Sunday, March 20

An evening in Edinburgh

There's a naming pattern in Edinburgh.

When we saw some jazz last night, it was at The Jazz Club.
There's a restaurant with a beautiful dome called The Dome.
The national museum of Scotland is The National Museum of Scotland.
Where do you drink whisky? The Whisky Bar!
That big castle? Edinburgh Castle.

So the name of this bar?:

Yep. Under The Stairs.
I love it.

After Kate's smashing success presenting to the Scottish Arts Club about What is the Point?, we needed to do three things:

1. Toast our successful afternoon
2. Try a dram or two of Scottish whisky
3. Chill TF out.

The bar Under the Stairs was such a good place to conquer item number one. It was full of an eclectic mix of tables and chairs, set up for groups and gatherings of any size. Kate and I reclined into two vintage arm chairs with an adorable view of the front window seat to toast our success — an afternoon spent getting to know members of the Scottish Arts Club, who were amazingly warm and welcoming to us, as well as very interested in and supportive of all that WITP is trying to accomplish. Cheers!

Having thus accomplished item one, and by default item three, we set our sights on finding some whisky. When in Scotland, am I right?

Oh, I'm right.

We did a bit of internetting and settled on a quick trek halfway up the hill to The Bow Bar, which sadly didn't sell bows. Just booze.

I know very little about whisky. Mainly that it burns a little and I drink it like a 1970s disney cartoon character might: poorly and with a lot of coughing and face flushing, mixed with occasional hiccups.

Luckily, the staff at The Bow Bar are patient and knowledgeable. And while I didn't love my first dram, I definitely didn't hate it. And there was very little sputtering involved in consuming it. But for the second round, the bartender nailed it. She knew what she'd served us for the first round and was able to adapt to our feedback for what we'd like in Round Two. She let us smell the bottles before pouring, and I daresay she would have let us set up an optometrist operation if we'd requested it. "Do you prefer waft one? Or Two? One... or Two..."

And once satisfied with our liquids, we just. chilled. out. And chatted and watched the bar patrons, almost all of who appeared to be locals. Kate noticed they were ordering beer with their whisky, and one poor sap even let me commandeer his evening long enough to take a photo.

And as I'm sipping my whisky (and water!) my eyes drift to the beer board, where they've listed their international bottles by country. See anything you might recognize, KC-ites?!

What the heck is Boulevard Tank 7 doing in a cooler in Edinburgh?! I don't know, because it cost £12 ($17) so I wasn't about to find out. But Kate can attest to how distracted I was by that bit of home staring me right in the face!

To end our evening, we ate our way through five antipasti plates at a nearby Italian restaurant. Because a) we're cheeky and b) balsamic vinegar is delicious.

Friday, March 4

Serendipitous Edinburgh

Serendipitous Edinburgh. You saucy minx.

First, you surprise us with a beautiful afternoon. Sunshine and blue skies from 4pm on.

Then that staircase, which I thought was rather randomly placed, was a secret passage to the Golden Mile and Edinburg Castle.

And those clouds this evening? *fancy whistle* Lookin' good.

Then, an excellent cocktail bar, where we were joined by a random but hilarious group of engineers who were out for a cheeky beverage. They weren't suave — they bright-eyed and tipsy — but they were certainly interested in my American accent. ("So, what do you DO in Missouri?" as if I speak for the whole state... Psh!)

(Fun fact, sugar that far down the glass is not convenient, and trying to lick it off is not attractive.)

Next? You found a great restaurant where we could linger over small plates of salmon and chicken liver parfait (yes, parfait) and a bottle of white while the room filled up around us. Nice touch!

And then, the best little nugget of tonight, The Jazz Bar. Aptly named, as that's exactly what it is. Standing room only, so Kate and I were bar flies, but that meant that when the saxophonist ordered his beer, Kate could offer a compliment, which was rewarded with good conversation surrounding jazz, music and improvisation.

And then, as if the "best night ever" gods were watching over me, we found amazingly satisfying chips (er, fries...) at a pizza shop slash kebab shop slash whatever-we're-only-open-this-late-because-we-know-you're-drunk shop.

Edinburgh. You saucy, saucy minx.

Tuesday, March 1

Five joys of cycling in Copenhagen

...especially if you’ve lived in a less-bikey city.

How do I love cycling in Copenhagen? Let me count the ways! Nearly 7 out of 10 people don't own a car in Copenhagen, because it's so darn easy to ride a bike. Here's why.

One: It's easier to find a street with a dedicated bike lane than it is to find the Little Mermaid statue. Seriously.
People often quote lack of bike infrastructure in their city as a reason not to ride. I absolutely empathise, especially in an aggressive traffic town like London. Knowing where to ride among the many lanes or how to merge, turn, or even stop, can be tricky and downright dangerous without experience or training or both. (BTW, did you know TfL offers free cycling lessons?) But in CPH it's a relief how easy it is. I honestly kept forgetting that streets had dedicated bike lanes, and would start to turn into traffic before realizing there is a beautiful, wide path literally right in front of me! Every time, there they are — situated perfectly between traffic and sidewalks. And wide enough that you can pass or be passed by other cyclists riding at different speeds.

Two: Everyone knows to look for everyone.
It's considered every road user's responsibility to look out for other road users. Pedestrians look around when crossing the bike lanes same as they would when crossing the street. Cyclists and drivers obey traffic signals (and both are fined equally if they're caught disobeying) but more than that, they watch for each other's behaviors. A car turning right knows to check first for cyclists who might continue straight through the same intersection. When it’s all around you, everyone is aware.

Three: Copenhagen is flat!
Pretty self-explanatory, but the lack of hills is especially helpful when creating a cycling-centric city. I know from my work and experience in KC that a mid-size hill can deter people from riding — even an avid cyclist might be self-conscious about arriving to work extra sweaty or out of breath. And if you’re hauling a kid or cargo, those extra 40-plus pounds feel heavier with even a slight incline! Copenhagen’s flat geography is beautiful for riding uninhibited to almost any location. The highest point is a whopping 19m above sea level, so you’re never going to have to work too hard on a climb. You can leave your polka-dot jersey in France.

Four: Cycling is fast!
At least according to Google Maps, cycling from point A to point B was faster than walking (duh), public transit, or even than driving in most cases. And the plethora of bike parking wherever you looked meant that you’d never have to walk much more than half a block between a bike rack and the front door. I hate parking a car almost more than I hate driving one, so this is a big bonus for me!

Five: Copenhagen isn’t hot!
I may have overstated how cold it was on our Copenhagen bike tour with Bike Mike (no I didn’t), but the biting winter cold shifts mercifully into a very tame summer — on average just two weeks per year reach temps above 77℉ / 25℃, and the average is at or above 50F for seven months out of the year. No sweat (literally)! As for the winter, Copenhageners say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Bundle up properly and you’ll be just fine!

Copenhagen: Day 4 with Bike Mike and The Fog

"Bike Mike and the Fog" would make such a good band name, don't you think? Hmm, no... it would just remind me of how frickin' cold it was on a foggy day in Copenhagen!

The tour itself was excellent. Check out Bike Mike's website and you'll get a very accurate idea of who he is and how he runs his tours: no-nonsense and unapologetic, but full of history and pride for his native Denmark. He rides a bright pink and green cycle, and on our day he was decked out in orange, from his sweater to his shoes.

Ready to ride! We think we are bundled up! We are mistaken!

Bike Mike

I personally enjoyed the fast-paced tour. Bike Mike zips through the streets of Copenhagen like a bunny, taking small side streets, occasional wrong-ways, and tight turns. And he expects you and your tour-mates to keep up! However, while I appreciate a good jaunt, some of the less-bikey tour-takers weren't as thrilled. However no one was left behind, despite a few light-hearted statements to the contrary from Mike. 

On Bike Mike's City Tour we saw most everything there is to see on the north side of the big canal: Copenhagen city center, the Round Tower, Torvenhaller, the Old Royal Palace, Nyhavn, King's Plaza, Amalienborg, Kastellet, and the Little Mermaid statue, all the while hearing Bike Mike's stories from history and personal experience. You can see sunny photos of those places from our walking tour with Sandeman’s.

But the day we took the tour, it was SO. COLD. Foggy Copenhagen's misty chill sank into your bones, numbing your fingers and toes despite two layers of socks shoved in the same boots that had been warm enough for the first three days. My face was cold. I think my hair felt cold? It was hard to walk around because I my feet were numb. Or maybe they ached. Or maybe both or maybe neither.

It was cold.
We were cold on bikes. 
Our bikes were cold in foggy Copenhagen-town.

We were cold while Bike Mike took our photo.

We were cold while we watched the changing of the guard at Amalienborg.

Even the fish were on ice! (BADUM-Chhhhh)

Okay okay, you get it.

And through all of this, Bike Mike claimed we had beautiful weather, on account that it wasn't raining and wasn't windy. I suppose he had a point. Perhaps London's mild winter has already made me a wimp. Whatever the cause of my freezing mindset, the shot of mystery licorice-flavored liquor that Mike provided toward the end of the tour worked as promised — I felt warmer for a good five minutes!

Needless to say, the warm atmosphere of one of Copenhagen's many cafes was very welcome after three hours on the bike. Britton and I both decided that the reason behind Ryanair's amazing fare (£2 round-trip!) was because it's rather difficult to enjoy CPH in the winter. Don't be deterred if that's what your options are — we still enjoyed ourselves! But "being cold" is definitely going to be a memory of this trip. (It was so cold that Britton didn't complain when I insisted on stopping for an over-priced latte, because that meant he could warm up, too.)

We're already talking about trying to get back to Copenhagen in the summer, where we learned that it only gets above 25C for about two weeks. That would be much more appreciated, and way easier to enjoy the cycling infrastructure, parks, monuments and walks.

Monday, February 29

Copenhagen: Day 3

A great way to see a city in a shorter amount of time is to take a walking tour, and since Britton worked for the first two days we were in Copenhagen, we needed a solid crash course so that I didn’t have to reapeat too much! We took advantage of a free tour to see the highlights, led by Martin at Sandeman's. (Sandeman's runs tours in several European cities, and we always enjoy them! But remember, the “free” tours are actually tip-based tours, so plan to pay about 10 £/$/€ per person.)

Our walk took us past all the highlights: city hall, the big plaza with the metro construction, Nyhavn, the waterfront, and ended at the Royal palaces of Amalienborg (finally learned what that is!) for the changing of the guard. We covered a lot of kilometers in just a few hours!

After that we wandered the grounds of Kastellet so Britton could see it, and said hello to the Little Mermaid again. As she and I are practically besties at this point, I amused myself by watching the most immodest of swans who was flashing the crowds near the statues. Bird's gotta eat and all, but it was downright scandalous!

Scandalous Swan!

Next off to Original Coffee for a warm-up. The day was bright and sunny but so windy! I think my face was wind burned by the end of the day, as well as a bit pink what with the sunshine for two days. We were happy to have a warm seat (and a free bathroom) to thaw before heading back into the cold.

(I'm starting to think I know why our plane tickets were so cheap...!)

Our evening activities took us to find ØL, aka BEER! We first found Dialegd, situated in Vesterbro just west of Copenhagen’s Central district. There were lots of interesting flavors to try — all sourced from a local brewery — and we hunkered down at a tiny corner table to talk about life and penguins and how to fix the world's problems. As our ideas were beer-fueled, I’m sure they were excellent, but have since become a bit fuzzy around the edges.

Across the street we found Mikkeller's øl & brød — a name synonymous with craft beer in Copenhagen. Based on how packed the pub was on a Friday night, I'd say word has gotten around. Lucky for us, we were offered a table by a departing couple — otherwise we would have stood for a good long while waiting for something to free up because our scoped seats at the bar had been sniped and I didn’t want to get all grumpy American on someone’s ass. So again found ourselves at a tiny corner table, just for two. The beer was well worth its reputation — I drank a chocolate stout with a lot of flavor, very smooth, but so sweet and thick that I was glad to only have ordered a half-pint.

Finally we made our way back to the flat, satisfied and educated in the ways of Øl and Copenhagen, and quite sleepy!