Although not technically part of the Only Amazing Days travels by bicycle series that we’ve been updating you on for the last eleven months (and if you’ve been reading that long: Thank you! It has been so great for us to be able to share our adventures with you!), I thought I’d write a post to tell you all about my solo experiences since Christian returned home! Enjoy!
After saying a tearful farewell to Christian and Ray at the Charles de Gaulle airport, it was a two hour hop-skip and jump on the Eurostar and I was in London. Having lived here on my own back in 2008 and then visiting frequently on weekends when we taught in Slough, I would be staying in Peckham with my dear friend and flat mate from Edinburgh of two years, Amy, and spending some time visiting old haunts and new places I hadn’t had the chance to see when I lived here.
London was a tough place to live for me (I was alone, poor and with the post-university, what-do-I-do-with-my-life? malaise), but it has always been an amazing place for me to visit as a tourist.
There are so many high-calibre museums and galleries here (and many of them are free!) that you could spend a month here and still not see all of them. I didn’t feel the need to do that though. My first weekend, Amy and I visited Greenwich, went to a gig in a church in Bethnal Green, and perused the Columbia flower market and the vintage shops in Brick Lane. I spent the rest of my time catching up with old friends in the evenings and biking London by day. I visited the Imperial War Museum, the British Library, Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath. My old friend Emily and I even caught a musical in Soho! It was a whirlwind visit and, before I knew it, it was already time for me to make my way to Stanstead to head to Denmark for a week.
I had wanted to go to Denmark for some reason since I was a little kid. The first story I ever wrote, which I kept in a yellow folder and added pages and pages to for years, was about a little boy and his strange leprechaun-like friend, Cally, who lived in Copenhagen under the docks. I don’t know what captured my imagination so much about Copenhagen (or where that story came from!), but I was determined to find out if Copenhagen would be my newfound spiritual homeland. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t, but I still had a lot of fun there!)
I had reached out to a good Danish-born, Bowen-living friend of mine who had put me in touch with an amazing, authentic Copenhagen family, the Sjørups, and I would be staying with them for three nights before hitting the road by bike to check out the North Sealand.
This was an amazing stroke of luck because the family were the sweetest, most hospitable and caring hosts I have ever stayed with and they really made my stay in Copenhagen a special one. I showed up at their apartment fresh off my flight from London, only to find it was located on the doorstep of the largest brick church in Northern Europe in a very cool, very Danish-feeling neighbourhood.
The vibrant and hilarious Karin met me warmly at the door and I felt like family from the first moment I arrived.
The boys (13 and 15) and Karin’s husband Thomas were away for the night, but Karin had invited her best friend and neighbour Brigitte and her two teenage daughters over for dinner. I was also very lucky that their English was impeccable and they were kind enough to speak it with each other and with me the whole evening with me so I didn’t feel left out.
After our delicious dinner of homemade falafel in the courtyard garden, Karin took us on a sunset tour of the church where she teaches a drama after-school group. We climbed a lot of stairs and snapped some pretty epic photos of the city from the spires.
The next day, it was time to see Copenhagen and I decided that the best way to start my visit there would be with a guided tour of the city. Hilariously, my tour guide was Canadian (she had lived in Copenhagen for three years and married a Dane), but she still knew plenty.
I learned a ton about the city I never could have picked up from a book. We saw pretty much every monument, building and famous attraction in Copenhagen over the course of the 3 hours, which also gave me plenty of time to chat to my fellow tour mates and meet some new international friends, which included two girls from Switzerland, a girl from Romania and a girl from Mexico city who was actually doing her Masters at Edinburgh.
We hit it off immediately and had a ton in common. She was also travelling alone, and we decided to meet up the next day to see more of the city together.
Following the tour, I picked up my new rental bike (a pedal-assist affair that was pretty zippy but ridiculously heavy!)
It was time to check the city out in true Copenhagen style, and I found my way to Christiania, the Little Mermaid statue, and the riverfront where many Copenhagers were out enjoying the sunny day and drinking on the sea wall.
I had another great evening with the family and got to meet Karin’s son August who is hands-down the sweetest 13 year old boy I’ve ever met. We enjoyed the evening outside, eating delicious food and chatting until it got dark.
The next day, I met up with Paulina and we decided to check out Tivoli Gardens and Amusement Park: the second oldest operational theme park in the world, built in 1843.
It was a delightful spot and we spent a couple of hours, walked around the “Through the Looking glass”-style gardens. rides, and games.
It was a bit too pricy to actually go on any of the rides (entrance costs about $25 CAD and then each additional ride is between $5-$15! Denmark is as expensive as I had heard it would be), but we wandered around and enjoyed ourselves nonetheless!
We then went on a mission to find some Danish smørrebrod (open-faced sandwiches) and found ourselves at a great food hall.
These are very popular places to eat and have a variety of fresh stalls with food-to-go options).
We ended up having a modified salad-heavy DIY smørrebrod that was delicious, expensive, and vegetarian (it is very hard to find non-meat-heavy smorebrod in Danish we discovered…)
And then it was time for Paulina to make her way to the airport back to Edinburgh to finish her dissertation, and for me to meet up with August and Karin for an evening of some free theatre in the park.
Saturday morning and it was time to leave Copenhagen and head north, about 45 km to Helsingor, with a late afternoon stop at the Louisiana Modern Art Museum to see an exhibition about the performance artist Marina Abramovich. The museum building itself was also a piece of art in itself and there were plenty of outdoor areas to enjoy the view of the sea and the sculptures scattered around it.
I had set up a Warmshowers host in Helsingør with the lovely Margareta, and made my way the final 8km to her apartment. Margareta was a cool lady who lives alone with her 4 pet gerbils who would be my roommates for the night. The set-up was great though, and we spent most of the evening either talking about biking or walking through her community garden plot.
Community gardens are not like Canadian ones; they are about a million notches up on the scale of awesome. In the 1970s, Denmark started an initiative to encourage more people to grow food by selling them small plots of land that they could live on for part of the year (so many people also have summer homes on them) and grow food (or often flowers) on.
There were 250 separate garden plots where Margareta’s was, and we saw many people out enjoying the evening as we walked around. We also picked a ton of strawberries from Margareta’s plot and enjoyed them later with cream and sugar.
The next day, it was time to check out Kronborg castle, the fictional location of Hamlet’s Elsinore, where Shakespeare set his most famous tragedy. It was an impressive structure in itself, made even more exciting by the live theatre performances that were held sporadically throughout the rooms, grounds and courtyards. I even got to see a puppet show of Othello when I was there!
For lunch, I enjoyed my own frugal version of smørrebrod (care of left-over breakfast)!
On my way to Fredensborg where I would be staying that evening, I took a bit of a detour along the north coast to check out the rather Danish beaches.
I also found some time to enjoy a brief siesta in the sun on top of a dune overlooking the ocean.
Eventually, I made my way to Fredensborg where I had an airbnb lined up. I started the next day with what you might call a rather Danish breakfast.
I spent the next day going slowly, taking selfies and enjoying the cycle from, to and around two castles in the area: Fredensborg Slot (Danish for castle!) and Fredericksburg slot (probably name after the Danish royalty who alternate between being King Frederick or King Christian, funnily enough).
I didn’t have far to go that day to my next Warmshowers host in Birkerod so I took it slow and enjoyed the nicely manicured Danish countryside which was quite pretty but not all that interesting.
In Birkerod, I stayed with Lone, who is not actually a cyclist herself but had a friend who had gone on a two year trip and had inspired her to become a host. We had a nice dinner and chat together, and I was early to bed so I could be up early the next day to get back to Copenhagen, return my bike, and enjoy my final day there soaking in the sights and sounds of the city.
It was a whirlwind of a week, but I certainly met a lot of really great people, saw a lot of very cool places, and have a bit of a better idea about the Scandinavian mindset than I did before. I discovered the greatest Danish invention ever (the cheese cutter), learned a lot about the elusive Danish hygge (and even got to experience it for myself), tried my hand on an electric bike (which I surprisingly don’t prefer to my touring bike), and got a pretty good sense of why Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world. It was a brief stay and I’ve decided that Christian and I will just have to return for a Scandinavian-wide bike tour on our next trip!
And just like that, I was back to the UK with less than one week to go before my flight to Vancouver. I would spend four days of it with my parents in Milton Keynes, one day going to Bletchley to learn all about the code breakers, and the remaining three at Silverstone with my dad watching the Formula 1 Grand Prix practise sessions, qualifying and race: a great way to end the trip on a high!
And then, it was back to London to sort my stuff out and prepare for the long flight home.
Needless to say, it’s been a crazy (almost) year of travel and adventure! Thanks for being a part of it! I can’t wait to catch up with all of you soon, somehow, somewhere or other! I’ll be back on Bowen for a week and then to Markham to reunite with Christian and Ray….and then? Who knows! We will figure that out when the time comes and keep you posted. Thanks again for reading, and be sure to stay tuned for some final blog posts and videos which will be coming soon!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.