices low is by cutting back on service amenities – there is no front desk or associated staff. After you reserve your room on the internet, you get a room number and a key code that provides access to both the building’s secure lobby and your room. It’s a pretty slick system as long as you don’t run into any problems (we didn’t), but there were times when it would have been nice to have someone who knew the area around to provide recommendations and directions. None-the-less, I would definitely stay at one of these again – it was a good value for the location. (Our room was about $100 a night.)

Eating in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a great city for food and, especially, for alfresco dining. Even in the cool weather of early spring, the sidewalks were crowded with tables, most with brightly colored polar fleece blankets draped over each chair to ensure patrons didn’t get too chilled.

Beautiful Nyhavn appears to be a restaurant epicenter, with bustling seafood eateries and bars rubbing shoulders both along the water and on the streets behind.

We ate a couple of meals in the area, enjoying all of them.

Lane and I love sushi and my cousins indicated that they would like to try it sometime, so we did a little research and headed for friendly, family-run Bento where we had a delightful experience and ate lots of yummy sushi. (My cousins ate all of theirs, so I think they decided it was ok.)

Rosenborg castle is a 1606 Dutch Renaissance palace with a large garden. It served as a summer residence for the royal family for many years before becoming a museum. We didn’t go into the castle itself (although it looks to be an elaborate place well worth a visit - and this is where the Danish crown jewels are stored), since the garden café was calling to us.

Lane and I tend to be light breakfast eaters and were delighted to come across HLM Illums Bager. We stopped in this wonderful bakery twice, but I could have just moved in permanently. Everything we tried was absolutely fresh and simply delicious.


Around Denmark


Lodging, Eating, and a Few Things To Do Along the Way
Denmark is lovely with plenty of good food, but the prices are high. Really high. Denmark is the most expensive place I can recall visiting in many, many years.

I’m not sure if it is true of all bed and breakfasts in Denmark, but the ones we stayed at all charged extra for breakfast (something that wasn’t always clear when making reservations). On the other hand, hotels sometimes include breakfast at no extra cost. Be sure to check carefully to see what is included when you make your reservation, as even breakfast is really expensive in Denmark.

South of Copenhagen - Køge
Køge is a lively medieval town of almost 40,000. This was a great stop and a place I would gladly spend more time.

Downtown Køge is filled with tempting (and busy) restaurants, but we decide to wander through town first (before the rain moved in) and end up eating at Sushi Wok at the end of our route. We had a very nice meal in a lovely, restful setting.


Stevns Klint is a world heritage site just down the coast from Køge in another area that looked like a good place to spend some time.

Lolland (and Falster)
This is a very rural agricultural area, but it is still scenic.

Bandholm
In Bandholm we stayed at the Bandholm Hotel, which is a cross between a B&B and a hotel. It’s a lovely historic building, with a restaurant in the formal dining room and a gift shop and other accessory buildings. I’d recommend the hotel if you have reason to be in this part of Denmark. (Bandholm isn’t really much of a destination in and of itself.)

Nystad
Next time we want to roam around the land of my ancestors, we would stay in charming Nystad.

Møn
The little island of Møn is gorgeous. It was one of my favorite areas – I wish we would have had more time to explore here and would definitely consider a bicycle tour here.

We stayed at Tohøjgaard Guesthouse, an old farmstead turned into a friendly and comfortable rural guesthouse. It is a good base for exploring the island. Dinner and breakfast are both available and excellent. The beach is just down the road and bikes are available for an extra. This would be a great base to spend a few days exploring the island.

Around Zealand
We had a rainy day and were mostly on main roads, both of which may color my perceptions, but I found this less scenic than the more rural areas. There were some very charming towns (including Roskilde), but there was also a lot more of strip-style development along the way. Most of our drive just wasn’t as pleasant and interesting as the other places we had seen.

Hillerød
We enjoyed our visit at Frederiksborg Slot and would have enjoyed spending more time there. A visit to the palace is complemented by a lovely, relaxing lunch at café Spisestedet Leonora near the palace entrance. (There is also a café located in the gardens, so there are a couple of options right at the palace itself.)

Helsingør
Lodging options in Helsingør seemed bleak, with most hotels either having poor ratings on TripAdvisor or too expensive or both. We ended up at the Hotel Skandia which had pretty mediocre ratings, but it was good for what we needed – conveniently located, with simple, large rooms, free internet, and good views of the trains as they pull into the station as a bonus. (Like the other places we stayed, I’d stay there again – it was nothing fancy, but good for the price.)

We had a lovely diner at Madam Sprunck, one of a number of tempting restaurants near our hotel in downtown Helsingør. (Madam Sprunck is also a hotel. It looked as if it would be very nice.)

Dragør
This lovingly restored fishing village is pretty quiet in the morning and evening, but has a number of interesting shops and lively-looking restaurants to visit during the day. It is a gorgeous place and definitely worth a day trip or more.

We had a very nice dinner at the Strandhotel. It was a little expensive (even by Danish standards), but the food was lovely, the setting comfortable, and our table had a view of the harbor . . . it was also one of the only places still serving food after 8 PM. (There would have been a number of promising-looking options earlier in the evening.)

We stayed at the Farm Cottage, an actual working farm with simple, tasteful rooms. Located just on the edge of town, it was convenient both for exploring Dragør and for getting to the airport, yet felt rural and peaceful. There are a number of good lodging choices in Dragør, this is definitely one of them. It made for a lovely end to our trip.

A Quick Spring Get-Away in Denmark (Index)



Thursday Photo - Fast Food in Denmark


Quick bite anyone?

Photo of the week is part of "Photo Thursday," started by Nancie at the Budget Travelers Sandbox. Please visit her site for links to more great photos.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Staying at a Farm Cottage

As is probably clear from the photos I’ve been posting, I’m really fond of the quaint thatched buildings seen throughout the country, so was pleased that we ended our trip staying in one at the Farm Cottage B&B.

The B&B is the real deal, an authentic farmstead with some sections of the structure dating back to the early 1800s (a painted wall uncovered in the main house was dated to the 1850s), horses in the pasture, chickens in the side yard, and a central courtyard that provides parking space as well as outdoor seating.