Denmark/Iceland Day 10: Home and Wrap-Up

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You can wake up in Reykjavik and 6 hours later be back in DC. We had a smooth trip home, not much really to report. Filed for our VAT refund, spent some remaining Icelandic currency in the duty-free shot (saving some for Ben and Courtney’s New Year’s Trip), grabbed a quick bite in the Icelandic Air lounge and flew home. Global Entry helped smooth the process although the longest wait was for the luggage to come (but it did!). We had parked at a nearby hotel using Spot Hero, just $30 for 10 days.

Observations

We liked Denmark. It didn’t have the natural beauty of Norway or the people warmth of Sweden, but the people were nice and accessible, it was easy to get around, both with public transport and driving.

Ellen, as always, gets huge praise for her trip planning skills. We worked well together, changing our itinerary for the first time I remember, to drive further and see more.  Aarhus was the highlight of Denmark for me, and that was the city we added.

Technology wise, US chip credit cards worked well. We got a BarclayCard with a pin specifically so we could use a card in automated machines (gas pumps, parking meters, etc), and it helped out in several cases. We had good experiences with SIM cards in both Denmark and Iceland. Spoiled so much that our 1/2 day in Sweden felt jarring that we didn’t have data. Impressed that Waze continued to direct us in Malmo even when we lost data coverage.

Found a great use case for the Apple Watch. When trying to find a store or restaurant, instead of carrying the phone around for directions, I used Apple Maps and then put my phone in my pocket. The watch then displayed the directions and tapped appropriately when it was time to turn. It worked well and felt much safer not to have the phone out.

We did notice that many establishments have added surcharges on credit cards in general or foreign cards specifically. Still better than carrying a lot of cash, but there always seems to be some gotcha to get travelers to cough up more.

We used Tripadvisor and Yelp to help select restaurants, and that produced some great meals. That and we repeated meals at The Little Apothecary in Copenhagen and Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavik.

Iceland was as wonderful as always. It was nice to have a car and do the traveling on our own. That allowed us to pick our sites and visit towns and restaurants too small for even a 16 person tour group to visit.

We had some of our best conversations with locals in stores, especially Skagen in Aaarhus, Thomas Sabo in Malmo and 66° North in Reykjavik. We ask questions of the retailers and find they are more than willing to share some of their background and viewpoints to interested travelers.

The biggest advantage of travel in my opinion is how it opens your eyes. Not just to how others live, but taking you out of what your normal is. Things like air conditioning. Copenhagen doesn’t have it because it is rarely hot, but when it is (like when we visit), they deal with it. The stores, the restaurants, the subway cars were hot. But when a rail car is unairconditioned in DC, all of a sudden #hotcar is trending. We are spoiled in the US, with comfort, big cars, and huge portion sizes. At many restaurants, a soda or sparkling water was 250ml, a little over 8 ounces. And that was it. No free refills. And you made it last because it was already $4.

I hope to keep that perspective with me of seeing the world differently and challenging the normalcy we get used to.

Thanks for reading along, I’ve enjoyed the questions and comments. If you enjoyed it (and got this far), do me a favor and like on Facebook or WordPress, or favorite on Twitter, just so I know you were reading.

Until our next big trip, which is….CUBA!


Denmark/Iceland Day 9: Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik

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Reykjavik has 21 hours of sunlight this time of year, and even after the sun set last night, it was still a little light. Flipside in winter must be tough.

This morning we drove back to the airport to return the car. Next, was our 3rd visit to Blue Lagoon. It’s fed by geothermal waters, so even with a 55°F outside temperature, it is warm and relaxing. We walked around the pool for about an hour, then had 1/2 hour in-water massages. Takes all the stress away to float on air mattress in the water and get a massage. They have this natural silica that results in the obligatory selfie.

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A bus ride back to the city, we then set out to walk and explore. This is the harbor right across from our hotel.

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The Harpa Concert Hall is also right on the water. We went in, it’s full of mirrors and glass and reflects the water and the city.

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A walk up the hill took us to the church, Hallgrímskirkja

. This time we went in. Plain on the inside.

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Last thing was a nice dinner, and we certainly had that at 3 Frakkar. Ellen had smoked cod, I had (and I took a picture of the menu so I could describe it for Rebecca) panfried salted fillet of Cod with cashew nuts, raisins, tomato and apple. We both thought our dishes were excellent, the sauces made them especially flavorful. We shared an ice cream sundae for dessert.

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We got the idea tonight that I should look for an Iceland football jersey. We tried a few stores before dinner with no luck. Ellen made it a mission, looking at all the stores on the way home, and lo and behold, we found one. So my collection now includes jerseys from Barcelona, Argentina, Poland, Denmark & Iceland, with a rugby shirt from Ireland.

Tomorrow, we have to come home. Glad to see Colby, but wishing this great vacation didn’t have to end.


Denmark/Iceland Day 8: Now with Iceland!

We changed countries fairly easily. And our car rental for the day was a Hyundai i30, so not much changed!

Before we get too far, the poll yesterday. Of 21 votes, 14 of you guessed $45-55. And you were right, the toll was around USD $55 EACH WAY between Copenhagen and Malmo. We found out there is also a train right from the airport to Malmo. Maybe next time!

Today was the first time in our 3 visits to Iceland that we rented a car and did our touring by ourselves. In the past we had used a tour company, but they were sold out for the western coast this time, so we decided to do it ourselves. Pixels will not do it justice, but here is a taste of what we saw today. DSC_0488 DSC_0473 DSC_0477 DSC_0483 DSC_0469 DSC_0470

The temperature varied from 8-14°C, overcast, windy, and it was still just breathtaking sites.

We drove back to Reykjavik and checked into our Planet Aparment place. New for us, quieter part of town, looks really nice.

We have a few favorites from our past visits, and we took quick advantage of them. First was Icelandic Fish & Chips for dinner. They have moved to a larger, brighter space. Food still as good.

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Next was my favorite outerwear store, 66° North. We both got jackets there.

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Finally we walked up to the church, because it is just such a great visual site. A good full day!

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Denmark/Iceland Day 7: Well, Now I Have To Add Sweden

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We had hot weather which was unusual, so we were due for a more normal cold, rainy, windy day. That day was today.

We left Aarhus around 8am and drove to Malmo, Sweden. Malmo is near Copenhagen, just a (16km long) Oresund Bridge ride from near the Copenhagen Airport. Anyone care to guess how expensive for a one-way crossing? (no Googling it first!).

We were looking for something different to do to spend the day. But perhaps a bit of the reason for going to Malmo, Sweden was that Ellen wanted to hit the Thomas Sabo store there and pick up a charm or two. So that’s the address we put into Waze. As an aside, SHOUT OUT TO WAZE for keeping the GPS directions going in Sweden after we strayed from out Denmark data connection. We found the store quickly, were helped by a very nice Sabo employee and Ellen was successful in getting a few new charms and a ring.

Since we were there, we decided to explore. It was pouring rain, 50°F, with 25-40mph winds, but we were determined. We found the town square, city hall and Saint Peter’s Church. We liked Malmo a lot, except for the weather. He hadn’t made it that far south when we were in Sweden 2 years ago.

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We walked until we were so cold and wet that we couldn’t anymore. Stopped for coffee/tea and then came back to Denmark. We are staying at the Hilton at the airport, so we checked in, returned the car and then went back to the hotel. We had thought about going into Copenhagen for our last dinner, but decided to dry off instead. So we had dinner at the hotel and relaxed a little, before our flight to Iceland early tomorrow morning.

There was time for one last Carlsberg, however.

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Denmark/Iceland Day 6: Aarhus (is a very, very, very fine hus)

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Don’t let the blue sky fool you, we had some off and on rain today, but nothing to disrupt our plans. Today was Aarhus, just Aarhus. Based mostly on Rick Steves’ walking tour, we hit 2 churches, a beautiful street, the art museum and threw in the train station for fun.

The church (seen above) dates back to the 12th century. Many of the frescos had been whitewashed during the Reformation, but that served to perfectly preserve them. DSC_0422

The tour took us to a street that was billed as the prettiest in town, and it lived up to its billing.DSC_0437

We then went to the modern art museum, .ARoS. It was awesome on many counts, but two stood out. First was The Boy, a 15 foot sculpture that was spookily realistic-looking. Notice the scale with the real person!

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Then, on the roof of the building was a circular walkway with a rainbow of color as you went around. Pictures did capture the colors, but not the feeling of looking over the city through different color lenses. First a panoramic sense of it, then a single view.IMG_1328DSC_0458

We walked along the Stroget to the train station, which had a mall as part of it. Ellen had concerns if we’d have enough to do today, but we easily filled it.

Ellen found a highly recommended pizza restaurant, Cafe Piccolina, which was a block behind the main church. The chef was from Italy, the wife worked the front, the children wrapped the silver. And the pizza seemed authentic Italian. This is the al pomodoro.

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Tomorrow is our last day in Denmark, so we are thinking of throwing it a curve and going to Malmo, Sweden. The weather isn’t supposed to be that nice, but we thought it might be fun. We didn’t get to Malmo 2 years ago when we were in Sweden.


Denmark/Iceland Day 5: Odense to Aarhus

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Odense’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. The museum chronicles his life and works. Poverty, homeliness, rejections…these factors led to the creative mind, but not always a happy life. Well explained, the museum was very interesting. It included an outdoor theater that packed in local children.IMG_1318DSC_0386 DSC_0389DSC_0410

After the museum, we walked through the town. Of course, a church as the focal point, some public art, it was pretty.DSC_0390 DSC_0393

We had seen a place called Burger Anarchy when searching for restaurants. We thought the name alone deserved a visit. So we had a very good lunch! The burgers rivaled anything we have back home.

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We found a mall outside Odense, and managed to find a soccer jersey from the Danish national team. That’s been my go-to souvenir of late.

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Then, about an hour and a half drive to the 2nd largest city in Denmark, Aarhus. We got here late afternoon, so we didn’t do much except find an exceptional place for dinner. At Mefisto, we started with venison carpaccio, which was delicious. Ellen had whole roasted flounder ​with corn and cauliflower in browned butter, I had salmon with lemon,  with creamed spinach and new potatoes. For dessert, Ellen had creme brulee which I had double chocolate cake with lemon ice cream. Well worth every calorie.

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Denmark/Iceland Day 4: Viking Ships and 18km Bridge

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We had a couple of sour experiences yesterday at our hotel, that led to a conversation with the general manager this morning. After we reached out to the hotel via Twitter, Facebook and then email, he was well versed on the issues and came bearing apologies and comping our stay. That didn’t make up for it, but it helped!

Off in the car this morning, the first stop was Roskilde and the Viking Ship Museum. The museum houses five ships found nearby, dating back as far as 1042. They also have ship building exhibitions, including having children uses saws and axes. Why have we become so risk averse that that would never happen in the US? They also had one of those big rubber ducks in the water

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Bluetooth!

King Harald “Bluetooth” Blatand

We then drove into the town of Roskilde. A fabulous church, with 20 kings and 17 queens buried there. Most famous as far as I was concerned was King Harold Bluetooth, who united Denmark and Norway and became the namesake of our favorite short-range wireless protocol. The double-spired church is the featured picture of today’s post. DSC_0379 DSC_0385 DSC_0373

We wandered into town, and today’s lunch was a bakery/grocery store special. Nothing fancy.

Back in the car to head to our next destination, Odense. First we had to go over an awesome 18km suspension bridge, the Storebaelt Bridge. The toll to get over it shocked us! It was 235 Danish Krone, approximately $45. There was a spectacular view, but c’mon!

Odense is the home of Hans Christian Anderson, who will be the focus tomorrow. But for tonight, we found a fabulous little French restaurant, Kok & Vin. We both had the same order, appetizer of salted salmon with celery remoulade, radishes and pickled cucumbers and for a main course, pan fried salmon with morels, capers and brown butter. Both, just delicious! For dessert, Ellen had creme brulee and I had a strawberry tart with chocolate, crème anglaise, fresh berries and sorbet. It was our first fancy meal here, and the food and service made it a wonderful evening.IMG_1316 IMG_1313

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