Episode #4: Souvenirs

Intro

I’m sure what I am about to say could be psychoanalyzed, but I enjoy shopping.  I think it is probably the most enjoyable while traveling. Over the years, I’ve learned to become a more purposeful shopper.  I’d rather fill my house with items that mean something to me rather than something that was at Target or Ikea, and it simply filled the space.  Today, I hope to share my shopping wisdom with you.

As you travel, you will find lots of souvenir shops with tacky key chains and shot glasses.  You can buy those kind of souvenirs too, but it is going to end up just being “stuff” that you have.  I try to find souvenirs that can be passed down–either the physical item itself or the memory of it. These long-term souvenirs will hold greater value to you or the recipient.

Today’s list is an assortment of 17 different items that you may want to be on the lookout for during your trip.  Not every item on this list will apply to every place you go, but pick and choose what you like.

List

  1. Take advantage of the local crafts.

    1. Sometimes when you visit a place, there are certain crafts they may be known for.  When we were in Poland, I fell in love with Polish Pottery. The colorful patterns are a distinctive design to Poland.  It is much more exciting to get out my coffee and creamer set when it brings up memories of being in old town Warsaw. At times, it can be difficult to bring these items home.  We made use of the Polish Postal service to send home our goods. Although it took about 4 months for us to get our package, we only spent about $40 to get it home. You may want to consider creative ways to transport your souvenirs.  Sometimes the local craft may be a traditional piece like the Polish pottery, or it could be more modern. When my dad was on a road trip with his father-in-law, visiting our genealogical past, he found an artist that made necklaces out of broken porcelain.  I think what is so enjoyable about these types of gifts are that they are one-of-a-kind.
  2. See the art, buy the art print.

    1. This is probably the souvenir I purchase most often. I usually try to stick with just carry on luggage, so I don’t have much space for extras. By getting a poster tube, I can find multiple prints and keep them safely rolled and stowed away in the side pocket of my bag. The only issue with this becomes that my husband and I are fighting for wall space in our house. If you are looking for reasonable frames to showcase your new art, I recommend visiting IKEA, or using Snap frames as an affordable option. One of my favorite prints came from a bouquiniste while strolling along the Seine River in Paris. For less than $10 I found two prints that embodied haute couture, and it is a fun little surprise to see these prints when I go to grab a scarf since they are displayed right above my collection.  If you are really trying to be frugal, buy a calendar. I’ve been known to rip out each month and make a gallery wall out of it. When I was in the Cinque Terre in Italy, I found an artist who made a calendar out of his paintings. Just like that, I had twelve prints to create a cohesive wall of art. Sometimes I catch myself sitting on the couch, as I’m lost in thought, staring at my print and being drifted away.
  3. Bring the smells home.

    1. I’m sure you’ve experienced it.  You are walking along, minding your own business, and then you smell something, and immediately you have been transported through time and space to whatever moment is stored in your memory bank.  Thanks to the olfactory bulb, messages are sent to areas in our brain that hold memories and emotions. Sometimes those memories are thanks to travel. If I happen to be in a place that has a distinct smell, I try to capture that with a souvenir.  While in Provence, France, lavender was queen. At one little shop, I found fresh-made lavender scented soaps. As if a bath wasn’t relaxing enough, lavender scented soaps made it all the more serene. Even if it is not a scent you bring home, hold onto that memory.  At one of our apartments we stayed at, there was a strong garlic aroma lingering in the hallway. Even something as simple as roasting some garlic at home can take me back.
  4. Read between the lines, and buy a book.

    1. There are several different approaches you can take with this souvenir.  Maybe it is just a hip bookstore, and you want to remember it by picking up a book of your choice.  Shakespeare and Company is a great example of this. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast called to me from the shelves.  Buying it and reading it while in Paris made the book come more alive.  Perhaps a book in a foreign language is to your liking. Although you may not be able to comprehend these books as well, it can be an opportunity to learn more of the language.  My aunt has been working on her French by reading Harry Potter in French. I have ambitions to do the same with Le Petit Prince. Or, maybe the cuisine of your travels is something you’d like to bring to your kitchen.  Cookbooks are special additions to your library. I have cookbooks from New Orleans that have taught me how to make jambalaya just right. If you get a chance to pick up a new read, picking it up during travels might be the right move.
  5. Get a doggy bag.  Bring home food or drinks that left an impact.

    1. Have you ever had a taste of something, and having it once just wasn’t enough.  On almost every trip I take, there is a food that I fall in love with, and I need to have it again to survive.  You can take a cooking class to learn the recipe, or you can bring home key ingredients. You’ll want to look online to make sure you are not smuggling back illegal foods, but typically canned and packaged goods are fine.  Alcohols are okay as long as you check them since they surpass the 3 oz maximum for liquids. When you actually go to enjoy the samples you brought back, make a big deal out of it. Invite people over to share the food and beverage with others. Some of my favorite souvenirs I’ve brought home are Toc Cheese Crackers, Super Sur Sour Candy, and many wines.
  6. Scoop up some sand or rocks.
    1. I’m not saying you should go chisel a piece off Stonehenge.  People have done that before, but our intent is not to be destructive.  While you are out, see if there are any unique rocks to bring home. In Petoskey, Michigan, I was on the hunt for a Petoskey stone.  And I actually found one! Make sure you aren’t accidentally bringing home chunks of concrete. When I am at a beach, I take a water bottle and add some sand.  Grab a couple shells and sea glass if you see it. My father-in-law is the king of “can you bring me back a rock?” It is just a natural way of bringing a place home.  When you do get home, I recommend writing on the rock where it is from. Otherwise you just have a big collection of rocks from somewhere.
  7. Hold onto those glass bottles.

    1. Recycling, or repurposing can not only be a gift to yourself, but also to the planet. While traveling, you may notice that glass bottles are more prevalent.  A simple water bottle can become a great way to store sand or transform into a makeshift vase. While in Venice, I saved my aunt’s Campari bottle to store little pebbles I found.  How many times do you see something at the store with writing in a foreign language? This is a way to make your own version with something relatable.
  8. Take photographs and film videos.

    1. I know this one is kind of obvious, but it is my favorite memento, so I have to share it.  This one doesn’t necessarily cost money, which is nice. The key is to do something with your photos.  Make a video montage, frame some of your favorites, or check out my Etsy store at Liberated Traveler to get some other ideas on how to creatively capture your travels.  Not that I’m trying to promote myself. In the future, I will share a podcast with you about how to take better travel photos.
  9. Play that funky music.
    1. Finding music to bring home started with my first trip abroad.  I was fourteen years old and headed to Ireland on a ladies trip with my mom, grandmother, and aunts.  While out shopping, I found a CD with classic Irish pub music. When I got home, I really missed being in Ireland.  The first signs of wanderlust were sinking in. There were so many nights I laid in bed with my headphones in, listening to Whisky in the Jar.  That started my obsession with bringing back music.  Sometimes I go to a music store to find the top billboard CD’s and pick one.  Other times I go to a concert and pick up a CD at the end. I’ve even been known to use the app Soundhound to find the title for a song playing at the bar.  With apps like Spotify, it is even easier to make a playlist of your favorites.
  10. Pick up some new threads.
    1. I typically avoid buying clothing unless it is something unique to the place.  I’m not against going shopping during the Soldes in Paris (which are their bi-annual sales), but usually I am looking for something I can’t get at home.  I’ve bought scarves, shoes, skirts, and even sweatshirts when a place is colder than I anticipated. It is kind of fun when someone says, I like your scarf.  Where did you get it? And you get to respond with, oh, I bought this in southern France. Something to think about.
  11. Get some bling.  
    1. If you are lucky, you are visiting a place with a distinct kind  of jewelry style. In Poland, amber is the way to go. With the Catholic influence, I knew a cross made out of amber was the perfect gift for my Polish grandma.  Don’t just buy jewelry because. Make sure you are seeking quality.
  12. Drape your home with linens.
    1. Some places you go will have distinct patterns or types of fabrics.  If that is the case, it might be a good idea to bring home some linens.  I have tablecloths and placemats from Provence that go out in the Spring and the vibrant colors repress the winter blues.  Little kitchen towels with sweet phrases make cleaning up not such a chore. I also enjoy buying fabric to later be used for a multitude of purposes.  My aunts have been kind enough to make napkins for me out of fabrics from travels. There are many options for how you can make use of this souvenir.
  13. Decorate your home with your travels.
    1. You probably won’t see pictures of my house in Better Homes and Gardens, but it is a perfect mashup of my husband and I.  The largest influence in our design is our travels. It might be a lamp we bought in Columbus, Ohio from a Turkish store, or a decorative antique tray for the kitchen.  I am excited to take a road trip this summer because I feel like I don’t buy much for the garden since it is typically not compact and customs doesn’t really like it when you bring back live plants.  This is a way to surround yourself with memories.
  14. Make way for new traditions.
    1. While traveling you will notice that overall, humans are pretty similar.  Something that makes each culture stand out is its traditions. Purchasing the little Swedish gnome known as a Tomte protects our farm which is a plot of about 8 tomato plants, 2 varieties of lettuce, some herbs, cucumbers and zucchini.  This is just one way we’ve brought in a new tradition.
      If you are like the Italians, you’ll leave out some wine and food to feed the witch known as Befana as she drops off candy for the kids in stockings on January 6th.  Perhaps you’d like to make some of these cultural traditions part of your own.
  15. Get accustomed to other cultural customs.
    1. Building on traditions, you may also want to bring home the souvenir of customs.  As you visit new places, you will see that they sometimes perform events in life a certain way.  Maybe you’d like to treat your family to a standard Italian five-course meal. Start with an aperitivo which is a drink to warm up your appetite.  Feed that appetite with the antipasto first. Next, you will be ready for the primo. This is the pasta part of the dish. It is interesting how it is served separately for the main course.  The secundo is next. This is the meat dish. After you’ve filed yourself with that, it is time for the contorno which is the veggie dish. If your sweet tooth has been calling, the dolce is next.  Then of course, you should probably have a coffee, too. Finally, you will finish with a digestive to help the meal go down. If this sounds like too much, go for an afternoon fika, which is a Swedish coffee and  pastry. My husband has found a way to bring this into his teaching life by calling the students’ snack time a fika. No coffee for them, though.
  16. Seek and send postcards.
    1. This is a classic. I think writing postcards is more important than ever because it is one of the few forms of writing that I still do. When I receive a postcard from a far off land, I feel loved because that person took time from their getaway to think about me. A couple of twists that I have seen with postcards are writing one to yourself. My aunt introduced me to the idea of a postcard journal. Write to yourself about your adventures, send them, then put them together in a scrapbook or keepsake of some sort. I can see this being a great idea for kids. It allows them to write without having to put down a whole novel, and hopefully it would be something they cherish later. Another idea my father-in-law mentioned was purchasing postcards from an antique store, finding vintage versions, then take them with you to use and send. Your trip will be encapsulated in a new way.
  17. Knowledge is power.  Bring it back.
    1. I have saved the best for last.  The ultimate gift you can give yourself on a trip is the knowledge you have gained.  If a vacation is planned well, you will come back with a greater wisdom about the world we live in.  You will hopefully feel more connected to people, and empowered by the experiences you had. These are the true souvenirs that have left a life-long impact on me.

 

Hopefully, the next time you are out and about shopping for souvenirs, you’ll have some guidance to help you make rewarding choices.

 

I’d love to hear about your favorite souvenirs.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

 

Day 7: Strolling Through Old Town Quebec

Before going out for the day, I took advantage of the washer and dryer. With clean clothes, we left the loft to see Old Town. 

Right after climbing the hill, I found a store with cast iron home goods. We bought a huge door knocker, drawer handles, and a door plate. Since we bought about 25lbs of stuff, we walked back downhill to our apartment to drop off the goods, then went back up the hill. 

Today’s goal was to shop, take pictures, and walk around old town. We definitely did that. At dinner we had a unique experience because we got to put maple syrup on snow, then wrap it around a stick and eat it.

We wanted to finish our night at the Chateau Frontenac for a fancy drink. We sat and sipped for a couple hours, then made the trip back down the hill for the night.

Day 6: I Feel Like a Celebrity

Before leaving Montreal, there were a few more sites we wanted to see. We started by visiting the Atwood Market. Since I wasn’t a huge fan of Byward market, I was a little hesitant to go to this one, but it was exactly what I imagine when I think of a market. There were fine meats, flowers galore, and fresh produce. I found a couple souvenirs there.

Then, we drove up the hill to St. Joseph Oratory. This church did not quite have the same impact as Notre Dame, but it was nice to see. We then drove to Plateau one more time because I missed a little neighborhood while we were walking. Michael dropped me off since there was no parking. Because of the one-way streets, he had a hard time getting back to me. This freaked me out a little since I couldn’t see him, but we were reunited. 

After this, we had a stop outside of town at Chambly to visit the Brewery, Unibroue. There wasn’t a tasting room, we just wanted to see where the beer was made.

About three hours later, we arrived in Quebec. It was a little confusing getting around, but we figured it out. 

Our apartment is pretty cool. It is on the third floor (which is the top) so it is an interestingly shaped place. Michael’s favorite part is the turret.

For dinner, we went to a place recommended by the Vagabrothers called Chez Biceps BBQ. I was excited to have some foie gras. This dining experience ended up being one of the coolest ones I’ve ever had. We knew it was going to be good when the waiter replied after our order, “this is going to be crazy.” The food was outstanding, but what made this such an awesome experience was how we were treated. I felt the Liberated Traveler had grown in fame and I was being treated to a special service. I think the waiter thought Michael was cool. He asked if we wanted to have a shot, and he grabbed the chef to meet us. The four of us then took some sort of Polish Vodka shot. The chef was talking with us and shaking our hands. Other waiters were coming over to talk to us. It was like we were famous. I don’t know what we did, but it was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.

We finished the night by visiting Old Town, which we hope to see more of today.

Day 5: I’m in Love with a City

Montreal is such a cool city. There is such a variety of things to do. We started the day with a walk to Plateau and Mile End. We were in search of murals, colorful homes, poutine, bagels, and smoked meat sandwiches. 

Murals: the city has done an impressive job of encouraging mural street art. It can be found all over, but is especially prevalent in Plateau and Mile End. 

Colorful Homes: the Plateau area is home to colorful homes with steep stairs and little gardens. It is an instagrammer’s dream. 

Poutine: La Banquise is supposed to be the place for pouting, and I would agree. Other than the waitress spilling water on me twice, it was a great experience. The gravy and type of fries are what really make this place good.

Bagels: St. Viater is the place to get Montreal style bagels. Getting them in the Mile End neighborhood is unique because you get to see more of the Jewish neighborhood.

Smoked Meat Sandwich: Schwartz’s is the classic place to find this type of sandwich. It is basically a corned beef sandwich.

We needed a short nap after our hike around the city. This helped, but we decided to stop for coffee before the light show at Notre Dame. We found a little coffee shop called Tommy.

We bought tickets the day before for the Aura light show at Notre Dame. As I mentioned yesterday, this is one of my favorite churchs, but the light show made it even better. I found it to be an emotional experience that reminded me of what great achievements can be made through creativity. As if that wasn’t enough, we lingered to take photos, and the guy was nice enough to turn the lights on for us. It was just Michael and I in there. What an amazing feeling.

After having one of best moments so far on this trip, we decided to take a stroll in the night. Montreal has this awesome program called Cite Memoire. There are light shows projected all over the city with audio stories. We came across an interactive one in the alley that was mesmerizing. Feeling a bit hungry again, we stopped for pizza along the port. This was an amazing evening.

Day 4: So this is Montreal

Before we left Ottawa, we stopped at Gatineau Park. It is absolutely huge. We did a little hiking, then got back in the car.

Being in French Canada does have a different feel. We have not had any trouble communicating, but we do try to remember to say bonjour when entering a place.

We were pretty excited to enter Montreal. It immediately had a different feel than Ottawa. The suburbs seemed really nice, and the area seemed to be more alive.

Our apartment in Old Town was about $104 a night. It is huge and very classy. I’m thankful to be in the heart of Old Town. 

We started our evening walk with a visit to Notre Dame. It is probably the most beautiful church inside that I have ever seen. It is unique to see how the walls are filled with color. We liked it so much, we are going back tomorrow for the light show.

Since the weather was so perfect, we went to a bar on a rooftop terrace of a hotel. Terraces are pretty popular in Montreal, and they are fun place to grab a drink.

After our drink, we walked around Old Town a bit to reach our dinner destination. We ate at an out-of-this-world restaurant. The escargot was phenomenal, and Michael was in heaven with the pickles and bacon bits. It was a beautiful night.

Episode #3: Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark

Intro

I first met the city of Copenhagen in 5th grade while reading the novel, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  Even then I was amazed at how put together Denmark seemed to be.  Whether it was attributed to their push for equal rights or their active fight to protect the Jews, it was a place I knew I wanted to visit in the future.

Twenty years later, I was finally able to visit Copenhagen during my honeymoon.  We planned a Scandinavian getaway, and this was the city I was most looking forward to visiting.  Denmark has ranked near the top of the World’s Happiest Places list for many years, and I wanted to see what the Danish did to make them so darn happy.  Perhaps there would be a way I could incorporate that into my own way of life. Of course, it’s not that easy since I don’t control the government, and this seems to be a big stakeholder in providing happiness.  Imagine that. But, never fear, I did gather some insights to bring home.

Since I shared this experience with someone who is pretty important to me, I thought it would be advantageous to include his perspective.  Nothing like putting the husband to work. His name is Michael, and he has some great insights to share. Stay tuned for his input.

Together, we have compiled a list of ten moments to induce liberated travel.  So, let’s begin.

List

  1. Stay in the old port of Nyhavn.

    1. This is the neighborhood we called home.  The colorful harbor may seem like a tourist trap, but it was a perfect place to make our base.  If you’ve ever seen a picture of Copenhagen, this is probably the place it was taken. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating around here, but the central location made for a great place to start each morning.  Several of the items on this list were just a bike ride away from our hotel. Being a photographer, I especially appreciated being able to get out before anyone else, and imagine this historic port as it was back in the 1600’s with the sailors and ladies of the night welcoming them for a drink and a bit more.
    2. So, Michael, what are your thoughts?  Nyhavn is a bit touristy, would you recommend staying there?  I guess it depends on what you’d like to experience in the city. I can see why it has a “touristy” vibe at times, however there are things about this area that if done correctly can still be a unique and authentic Danish experience. For example, sitting by the pier and docks enjoying a beer in Nyhavn’s touristy places can seem expected from someone who is visiting the picturesque scene, however enjoying a relaxed conversation with someone accompanied by a delicious beverage and taking it easy is all part of the Scandinavian experience – it is the way that Danes (as well as adjacent Scandinavian countries) live their lives. The streets and pedestrian walkways might be a bit crowded at times with people who are not native at all to the area, but if you learn to appreciate what originally made it such a hot spot of the city in the first place and take in the environment above the other aimlessly ambling tourists, you can enjoy the place itself and not just what you might see on the surface or pushed into the storefront windows of souvenir shops. For me, riding my rented bike through this area and learning how to correctly navigate through the streets as a part of the regular traffic is what made me feel a little more connected with the area rather than just another tourist. Plus, the hotel that we stayed at was a nice local and historic spot in Nyhavn which also made us not feel as much as visitors, but more part of the culture. We had traditional Danish breakfasts there and were able to talk with the people at the front desk who knew everything about the city and made great recommendations for how get to the places that we researched ahead of time that makes Copenhagen special. I would certainly recommend staying in Nyhavn, just make sure to embrace the philosophy of experiencing the area and culture for what it is, not just what the pandering shop keeps expect you to see.
  2. Get your beer and BBQ fix with Warpigs.

    1. I didn’t start drinking beer until I met my husband, and now I am cursed with going to craft breweries and drinking flights of beer.  It is a pretty tough life, but I’m managing. I had kind of heard of Warpigs before we left, but it was my husband that was the expert on this matter.  I figured, he is the one who taught me how to love beer, so I trusted his guidance in visiting this brewery. We were definitely not disappointed. Although it took some unique navigating to find the hidden golden brew, we prevailed.  
    2. Michael, what makes Warpigs such a well-known brewery?  Being a craft beer enthusiast, my introduction to Warpigs brewery started off by just hearing about it in the craft beer community. People would always be talking about it and whenever it would be available in the states (whether at a liquor store for purchase or at a restaurant or bar), people seemed to lose their minds to get their hands on it and would soon be sold out. Based on my observation of this high demand, I kept my eyes open for whenever I would have the opportunity for me to get my hands on some. Once I finally did, I could see what all the fuss was about. Not only is their beer great and vast in regards to their different styles, but also after learning more about the history of the brewery and it’s beginnings as the collaboration of the Danish brewery, Mikeller and Indiana’s own 3 Floyds Brewery, has a strong foot in the door of the craft beer community. Anyone who is into craft beers knows at least one, if not both of these renowned breweries and their team-up to form Warpigs is just as big. The collaboration between these two separate, yet somehow strangely similar breweries have created Warpigs which has expanded from their starting point in Copenhagen, now to new Warpigs brewpubs in the U.S.. The Warpigs Brewpub in Copenhagen is a large industrial looking establishment, with a large variety of great beers, accompanied by an absolutely amazing menu of BBQ style food served from their in-house butcher station! A great place to eat and enjoy a great beer!
  3. Experience it all at the Glyptotek.

    1. I am a sucker for art museums, especially when filled with nude marble statues.  It is kind of funny because I’ve been exposed to this kind of art so much, that I forget some people may think it is taboo.  I was going to show some pictures to my 5th grade students, and I remembered that our culture has a little bit more censorship with nudity, even when it is art.  What I appreciate so much about marble sculpture is the ability to capture emotion, movement, and just the overall realism. Something the Glyptotek has done very well to showcase the art is providing a stark contrast for the background.  The walls are painted bold shades of blue to really make the marble stand out. As if this weren’t enough, the Glyptotek is home to mummies, a cafe, paintings, and gardens.
    2. There is more to appreciate about this museum besides its collections.  Can you tell us a little more about the Glyptotek museum? How did it get started?  I was not really very familiar with the Glyptotek museum before going to Copenhagen, but I was familiar with the founder of it, or at least the other part of his life that he was known for before the opening of the museum. Segwaying from the last question, I suppose it all starts with beer. The founder and proprietor of the Glyptotek museum was Carl Jacobsen, famous Danish brewer and son of the founder of the famous Carlsburg brewery in Denmark. Before going to Copenhagen, this was the extent of my knowledge on Carl Jacobsen, but after my time in Denmark I was fortunate enough to learn a lot more about him beyond the beer. While we understood that it was an art museum that we were interested in visiting during our time in Copenhagen from our research before leaving for the trip, it wasn’t until we actually stepped inside that we realized how great of a place it actually is. In fact, despite being two art enthusiasts, we had originally planned on being there for only a couple hours because we wanted to make sure that we had time for other things. However, after realizing what we had really stumbled upon at the Glyptotek museum, we actually found ourselves there for almost double the time, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way! What makes this museum so great is the environment it evokes when walking through it’s many vast exhibits – all encompassing a different theme, but maintaining their own unique intrigue. During our self-guided tour of the museum, not only did we get to see amazing pieces but we also learned about the very unique history of the museum. The best description of its origins can be found on the museum’s very informative website: “Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek was founded by the brewer, Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), who was one of the great industrial magnates of the 19th century and the greatest art patron Denmark has seen. Carl Jacobsen was a passionate collector. From the profits generated by his brewery Ny Carlsberg, he built a rich collection of art and cultural artifacts. In 1888 Carl Jacobsen gave his art collection to the public and began the building of Glyptoteket to house it. Another exceptional donation followed in 1899, this time of the master brewer’s vast collection of antiquities, which lead to the building of an entire new wing to the new museum.
      Glyptoteket has been open to the public since 1897 and holds over 10,000 works primarily divided between ancient antiquities and Danish and French sculpture and painting from the 19th century.”  This museum is a must see for anyone interested in sculpture, painting, or historical relics. The beautiful ambiance of the museum will elicit feelings of creativity and cultural appreciation, while sipping on your favorite Carlsberg brew served at it’s bistro-like cafe within.
  4. Be a peddler.  That is, bike your way around town.

    1. Biking is the best way to get around the city.  You do need to know what you are doing though because they are serious about their biking in Copenhagen.  If you haven’t been on a bike in awhile, I recommend some basic practice before you come. We rented bikes for 24 hours and saw the city from a whole new perspective.  Everywhere that we had been before on our honeymoon was a walking city. Our feet hurt. Although walking is probably my favorite way to get around, biking is a lot more efficient while still being scenic.  
    2. What do you think are some of the benefits to renting a bike in Copenhagen?  I would say that the best benefit of renting a bike in Copenhagen is feeling as if you are a part of the culture of Copenhagen. When people think of bikes as the primary source of transportation, we mostly think of places such as China or Amsterdam, but bikes in Copenhagen are just as vital to their culture as they are anywhere else, and for good reason too. Scandinavians are a very forward thinking and progressive people, so any reason to lessen their emissions, keep healthy, and have a practical and logical way to approach a thing like transportation is something they do inherently. Plus, with the unique design of the city which includes, many pedestrian streets, piers and docks amidst the regular roads, as well as limited space for parking many vehicles, biking is truly an essential experience in Copenhagen. Plus, with biking you get to enjoy the beautiful weather (especially in the summer), and get around easily. Riding bikes in Copenhagen is really different from here in the U.S.. Due to the fact that biking is the preferred method of transportation in Copenhagen, bikes are treated as cars there in regards to security and theft. We learned that each bike in Copenhagen essentially has a VIN number attached to it, just like cars, making them all registered with the government. As such, theft of a bike in Copenhagen is almost viewed as grand theft auto in the U.S. and taken very seriously, which also means tracking down a stolen bike is something that is a little easier in Copenhagen. We rented our bikes from a very cool bike rental shop in Nyhavn where we got lots of great advice from one of the staff members on bike etiquette in Copenhagen, and were surprised to learn that locking up our bikes for the evening was simply activating a small lever on the bike wheel to lock the back wheel in place. We were told that we did not have to lock the bike up to anything like a pole or bike rack – and the next morning were happy to see our bikes right there, but this is commonplace in Copenhagen. I would highly recommend renting a bike for Copenhagen, even if it is just for a day. The prices were fairly reasonable from the place we rented from and they charged by half-days to days.
  5. Get some Copenhagen Street Food.

    1. Papiroen (paper island in English) is a warehouse filled with food trucks and vendors in shipping containers.  I’m sharing this liberated travel moment with a bit of good news and bad news. Of course, let’s start with the bad news.  Papiroen is no longer in business. But, don’t despair! There is hope. This is where the good news comes in. They have recently left their leased space for a new space with more opportunities.  Reffen hopes to go beyond food and open its doors to creative entrepreneurs. I’m actually kind of bummed we don’t get to visit the new venue.
    2. Michael, what was your favorite food you had at the Copenhagen Street Food vendor?  Oh gosh…where to start?! It’s really hard to pick one. We ate really good in Copenhagen. Although what we ate from the Copenhagen Street Food vendors was not particularly Danish, the awesome facility that all the food vendors were housed offered many different types of food. This was a great way to fill up on types foods you may be missing from home, but with it’s own unique twist, which still makes you feel like you are indulging in something special during your travel and not just gorging on something you would find at at a chain restaurant at home. For example, Mexican and Italian foods are some of my favorites, and as expected, Denmark is not full these types of restaurants, but at the Copenhagen Street Food vendors, I was able to get my fix with a special street food style twist in their take on these cuisines. Chorizo sausage, thin, brick oven pizza, and even buffalo-style chicken wings were some of the things I would be more than happy to indulge in again on a return trip to Copenhagen’s Street Food vendors.
  6. Experience, the history and humor of Rosenborg Castle.

    1. When in Europe, I try to visit at least one castle because it is simply something we don’t have here in the states.  Rosenborg castle is not the grandest palace I have visited, but it did provide for one of my favorite experiences. We participated in a self-guided tour and I’ve never seen a self-guided tour filled with such interesting information.  A secret “telephone,” a prank chair, a porn room…This place had it all.
    2. Michael, I think you felt the same way.  I know you haven’t had many opportunities to visit castles, but what did you like about the Rosenborg Castle?  I have only visited two other castles before in Ireland about 10 years ago, and I have always remembered them as some of my favorite parts of that trip. So on this trip, I wanted to make sure that I was able to tour castles again, and the Rosenborg Castle did not disappoint at all! For people who haven’t been to castles before, we usually expect them to be looming structures made entirely of stone with cold hallways, an open courtyard in the middle, and towering turrets with the cliche staggered brickwork aligning the top. While some castles are built this way and have a more militaristic appearance and purpose, we also have to remember that many castles were also homes for royalty, and as such required a sense of regalness and elaborate beauty, and this describes Rosenborg Castle perfectly. We really enjoyed the self-guided tour of this castle not only for it’s extravagance, but also for the unique history of it as well. After getting our tickets, we were given a pamphlet which gave us information about each room of the castle as we easily navigated ourselves throughout every room. The pamphlet was great because it gave us a more real sense of what each room was for and how it was used. I feel like many times during these types of tours you learn about facts that although are interesting and historically significant, can sometimes be hard to relate to as a visitor of the museum. However, amidst this information that we learned about the castle and its various inhabitants along the tour, we were also exposed to more relatable and at times humorous anecdotes of this landmark. Some of these included: learning about a “trouser wetting chair” in the lounge which was a seat that would soak the person’s pants as a prank from an attached hose, or learning that the early drop-toilets installed in the castle all drained into the moat surrounding the castle. Amusing bathroom humor aside, the tour is also visually very stunning from the very regal throne room, to the collection of priceless art and artifacts carefully placed on display throughout its halls. Of course during the tour you also get to see the very grand crown jewels in the cellar among decorated weapons and barrels of aged wines. We really enjoyed this castle and it has given us a great memory during our time in Copenhagen.
  7. Take a time machine to Tivoli.

    1. They know how to do an amusement park in Denmark.  I’ve been to Six Flags and carnivals, but this was different than anything I had ever experienced before.  It was so glamorous and classic. We went in the evening and we found it to be a very romantic place to stroll.  It felt very “adult” and from a different time period.
    2. I think you felt this too, how is Tivoli different than amusement parks in the US?  Tivoli is different than amusement parks in the U.S. because the focus is set more on the relaxing and enjoyable environment as opposed to the fast trills and extreme rides that amusement parks strive for in the states. Tivoli has a quaint, yet undeniable charm that a Six Flags or even Disney World cannot match. There are rides at Tivoli, games, vendors, and different themed sections much like the amusement parks in the U.S., but Tivoli has found a way to maintain these as a source of amusement without the hectic, overly-loud, and sometimes exhausting result that many parks in the U.S. unintentionally evoke. It’s really hard to know what makes the charm and allure of this landmark so special and different from any other amusement park, but perhaps it again falls on the shoulders of the attitude and simple, yet dignified lifestyle of the Danes. Think of Tivoli embracing the innocence and wonder of a carnival in the 1930’s and 1940’s with its attention to detail and true draw to its patrons, and then combine it with the forward-thinking and progressive, yet relaxed demeanor of Danish culture. For those who are not big ride enthusiasts, there is still much to do and see at this historical park. Although fun, many people in the U.S. would not use the word “pretty place” to describe a theme park in the United States, but I can assuredly say that this would be a great adjective for Tivoli.
  8. Be a pedestrian and walk down the Stroget.

    1. This is the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen.  It is filled with shops, food, and people. I want to warn you that it can be your typical shopping street, but in the end, it is just a nice place to go for walk.  If you aren’t able to make it out to Billund, Denmark, the home of Legos, you can find several shops to fill that void.
    2. While on the Stroget, we visited a Lego shop.  What do you think is so great about legos?  Wow! Well, Legos could probably be described as a toy cultural phenomenon. I mean, who hasn’t heard of them or spent endless hours at one point in their lives assembling something they deemed as magnificent out of Legos? Growing up, I would say that Legos remained my staple go-to toy, and I know it’s the same for many others. Toys usually go in and out as phases through generations of kids, but look at Legos; I mean, they have remained consistently popular for years. Practically everyone was playing with Legos when I was growing up 20+ years ago, and today kids, and adults too, are happily spending their time with the famous pegged bricks. I think what’s really great about Legos is their limitless qualities. You can build, design, and create practically anything from them. Certainly, they are the most versatile toy ever, which makes them so applicable to all types of people. Plus, with their more recent collaborations with other culturally significant companies such as Marvel, DC, and Pirates of the Carribean, their reach is stretching even further. The Danes certainly hit a great chord with this contribution to the world.
  9. Experience the bohemian way of life in Christiana.

    1. If you are a bit of a free spirit, this is your place.  Back in the 70’s a group of hippies settled here and basically developed their own society.  If you know anything about this place, you know that marijuana is “legal.” I’m saying legal with quotation marks if you can’t see.  My husband and I are supportive of this, but we were not participants. We actually found that there is much more to this place than weed.  They do have their limits though, and you will quickly see that hard drugs are not allowed. Since the area is not completely built up, you can enjoy the natural setting.  We also found this to be a great place to see art with meaning. If nothing else, it is a unique spot to grab a beer and get away from commercialism.
    2. Christiana is not necessarily for everyone.  Who do you think should visit? Thats hard to tell. It depends because people might visit this unique area of Copenhagen for different reasons. I would have to say that it certainly has a certain type of feel and ambiance that might not be for everyone, however if you are able to get passed the way of life that is commonly accepted in Christiana, you will find a laid back, open minded, and some would describe as a “hippie” culture. Although we found Christiana interesting and unique as we sat at the bar drinking Christiana and Danish drinks on a beautiful summer afternoon appreciating the different culture, it certainly is not for all visitors of Copenhagen. I would say that if you are thinking about visiting Christiana, go in with an open mind, and an appreciation for the accepted philosophy of approaching life simply and free of the complexities of the modern world.
  10. Get closer to God at the Church of Our Savior.  Literally.

    1. Who would have thought climbing 400 steps could be so fun?  If you are looking for the best view of the city, we recommend ascending the spiral stairs.  For some reason, there seems to be a draw to seeing a bird’s eye view of the city.
    2. Why do you think people like to see a view above the city?  First let me start off by saying that this church and the climb to the top of its spire to see the view was incredible! The spiral staircase through the tower was as expedition, but totally worth it for the cool insights to the bells within and the great view at the top. If you are one that struggles with heights or narrow passageways, I would say that this may be something to take in stride, but the view at the top truly is remarkable. From the top, you can see the beautifully laid out city of Copenhagen from its seaside bays and piers to its vast sprawl of mixtured new and old architecture arranged in a potpourri of Danish excellence. You can even see across the narrow Øresund waterway to Sweden, reminding you of the relative physical closeness of European countries. At this vantage point you are also able to see a great display of Scandinavian efficiency in the many wind turbines that line the bay in progressive nordic valor. I think that people like to see cities from above in order to as the phrase goes, “take it all in”. It really gives you a chance to see all the special facets of a place and hear the unique hum of the city below in order to compile it all together into the cultural vibe of a city.

Foods to Eat and Drinks to Sip On

  1. Danishes
  2. Smørrebrød
  3. Røde pølser- Red Sausage
  4. Pickled Herring
  5. Street Vendors
  6. Akvavit
  7. Carlsburg Beer and other Craft Beers
  8. Mead
  9. Glogg-Mulled Wine

Sights to See

  1. Nyhavn
  2. Rosenborg Castle and Gardens
  3. Glyptotek Museum
  4. Views above the city
  5. Tivoli
  6. Christiana

Experiences to Have

  1. Ride a bike around town
  2. Park yourself in Nyhavn close to sunset
  3. Slow down and enjoy a beer

I’d love to hear about your experiences in Copenhagen.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

Day 3: Checking out the Town

Today was a day of walking, so we fueled up by getting a big breakfast down at Byward market. We may have lingered too long because as we got up, there was a crack of thunder. We found shelter under an awning, and waited the quick storm out.

Then, it was walking time. I set mapped out a circuit to see some of the major sights. We started with Parkiment Hill. As we snapped our shots, I tried to read a little commentary so we knew what we were seeing. Michael and I are definitely fans of the Gothic Revival style. We were looking for Trudeau across the street, but no luck. All we saw was some sort of demonstration.

We passed the Supreme Court and the Veteran’s Memorial. We were origanlly planning on stopping at the war museum, but since we had a break in the rain, we thought it best to keep walking. We continued to cross over the bridge, seeing the Ottawa River and Victoria Island. I wanted to go across the river to get a different perspective of Parliament Hill.

While talking and snapping shots, a man came up to us and started yelling at us with slurred speech. He at first appeared to be a homeless man asking for a light, but then he started swearing at us and talking about how if I put my camera in people’s faces, I’m going to get my skull smashed in. I wasn’t even taking pictures of people. As we tried to walk away, he threw his cigarette at Michael and finally Turned the other way.

Michael and I were surprised about the homeless population here. A lot of what we have seen is not just people with collection cups, but people yelling and acting delusional. I don’t know why we expected there to be less of this. I guess we thought since they seem to have better health care that it would include mental health as well.

Although we were a little caught off guard, we shook it off. We passed the Canadian History Museum, and crossed back over the bridge to Major’s Hill Park. We were getting a little parched, so we stopped for a pint.

Once we completed the circuit, we walked back to the car to blast the air conditioning and head to the next neighborhood: the Glebe.

Feeling refreshed, and a little less sticky, we walked the trendy neighborhood, stopping at shops and grabbing lunch. Then, we got back in the car to visit the next part of town.

Before we got to Westboro, we took a bear break on Wellington Street. Westboro is supposed to be the hip part of town. We thought it was okay. 

We were originally going to rent bikes today, but with the morning storm and the severe thunderstorm watch until 9:15pm, we thought we better not. We wanted to rent bikes to ride along the Roseau canal. We did get to drive by it, and it definitely would have been a nice ride, but sometimes you have to be flexible with the weather.

We ate dinner at Wellington Gastropub which was featured on Vagabrothers. My pork belly was delicious. We decided to get dessert back at Byward market by picking up some beaver tails. These are basically like heavier elephant ears. Our sweet tooth was satisfied.

Day 1: The Road to Toronto

After having an interesting night trying to save a stray dog, 6:00 am came, and we had a date with the road. We stopped to grab a coffee, visited Michael’s mom, and then we hit the road. 

We planned to stop in Detroit for a lunch break, since that was a good midpoint. Small Batch Brewing was our destination for a pint and some grub. Once done there, we hopped over the water, and boom, we were in Canada.

As we continued through Canada, the car seemed to be getting a bit toasty. It seems our air conditioning is not quite up to par. Let’s just say Michael was not lovin it. Fortunately, we opened our windows, and aired ourselves out. Hopefully this won’t be a problem all trip. But, that’s part of travel, too, right. I think sometimes we get this notion that travel is paradise and everything is going to be perfect. Life is not perfect, and there isn’t an exception for vacation time.
When we arrived to Toronto, traffic flooded the streets we needed to go down. You see, I picked this swanky condo in the hip Queen Street West neighborhood, which is also close to Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays baseball team. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we were arriving a game got out, which means thousands of fans poured into the streets. This held us back a bit, but it all worked out.

At 9pm, we had a reservation to visit a Banksy art exhibit. It was a pop up exhibit in an old warehouse curated by a former friend of Banksy. We grabbed a drink, and then headed in for our timed entrance. The exhibit showcased his work through photographs, screen prints, and even some authentic work on a cut out shutter. 

I’m not sure Banksy would have approved of fans paying to see his art, but I did appreciate seeing a chronological sequence of his work and learning more about the street artist. A quote I really liked from the exhibit was: “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”

After walking out into the night, hunger hit us. We made our way to Korean Town to slurp up some ramen. It was soooooo good. I wish we had a ramen place at home. Feeling tired from the meal and day, we came back to the apartment for the night.

Something we’ve been seeing a lot of while driving, are country flags supporting soccer teams in the World Cup. I’m hoping we can pick a team to support, and get into the action at a bar while on the trip. Who should we root for?

Bergen

Bergen, Norway was the perfect way to end our honeymoon.  It was different than any city we had visited, and we shared many memorable moments in the port city.  One of our favorite moments took place at a bar and cafe while trying to escape the rain.  We enjoyed beer, coffee, waffles, and awesome Norwegian music.

Another cool feature of Bergen is all of the street art.  We are huge fans of this art medium, and we enjoyed going on a scavenger hunt to find pieces all over the city.

 

 

Fjords

Norway is home to troll-worthy fjords carved out by the glaciers.  Nature has created these waterways surrounded by steep cliffs.  This was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to.

There are numerous ways to see the fjords of Norway.  We chose to stay in the town of Flam for a night rather than see it all in one day.  Seeking a little more adventurous form of transportation, we went with Fjordsafari. They bring a small group of people to explore the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord on their speedboats.

Staying in an apartment in the fjords was everything I thought it would be.  We drank wine and tried to watch the sun set even though daylight seemed to last forever.  My husband listened to music and drew as the light grew dimmer and dimmer.