Luck of the Irish

This weekend was one I had planned for a very long time: meeting up with my school friends in Dublin, Ireland in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. I had booked my flights and hotel back in October, so I was excited to finally experience an Irish St. Paddy’s celebration with so many people from school.

I landed very late on Thursday night, and I had planned to take an AirCoach bus to the hotel, as it was a cheaper option than a taxi. However, people were pointing me in different directions as to how to get to the bus line, and it was dark and pouring rain, so I decided to take a cab anyway. Luckily, the hotel was pretty close to the airport. My roommates had gone to sleep by the time I got there, as I arrived well after midnight, and we were getting up at 5:30a.m. for a day trip we had booked. I knew I was going to be exhausted, so I planned to sleep on the bus.

Sure enough, I woke up very tired on Thursday morning, but I was excited about our adventure. It was still pitch black as we walked to the bus stop, but we were able to board at the front of one of the busses, and I was able to curl up next to a window. As we pulled away, our (very ecstatic, coffee-hyped, and thick-Irish-accented) tour guide, Phil, explained the schedule for the day, laying out exactly when we could use bathrooms, when we would stop to eat, etc. It seemed like we would have a very full day, and I also knew we had gotten lucky with our bus driver. The bus company had dozens of busses we could have gone on, and Phil was not only enthusiastic but extremely knowledgable about all of Ireland. Additionally, Phil was obsessive the entire day about “beating the other tour companies” at each of the stops, and that made a huge difference in our day: we were first for the bathrooms, the lines at lunch, and the first to see all the sights, minimizing our time spent waiting in the cold. Phil briefly told us about Dublin as we left the city, pointing out some of the major landmarks like the cathedral and Trinity College. Then, he was quiet for a bit, and I was able to fall asleep!

The first leg of our trip was a three-hour ride, but we stopped for a bathroom and convenience store along the way. This was a perfect stretch and breaking point, but I was happy to have plenty of time to catch up on a little sleep I had missed the night before. Phil started talking again about a half hour before we reached the Cliffs of Moher, our first stop, and he explained some of the history behind them. Here’s a fun fact: scenes from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were filmed there! Additionally, Obama’s great-great-great (Phil didn’t remember how many generations) grandparents were born in a small town of Western Ireland, and he pointed out this village as we passed. We also passed a “Leopercan Castle,” which was so tiny it was pretty funny. Also, Phil mentioned that the Cliffs overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, which I hadn’t realized. It’s amazing to think that I was looking at the same ocean I can see from Long Island.

As we got closer, I was talking across the aisle to Emma and her home friend, who was also on this trip with us. She’s very nice, and Emma talks about her a lot, so I was happy to spend time with her. Then, two solo-travelers joined our conversation, and we small-talked about where we were all from. John had just finished his term in the army, and he was on a 6-month travel adventure before he starts USC in the fall, while Justin currently serves in the navy and he was just taking a weekend trip to Ireland.

Although muddy and very wet, the Cliffs were absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was on the edge of the world, and the foggy atmosphere made it especially interesting. We walked all the way to the top. I was incredibly happy I had brought my gross sneakers to wear on this expedition, as they got so muddy. Phil told us that it is basically always raining on the Cliffs, but that we were very lucky because that day it was only a slight mist. We were given a little over an hour to explore the area, and we took in the scenery, as well as taking some pictures. Then, we went into the gift shop, where I got a postcard of a sunny version of the sight. As I paid for it, I realized that for the first time since I’ve been abroad, I was in a country where the predominant language spoken is English. Although it’s cool to hear so many different languages, it is very comforting to know what everyone is saying around you, so I was looking forward to that aspect of the weekend.

We boarded the bus to head to lunch, where we had the option of buying food in either a cafe or a pub. My friends wanted to eat in the pub, but I decided that the cafe would probably have better gluten-free options, so I headed there to be first on line, and after buying a salad, joined the rest of my group in the pub to eat. Then, we had another long drive to see Galway, another city in Ireland. On the way, we stopped at another look-out spot called DOOLEY CLIFF, which was beautiful as well. It was super windy, and I was glad I had so many layers to wear. Something that was especially unique about this trip in comparison to my other weekends so far is that because Ireland is such a small country, I was able to see three out of four of the main regions in the entire country during my stay, whereas I usually just focus on one city.

When we got closer to Galway, Phil started talking about all the things there were to do, and he gave us a few suggestions of how to spend our 90 minutes to explore. I remarked to Emma that Phil was incredibly animated about his description of Galway, despite driving the same tour multiple times every week. He said we would love the city, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if we decided to stay there instead of coming back with him. Galway is a small city with a hipster-vibe, and it has a lot of good shopping and food. I asked Phil if there was a relation to the song Galway Girl by Ed Sheehan, and he explained that the music video was actually filmed in a pub there! We stopped inside to take a picture, which is pretty cool. We also got a snack in an indoor mall and walked around the shopping streets. The forecast had been for rain all day, but we were super lucky in that it was clear the whole afternoon.

We met back at the bus for our last three-hour drive back to Dublin. I took another short nap after admiring the scenery for a while, including rolling hills and cattle, sheep, cows, and horses on the grass. We arrived in the city at 7:30p.m., avoiding most of the traffic that Phil had been concerned about. He gave us a few suggestions of where to have dinner and go out that night, but we had already decided that our first stop after the bus was the hotel: we wanted to freshen up before heading back out. I also hadn’t been drinking a lot of water that day because I knew the bathroom opportunities would be limited, so we bought water bottles from a grocery store and drank them on the way back.

We changed for the evening and I decided to bring my umbrella, as it had started to pour. On the way into our hotel, we met up with Amanda from Cornell, who was also staying with us. Then we headed to dinner at one of the suggestions we had gotten, but it turns out that they only took people with reservations. The main area of Dublin called Temple Bar was packed with people eating and milling around, even though it was raining. We looked around for other dinner places, finding an Italian restaurant called Milano that had a very big menu. It turned out to be an incredible last-minute find, and after snacking on random chips and bars the whole day to stay fueled, it was nice to have a filling meal. We headed to the bars straight after dinner, and I was surprised when we were carded at our first stop. Although I’m 21, not everyone in the group is, so we had to find somewhere else. Luckily, there was a pub called Buskers just down the road, and it was apparently hopping.

As soon as we walked inside, I saw three people from high school as we made our way to the bar, which was super weird. We waved quickly, but it was pretty crowded and loud to start having a conversation. I also ran into people from camp and others from Cornell, as well as Lindsay, my second cousin. We had been texting because we knew we’d both be in Dublin for the weekend, and somehow, we found each other in this incredibly crowded pub. We caught up for a few minutes, and then we were pulled away by our respective travel groups. I was meeting up with Rachel (finally!) and Ben from school, and I was super excited to see them. It took me and Rachel a long time to figure out how to describe where we were in the bar, but our reunion was so much fun when they arrived. Throughout the night, I continued to run into people from all different walks of life, which was crazy! I mostly hung out with the Cornell people there, and it felt a little like a school mixer, especially with all the aephi/sammy people: a taste of home. The music was good and the environment was fun, and we ended up staying there until we were all yawning and ready to turn in. We walked back to the hotel (again in the rain, yuck), and went to sleep. Just as I was falling asleep at 3a.m., people in the room next to us started BLASTING music, which was super annoying. Emma’s friend even went out to ask them to be quiet, and they weren’t too nice to her. I finally fell asleep when they quieted down. It was a super long day since I had gotten up before 6, so I was very tired.

I woke up Saturday before my alarm to more people screaming in the hallway. I should mention that aside from these crazy neighbors in the hallway, the hotel was super nice and in a prime location for the weekend. It was a close enough walk to the Temple Bar area but far enough from the parade on Sunday that the streets to the airport weren’t affected, which meant we didn’t have to leave an insane amount of time to get there. Anyway, our first booked activity of the day was the Guinness Experience, the famous beer company. Although I can’t drink beer, I decided it would be fun to learn about the process anyway, and so I headed there with Emma and Rachel. It was a 45-minute walk, and it was pouring…again. Although I had my umbrella, the wind was so intense that the handle kept whacking me in the face and nearly knocking me out several times, so Rachel and I decided to buy cheap green, ridiculous-looking rain panchos at a store we passed. I was glad not to be the only one in this get-up, as we got very funny looks. But, we stayed dry, so I thought it was a worthwhile purchase. We also stopped to grab breakfast foods in a grocery store along the way.

We learned about how Guinness is made and processed, and there were interactive parts of the storehouse as well. I happened to think the “experience” was a little underwhelming, but I’m also not a beer person. I was glad that my ticket allowed me to get cider at the rooftop bar while my friends got the famous beer. The sky bar was a nice view of the city, and we hung out there for a while before going back down all the escalators—the building is enormous. We were starving for lunch, and since we were four people and it was still raining heavily, we split a cab to get back to the main area. We got lunch at a place called Taste Food Company, where I had a phenomenal gluten-free sandwich.

There was no set agenda for the rest of the afternoon aside from enjoying the St. Paddy’s festivities, which was a super nice change of pace to the rest of my weekends, which have been jam-packed with tourist sites. Although we passed a few of these in Dublin along our walks, there aren’t too many well-known places to explore in the city itself, so this weekend was more about spending time with my friends. After lunch, we planned to meet up with a few Sammy people and some other friends back in the main Temple Bar area, and the weather alternated between super sunny and pouring within seconds. During one of the rains, we went inside and I got an Irish coffee. We also popped into a few other pubs and bars, and I saw many people I know again.

Someone had spilled an entire beer on Rachel’s jacket, and as she is traveling for a full month with this one jacket, she was not a happy camper. Then, we walked outside, and a bird promptly pooped on her head, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. We were all able to shower and hang out for an hour before dinner and the evening, which was relaxing.

We decided to have dinner at our hotel’s downstairs restaurant before heading back to Temple Bar. The menu didn’t have a ton of options, but we actually all ordered the same thing, risotto, and it was probably the best risotto I’ve ever had. It was butternut squash and pine nut flavored, and it was very filling. Then, we headed out for another night, and our first stop was Buskers. I knew from texting Lindsay that she and Taylor, another second-cousin, were hanging out there, so I met up with them for a while. As we introduced each other to everyone’s friends, we surprised people by explaining that we were all cousins. It was so much fun to see them, and I wish I was able to see them more. I also ran into Adina’s best college friend’s roommate abroad, and we figured out that we actually worked at Sunrise together in 2017, which is why she looked so familiar. Everyone was in a great mood that night, and I saw a lot of people that I know, so it was a fun few hours. We decided to check out some other bars afterward, although it did take us over an hour to actually leave Buskers, as we hugged and chatted with so many people on the way out.

Rachel, Emma and I walked through the Temple Bar area, and it was finally not raining, so it was nice to walk around and get a better feel for the nightlife of the city. After spending a few minutes in other heavily-populated bars, we decided we were hungry, so we met up with a bunch of the Sammy guys at a nearby fastfood restaurant and ordered a ton of food. As I was sitting there at 2:30a.m. eating ice cream after a night out with my Cornell friends, I felt like it was freshman year again and we were back at Nasties. Then, we walked back to the hotel, and I fell asleep almost immediately. I said goodbye to Rachel, as she had an early flight the next morning. It wasn’t too sad, though, as I see her again in a few weeks, and we will have a lot of time together then.

I woke up before my alarm again on Sunday, as everyone staying in the room aside from me and Emma had to go straight to the airport. Emma and I decided to get up and pack up our stuff to get ready for the day. When you only travel with a backpack, that doesn’t take too long. We left our bags at the front desk, and we started walking towards the parade streets. Although I planned to throw out my rain pancho before leaving Dublin, I was happy I still had it, as the rain was pretty strong again. We stopped at an Irish breakfast place for brunch, where I had an omelet with potatoes and coffee. Emma and I were talking about how well we travel together, and how many cool memories we now have together from our time abroad. It was said to say bye, as now I won’t see her for the rest of my time in Europe. Her program ends fairly soon.

After we finished brunch at 11:30, we had a perfect amount of time to find spots to watch the parade starting at noon. The sun was finally shining. We stopped in an apparel store to buy these fun and cheap green clover glasses, and when we exited the store, we had a very amusing experience. For whatever reason, several tourists came up to us and pointed at our glasses, asking to take a selfie with us. Hysterically laughing, we crouched to get in a picture with these people; we felt like celebrities of some sort. Then, they began clapping. It was particularly funny because many people were wearing far crazier accessories along the streets. Feeling festive, we walked to the parade and planted ourselves within the crowd. We weren’t right up front, so we had to look into people’s raised phones sometimes to see what was happening, but only when the floats were short. We were able to see the taller ones just fine. The parade was different than I had pictured it, as the floats seemed kind of random and not related to St. Patrick’s Day. However, it was fun with everyone cheering, and the sun felt amazing. We stayed there for about an hour before we had to head back to the hotel to grab our bags. Emma’s flight was an hour earlier than mine, but we traveled together to the airport, so I ended up with extra time to wait there. It wasn’t a bad thing, as I knew I’d lose an hour on the way back to Copenhagen, so I started my homework for Monday.

I got back fairly late on Sunday night, but luckily, my first class on Monday was canceled, so I was able to sleep in a little later than I typically do. Between my varied sleep schedule this weekend and the short time difference, it was tough to fall asleep. I have a few papers due this week as well as a Danish assessment on Thursday, so I’ll definitely need to do a lot of work in the next few days. However, I am so happy to have shared this weekend with my Cornell friends, and I’m glad I got to see so much of Ireland!

halfway point

Despite having very few commitments outside of classes these past few days, they have seemed like a whirlwind, sandwiched between two trips. I am so glad I had some downtime to get work done this week, get back to the gym after a little vacation, and catch my breath before leaving for a long weekend. This blog post won’t be super long, but here is a quick recap on my week in Cope.

Monday

  • In positive psychology, we had a discussion about savoring our best moments from travel week. Kamilla said that in order to reap all the possible benefits from positive experiences, we should be sure to share our feelings with others, as the process of telling someone about an event that made you happy actually has the same psychological impact as does witnessing the event itself the first time. Each person described her favorite moment from traveling the week before, and it was fun to see each person’s face light up with a happy memory.
  • I ran with Adina at sunset, and although it was colder than usual, it was nice to get outside exercise.
  • I spent most of the evening writing my blog from last week in Barcelona and in Copenhagen with Emma.

Tuesday

  • On Tuesday morning, I visited Cafe Mellem Rummet (the place I had gone for my first ever field study with my Travel Writing class) for a paper I have to write. The assignment is similar to others we have had in the past, in that I must approach a stranger with an interesting story in a place with “good reportage potential.” I ended up talking with an older woman who was volunteering there, as well as several customers who I thought may be able to contribute some details to my essay. This class is constantly putting me outside of my comfort zone in that I have to talk to strangers, especially Danish people. However, even though it may seem awkward at first, I usually leave these conversations feeling like I learned something, which may not happen as much if I kept to myself.
  • I met up with Goldie after her classes, as we were going to get manicures, but after trying three different places that were all booked for the afternoon, we gave up.
  • I worked on a Danish assignment for the rest of the afternoon. The paper is due on Monday but I don’t expect to have too much time this weekend for homework, so I’m glad I got most of it done.
  • I went with Adina and Goldie to Old Irish Pub on Tuesday night for an “American Tuesday,” and we had fun. We left on the earlier side, though, because they both had early morning field studies.

Wednesday

  • I was able to sleep in a little, which was nice. I still feel behind from last week.
  • I booked my trip to Berlin with Rachel via facetime, and then we did a workout video together. I think I have all of my flights booked now for travel this semester, which is exciting. I may decide to do one more trip at the end of April, but I would book that more last minute.
  • I had lunch with Adina and Goldie at Paleo, which is very close to my apartment. I forget about the food there and 42 Raw, and I really should go to those places more often. They are both healthy, filling, and quick restaurants with food that is entirely gluten-free.
  • I spent the rest of the afternoon getting more work done and getting ahead on starting some assignments due in a few weeks. I have a bunch of papers due immediately when I get back from my class trip, and I want to avoid having to do work while I’m traveling, as there is hardly any time for it.
  • I took the train to my host family’s house for another exceptional dinner. Pernille made lentil soup with bread, broccoli and cauliflower patties, and roasted potatoes. It was very, very good. We also drank tea and sat in the living room, and I told her and Oscar about my recent travels and experiences in Denmark. Some topics we discussed were divorce in Denmark vs. the United States and family lifestyle in both countries. I always love spending time in their house, as it is very home-y.

Thursday

  • In Positive Psychology, we had a super interesting guest lecture about the psychology of time, which is actually a class that I was super close to taking here. We learned about how we subjectively appraise time in different capacities and for different tenses, such as the past and future. We also did a survey that measured our “temporal profiles” based on how we answered a bunch of questions.
  • In my Psychology of Peak Performance class, we did a bunch of exercises in studying the theories behind concentration. They involved finding specific numbers within a grid, and we had to zone out the other distractions in the room.

Before ending this post, I also wanted to write a little reflection about my abroad experience so far, as this week officially marks the halfway point in my semester, which is crazy! On the one hand, I can’t believe how much I’ve already seen and done, it feels like I have been here for way longer than two months. On the other hand, two months sounds like a really long time, and days feel long, as I have been packing a lot in. I still have so much ahead of me.

I have been journaling a little bit about my personal goals for this semester, and I just re-read them to make sure I was following what I set out to do. Although I have a lot of learning and seeing left to do, I am so proud of everything I have already absorbed. In addition to learning about the customs of a whole new country, I have learned how to plan itineraries, book flights, and navigate my way confidently around Copenhagen. Things that seemed overwhelming and nearly impossible in the beginning have become so much easier, such as supermarket shopping. I have been trying to “go with the flow” when it comes to traveling, especially because people’s plans change last minutes with flights, and there is really very little to do about that.

I’m learning more about Denmark with each class and each day that passes, especially as I have been trying to talk to more locals and tourists about their experiences, even if it’s a quick exchange. I have been open to exploring and trying new things, sights, foods, and routines, and I have tried to vary my Tuesday and Friday schedules so that I’m never really doing the same thing each week.

I miss the comfort of my friends and family at home, but I have been so fortunate to meet amazing friends here, especially Adina (full credit to the DIS housing placement system for matching me with someone so compatible) and Goldie, who may as well be our honorary third roommate. And, I also feel lucky to be abroad during a time when keeping in touch with people at home isn’t so difficult; no one is more than a phone call or facetime away.

I leave for Dublin tonight, so I’ll update you on that when I get back.

Trading cities

Sorry for a longer-than-usual post; a week of traveling is a long time!

I spent the past week with Emma: five days in Barcelona and three in Copenhagen. It was so much fun to show each other our study abroad experiences. I have learned that it’s especially amazing to visit a city where you have your own personal tour guide who knows it well, as you get a lot of insider information and experiences you may not otherwise receive. I flew to Barcelona from Milan on Monday night. Emma instructed me to take a cab to her residence, as she does not find the public transportation safe once it’s late, and it was almost midnight when I landed.

When I got to her apartment, we took the elevator so as to avoid running into security. She’s technically not allowed to have guests stay over, but she had already had visitors earlier in the semester and said it was fine. We spent about an hour discussing our itinerary for the coming days. Tuesday especially required a lot of planning because we were going to Carnival at night when it would be a fairly different temperature than it was during the day. I wore a few layers under my sweatshirt and shoes that I knew could get dirty.

On Tuesday, Emma had a bunch of classes in a row. Luckily, Adina and her parents were also visiting Barcelona, and they generously allowed me to hang out with them while Emma was busy. Sight-seeing alone is fine, but it is definitely different than sharing what you see with other people. Emma showed me how to use the Metro lines, which are similar to Cope’s, except they are much more crowded. She told me to hold my phone like a claw so that people couldn’t grab it, and she said to always keep my eyes on my bag. While I’d like to think that I’m always somewhat vigilant, I do not typically take these same precautions in Copenhagen, at least not to that extent.

I was a bit nervous about navigating Barcelona’s public transportation system by myself, as directionality is really not my strong suit. However, the app Citymapper that I use in Copenhagen came in very handy in Barcelona, as I could plug in my destination and see all the different options I could take to get there. Emma suggested that I buy a 10-pass for the Metro, as I would likely use it often during the week. My first stop on Tuesday morning was Park Guell, which is fairly far from Emma’s residence. I successfully took the metro and walked up a very steep hill to get there, and I met Adina inside. Park Guell was initially designed to be a residential neighborhood at the top of the mountain overlooking Barcelona, but the high prices to live there made it so that the project was ultimately a failure. Additionally, it is far from the center of the city. When no one decided to live there, Park Guell was converted into a public park and tourist attraction of stunning architecture, with a beautiful view of the city. It was midday and the sun was super hot, and I was sweating. I wasn’t able to bring my sunglasses that day because then I would have had to take them out with me at night, so I squinted when necessary. I walked around the park with Adina and her parents.

After leaving Park Guell and walking down the mountain, we headed back to the city center, visiting Casa Mila and La Pedrera. These are gigantic houses that are beautiful on the outside, as well as the inside, although we did not get tours of either. These buildings were a stark contrast to the relatively ordinary buildings and stores that surrounded them, as they are both on a busy road. We stopped to decide where to eat lunch, and we found a cute place called Hummus Barcelona that was just down the street. The menu ended up being not super gluten-free friendly, but the waitress was really nice and allowed me to order a salad off the dinner menu, which was delicious. We were also able to eat outside.

Next, we walked around Las Ramblas, which is a very long street lined with restaurants, souvenir vendors, and fun dessert places. We also passed the Gothic quarter and saw the Cathedral from a distance, and we went into a store that sells Happy Pills (jelly beans and other chewy, colorful candy). Adina and her family headed to their reservation at La Sagrada Familia, and I went in the other direction on the metro back towards Emma’s school, as she would be done with class soon. I also needed to shop for a “costume” to wear over my clothes to Carnival, so Emma had given me the name of a store to visit. There were so many costume pieces to choose from, but I settled on a blue boa. Emma was bringing a mask for me to wear as well, and she was wearing a hot pink wig. Then, I walked around the neighborhood by myself to kill the last 20 minutes before meeting her, stopping to get an early dinner at a place nearby.

I was on time to meet Emma and her friends outside their class at 5:15, and we headed over to the extremely American-dominated scene at a place to pregame. It was super strange to run into several people from high school that I had not even thought about since senior year, as in addition to Barcelona being a hub for students studying abroad, this was also a popular week to visit the city for Spring break. I was happy I was there at such a highly-desired time, though it did make the crowds harder to navigate. After hanging out at the bar for a little while, we boarded a coach bus that drove us for an hour to Sitges, a beach town where Carnival was held. We had bought tickets through a company that would drive us to the Carnival town and back, and they also gave each person a one-liter box of Sangria, which is a very popular drink in Barcelona. We arrived around 7p.m., though the parade didn’t start until 9. There were plenty of bars and clubs in the area to keep us busy, though, so we walked around and stopped by in various fun places. It was crazy how early people had started partying for this event, and even more so that Carnival is a 7-day event. We headed over to get a good spot for the main parade, and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. The street was lined with rows and rows of people. There were dozens of floats the passed us, and each float had a “crew” of about 30 dancers, all dressed very provocatively and waving at the crowd. Even the dancers had drinks in their hands, so it was very rowdy and loud. It was so fun to be a part of it, though, and I was glad I got to see a culturally important event the one week I was there. When we got tired of standing along the sideline, we got food at an Indian place, where I had a large bowl of white rice. I was hungrier than I realized. Although we headed back to the bus stop around 1:15 in the morning, we didn’t get home until 3:00. It took us a while to find the actual location of the busses, which was somewhat frustrating, especially because they were not parked where they were supposed to be. Anyway, I resisted sleep on the bus so that it would be easier to fall asleep, and when we finally got back to Emma’s apartment, I was sleeping within minutes. The experience was so fun, but incredibly exhausting.

On Wednesday we were able to sleep in a little bit, and then Emma and I met a few of her friends at a brunch place called Citizen Cafe. None of them had eaten there before, but it was actually a recommendation from a girl I’m friendly with at Cornell with Celiac. She and I have been giving each other suggestions via Whatsapp this semester, as we are both abroad and traveling to various cities around Europe. Emma was able to take most of Wednesday off from going to class, which was really nice. Then, we spent the morning walking around the city. I saw the Arc de Triomf, as well as the Ciutadella Parc, which is really big, and it has a beautiful fountain. We also walked through some streets that they hadn’t visited yet, and we stopped at this place they heard had good coffee. In the afternoon, they had to go to their classes, so I met up with Adina and her parents again. Our first stop was La Boqueria, which was similar to Copenhagen’s Glass Market, except the foods were more snacks and fewer meal places. It was also less organized according to the item so a vendor selling fish could be across from a vendor with fruit. Emma said I should try a fruit smoothie at the back of the market for only one euro, so I got a papaya and mango one, which was amazing. I also got chocolate-covered strawberries on a stick.

It was an overcast day—one of the first ones all semester, according to Emma—but it was our only opportunity to visit the Barcelona beach, so we walked for 40 minutes to get there. It was so pretty, even though we couldn’t watch the sunset. In Spain, it is customary to eat dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. at night, which is a whole lot later than I usually eat, so I ate a snack on my way back to Emma’s apartment. Emma had made a 9:00 reservation for this place called Flax and Kale, which has an entirely organic, gluten-free, and relatively healthy menu, including delicious desserts. I think this was my favorite meal in Spain, although it wasn’t authentic food. I had a pesto avocado and cheese flatbread, followed by chocolate cake.

I was feeling pretty tired, and it was only 11:30 when we finished dinner and got ready to go out. I told Emma I was exhausted, and she said we could stay in if I wanted, but that if we went out, we couldn’t really prevent it from being a late night. The way it works with particular promoters on certain nights of the week is that you have to go to bars within specific time frames, you get stamps, drinks, etc, and then you head to the main club. I decided that I was only in Barcelona once this semester, so I should make the most of it. So, we headed out for the evening—it was almost midnight already. First, we stopped at Ovella Negra, which was a bar primarily populated with American study abroad students. We met up with Emma’s friends and got our hands stamped for later in the night, and we sat there for about a half hour. We walked to D9, where the bartenders made sleeves of six shots per person, but I only had a sip of Emma’s because I didn’t want to drink that much. We ended up talking to some tourists who spoke Dutch as well as five other languages, but we left them before we went to the club. Finally, we went to Razzmatazz, which is an enormous nightclub. There were probably hundreds of people on the dance floor; it was such a fun and high-energy environment. We had a really good time singing and dancing along to the music, and before I knew it, it was 3 a.m., and Emma and I headed home so I could get at least a few hours of sleep that night. I have no idea how she does that regularly, but I’m so glad I got to experience nightlife in Spain for a week. Copenhagen style is definitely more suited to me.

Waking up at 8:30 on Thursday was exhausting, but I really wanted to join Adina and her parents to ride the cable cars up Montjuic. It took us a long time to figure out exactly where we were supposed to go, but after asking several people and hiking up a fairly steep hill, we saw the entrance point. It was about a five-minute ride to the top of the mountain, and the view from the cable car was gorgeous. We went on a really nice walk once we reached the top, and there were a lot of cool views of both the water and the city.

Adina and her parents left to catch their flight back to Copenhagen, but Emma’s friend Shreya had texted me that she could get lunch with me at a paella place between her morning and afternoon classes. That was really sweet of her. She’s a senior from Cornell, so we had plenty to talk about. I wanted to have paella at least once while I was in Spain, and Shreya had heard this was the best place (she actually hadn’t tried it yet). For 11 euros, you got a huge dish of paella (we got seafood) as well as three different tapas, which was so much food for two people, but it was incredible.

Shreya had to go back to class, and I had a reservation for a tour of La Sagrada Familia at 2:45, so I headed to the metro to get there. Although I knew it was a large building because I had heard about it, I literally gasped when I stepped out of the metro station: it was so much bigger than I imagined. I felt so tiny standing next to it. I think it might be the prettiest man-made structure I have ever seen; between the stained glass windows that lined the inside walls to the symmetrical columns that supported the ceilings and the Hogwarts-like top of the outside, it truly was incredible. I’m so glad I spent the extra money on an audio guide, especially since I was by myself and it gave me something to do, as well as being super interesting and informative. I learned that La Sagrada Familia was an architectural vision of the famous Gaudi, who died in 1926. It is actually still under construction, and it will be completed in 2026 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. If you’re thinking about how it could be possible for a building to take 100 years to build, you should see the details within each inch of the structure. The audio guide explained that there was a specific reason behind each architectural decision. For example, the tallest pillar in the building is 172.5 meters tall, as Gaudi wanted it to be just shorter than the tallest mountain in Barcelona, Montjuic.

I took my time walking around and reading everything about the building, and then I decided to take a break, sitting in the sun and continuing to admire it. I walked back towards the city center, as I was supposed to meet Shreya for an afternoon hike to the Bunkers. Emma had to do a group project since she would be gone over the weekend. I had a little time to kill before Shreya’s class ended, and I ended up stumbling upon an all gluten-free bakery nearby, so I got a muffin, and I sat in a little park called Placa de Tetuan. Shreya showed me her homestay apartment, and then we brought a bottle of wine to the Bunkers, which is essentially a beautiful lookout spot to watch the sunset and hang out. I even ran into a few people from my DIS classes back in Copenhagen, which was funny.  Getting there was definitely a hike, and my legs really felt it, especially since it was my second mountain-climb of the day. However, the view was worth it. We sat and admired the view before heading back down, and I went back to Emma’s to get ready for dinner, which was at 9:00 again. That night we went to a place called Sensi Tapas, which was a packed restaurant with delicious and unusual tapas. I got a risotto dish and a scallops dish in some creamy sauce, and they were both really good. We were going to get gelato, but by the time we got home at 11:30, I was more than ready for bed. Emma and I had an early flight the next morning, so we decided to go to sleep.

We took a metro and then a bus to the airport on Friday, which was a whole lot cheaper than the cab I had taken in the other direction. I am so happy I was able to nap on the plane, as I felt really behind on sleep and I wanted to feel good enough to show Emma all around Copenhagen. I ended up sitting in an Exit row all by myself, which was great. I put my feet up and curled into a ball, and I slept for at least half of the flight. I read my book for the other half, which is getting very good. Although I don’t read every day here like I do at school, it’s the perfect activity for plane rides.

We deboarded the plane to find that it was sunny outside, which was very exciting, as the forecast had been for it to rain the entire day. We dropped our stuff off and headed for lunch at the Glass Market. I showed Emma all my favorite places to get food, and I gave her a few suggestions. She ultimately ended up getting porridge from Grod, and it was her favorite meal the entire weekend! We headed straight for Nyhavn and the trampolines, which Emma had mentioned several times already. It was cute that she was so excited to jump on them. We decided to walk to Christianhavn and climb the Church of our Saviour, but it was actually so windy that it was closed for the afternoon. These Bulgarian tourists came up to us and gave us their business cards, which was a very strange interaction, but we told them we were busy when they invited us to get drinks with them. I showed Emma Christiania while we were near the neighborhood, and then we headed back to the city center to walk through Stroget and climb the Round Tower while it was sunny. It was super windy and cold, but we had a good time anyway.

We headed back to my apartment to change for Shabbat dinner, and we actually met up with Ellie, one of my aephi friends from school. The three of us went to dinner with Adina, Goldie, and their families, so we sat at a big table for a yummy meal and a fun evening. It was good to see Ellie and hear about her experiences in Dublin so far, especially as I am headed there this weekend. After dinner, which lasted several hours (as usual), Emma and I went to Xocovino, a place I have been meaning to go. It’s a chocolate and wine cafe, and we did a chocolate-wine tasting, where each of us had three different types of wine and three different chocolate truffles. The waiter came over and explained each chocolate-wine pairing, and I actually learned a lot about where the wine came from and why the pairs were meant to be together. Then, we went to sleep.

We woke up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to beat the crowds at Mad and Kaffe, as I had learned from my visit there with Josh that it would be crowded when it opened at 8:30. I’m glad we went; the food was worth it. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, but we huddled under my umbrella for the walk there. I tried three different dishes than what I ate last time: scrambled eggs with mushrooms, blood oranges in tarragon sugar, and smoked salmon, which had been Josh’s favorite dish.

By the time we finished eating, the rain had cleared up. I got to try so many touristy things this weekend with Emma, and I am slowly realizing that I’ll never be able to do everything here; there is so much to see and do. However, visiting friends are a great reason to try new things. I showed Emma the Black Diamond library, and we climbed all the stairs to the top for the pretty view of the water, which I hadn’t done before. Then, we headed to the Christiansborg Palace, as a friend from class had recently told me that you could see the view at the top for free. We weren’t exactly sure that we were in the right spot, but we figured that a long line must be a good start. I was explaining something about Copenhagen to Emma when a tourist tapped me and asked me whether I recommended the climb. I was so flattered that the person thought I knew what I was talking about! I said that while I hadn’t yet seen it, I heard it was pretty. Another woman also asked me if I had been to the Church of our Saviour, which I have, so that was cool, too. As I told Emma more about Copenhagen, I am discovering that I am proud to call this ‘my city’ for the semester, and I am really getting to know my way around. For example, I only had to use google maps once the entire weekend, and it was to go to a brunch place I hadn’t been before. Anyway, the view at Christiansborg was amazing; it was cool to be able to point out all the different tall landmarks from the top.

When we came down, we walked around the Magasin mall nearby for a few minutes, and we got a bunch of free samples of caramels and chocolate, so that was fun. Emma also wanted to return to the canal while the sun was out, so we did, and she got a waffle. Then, we walked towards the botanical gardens, where I have not yet visited. We bought student tickets and we walked around the greenhouses, which were filled with pretty plants. It was also very warm inside. At that point, it was late in the afternoon, and we took a break in my apartment before meeting up with Emma’s friend from home at Paludan. Later, we ate dinner at Cafe Norden, which is known for its typical Nordic food. Emma was able to try open-faced sandwiches, and I think these are a key part of eating style here, so that was good. We were tired after dinner, but I wanted to take Emma to Bastard Cafe, which she loved. We played chess and scrabble, and we got good drinks. It was a fun end to a long day.

Sunday started with brunch at Far’s Dreng, which was on my food bucket list. It was really good. Adina and Goldie were able to join me and Emma, so I was glad they got to know each other a little more. The food was presented really beautifully, and we ended up staying there and chatting for a while. Emma and I took a long walk to the Little Mermaid, as well as the star, which is always a nice activity, especially in the sun. We kept remarking how lucky we were with the weather this weekend, as the forecast had really been crappy.

After that walk, I brought Emma to the Amalienborg palaces, and we saw the guards marching for a quick minute. We spent a while observing the door guards and talking about their jerky movements; it was very interesting to see what they were doing. We headed back to the city center, stopping at the Glass Market for a snack on the way before Emma headed to the airport. Luckily, our goodbye was super easy because I will see her this week again in Dublin.

I spent the rest of the day on Sunday catching up on life: emails, the gym, laundry, etc—all the things that you don’t usually hear about from abroad stories, but things that are important, nevertheless. I had felt super disconnected from everyone in the past week, as traveling is exhausting and very busy, so I was also able to facetime that afternoon with Josh and my family each for a while, which was very nice.

Couldn’t get enough of Italy

I am still in the midst of my week of travel, but I finally have a bit of down time to catch up on my weekend before continuing on my adventure.

Only two weeks after my weekend in Rome, I spent a few days in Milan, and I am so glad I chose to do that. It had taken me a while to find someone looking for a travel buddy for only the first three days of break, as I knew I’d be with Emma beginning on Monday. Most people traveled with the same friends throughout the whole week, or they met up with friends from school. Adina and Goldie’s families visited. Luckily, I found Natalie, who is in my core course. We flew together from Copenhagen to Milan, and we parted our separate ways on Monday—I went to Spain, and she went further south in Italy to Florence.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon after a very smooth flight to Milan, and we exited the airport surprisingly quickly. Booking a shuttle to our hotel was expensive, but for a huge city like Milan, it was super nice to be able to meet a man that had our names on a sign, who could drive us safely to our destination. We arrived at the hotel just before dinner, dropping our stuff off quickly before trying to catch a sunset behind the Milan Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo, the most famous site in Milan. Unfortunately, we missed sunset by a few minutes, but the view at dusk wasn’t too bad. We took our time walking to dinner, as our reservation was not until 8:00. We walked past the Brera district and did some window-shopping; it was a cute area filled with people sitting for dinner and drinks.

Finally, it was the moment I’d been waiting for: ordering pizza at Mama Eat in Milan. I had been looking forward to the dinner reservation since eating in the Rome location, and I was very glad that my meal lived up to my high expectations. I got a different kind of pizza this time, and Natalie got a non-gluten-free pizza, which she said was delicious. I was happily full, and we walked back to the hotel, deciding that we needed a good night’s sleep for our long day of sight-seeing ahead of us. Natalie was so sweet about going way out of our way to have a meal at Mama Eat, and I’m glad that she liked it, too.

On Sunday morning, we woke up early, knowing that we needed to seize the one beautiful day in that weekend’s forecast. Learning from my previous mistake in planning an itinerary for Rome, I spent a few hours making our own walking tour of Milan, marking sights to see based on their location within the city. This was a great tactic, as we were able to pack in so many more sights in just one day. I will definitely make the time to do this for my other trips. Traveling smartly takes work!

Our first stop was breakfast on the Piazza del Duomo, which we ate in the sun. It was so nice not to be mobbed by tourists, as we had been the day before. Getting an early start was a good call. We got fruit and coffee at one of the vendors. Unfortunately, the place did not have gluten-free croissants, so I ate my bar. After walking around all sides of the Milan Cathedral, taking pictures of it in the daylight, we headed to the next destination: Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This was an area enclosed by glass walls and many high-end stores and restaurants, and it was beautiful to walk around. We decided that we would spend time there the next day when it was supposed to rain.

On our way to Castello Sforzesco, we stopped in a random store to do some shopping, and I was so tempted to purchase a leather jacket on the spot, but I didn’t want to hold it the entire day, especially since the weather was so warm. We decided that we would come back to look more closely at it later. Castello Sforzesco was an enormous property, and we visited the various statues and read their plaques, learning that one part of the castle housed the Austrian Troops during the Spanish occupation and that one statue had a defensive function.

We walked towards Santa Maria delle Grazie, and we passed a chocolate-tasting shop on the way, deciding it was a perfect time for a mid-morning snack. Because it was Sunday, there were actually church services going on inside the Santa Maria building, but there was still a tourist area we could view inside. It was beautiful.

Next on the list was the Torre Branca, another famous landmark within Parco Sempione. After taking a few pictures, an amusement park within the actual park caught our eyes, so we went to check it out. It was kind of like Tivoli in the sense that it was a huge amusement park in the middle of a metropolitan area, although we got the feeling that it was open for some special occasion. We ended up doing a little rollercoaster, which only cost a few euros, and we spent time walking around the ponds in the park as well. It was a really pretty area.

It was 1:00 and we were getting hungry for lunch, but we really wanted to eat along the canal, as we heard there were dozens of restaurants there. It was a pretty long and hot walk, but it was totally worth it. We didn’t know where we should eat! All the food we passed looked so yummy. We settled on a place called Prima, where I got some potato dish and a vegetable dish, both appetizers. They had gluten-free pasta, but I wasn’t in the mood. Afterward, we went to a gelato store that had gluten-free cones, so that was exciting. We spent a while walking around the canal area with our ice cream; the weather at that point was unbelievable.

Continuing on our walking tour, we headed for the Basilica di San Lorenzo. On the way, we passed a stand where you could get Aperol spritzes for only three euros—a bargain. Those were yummy and summery. We spent some time on the Piazza Sant’Ambrogio as well. We decided we needed to rest a bit before heading to dinner, but we first stopped back at the store we saw earlier. I tried on the leather jacket once again, and I just did not love the way it fit. Even though it wasn’t super expensive, and this was surprising for Milan, I decided not to settle. We spent some time in our hotel room, took a short nap, and got ready for the evening.

We ate dinner at a delicious restaurant called Be Bop Ristorante, which had also crossed my suggestions for gluten-free options. The menu was entirely gluten-free. The two of us ordered way too much food (no one warned us about the portions at this place), but nothing was short of phenomenal. I ended up getting a fried calamari and seafood dish as my main meal. We spent a few hours at the restaurant, and Natalie and I had a fun time talking about college/home/school, and getting to know each other more. We had discussed the possibility of going to a bar, but after deciding we needed to be at the Milan Cathedral when it opened at 9 a.m. (both to avoid the crowds and the afternoon’s rainy weather), we went home instead.

Climbing to the top of the cathedral was definitely one of my favorite things we did the whole weekend. Natalie and I got tickets ahead of time, and we got the ones where we could climb the stairs all the way to the top. The view was incredible, and it was cool to walk around on top of a roof. We also were able to walk around the sanctuary itself, tour the basement/ruins area, and use binoculars to look at all the intricate designs on top of the cathedral’s pillars.

Next, we headed for brunch at Glu Free bakery, an entirely gluten-free dedicated kitchen. I wanted to buy out the entire store, but I settled on a rice ball/croquet type of thing with mozz, ricotta, and spinach. I also got a cannoli because gluten-free ones are rare, and it was very good. We knew the art gallery would be closed on a Monday, but we walked around the perimeter of Pinacoteca di Brera anyway. We still got to see some of the sculptures. On the way there, I saw another cute-looking leather jacket, and this ended up being the one! I am so happy that I waited until then to buy one, and I can’t wait to wear it around Europe.

It was pouring at that point, and we decided to walk around the higher-end stores in an area known as the Golden Triangle. We wandered into stores such as Prada and Chanelle, pretending we had the money to spend on coin purses for 850 euros. We amused ourselves by guessing the prices of various items, which was funny, as we were always incredibly out of range. We also went back to Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and walked into those stores, where I was able to buy a postcard of the Duomo. Since we were tired of walking and it was raining so hard anyway, we stopped for coffee at Pasticceria Marchesi, an extremely fancy dessert shop, where you have to pay even to sit at their tables. Everything in the café is green and pink. I got hot chocolate that was as rich as drinking hot fudge—so yummy.

We ran across the street to the opera house (the rain was still coming down) to try and get tickets for a tour, but it was closed on Mondays, unfortunately. Then, we went back to our hotel so our clothes could dry for a little before heading to the airport.

 

keeping up with cope (again)

It has been quite a busy week leading up to my first travel week, where half the core courses will go on their long study tours, while I have the week off to go wherever. Today I am headed to Milan, and then I will fly to Barcelona for the week. But those adventures will be included in another post. 🙂

This Wednesday was my first day with two field studies, and it was a lot of activity in one day. I took Josh to the train for the airport, and then I headed back to grab my backpack before going to the concert hall at Tivoli. My morning field study was for my Psychology of Peak Performance class, where we would be participating in a ballet workshop. My teacher told us to wear comfortable clothing because we would be moving around a lot. I was looking forward to a dance class; aside from taking an occasional Zumba class at school, I haven’t taken one since the days of American Theatre Dance in high school. We started out with a warm-up, and I was having a great time with my classmates; the energy in the room was high, and we were doing fun movements. However, the coach quickly flipped a switch in the middle of the class, and she went from nice-Danish-lady to extremely-harsh-and-scary-Danish-lady in a heartbeat. She wanted the class to do almost impossible turns and spins, and she singled people out, telling one boy he was the “worst in the class.” For the rest of the class, my number one goal was to avoid being called out apart from the group and needing to perform by myself. When we debriefed with our teacher and the coach at the end of class, they explained that her behavior was completely intentional: we are learning about how the environment and stress-level can impact people’s “peak performance.” While the concept was interesting, the class was definitely stress-inducing for me.

Luckily, I had eaten a very big breakfast since I knew I’d have no time to spare between my two field studies. I walked quickly to Norreport station to meet my Danish class for the afternoon. We headed to a nearby Danish high school, also called a Gymnasium. I really enjoyed my time there. My teacher divided us into small groups of two students from my class and two Danish high school students so that we could have more intimate conversations. We were allowed to talk about anything we wanted with the students, although we had been told to prepare questions for them. It turns out that in my group, the high schoolers had way more questions for us. We compared our school systems and experiences in high school for a while. One thing that struck me as particularly interesting is that there is less overall pressure to “do well” in high school in Denmark. The students explained to us that while attending a university was an elite experience and something that people strived to do, there were other options that were considered almost equally as valuable, such as taking a gap year or time to travel. I also know that Great Neck is a particularly high strung environment when it comes to applying to college, so it is not representative of the entire United States, by any means. However, between me and my partner, who is from Boston, we at least represented two different experiences of American high school. One of the Danish students asked me what I did in my free time during high school, and I started to list a few of my extra-curricular activities such as Key Club, the school newspaper, and theatre. He was shocked by this answer, and he said, “But when do you have time to eat breakfast and sleep?” I realized that in high school, while obviously I ate and slept, these activities sometimes took a back-burner position in comparison to achieving good grades and participating in a bunch of activities. The other Danish student asked why getting good grades wasn’t “good enough” to go to college, and my partner and I explained that we mostly did outside activities because we enjoyed them, but it was true that they also helped our resumes. I like the idea that here, there is not one “correct” path to achieve success; there are many definitions of what success looks like.

Another interesting thing we discussed is the stereotype that Americans carry guns around, and the students asked us if we often saw our friends carry guns at school. Neither I nor my partner has had this experience, but I explained that that would be unusual on a relatively liberal college campus, and the stereotype that all Americans have guns is definitely not true. It’s scary to think that this is the perspective young Danes have of the United States.

My next activity of the day was a group project meeting with people in my Danish class, as we had a cultural presentation the next day. It was fairly quick, and I was exhausted by that point. Adina and I caught up on another beautiful sunset run, and we spent the evening catching up on work.

Thursday was a happy day of classes, as students and teachers were all excited to begin their week off. Although I was tired when I woke up that morning, I left my first class feeling absolutely amazing about myself, thanks to an uplifting game that we played in Positive Psych. We were split up into groups of four, and we had boxes of cards with various “characteristics” on them, such as kindness, gratitude, humor, honesty, love, and about 25 other ones. There were also cards with prompts to tell stories, such as “an instant connection,” “a film that means something to you,” or “your biggest hero.” Each person in the group had 3-5 minutes to pick one of these prompt cards and use it to tell a personal story. While that person was talking, the three others in the group were collecting the “characteristic” cards that they thought you exhibited in the story. When the speaker was finished, the three listeners explained why they chose each of the characteristics, and you tallied up all the positive virtues you didn’t even know you exhibited. We each got to go twice. For my stories, my most prevalent virtues were apparently gratitude, perspective-taking, social intelligence, leadership, kindness, and fairness. What a great way to feel good. We also had a reflection with the whole class afterward, and Kamilla asked us to try to use this game in real life: there’s no reason we can’t make friends’ days by telling them what positive qualities they demonstrate.

In my Sociology of the Family class, we had an interesting discussion about the cultural differences regarding hook-up culture, which was fascinating. Prior to the class, we were each assigned different countries to read about, and then we compared notes during lecture. My country was Denmark, but my classmates covered information from 10 different places around the world. It’s crazy to think about how different Americans view hook-up culture in comparison to countries in Europe and Asia.

Thursday night I went with my friend Hannah from class to the Jason Mraz concert, which I had been looking forward to for months. He is a phenomenal singer, and seeing him in concert was so cool, especially the songs I’m Yours and Have It All, my favorites. Also, we were so much closer to the stage than we thought we would be, as we got there on time and it was a huge standing-floor. The commute was pretty easy on the train, too.

Today I have been catching up on my blogs, doing laundry, and packing for my trip. I also went to the gym and had lunch at a new place called Plant Power Food, and the menu was so extensive that I probably looked at it for 15 minutes before I decided what to get. My meal was delicious, but I’ll definitely have to go back. Tonight I am going with Adina, Goldie, and Adina’s parents to Shabbat dinner, which should be fun. I can’t wait for my trip!

weekend get-away with my visitor

Despite Josh’s first flight being delayed and him needing to switch to another flight, which involved two layovers instead of one, he made it! We were both worried on Friday that we were going to lose time together, but in reality, he arrived only a few hours later than the original plan. I am so grateful that he was able to get here. Even though I no longer had to wake up early to get him at 7:15 from the airport, I wasn’t able to sleep in—I was too excited. I had to kill time in the morning, so I decided to go for a short run, though I took a different path than the one I usually run with Adina. I also used the time to update the itinerary I planned with Josh, as I still wanted to make the most of our daylight time on Saturday.

I got to the airport with an hour of time to spare, but I ended up enjoying my time in the Arrivals area. I realized that something I should probably do for a writing exercise is going there again and writing about what I see, as watching people reunite with their loved ones proved to be very entertaining. There were smiles, tears of joy, big hugs, and little kids running. I was so anxious for it to be my turn, but people-watching did help pass the time. When Josh texted me that he landed, I waited in the line of people. It was amazing to finally see him.

After dropping off our bags, our first destination was a late lunch (it was 2:30 at this point) at Kalaset, a place I hadn’t been before but had on my must-go list. It was incredible food with a huge menu, and we were both starving. We went to the Christiansborg Palace, the same place I had gone with my Danish class, except this time we had tickets to explore all the rooms. There was one pretty room after another, and we were able to go at our own pace. I wanted to get to the top of the Round Tower by the time the sun set, so we walked directly there afterward. It was a beautiful view. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I made a reservation at The Union Kitchen for us that night, which is a fancy restaurant that I had only visited for brunch before. I heard that dinner was even better, and I was not disappointed. They have a lot of different “balls” such as salmon, falafel, and vegetable, and they also have gluten-free french fries. It was also pretty close to our hotel. We were both exhausted when we finished dinner, but we still went to the hotel Ice Bar to get fun drinks. It was freezing cold even inside the enormous cloaks they gave us to wear, but we still had a good time.

On Sunday morning, we woke up pretty early to get to Mad and Kaffe for breakfast, as Adina and Goldie had told me that their waitlist fills up quickly, and they do not take reservations. We arrived only a half hour after they opened, but we still didn’t even get a table inside. Luckily, it was nice and sunny outside, so we sat under a heated tent, snagging the last one of those tables that they had. It was definitely one of my favorite meals we had all weekend. The concept is designing your own brunch, so you order 3, 5, or 7 little “plates” of items on the menu, and they come together on a platter.

We headed to the Nyhavn Canal area, and we pretty much spent the entire day there. We walked along the water, and I took Josh to the trampolines. It was so warm that at some points, I took my jacket off. We had booked a canal tour, and we went on that hour-long tour that departed right near the canal. It was cool to see the city from the water’s perspective. We passed the Black Diamond library, the Opera House, the Little Mermaid Statue, the bridge leading to Christianhavn, and several other Copenhagen landmarks. I selected seats at the back of the boat, as these were not covered by glass and it was easier to see everything. The tour guide stood at the front and talked to us on a microphone, explaining everything we passed.

After the tour, we weren’t done on the canal. We decided to get drinks at one of the restaurants where you sit along the water, and Josh also got one of the classic waffle-on-a-stick desserts, while I got gelato from the same place. I had never seen the area so crowded with tourists; in addition to being there on a Sunday, there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was the warmest I have ever been in Copenhagen. It really was an amazing afternoon. Then, we headed to our segue tour meeting spot. I hadn’t segued since I went with my group in camp on our CIT trip, and Josh had never been before. Our tour guide was fantastic. She did a great job of sharing factual information about the sights we passed, as well as funny stories and jokes along the way. There were only six people on the tour, which also meant that she could give us each individualized attention and take pictures when we stopped, which was very nice. That hour ranked among our favorite activities all weekend.

Here are some interesting things we learned from the tour guide:

  • The main clock tower chimes at random times; it does not chime on the hour, half hour, or quarter hour like most other clock towers. For example, it rang at 3:55.
  • The Little Mermaid statue is the second most underwhelming statue in all of Europe. I turned around to look back at Josh when our guide said this, as I had literally just been telling him how not-exciting it was when I went with Goldie a while ago. Later, Josh asked the guide what the first most underwhelming statue is, which is apparently the Manneken Pis in Brussels.
  • When we stopped at the Amalienborg Palace Square, we learned that each of the buildings belongs to a different member of the Danish royal family and that the flags flying on top of each castle indicates whether or not that particular family member is home at the time.

We headed to Tivoli after sitting and resting our legs, which was especially exciting and well-timed because it was the last day of the winter season. Josh bought a one-time entrance pass, and I used the season pass I bought last week, but we both added rides once we got inside. We did the Star Flyer ride, which happens to be the highest carousel in Northern Europe at an impressive 80 meters tall. It was actually way higher than I expected once we got to the top, and the view of the city was incredible—especially at night. We had also bundled up for our night in Tivoli, and I am really happy we did that because the wind was really intense. We even had to leave our phones outside the ride instead of within our zipped jacket pockets because the wind was so strong. We planned to eat dinner at Tivoli (google said the park closed at 11pm), but when we went into the food court at 9, we learned that it was closing. We had been too caught up in all of our activities to eat a real meal since brunch, so we were both starving. I looked up nearby restaurants and suggested we eat at Riz Raz, the amazing Mediterranean place I had eaten at on my first ever night in Cope. It was a good choice because they have a buffet, so although I didn’t eat until 10pm, at least it didn’t have to be later. When we got back to the hotel, I reviewed quickly for my Danish quiz the next morning.

Monday was another beautiful and sunny day, although it was much less exciting to go to class when I knew our fun day would start right after I got out. My Danish quiz was fine, and I’m glad I didn’t get more stressed over it. Luckily 2/3 of my afternoon classes were randomly canceled that day, so I only ended up “skipping” one class, which is great. I changed our itinerary for Monday afternoon because after talking to some people in my first class, I learned that the Church of our Savior was open, and it was an experience we wouldn’t want to miss. I canceled our lunch reservation and we went to the Glass Market instead, as I wanted to make sure Josh got to see that. He got a classic Copenhagn open-faced sandwich with fish, and he loved it. I’m glad he got to try the most “authentic” version of the food here during his visit. I also tried a new place within the market, and my favorite part of that was the yummy feta, shrimp, and lime salad I ate.

We headed across the bridge to the Christianhavn neighborhood, where we climbed the 400 steps to the top of the famous Church. The climb was way more exhausting than we expected, and we were both definitely out of breath by the time we reached the top. I think there should have been some sort of warning about this. 🙂 However, the climb to the top was very worth it. The view was absolutely incredible, and it makes the Round Tower seem like an ant’s perspective of the city. We also learned the other day on our canal tour the urban legend behind the church: the architect jumped from the top of it (killing himself) when he realized his mistake in constructing the staircase in a counter-clockwise direction, which meant he would go to hell.

After we descended the stairs, we decided to walk about Christiania so Josh could see the “free town,” and we also stopped in a Christianhavn cafe to get coffee. We ate dinner at Paludan Cafe that night, one of my favorites. We brought the “hygge” card game that Josh had brought (so cute!), and basically, they are just cards with discussion topics on them. The idea is to create a cozy atmosphere with the people you love. We were distracted by one conversation, and before we knew it, just one of the prompts had kept us busy for over an hour. As we ate our dinner, Adina and Goldie stopped by to meet Josh and chat. That was really fun, and we traded stories about our weekends. We left Paludan after three hours, and Josh and I headed to Bastard Cafe, the board game bar. We played a few card games, as well as two games of chess. He beat me in our first game because he used the 3-move-checkmate I had totally forgotten about since my childhood chess-playing days. However, the next game lasted over an hour, and we were both very concentrated. I won that one. 🙂 We decided we are going to try and play more because we both enjoyed playing the game as kids. Josh also loved the environment of Bastard Cafe, and we had fun drinks there too.

Tuesday was our last full day together, and after getting a quick breakfast, we headed to Hillerød for the day, which is about a 40-minute train ride outside of central Copenhagen. The main attraction there is the Frederiksborg Castle, which was truly an exquisite site. It didn’t look real. We had lunch at the restaurant inside the castle gardens, where we both had super fresh fish open-faced sandwiches. Then, we spent a few hours walking around the gardens, looking at the pretty ponds, trees, and buildings. We planned to go inside the museum itself, but by the time we got there at 2:45, it was too late to explore, as they closed at 3 (the website said 4…). We left the castle property and walked through the town of Hillerød, which was nice, and it was not nearly as crowded as is the center of the city. We walked around until it was almost sunset, and on the train ride home, we got to look at a beautiful pink, orange, and purple sky. We had dinner that night near my apartment at Mæxico, a Mexican restaurant I hadn’t eaten at yet. It was very good. We talked about all our “favorites” from the weekend, and I found it hard to pick just one meal, activity, or day that was better than all the rest. Josh said that he hadn’t had even one “great” meal…each one was better than great!

We ended the day with another game night at Bastard Cafe, and Goldie and Adina came to play with us, too.

It was sad to say goodbye, but I am so happy to have had this weekend together, and I know it is one that I will not forget.

a week of planning and working (and some fun, too)

This post will not be too long, as I have dedicated a lot of my free time the past few days to getting ahead on work for the next entire week. And, since next week is the week before our first longer break, I have several assignments due. This is all very worth it, as Josh is coming to visit me tomorrow, and I do not want to do any work when he’s here. I planned an itinerary for all of our days together, and I am so excited, both to show him around at my favorite spots and explore new places in Copenhagen together.

Here’s a quick recap on my week:

Monday

  • I had a workshop in lieu of my Travel Writing class where I received feedback from a group of my peers and teacher on my first story of the semester. I hadn’t thought that it was my best piece of writing when I submitted it, but it got really good reviews. I mentioned in my Blog about Prague that I randomly met a woman in the airport who inspired my story, and my classmates were very curious to learn more about my interaction with her, and how I decided very quickly to ask her for an interview. I worked on revising my draft this week, and I plan to email the woman when I have the final draft complete.
  • Saving all my homework for Sunday night is not something I typically do at school; in fact, I’m not sure that I have ever done that. However, I have realized that on weekends I travel from Thursday to Sunday, I really have no choice. This concept stresses me out a bit, but luckily, I am abroad, and my classes are easier and less work. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed on Monday, needing to catch up on everything as well as wanting to get ahead. On Monday afternoon, Adina and I decided to go for a run before getting to work. I love running with her because she goes at a not-too-fast pace, and we are able to chat the whole time—so it really feels like a break in addition to a workout. We also ran by the water with a beautiful sunset to watch, and it was so nice. We plan to do this more often as the weather starts to get warmer.

Tuesday

  • I used my bike to run all my errands, which I love. It was another beautiful day, so I was happy to be outside.
  • I also checked out a new cafe to do my homework in. I spent a lot of the afternoon memorizing a Danish script that I had written with a partner in my class, as we had an assignment this week to record a 3-minute video—without looking at our notes! This was quite challenging, as I still haven’t been able to figure out many patterns or rules in terms of learning the language. So many of the words “just are” the way they are, and there are so many random things to remember. Another difficult concept is that the word order in Danish is different depending on if you are stating something or asking a question
  • In the evening, I went with my friend Hannah from my core course to Tivoli, which is an amusement park in Copenhagen, the second-oldest operating park in the world. There is a winter theme happening for all of February, so I wanted to check it out. After talking to some friends and a woman in the box office, I decided to buy a season pass, which is worth the money if I planned to go more than two times over the course of the semester. I definitely do, as I will be bringing all of my visitors here, including Josh this weekend. It was so much fun even just walking around, as it was a little cold to do the rides. There is an ice-skating rink, a lot of food, a pond, a theatre, and winter-themed decorations. At the beginning of April, Tivoli will re-open with a Springtime theme. Hannah and I got dinner, explored the whole property, and then we both went home.
  • I had planned to go out with Adina and Goldie that night, but when we got caught up in booking flights, it ended up being too late to do something afterward. I am very excited, as I was able to book two trips: Vienna and London. I only have one more weekend that is up in the air in terms of where I’m going, and that’s not until the end of April. Planning all these trips is certainly exciting, but it is also tiring and time-consuming.

Wednesday

  • No field study today! I used most of the day to get ahead on work, and I also know that next Wednesday will be quite busy with two field studies and a group project meeting at night.
  • The highlights of my day included another beautiful run on the water with Adina, followed by a delicious brunch with her and Goldie at Cafe Paludan. That’s the place right down the street from my apartment; I hadn’t yet been there for brunch, but it’s now one of my favorites.
  • As I spend more time in various cafes, it’s interesting to observe little differences in Danish and American culture that are more subtle, perhaps ones I had overlooked when everything was so new. Adina pointed out that when you order a coffee here or any food that requires you to move down a line and get it from somewhere else, the workers will often say something along the lines of “My colleague will get that from you.” There are a few differences here to American culture: first, I have never heard the word “colleague” used in this context. Additionally, the more likely interaction would be for the person behind the counter to say “You’ll get your drink over there,” which is a lot less personal than the Danish version.
  • I filmed my Danish video with the girl from my class in the afternoon, and it took us a while, but we got it done.

Thursday

  • My day of classes seemed a lot shorter than usual, as I had two guest speakers, plus a field trip with my Danish class, and the fact that my last class was another group’s workshop, so I did not need to attend. We listened to a lecture on the Christiansborg Palace tapestries in Danish, so we met at an alternative location close to DIS. In Positive Psychology, we had a guest lecture from a man in the Denmark police force, who spoke about his use of positive psychology when dealing with criminals. It was very interesting. In Sociology of the Family, we talked with an author of three children’s books about the concept of atypical families, specifically families where a mother must explain to a child the concept of a sperm donor. We had been learning in class about these difficult conversations people may need to have with their children, so it was nice to be able to talk to someone with so much experience. In addition to writing books on the subject, the speaker is a single mother herself, and she explained that when she realized she was 40 without a relationship, the idea of not having kids was not an option, so she had to do something.
  • I facetimed with Rachel after my classes, and after catching up, we did a workout video together—just like we do at school. It was nice to spend virtual time with her, and I’m so excited about our week together in April, which is now officially booked.
  • I finished up my work for the rest of the evening, and because I have been so diligent throughout the week about getting it done, I now feel so ahead. I am even more excited for this weekend, and it’s great that now I don’t have any more big assignments due before our next break. Adina and I even went down the street to get ice cream.

Friday

  • This morning, I went on a bike adventure to the neighborhood of Nørrebro, which I haven’t really had the chance to explore yet. I was thinking about doing a day trip to a museum or something, but with the busy weekend I have coming up, I decided that today I wanted to act as a local instead of a tourist. I sat in a cute cafe called Grød, which is famously known for its porridge and chia bowls. The weather was also beautiful for a bike ride. Then, I met up with Adina and Goldie for their lunch break, before going on the last of my errands before Josh arrives early tomorrow morning. I also explored my own neighborhood a bit, and there are so many cafes and restaurants I still want to try that are basically in my backyard. Tonight I plan on going to sleep early (I’m waking up at 6:30) and catching up with some friends from school, as many here are traveling.