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Serendipity

Just like Soulard Market!

After our journey to the top of Rundetaarn we had a little logistical discussion. We had an hour left before we had to move our car from the primo parking spot at our rental apartment, but there was more that we wanted to see in Copenhagen. Our discussion was interrupted by several repeated request for mini-donuts and finally we decided on this plan: Jeremy would head back to check out of the apartment and get the car, and then he would use the GPS to guide him to a parking lot near the Little Mermaid. The boys and I would get a second breakfast and then walk to our rendezvous point. We’d finish seeing a few things and then we’d head out of town.

The snack of choice was right before our eyes: A mini-donut stand was just being set up (we noticed that many Danish are not early risers) and said it would be maybe 10 or 15 minutes before the donuts were ready. No problem: for donuts we could wait.

Ipad cameras. They crack me up.

While we were waiting this tour group walked by. I had heard about this tour guide who dresses up like Hans Christian Anderson and gives tours of the city, and had considered taking his tour. I thought it was pretty cool that we got to see him anyhow. That’s a little bit of serendipity.

Just like Homer Price but no one lost jewelry

Ten minutes of waiting became fifteen; fifteen became twenty. Apparently the key to a good donut is the temperature of the oil and that was not rising quickly. I debated ditching the donuts – I didn’t want Jeremy to be waiting at the Little Mermaid, wondering and worrying about us – but the boys were pretty determined to get donuts. Besides, we’d invested this much time…surely it wouldn’t be too much longer!

I should explain one point that is critical to the story: Yes, we do have cell phones. And if we were delayed meeting up with someone while in Germany (or in America) we’d do the logical thing and call or text. (I’ve been known to call Jeremy when I couldn’t find him in Wal-Mart for pete’s sake.) However, roaming charges are ridiculous so while travelling so we usually avoid making calls.

They really, really, really love donuts.

Waiting for the donuts wasn’t unpleasant. The donut guy was quite friendly. He chatted with the boys and explained that he was an Albanian, currently living in Sweden but working in Denmark. We discussed the great donuts of the world – of course he had heard of Dunkin’ Donuts but had never heard of either Krispy Kreme or Tim Horton’s. I tried to explain the old Dunkin’ Donuts catchphrase, “It’s time to make the donuts…I made the donuts” and I’m pretty sure that reference was completely lost on him (though I did tell him he should check youtube.) The boys debated and discussed what topping they would get on their donuts (the final decision was half chocolate, half strawberry) and in the back of my mind I imagined Jeremy standing by the water, wondering what had happened to his family.

Finally (I didn’t check my watch, but it was definitely more than 15 minutes) we had donuts in hand (and even got some extras for free since we waited so long – which Andrew thought was the coolest thing) and were on our way. I explained to the boys that we were on a mission – we HAD to get to the Little Mermaid as quickly as possible so GO.

They must shop at the same place the British guards shop.

We were powerwalking through the streets of Copenhagen when suddenly these guys walked right in front of us. They were on a mission too: on their way to the changing of the guard. If we’d left the donut man any earlier (or later) we would have missed them. Serendipity!

Christian is a very popular name

We did stop a few times: once for the restroom (of course) and a couple of brief pauses so I could get some photos.

Fred's church

I was happy to get a close- up look at this church since we’d seen it from the boat tour and at Legoland. Again a brief stop to take a photo and then we powered on.

IMG_3404

Here is where those guys in the funny hats were headed: Amalienborg Slot, the site of the changing of the guard. We caught just a bit of the action as we walked by. Serendipity.

It is the heart that I think is adorable.

By this time my little donut-eaters were tired. And thirsty. And tired. We were almost there, and I really, really hoped Jeremy wasn’t concerned about us.

I wonder if he is higher or lower rank than the puffy hat guys.

We took another 10 second pause to take a photograph of this guy and we raced on.

Look at those goofy tourists in the boat!

At last we reached the Little Mermaid…and Jeremy was no where to be found. I thought maybe he had gone looking for us and wondered how we’d find him. We sat down on the grass to rest our weary feet (our dogs were barking!) and I figured now was a good time to use a cell phone, regardless of the cost.  I opened my purse and saw…the GPS navigation system.

Gulp. A bit of panic set in. How was Jeremy supposed to get to our rendezvous point without a GPS? Did he even have a map? Is he lost somewhere in Copenhagen? How annoyed would he be when he realized that I hadn’t left the GPS in the car?

I tried to call him but there was no answer. I started to strategize just what we should do next when I heard a familiar voice say, “Were you worried about me?”

He had just arrived, moments after we had. He had no trouble getting back to the car, or getting to the rendezvous point or finding a parking spot. (He did have a map and can navigate very well without either the GPS voice or his wife telling him where to turn.) It took him just as long to get there as it took us, and the whole time he was worrying that we would be worrying about him.

We had a good laugh.

Some would call it serendipity. But as a Pastor I know would say, “That is just the way our God works.”

 

I ♥ Denmark

If there is ever a competition for cutest currency, I’d nominate Denmark.

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Seriously. Isn’t this 5 Kroner coin adorable? I think it’s the hearts.

Rundetaarn

This might not be the church. I can't remember.

There were tons of things that I still wanted to see in Copenhagen, but on our last day I decided to follow my inner geek and we opted to see the Rundetaarn  – the Round Tower.

This was the entrance. And the exit.

It was built between 1637 and 1642 by King Christian IV and was part of the Trinity Complex, three facilities for scholarly study. The Round Tower had an astronomical observatory on the top.

we couldn't find this rebus at first. Duh.

Copenhagen was quite the haven for science scholars back in the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous astronomer was probably Tycho Brahe, but he ditched the Danish to head to Prague to hang out with Johannes Kepler. This tower was built after Brahe’s death for the new astronomer in town – Christian Longomontanus. Christian IV put his mark on the tower with this rebus on the facade. The message is this: Guide God, proper learning, and justice into the heart of the crowned Chrisian IV, 1642.

that shadow in the lower right corner is my kid

The path to the top is a ramp which circles around the tower 7 1/2 times. Apparently horses, cars and bicycles have been to the top. We just walked.

The only thing I can read is the numerals.

There are a few notable things to see along the way.

Hey there, what's your sign?

I don’t know how old this constellation map is but it was beautiful.

yup, my annoying 35mm lens strikes again for a weirdly angled photo Although the tower is no longer used for astronomical studies (too much light pollution and not enough room for fancy equipment) there is still a telescope that is open to the public for star gazing. Unfortunately we could only see one star when we were there. That star sets too late (9:52pm) and rises too early (4:37 am) in the summer to get a chance to see much else.

All that hard work to get to the top (not really – only the kids were complaining) and we were rewarded with a great view.
Can you see the cruise ship??

There were plenty of spires along the skyline. We could even see the coast.

I've been there. and there. And there.

In addition to the fantastic view at the top, we could see the beautiful wroght-iron lattice fence and could even do a little shopping in a very small gift shop. (What a job for someone – a long commute to work, a miserably cramped work environment, but a great view.)

I could take sanctuary here.

The Rundetaarn was actually attached to a church, which could be entered via the tower.

I spared everyone the photo of the famous toilet - the first septic system!

What goes up must come down, so soon enough we were back on ground level, ready for a snack.

Tivoli

Nice building, eh?

We ended our first day in Copenhagen with a visit to Tivoli. This is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and it’s located in the center of the city.

This is the entrance facing the train station.

Supposedly Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. Right away I noticed a similarity: that mountain, which looks just like the Matterhorn in the center of Disneyland. Then we went through the entrance and I noticed another similarity: the high admission prices.

the building on the left really looks like It's a Small World

Like Disneyland, Tivoli is beautiful. The buildings are interesting, the flowers are gorgeous, and the grounds are neat and clean.

So cute. So expensive.

There are tons of restaurants and cafes inside of Tivoli, but since 75% of the family had already eaten, there was only a minority interest to sit down for a meal. That was fine because we’d have to take out a loan to afford it. Just kidding.

They just love it when I make them stop so I can take photos.

Instead we wandered around and marveled at the scenery.

Ahoy there me hearties!

Walt Disney totally copied that pirate ship! The only difference is that this one is a restaurant – Walt’s does laps around a little lake.

And right behind is an Alpine peak.

 

This building reminds me of Turkey. (The country, not the food.)

Thomas took a photo with me in it but it didn't turn out so great.

See how beautiful it is? (Really, Andrew is having a great time.)

How would you describe this? Art deco with an Asian influence?

I’d heard that it Tivoli is even more amazing after dark, when it is all lit up, but since we were so far north I’d have to stay up way past my bedtime to see that. There are often concerts in the park but not the day we were there.

That blacktop was HOT.

The boys spent some time playing at this playground. I’ll be a bit disappointed when they are too old to let loose like this.

Fly the friendly skies

Unfortunately rides are not included in the admission price. Just watching the craziness was enough for me. This ride was called “Vertigo.” Not only did that little plane swing all around (and wow, it was HIGH), it also spun around while it did so. I think I had a little bout of vertigo just watching it.

No thanks. No way. Not a chance.

These swing rides are pretty common at fairs and amusement parks, but this one must set a record for altitude. During the ride it went up, up, and up some more. I think maybe oxygen masks dropped down for those brave enough to ride this. All I can say is YIKES. (That’s not just for the ride – the price was about $15 per person.)

we went for the free stuff. Like seeing peacocks.

Other attractions included this peacock.

we didn't win because we didn't play

This game is nearly 100 years old and it is the same concept as the old Cake Walk, except most of the prizes were chocolate. Players pick a spot and put in some money. A mechanical bicycle (that would be the blur in the photo) travels around and where it stops marks the winner.

he had a slushy - that is why he is smiling.

Tivoli was impressive – and crowded. (I suppose lots of people think it is impressive, and that is why it is crowded.) It was a great finish to our day in Copenhagen.

More Copenhagen

After our boat tour we wandered around the city for a bit. We walked along the main shopping street in Copenhagen, Strøget, and here is what we saw!

I think it is a coffee shop, and it is WAY cuter than Starbucks!

These little kiosks are just darling. It reminds me of Istanbul (but that could be the crescent and star on the the top of the cupola.)

But I was wondering if I could trade. Like an upgrade.

Cities usually have some unique art, and Copenhagen was no exception. This display, in English, is entitled “Your Shoes, Your Story, New Start.” We didn’t leave any shoes here, but by the end of the second day I was tempted. I didn’t need a new start, but I surely would have gone for a new pair of shoes.

Andrew is tall, but I don't think he will set any records.

We didn’t go inside the Guinness World Records Museum (I don’t think I’ve ever paid to go in a tourist trap like that!) but a photo with the world’s tallest man (or at least a statue of him) was fun.

It would definitely have to be paper piecing.

I love this pattern of paving stones and immediately wondered if I could incorporate it into a quilt. It reminds me of a kaleidoscope.

no idea what building this is

There were so many beautiful buildings. The windows got my attention on this one – the glass framing around the outside with the center opening.

Obviously we had different travel goals.

It was not uncrowded. There were a few cruise ships docked in Copenhagen the day we visited, and plenty of tourists. What I noticed in this picture was the spire; what my boys noticed was the yellow shopping bag. That could only mean one thing: there is a Lego store nearby!

The evolution of a logo

We found it! As if a trip to Legoland wasn’t enough for these legomanics, they were ready for some more. Remarkably, the prices were better here!

Danes love ice cream. And so do tourists.

Copenhagen has plenty of public spaces, like this beautiful fountain.

It's the eye of the...

We didn’t go into many stores – shopping just isn’t our thing, generally speaking – but we did check out this store, Tiger. I recommend it!

This store would be perfect for Christmas stocking shopping!

I’m always a bit nervous about taking photos inside of a store (I think I have a mild form of Enissophobia) so I just took one. This store was super cool! It had all kinds of fun, decorative, cute, amusing, trendy and even practical items. If I didn’t have a limited amount of Kroner I would have bought a few things!

It's the European Tour of the Golden Arches.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit where three out of four of us ate dinner, so I’ll just include a photo of the garbage can. “Tak” means “Thank You” in Danish.

Another tower/spire. Seriously.

As a kid I thought the town hall in Irondequoit was pretty fancy, but it had nothing on this!

I'm not lovin' it. Ugly!

I am not against progress, but something just doesn’t look right in this picture.

That is a well-worn knee.

Apparently “everyone” who visits Copenhagen gets their picture taken with Hans Christian Anderson, so of course we couldn’t miss out.

We didn't actually use these bikes. He is just doing a quick spin class.

Our wanderings had taken us to our next destination: Tivoli Park. Stay tuned for an expensive visit to a famous place!

Also something we'd seen made of Legos

I’ve had Copenhagen on my travel to-do list since I was in 1st grade. That was when my Dad took an oh-so-exotic and oh-so-long business trip there. Here’s what I remember from that: 1) receiving a postcard of the Little Mermaid 2) wearing some rockin’ clogs that he brought back for my sisters and I 3) looking at amazing photos that he took (and later enlarged at the darkroom of the Kodak Camera Club) 4) having such an overwhelming feeling of relief at his return that I burst into tears! (Sure, having him gone meant that Mom let me pick out TV dinners for supper – such a treat! – but I really missed my Dad!)

Don't fear those clouds - it never rained, thankfully.

I thought we wouldn’t get to go to Copenhagen on this go-round, but my sweet boys decided that would be the perfect combination birthday and Mother’s day present for me and it was! (Nevermind the fact that we actually traveled two months after Mother’s day.) Travel tip: we stayed in an apartment that I found through airbnb.com. The location was perfect – just north of the city, on a major bus route, secure off-street parking – and right above a grocery store. (This one wasn’t photo worthy, but it was practical for getting breakfast and snacks.)

I couldn't get enough of this view, which is why I took so many photos.

We powered through Copenhagen in a couple of days. There was much more to see, but time and money are always limiting factors – and Copenhagen is not inexpensive. We started our visit with a sightseeing cruise since Copenhagen is surrounded by water.  Copenhagen is known for its bikes, but since there was no Fat Tire tour there we went by boat.

The sun was in his eyes so he kept them closed

One of life’s little victories: We were one of the first few people on the boat so we got a choice of seats! We went right to the front and avoided being under the glass. It didn’t look like rain and from past experience sitting there is akin to baking in a greenhouse.

But what keeps the lighthouse boat from crashing into the coast?

The cruise began in Nyhaven, which is the maybe the 2nd most iconic image of Copenhagen. (I’d guess the first is the Little Mermaid.) This boat is a portable lighthouse. Fascinating!

Sorry kids, not that kind of play house.

There is a very interesting mix of old and new in Copenhagen. Of course the Danish are known for their Design, and the Royal Danish Playhouse is a great example.

It reminds me of the cap worn at graduation

The Copenhagen Opera House would be another.

She is one popular gal

In between the Opera House and this lady we passed by a Danish Navy base, which thrilled the boys (“Dad! Look at that! I think it is a cruiser! No, it’s a destroyer!”) but I didn’t get any decent photos. Just imagine life-sized versions of those little plastic boats from the game Battleship. We did catch the backside of the Little Mermaid, and just 24 hours later we’ll be standing where those crazy tourists are, getting a pic from the front.

See? No rain! Blue sky! Sunshine!

We’d seen the Amalienbourg Palace made out of Legos, and now we got to see the real deal.

Shhhh. It's a library.

Any guesses what this building is? Its nickname is the Black Diamond and it is a recent addition (1999) to the Royal Danish library.

I'm not sure if that is steps or a ramp

The most notable thing about Danish architecture is the number of spires and towers. I’m not the first one to notice it – the city has a nickname of “The City of Spires.” This is Vor Frelsers Kirke – Church of Our Savior to English speakers. That external corkscrew staircase is pretty impressive but we’ll have to climb it the next time we go to Copenhagen.

right next to the library. Shhhh.

This is the Three Crowns spire, atop Christiansborg Slot. There were lots of Slots in Copenhagen (but no casinos, at least not that we saw.) A Slot is a Palace. This is the seat of the Danish Parliament and is the home of the Danish Royalty. It is something else we’ll have to visit next time.

Speaking of ice cream - it is quite popular in Copenhagen!

This spire reminds me of soft-serve ice cream. It is actually supposed to be the tails of four dragons that are intertwined and graces the top of the Børsen, which was the Danish Stock Exchange building until 1974. Atop of the Dragon’s tail are three crowns, which are said to represent the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

This little cruise was about an hour long, which was just too short – not unlike our time in Denmark. So much to see…so little time.

 

“Legoland on a Budget” is sort of like “Switzerland on a Budget” – wishful thinking, but rather difficult to get by on the cheap. While some expenses are unavoidable (though just staying home is always an option), here are some things to avoid hemorrhaging money while in Billund.

yes, we had a good night's zleep.

1) Stay at a budget hotel. I thought it would be great to stay at the hotel on Legoland. Then I looked at the prices on the website. It was more painful than stepping barefoot on a Lego brick. One night at the Legoland hotel (with breakfast) was $500. I haven’t found many hotel bargains in Europe, but if I’m paying that price the name of the hotel had better start with Ritz and end with Carlton. Legoland does have a “hostel” option and a slightly lower price, but there was no availability. Instead we stayed at the Zleep hotel, which was about half the price. (I know, still pricey, but that is a savings of 50%!) The room was clean but cozy (I think we might have had more space in our cabin on our cruise last summer) but we all slept just fine. For the amount of time we spent in the room it was not a problem. (Bonus tip: don’t get the hotel breakfast! We brought food for breakfast the first morning, but didn’t get a chance to visit a grocery store for provisions for the second morning so I thought we’d just get breakfast at the hotel. Ouch! At $16 per person, we certainly didn’t eat enough Danish to get our money’s worth. Only they are not called Danish in Denmark, ironically.)

Notice the sun is setting.

2) Park entry is free after 7:30pm. Legoland isn’t huge – I think two days in the park would have been more than we needed (and more than I wanted to pay.) We drove up on a Monday, checked into our hotel, and then checked out the park for the last 1 1/2 hours it was open. Granted, rides only operate until 8:00pm – and most of the restaurants and shops close at that time too – but we were able to ride a few rides (no lines!), check out the park, get the lay of the land, and develop a strategy for what we wanted to do when we arrived at opening bell the next morning. That hour and a half, plus the next day, was just enough time in Legoland for us.

I'd hate to be a local trying to get to work

3) To get to the park, walk or take the free shuttle. Our hotel was a 15 minute walk to the park entrance. Our hotel had free parking. Our hotel was on the route for the free shuttle. If we had driven that short distance we would have spent most of our time in gridlock (those cars are lined up to get to the parking lot!), paid $10 for parking, and still would have walked 5 or 10 minutes to the park entrance. By walking we saved both time and money.

we were here quite a while.

4) Don’t buy any Legos. I realize this is like saying go to Starbucks but don’t get coffee, but seriously, the prices were outrageous. The park has the world’s largest Lego stores, but the prices are about 30% higher than we could get either locally or online. They do have a few unique things – like the pick-a-brick wall, and the make your own minifigure option. However, even these are higher than other retail stores in Denmark. Case in point: the pick-a-brick here was $16 for 100 grams of Legos, which isn’t a whole lot. 24 hours later we were at the Lego store in Copenhagen (seriously, my kids cannot get enough) and their pick-a-brick wall was the same price for a pint-sized container.

my camera lens was broken when I took this photo.

5) Go to Legoland Germany instead. Rick Steves said we didn’t need to go to Legoland if we’d already been in Germany, except if we had kids who are crazy for Legos. (We do.) He was right though – the parks are quite comparable, and if memory serves me correctly, Legoland Germany is much cheaper. It is also closer (for us anyhow) and the weather might even be better. Oh well, now we can say we’ve been there – and we’ve got the VISA bill to prove it.

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