A Right Royal Affair!!

The magic of a royal palace is something that has always intrigued me. Having seen the inside of Buckingham Palace as a teenager, I already have a set benchmark of the grandeur I expect. Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen is one of the royal palaces, not the official residence of Queen Margarete II, but used for official business. The Folketinget (Danish parliament) is also based there.

Even though I have lived in Copenhagen for nearly 2 years now, I never thought of Christiansborg Palace as a place where the Royals spent time. It was always just the parliament building to me. It wasn’t until I began planning my mother-in-law’s visit, a few months ago, that the true magnificence of the palace was revealed to me.

My search brought to light that the Queen regularly uses the palace to host gala dinners or for state visits and that there are many beautifully designed rooms to explore. However, there was just one thing that really stood out to me, The Queens Tapestries. The desire to see these was what finally led to the purchase of some tickets.

There are a vast number of rooms to see, so leave yourself the best part of a day to explore. The first room that caught my eye was The Queen’s Library that houses her private book collection. The books are displayed in beautifully crafted bookcases with glass fronts. There was also an upper level partitioned by a golden bannister with intricate detailing. Definitely something I could imagine in my dream home!

As we finally made it to the entrance of The Great Hall, we were immediately hit by the extravagance. Not only of the room but also the 11 tapestries hanging around the room. Gifted to the Queen for her 50th birthday, the tapestries capture over 1000 years of Danish history. Although intended for her 50th birthday, the tapestries took 10 years to complete. This meant they were only brought to the palace and actually given to the Queen on her 60th birthday.

The level of detail on each and every tapestry is remarkable. As my mother-in-law and I admired each one in awe, we wondered how on earth they had been made. It was until I sat down to write this post that I discovered the process. The Danish artist, Bjørn Nørgaard, painted the sketches, onto which the tapestries were woven. It was interesting to pick out the different historical stories within the tapestries. At one point, my mind wandered and I thought “Is anyone else thinking – where’s Wally?!” 😀 If you know, you know!

We continued to work our way through one grand room after another, from The Velvet Room and Dining Room to The Throne Room. Each one just as impressive as the last. There was also The Royal Kitchen and The Royal Stables outside the palace, which took us back in time. The kitchen was set up as it would have been during Christian X’s rule from 1912 to 1947 and replicated the atmosphere typically felt when preparing for huge gala dinner. As well as housing the horses, the stables also had the different horse-drawn carriages on display that have been used for official public events in the past.

You might think that there couldn’t be anything more to see but the final exhibit was the ruins under the palace. This time you get the chance to see the old foundation of the palace and discover how it was used as a defence tool before being incorporated into the new foundation. I couldn’t believe that the palace has been built three times after being destroyed by fire twice!

There is a lot to see, but if you find yourself in Copenhagen and royal palaces are your thing, I would definitely recommend a visit 🙂

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A Wee Trip to Scotland

An unlikely destination, even if I had mentioned it many times as a place of interest. It was a visit from our friend in Australia that finally got us out there.

We started our 2-night stay very early on a Tuesday morning. Must be some years now since I travelled from Kings Cross St. Pancras station in London. So as we stood under the information boards, I couldn’t help but take in the station’s architecture. The moment didn’t last too long as the time had come to board the train for our 4-hour journey north.

The time was a little over midday as we pulled in to Edinburgh Waverly Station. The first item on the agenda was to secure the keys to our Airbnb. Following the instructions left by the owner, we found ourselves at the offices of a Spanish tour company. Not quite what we expected but the Spaniard’s Scottish accent definitely made up for it! 😀 As our apartment wasn’t ready until much later, we dumped our bags and headed out for a stroll.

First impression? Not too promising! I guess that was mostly due to the lashing rain and grey skies. So not really the fairest of first impressions. In fact, when we looked past the rain, the city’s charm and character were completely apparent. This was especially the case as we weaved our way through the narrow cobbled streets, full of restaurants, cafés, pubs and boutique shops in Edinburgh’s Old Town area.

Walking along The Royal Mile, the historic heart of Edinburgh, you only needed to look up at the buildings to appreciate the history and design within the architecture. With the numerous offers of walking tours and attractions to see along The Royal Mile, its no wonder that it’s the most well-known and most visited street in Edinburgh. One thing I didn’t expect was to hear the sound of bagpipes being played out on the streets. Many of the street performers had chosen the traditional Scottish instrument, so you didn’t have to go far to hear the unique sound. It really brought the spirit of Scotland to life!

On the evening of our first night, we booked ourselves onto the Terror Tour at Auld Reekie Tours. Starting at 10pm and not suitable for under 18s, it promised to give us an enthralling view into the underground vaults and torture tools used many years ago. The odd scary story was to be told too. Although it was very informative and raised our heart rates a smidge, it didn’t quite live up to its Terror Tour title. Let’s just say there was a great deal of terror missing. If I’d let my imagination take over a little more than maybe I would have seen some unfriendly figures in the shadows.

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With the weather looking brighter the next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at one of the many boutique cafés nearby and headed straight to Arthur’s Seat. The tallest of the hills that make up Holyrood Park, this peak towers over Edinburgh and is another top tourist attraction. Choosing one of the steeper routes up, we immediately felt the struggle but knew that it would be worth it in the end. A 279-metre ascent and an hour later we reached the top. Along the way, especially closer to the peak, the clear pathway disappears and you have to resort to finding your own way up using the nooks and juts in the steep, rocky hillside. A spectacular view from the top made all the hard work worth it. We could see all the way across Edinburgh and spotted our next stop of the day, standing high and proud, Edinburgh Castle.

There is so much to see at the Castle and with everything spread across a number of buildings; you’d be wise to give yourself at least 3 hours to explore. The Great Hall, the room where James VI was born, the Scottish National War Memorial and the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland were all awe-inspiring and fascinating to see. We also made sure we didn’t miss the chance to step inside St Margaret’s Chapel, which after surviving all the attacks on the city is regarded as the oldest building in Edinburgh. The visit to the castle is a great way to get lost in the history of the city and really appreciate the efforts that go into defending a country.

After such a long day of exploring, a detour on the way home to a whisky bar was welcomed with open arms. As I sipped on my elderflower mocktail the waiter popped down the laminated sheets of notes for the guys, followed by four drams (that’s what you call a standard serving of whisky, if you were wondering) of a selection of whiskies included in their chosen tastings. It was fun to observe the two of them trying to match what their taste buds were telling them, with the accompanying notes. An enlightening first whisky tasting for my husband, I’m sure.

On our final day, we kept up with the whisky theme and kicked the day off with a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience. Not really an alcohol drinker, this experience changed my perception of whisky and provided a creative platform to educate people about whisky production. I mean how can you not enjoy learning whilst on a barrel ride that takes you through each step of production with fun animations?! This followed up with a short film, played on a huge panoramic screen, explaining how the different origins of the whiskies across Scotland affect the whisky flavours and scents. We were even given a scratch and sniff card so we could get our noses involved in the experience.

Now educated in the basics, we were led into a traditionally designed whisky tasting room. Before being served our very own dram of whisky to try, we were educated further on single malt vs. blended whiskies and then led dramatically into the vault where they store the World’s largest collection of Scotch whisky. With dropped jaws at the vast collection and golden glow, we were finally invited to try our chosen dram of whisky.

Although the bottles in the collection were unopened, many seemed to have lost some of its content. There was even an entirely empty bottle that was pointed out to us. That’s when we learnt about a common term used in the whisky industry, the angel’s share. As whisky matures in wood barrels, some of the liquid is absorbed and evaporates through the wood. So over the years, it has been seen as a sacrifice to the heavens and named accordingly. Just like the wood barrels, the whisky escapes through the corks of some of the bottles. Those greedy angels!

A little more mooching around The Royal Mile and before we knew it, we were back on the train home. Overall, it was a lovely city break with easy exploring on foot. Next time, I’d love to go further north and experience the hiking trails of the beautiful Scottish Highlands.

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VeVe Restaurant Review

This was a post I wrote as a guest blogger for www.allaboutdenmark.dk, earlier this year. If you are new to Denmark, looking for useful/practical information or just want to learn more about the Danish culture and events going on, then it’s a great place to start.

I thought I’d the post here too as we truly were blown away by this restaurant experience. The restaurant even shared the review on their Facebook page, score!Enjoy the read!

Enjoy the read!

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Recommended to me by a number of people, booking a dinner reservation at VeVe was a no brainer. With the name originating from the Danish words, Vegetarisk Verdenskøkken, (meaning vegetarian world cuisine) its no surprise that as a vegetarian myself; I was immediately drawn to it. Given the higher price level of the restaurant, we saved it for a special occasion and made a booking to celebrate our 3-year wedding anniversary. And let me tell you, it really was worth the wait.

The entire evening was a complete experience that started right from when we were greeted by one of the waiters. We were first shown to the lounge area and served an aperitif from a limited selection. As I don’t drink alcohol, I opted for the only non-alcoholic option of a rhubarb juice, whereas my husband went for champagne. Immediately after, followed a steady trail of snacks to whet our appetites. The small dishes were creatively displayed with my two favourites being ‘A slurp of the ocean’ and the ‘Onion shell’. The former gave me my first experience of “slurping an oyster” – not literally of course. The dish was a liquid flavoured to taste like seafood alongside an oyster leaf, a small red wine ball and some other garnishes that I really can’t remember at the moment. The leaf was served in an oyster shell, which I thought was very interesting. The latter was a simple onion flavoured crisp served standing in a bag of onions and with a hummus dip. A simple concept but such complex flavours. We were already impressed and the evening had only just started!

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When we were ready, we were moved over to our round table for the start of our 6 main courses. To start, we were served their sourdough bread with a dollop of white butter, which looked more like a soft meringue than traditional butter. We were also asked to choose from their range of olive oils originating from different countries. So many choices! Although the 6-course menu can be enjoyed on its own, it is offered with both a wine and juice pairing. Between us we opted for one pairing each, although I have to say I definitely struggled with finishing each juice serving with each course. I’m not very good with large volumes!

A range of beautifully presented and innovatively flavoured dishes followed, paired with a different juice or wine to suit. Each dish was so different that it’s impossible to compare them, but as cheese lovers, course number 4 was our favourite, the Smoked Radish with Lancashire Cheddar. The last dish before dessert also had a twist we liked. I won’t completely ruin the surprise but lets just say you get to finish the dish off yourself by adding some instant noodles in a far from conventional way. Rhubarb and liquorice, two things I have begun associating with Denmark, since moving here, were the stars of the dessert course. The black tea with berries and grape juice paired with course number 4 and 5 were definitely my favourite juices and two of the only times I managed to finish the servings!

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Every single dish was delicious and brought out such distinctive flavours, in my opinion. It really does show that vegetables can be flavoured just as well, if not better than what’s normally expected. You can see their current menu here on their website but they do change their menu completely as the seasons change and the availability of fresh vegetables varies, so definitely keep an eye on their website for the new menu. I know I will!

The menu for the evening was cleverly printed on a brown paper bag, which at first seemed a little too simple for such a high class restaurant but by the end of the evening completely made sense. Read on to find out why…

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To end you have the option to return to the lounge area with comfy sofas for some coffee and their selection of petit fours. We were bursting at the seams so politely declined but a quick glimpse of another couple being served the petit fours definitely left me intrigued. Let’s just say, I saw some Lego and a bag of chillies, hmmmm….

Before leaving, we asked to speak to the head chef and not only to express our gratification for the delicious dishes but also to satisfy our curiosity about what inspires him to create such a menu. As a fellow Englishman and very involved with the customers, he was more than happy to chat to us. We were surprised to learn that he himself isn’t vegetarian. That made the skills shown in every dish that little bit more impressive. I think in some ways, it actually gives him that extra edge as he can incorporate flavours or ideas normally associated with meat into vegetables to create a completely unique combination. He also told us that the restaurant really fills a huge gap in the Danish market for a fine dining vegetarian restaurant of this style and I completely agree with him!

We were incredibly impressed by this dining experience and felt the service was also on par with the image of the restaurant but the food really was the superstar of the evening. We completely recommend it! They even gave us a gift as we left. Remember the menu being printed on a brown paper bag? Well, as the evening came to an end, our delightful waitress disappeared with our menu only to return with it filled with two sticks of rhubarb!! A thoughtful parting gift and something we completely didn’t expect.

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If you are interested in dining at VeVe, make sure you book early. With space only for 30, seated at the round tables, the restaurant gets booked up months in advance!

The Giants Adventure continues…

Another weekend. Another adventure. With our trusty treasure hunter friends by our sides, we took the cycle path once again. This time in search of the remaining three giants. If you have no idea what I’m on about, take a look back at my last post for an update!

This time we weren’t under the thumb of time and the weather was scorching, to say the least. A scorching we appreciated, of course. After all, this is Copenhagen, we have to make the most of the little sun we get. So we packed up a picnic and cycled west towards Rødøvre.

A good 30-minute pedal later, we discovered Sleeping Louis, taking a nap amidst the trees. His hollow inside is perfect for crawling into and taking a nap of your own if you fancy one. Kids and adults alike (I was one of them of course!) ventured in through his mouth. Naturally, there was very little headroom, but it was a great respite from the burning sun and even led to a surprise Geocache find. Again, if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say Geocache, then check out one of my earlier posts for a quick rundown.

We left Sleeping Louis basking comfortably on the hill and cycled south to find his sister, Hill Top Trine. Along the way, we encountered a herd of hungry sheep. They took us by surprise initially as it was unusual to see them casually walking along the path like that. We expected them to be out in the open field instead. Thankfully they let us pass through but not before one of them gave our friend a cheeky lick on the back of his hand!

After what seemed like a never-ending cycle, we finally spotted Trine. Sitting with her arms held out in front of her, she looked content with the hoards of children climbing up into her palms. In fact, the artist designed her that way so you can enjoy the beautiful view over Avedøresletten (The Avedøre Plain) from her palms. Not wanting to miss out, I headed up there too 🙂 . As I did so, I couldn’t help but notice the vast number of twigs that were used to make up her hair. It looked almost like it was blowing in the wind.

Our last stop of the day was further south and took us right to the coast at Ishøj. After cycling past the merry people, enjoying their ice creams, we spotted the last of the giant siblings. Tucked away on a small bank of a lake, lay Oscar Under The Bridge. As we walked over the short bridge to get a closer look, we noticed how he had actually grabbed hold of the bridge and almost looked like he was trying to pull himself up from the bank! He’s the only one of the giants with visible teeth, which I feel makes him look that little bit more mischievous than the others. With little space on the lake’s bank, Oscar is best viewed from the bridge above or from the bank across the lake.

After clocking up nearly 21km of cycling over the day, we decided to treat ourselves to an ice cream and a quick stroll along Ishøj Beach. The sun was still beating down hard and our exhausted bodies were craving rest. So it wasn’t long before we were back on the road and catching our train home.

That guys, concludes our Forgotten Giants Treasure Hunt. I wonder what our next adventure will be…

The Forgotten Giants

Every city has its secrets. Some good, some not so good. A couple of weekends ago, we discovered a beautiful secret here in Copenhagen. A kind of treasure hunt if you will. A search for giants. The Forgotten Giants.

Brought to life using recycled material, these wooden giants bring a fairytale-like charm to the wilderness of the city. The artist, Thomas Dambo has placed the 6 giants in his favourite places around the city. The giants are a group of siblings, each with their own character and named after volunteers who helped build the sculptures. They are all off the beaten track, so really get you out of the city centre and exploring the suburban nature. In the artist’s own words, he hopes that his “art will inspire people to see the big potential in recycling and taking better care of our planet”.

With only half a day at our disposable, we headed out to Høje Taastrup in the west of Copenhagen. A train journey followed by a short bike ride led us to our first stop. That’s where we found Teddy Friendly. Standing tall in the woodland shrubbery, right next to a bog of sorts, Teddy’s elongated arm served as the perfect bridge over the stream. Although made of hardwood, the layered technique used for the body made him look fluffy and welcoming. The way Teddy looked almost a natural part of the woodland itself was inspiring to see. A credit to the artist’s incredible talent.

The little plaque at the foot of one of Teddy’s arms included a poem explaining where we could find his brother, Sleeping Louis. Each of the giants have these plaques to help us find the next one but we opted to use the treasure map provided instead. We were against the clock that day and had to strategically pick a route that worked best for us. So we jumped back on the bikes and half an hour later, we stumbled upon Thomas on the Mountain.

Deeper amongst the tall trees and on a fairly steep hill lay Thomas. Leaning back on his arms with his long legs outstretched, looking out over a clearing in the municipality of Albertslund. His relaxed expression fits perfectly with his lazy posture. We couldn’t resist climbing up his legs, onto his belly and shoulders to get some cool pictures.

A much shorter bike ride away led us to our final stop of the day in Vallensbæk. Here, we met Thomas’ sister, Little Tilde. Despite her size, she had a unique cuteness about her. Peering through two trees over a lake, the curiosity in her eyes was clear. I read afterwards that her body is full of 28 birdhouses. Looks like we’ll have to go back and see if we can find any birds seeking shelter in them!

With that final find, we called it a day. Our friends, who had joined us on our treasure hunt adventure, had kindly invited us over for dinner. We were well in need of some sustenance by the end of the day, especially after all that exploring and biking! It was a lovely and delicious end to our evening.

With three more giants still to discover, be sure to keep your eyes peeled and continue the adventure with us…

Mose

Finding the Surface

So it’s been a little over 4 months since my last post. Some of you may be wondering, why. If you haven’t been wondering why then that’s OK too. All I really want to say is that it all started when I decided I wanted to write a post titled, Loneliness and Guilt. When I started writing it, I was adamant not to let it be a negative and sad post. As you might have guessed, that’s exactly what it began to turn into. So I just stopped. Stopped writing. Stopped thinking. Stopped feeling. Something inside me found itself right next to my “emotion switch”. Before I even knew what was happening, the switch was flicked to off.

From then on, I can only describe myself as drowning. Deeper and deeper into the abyss of my own negative thoughts. Until a moment, just a couple of months or so ago. That’s when a big fish, gliding past my floating body, slapped me across my face. Yes, literally! I knew the impact had flicked the switch successfully back to the ‘on’ position because I was immediately aware again. Aware of my surroundings. Aware that I couldn’t breathe. Aware that I needed to reach the surface.

Since that day, I’ve been working hard to get myself out of this abyss. With every stroke of my arm, I pushed harder and harder to get my head above the surface. Now I can breathe. Along the way, I’ve been putting things into place. Practical things. Things that I know, that will stop me from being pulled down there again. Giving the tangled, overgrown mess of negative thoughts some kind of order. Dealing with. Accepting. Putting into perspective. I’m not going back down there, but I still need to get the rest of my body out. More courage. More strength. More time.

There’s a long way to go. However, with every negative thought that is dealt with, comes space for positivity. With space for positivity, comes room for growth. There’s nothing more I want right now than to grow. Grow and keep growing…

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The Music Video Is Out!

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I was involved in filming a cover video for one of the songs in a newly released Indian film. The team completed the editing super quick and released the video at the end of January. As promised here is the anticipated music video for you to experience. I only really feature in a few shots and for those of you who know me personally, it will be more of a fun game to spot me in the scenes 😀 . I ALWAYS cringe when watching myself back on video or looking at photos of myself, so I have only watched the completed music video once 😦 . The number of views on YouTube grew quickly and the film’s director even complimented our work. It was nice to know that he acknowledged our time and effort.

Just a note before you watch it, this video was produced for a very niche audience – mostly those from the state of Karnataka in southern India. So the scenes have been made to appeal more to such an audience with the usual Bollywood style clichés (i.e. slow motion scenes of lovers running towards each other! :D). Although they are clichés, it adds to the comedy factor of the video. Keep an open mind and enjoy!

Did you spot me?

Staying with the Indian theme, let’s talk about tiffin boxes. These are the iconic metal lunchboxes that many workers in India have the privilege of receiving every day. The tiered design allows for a choice of dishes to be included, alongside some rice and of course some flatbread too. Traditionally, it had only been the wives of working men who would prepare the lunch fresh in time for it to be collected and delivered to their husband’s workplace. But nowadays, restaurants and caterers also offer this service, although not always in the metal containers that we associate with a tiffin service. The idea has even spread to the UK, as far as I know 🙂 . ‘The Lunchbox’, a 2013 romantic film exemplifies the tiffin box service quite well, in my opinion. Even though things don’t quite go to plan in the film…

I bring this up as my husband has, for a while now, been skipping lunch at work or just picking bits and pieces from the predominantly meaty lunch offered at Novo Nordisk, Måløv. This was not on! After being told by the chef that vegetarian food simply isn’t as easy to flavour as meat and that is the reason behind why they don’t offer any REAL warm vegetarian options, we were OUTRAGED. What a ridiculous reason!!

At the time the Novo layoffs were imminent so we didn’t pursue things further but we knew we had to do something to get some better grub into my husband’s belly. So we got a hold of a tiffin box from the UK and tested it out, just last week. We were a little sceptical about how well it would work but also about how warm the food would stay. In the end, although the food had gone cold it still made for a lovely lunch and my husband bought back the tiffin squeaky clean! Result! It’s a double win too as it means I’ve got to get more creative in the kitchen to ensure there’s always something to fill the tiffin box with. We’ve started off with trying it out two times a week and will see if we can also find a clever way of keeping the food warm until lunchtime!

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My husband’s tiffin box

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Filled with a spinach curry, kichadi, some chapatis and cucumber 🙂

Let’s head back to Denmark now.

I thought I would just share a little thing that made me laugh recently as I read the local Danish newspaper. Wait a second. Did I just say, “…as I read a local DANISH newspaper”? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my Danish has reached that level now. It is extremely surprising to me and I really didn’t think I would be at this level with just over a year of learning. For any of you out there who might be learning the language, all I can say is don’t give up and stay consistent. There is hope, even when it might seem impossible and frustrating, there is hope…

Anyway, what made me laugh was an article about weird behaviour that people have. The examples had been portrayed with images and I think the fact that I could actually understand what was written, was actually part of the reason why I was so entertained by such a simple concept. Go ahead and have a read for yourself if you are a Dane or can understand Danish, otherwise, I have also translated a few below (apologies to the Danes if they aren’t completely perfect!). I’m not sure they are as funny when written in English!

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“I have to be the last one to pee before we go to bed” (Female, 54)

“When I am alone and I think about something embarrassing, I have done/said, I say out aloud ‘Shoot me in the head… No, don’t do that’.” (Male, 24)

“I am always out and turn on the tap in the kitchen when I get up and before I can go to the toilet” (Female, 31)

“I walk around and ‘close’ pens if they are open” (Female, 19)

I totally agree with that last one. If I see a pen left open or without a lid, I HAVE to close it. The same goes for power sockets, if nothing is plugged in and the switch is on, I HAVE to switch it off. If I’m not able to, it WILL bug me all day!

What about you guys? What odd behaviour could you add to these examples? And be honest, because we all have them!!