By the time we made it to Italy, I was feeling a little weary and completely incapable of blogging. We had been travelling for five weeks and whilst Rome is an amazing place to sightsee and to explore rich history, we had to take it easy.
Each day, we chose one sight to see and the rest of the day was all about enjoying Rome’s culinary delights. We spent hours wandering cobbled streets discovering delightful cafes, pizzerias and gelato shops.
Spoilt for choice, there was zero disappointment…..
Our four day ‘city break’ destination of Copenhagen turned out to be a brilliant pick. With the Travel Bee’s joined by Aunty and Uncle Travel Bee, it was difficult to find somewhere none of us had been (yes Aunty and Uncle do like to travel as much as us!). The kids were a little dubious but they needn’t have been, there was plenty to do for all ages.
Between day trips to Sweden, pastry cooking class and Bastard Cafe we used the metro and ferry to explore this intriguing city. We were all very impressed with how easy the Metro was to negotiate. The trains were cheap, frequent, not overly full and clean. The only snag was working out which exit to leave the stations from! This did lead to a fair bit of disorientation as we got to street level which turned out to be both a disadvantage and an advantage as we discovered places we were never intending to see!
One such place was Torvehallerne foodmarket, a bustling, high end, gourmet type experience with both prepared food stalls as well as butchers, fish mongers, fruit and vegetables etc. It was here we discovered the Danish open sandwich and where we all agreed that these sandwiches were the best we had ever experienced! The photos tell the story…..
Apart from eating sandwiches, we also enjoyed taking in the varied architecture around the city with the pretty canal of Nyhavn and the view from The Round Tower amongst my favourites. Also impressive was Christiansborg Palace and the spiral spire of The Church of Our Savior.
Not overly impressive but a must see for any fan of Hans Christian Andersen is the Little Mermaid statue. I found the background just as interesting as the statue itself. The unusual sloped building seen in the photo below, CopenHill is a waste to energy plant that doubles as a sports centre including a ski field on top and climbing walls along its sides! The Danish are the masters of dual purposing and getting the most out of any construction.
There was only one place in this beautiful city that left us unimpressed, Christiania. Touted as the Amsterdam of Copenhagen, this is the ‘free town’ area an independent hippy type community. Here people live according to certain ideals including no violence, no stealing, no cars, no running, no photos and with a strong emphasis on sustainability and recycling. Marijuana although still illegal in Denmark, is a big part of the lifestyle in this area.
I had read much about Christiania, it’s vibrant cafe scene, it’s arty hangouts and it’s yoga and meditation vibes. We saw none of that. Perhaps it was the time of year, but the whole area seemed grey, run down and dirty. The only thing that matched the guide books was the distinctive smells of marijuana.
By far and away one of our favourite finds in Copenhagen was a spot we had long since researched, Bastard Cafe. Tucked away on an unsuspecting street, it is the kind of location you are unlikely to come across unless you are ‘in the know’. Fortunately the Lonely Planet guide had explained exactly what this place was and how to find it.
Although at our first attempt we were successful at locating it, we were unsuccessful in getting a table! We had totally underestimated it’s popularity on a wintery Sunday afternoon. Every table and nook was full of groups of friends, couples and families drinking and chatting excitedly and no one was leaving. It is hard to explain, but it just felt cool. We booked a table for the next afternoon.
Essentially, this place is a cafe dedicated to playing board games and hosts the biggest collection of games you have ever seen. They cover the walls, are shelved in the roof beams and stacked on tables. There are card games, board games, English games, Danish games, American games and so much more. There is even a whole section dedicated to Monopolies from all over the world.
There is also food, coffee and a bar. What more could one want on a rainy winter’s day? It is the coolest place to hang out and evidently a true Danish experience. Our booking was for three hours…… we stayed for six (as it would seem, most patrons do)!
Although predominantly inhabited by groups of friends in their 20-30s, our group ranging from 12-62 years had a blast discovering new games. We also enjoyed chatting to the ‘games gurus’ who were very impressive in their knowledge of games and spot on with recommendations for our group.
But, our favourite game was one I happened to walk past as it sat (unbeknown to me) on the repairs table (torn box). Wits and Wagers literally provided hours of all age fun guessing answers and betting on the likelihood ourselves or our fellow players were closest to the correct answer. We are still trying to locate a copy so we can add it to our collection at home.
An afternoon highly recommended, but be warned, it is definitely worth booking. Although you have to pay to reserve a table, you each get a free drink and access to all of the games on site. It is worth the small fee.
At the end of the day, we had full tummies, happy kids and merry adults (a few beers consumed). We were however left with one unanswered question…… Why is it called Bastard cafe?!
Those who know me (and those who have read my Mt Buller blogs) know I am not really built for skiing. I have tried in New Zealand, I have tried in Australia and I have tried in Japan. I have tried over a span of 25 years. No-one could say I haven’t given it a good crack. However, when my family affectionately call me ‘Bambi on Ice’ and I have hit ‘middle age’, I have decided it might be time to admit defeat and hang up the skis.
As the rest of the family love skiing and snow boarding, time in the French Alps was always on the agenda for this trip. I could not deny them. I decided on this visit to the mountains, I would have to find something else to do.
After a couple of false starts trying to book a group tour snowshoeing (apparently it isn’t that popular) I was feeling a little despondent. This morning, I decided to ask our reception for some advice. After a hilarious three way conversation of broken English and French, the activities organiser exclaimed ‘Ahhh I give you Racquets!’
From there, it was a quick trip to tourist information for a map and directions to a track. The lovely lady assured me I could not get lost (my biggest fear) and I was off on my solo adventure.
My goal was to reach a stone cottage on the Montagnettes path. Reaching the actual walking path turned out to be the hardest part. Once I had climbed through town and located the path, I was rewarded with a well marked track skirting along the edge of the mountains looking straight down into the valley of Val Thorens. Although the weather wasn’t too clear for photos, I jotted down some notes:
It’s so quiet. Peace. My head feels so clear.
Only sound is a squeak from my left ski pole as it plunges into the fresh snow.
Far off in the distance I can hear the odd cheer from a skier enjoying their best life.
Here come the dogs…..
And as I had a rest on a beautifully positioned bench, I was joined by a couple of dogs out for a walk with their owners. One, a husky, bounded up to me to say hello….. or bonjour I guess! After a quick head rub he proceeded to run excitedly through the lumps of fresh snow in front of me, literally hurtling himself into mounds. Clearly, he absolutely loves where he lives!
I did make it to the stone cottage without getting lost. I did also fall flat on my butt twice, but that is okay, it was worth it. I think I might have found my mountain ‘thing’! I am a snowshoer (not sure if that is an actual word)! I can’t wait to try another track tomorrow.
Most would agree that certain compensations need to be made when travelling with teenagers. Spending hours in museums is not their idea of fun. As this was mine and Mr Travel Bee’s third visit to the city, we were happy to oblige in finding some of the more fun, less history focused activities.
First up we choose Le Canards de Paris for our unusual tour. This amphibious bus combined both a bus tour of the city with a river cruise. The guide was engaging and humorous as he expertly switched between languages, explaining where we were and a little history about the buildings (but not too much to bore the kids).
The sun was shining and Paris showed us all of its beauty as we learnt quirky facts and met our fellow travellers. As is often the way in this small world, the people sat next to us were from Perth!
If I had one criticism, it would be that the river cruise section of this trip was not in the centre of Paris. Presumably this was due to lack of access to the river in the tourist areas. It did mean we got the see a bit more of the outskirts of Paris including PSG’s stadium which pleased the football contingent.
Next, we chose a two day self directed/metro tour of the sights we didn’t see on the bus/boat. Once we worked out how to buy a ticket, the Metro was an easy and quick way to get around. Our tour included the Sacré-Cœur, the view from Montparnasse Tower, the Louvre and a walk in the Tuileries, the view from Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame.
I found it quite sad to see the beautiful Notre Dame in it’s current state of disrepair following the fire of 2019. It was very different to when I visited 20 years ago. However, they do appear to be getting on with repairs and there is a large display encircling the church explaining about the fire damage and the restoration work. Let’s hope it can one day be enjoyed as it was.
We also chose to do a food tour of Le Marais but that deserves a whole blog to itself….
We are at the stage of our travels where fatigue is starting to set in. The 13,000 steps per day is taking it’s toll. My head is so full of potential blog material but each night when I try, I am too tired to write (I have many partially written posts). But, tonight I had to write this quick post before I forget the details.
We have discovered an area of Paris that I had previously not visited, Le Marais. Today is Sunday, and as we passed through this area I couldn’t help but notice a difference to yesterday.
Today, the local Parisians had joined the throngs of tourists and were out enjoying the dry, crisp winters day. In every park or square there were families with balls or games, the shops were full and the cafes bursting with couples and families chatting and drinking.
As we walked shoulder to shoulder down one tiny street, two women dressed in jeans, scarfs and jackets (just like everyone else) sung beautiful opera to passers-by. I was dive-bombed by a pigeon and almost tripped over a fluffy white dog invisible in the crowd. In this moment, I realised this was a snippet of true Paris.
This city is not just about picture perfect tourist sights. It is about people and their social connections. The Parisians are busy, passionate people who seem to love their food, their people and ……. Pomeranians! As for the pigeons…. they are everywhere and completely insane.
I will catch up on my blogs at some point. It may well be once I am home or as the rest of the family hit the ski slopes next week. I need to take some time to tell you about all we have seen and eaten! Rest assured it has been incredible!
While in Copenhagen; Miss 12, Uncle Travel Bee and I enrolled ourselves on a Danish pastry cooking class on a rainy winter’s morning. Having read some reviews on Tripadvisor I selected Terrible Pastry School. One could easily be deterred by the name, but this would be a mistake! This school is anything but terrible. Named after its French owner and pastry chef Frédéric Terrible, the course was three and a half hours of pure joy, as were the pastries we produced!
Greeted with a strong cup of coffee, Frédéric split participants into pairs and introduced himself with a quick rundown on his career as a pastry chef and teacher. Given we were a group of three, this meant Uncle Travel Bee was paired with a fellow would-be pastry chef from Italy. One of my favourite things about participating in this kind of class is meeting other travellers and this was no exception. Allessio turned out to be an interesting and light-hearted fellow who worked for the UN.
In a clever play on time, we were given pre-made pastry (by Frédéric) and instructed on how to measure, cut, fold and roll four different pastries. Miss 12 was in her element and took control of our table while Allessio poked fun at us for being the ‘model’ students. While these were proving, we doubled back and learnt how to make the pastry. Frédéric was relaxed, entertaining and fun as he expertly guided us. It was obvious he was highly skilled and we were all in awe as he whipped up the vanilla custard for our filling while chatting away to us (if only it was that easy).
After making our pastry, it was time for our pastries to hit the oven and within minutes there was a rich, delicious smell filling the kitchen. We were instructed to make ourselves another coffee or tea and then wait for the buzzer. You could feel the excited anticipation as we awaited our final product. They did not disappoint. When the ovens opened and the trays hit the bench, every single participant looked so proud and amazed at what they had produced with their own hand.
These pastries were mouth-watering, delectable, flaky parcels of deliciousness. Even after being pre-warned by Frédéric that the vanilla custard would be hot and not to burn your mouth, both Miss 12 and I could not wait and sure enough, scolded ourselves. But, in Miss 12’s words………… Mum that burn was worth it. Best pastry EVER tasted if we do say so ourselves!
And then we took the rest home!!
You can imagine with limited time, it is difficult to make the most of two boxes of pastries. We ate as much as we could but in the end a box went to our favourite hotel receptionist and we treated a homeless man on the street (of which there are very few in Copenhagen).