Sunday, May 19, 2013

Travels to Europe - Part 3 - London

The last stop on our whirlwind Europe trip was London.  We only had two days in the city and we were determined to make the most of them. Our purpose in London was two-pronged. First, we wanted to do as many touristy things as possible so that next time we were in England, we could explore the countryside. Second, I wanted to see old stuff.

Lovely church garden, with garden in bloom even though winter was still hanging on
I've always enjoyed history and was really looking forward to seeing the places and buildings that I'd only read about in books. Plus, there's not a lot of old buildings in Australia. 
The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum

Given the extent of our mission and the short time frame, we ended up walking a lot. On the first day, we clocked over 10 miles. By walking everywhere, we ended up seeing many fascinating things that weren't on our original list of must-sees. Like this photo below of the Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace. Reason why this was a happy encounter: our alma mater, William & Mary, has a Sunken Garden in the middle of campus and it was fun to see where W&M got it's inspiration. Although, the Sunken Gardens at W&M did not have a lake in the middle...

Sunken gardens at Kensington Palace
The best way to show you our trip of London is through our photos. As I was putting these photos on here, I realized that most of them look very gray. It's true that it did rain (and snow) on us while in London, but we also had plenty of sunshine. We just didn't seem to take any photos when the sun was out. :-)

Early morning horseback ride in Hyde Park.

Wellington Arch. Also early morning as evidenced by the lack of tourists.

Westminster Abbey - the only photo I took as you weren't allowed to take photos inside.

Big Ben - the first London icon we saw when we emerged from the depths of the Underground

Bangers & mash at Stockpot Restaurant. Recommended by our good friends Steph and Peter.
The Globe Theatre - reconstructed so that it looks as it did in Shakespeare's time.

St. Paul's Cathedral - designed by Sir Christopher Wren who also designed the Wren Chapel at our alma mater, William & Mary

Drew on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral

Shackleton's crow's nest. We discovered this in the crypts of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, the oldest church in London.

Somewhere in the Tower of London

Gargoyle on the Tower of London

How can he see anything with this hat??

London Bridge

The Thames at night

The London Eye at night

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Travels to Europe - Part 2 - Denmark

When we were packing our bags for Europe, our friends warned us that Denmark would be cold. Coming off of a blistering hot Australian summer, we thought we were packing warm. Coat. Check. Gloves. Check. Hat. Check.  Good to go, right? No siree, mate, we've got kangaroos loose in the top paddock.

The temperatures hovered around freezing the whole time we were in Copenhagen. I ended up wearing five layers most days and having to borrow a down vest from my friend. The funny thing was that most Copenhagenites were taking full advantage of the sunny weather and we even spotted people in t-shirts!
Outdoor seating is popular, even in the winter.
The only concession to the cold was fleece blankets at every table.

Despite the cold, Denmark ended up being a highlight of our Europe trip. Our friends have a lovely home in Copenhagen within walking distance of the center of the city. It's a very pedestrian friendly town which was great for sightseeing.

Denmark is known for its design - both in furniture and architecture. The city is an eclectic mix of old and new buildings. For example, on a boat tour of the city, we started out by old shipping buildings along Nordhavnen Harbor and then meandered our way past a sleek Opera House built in 2005.

Nordhavnen Harbor
Copenhagen Opera House, known as "Operaen" by the Danes
We spent the bulk of our time in Denmark in Copenhagen; however, we did take one very exciting day trip to Helsingør. Known as Elsinore in English-speaking countries, the town and its castle inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet. Luckily, our friend L hadn't visited it yet so she was happy to accompany us.
Standing in front of Kronborg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet
The castle was practically empty when we toured through it, allowing us plenty of time to read the interpretive signs, all of which were in Danish and English. As soon as we were back in Australia, we watched the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet starring David Tennant. Thanks to all we saw and learned in Kronborg Castle, I was totally immersed in the Danish setting and entranced by the political and economic intrigue of Helsingør.

Me, wearing my friend L's down vest. Even indoors, it's cold enough in Denmark for vests and scarves!
My favorite part about Kronborg Castle was a statue of a sleeping god tucked way below in the cellars. Legend has it that Holger the Dane was a king in Arthurian times who saved Denmark from invading foes. He now sleeps below the castle and will arise at a time when Denmark needs him most. I didn't know this but apparently several European countries have 'sleeping king' myths.

Statue of Holger the Dane at Kronborg Castle

And of course, no post about Denmark would be complete without danishes! We did try Danish danishes and Drew proclaimed them delicious indeed. 
Yum, Danish danishes.
The worst part about our Denmark trip was saying goodbye to our friends at the end. A big thank you to L&B (and C&R) for letting us tag along to France on their Easter holiday and for showing us a great time in Copenhagen!

More photos from our Denmark trip below...

The city center on a quiet weekday

I'm glad I'm not this guy! The scariest thing we had to fend off on our Europe trip was grumpy airline attendants.

Mural on a wall in Helsingør

Another view of Nordhavnen Harbor

Bikes are the most popular mode of transport and could be seen queuing up at every intersection.
Shop window of a popular bakery. We couldn't understand most of the labels but that didn't stop us from ordering (and devouring) a selection of sweets.