Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 127

The weekly roundup of interwebs wonderfulness:

  1. I know she’s polarizing, but I personally cannot wait to read Lena Dunham’s new book. In anticipation of that, here’s a good read: Lena Dunham Is Not Done Confessing.
  2. I think about this topic literally every single time I return home from a trip, so needless to say this post resonated with me: Life in a Tiny Apartment.
  3. Meryl is perfection, as per usual: 22 Celebrities Riding the Subway Like Normals.
  4. Casting Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell in True Detective’s second season sounds amazing, in my book. But wouldn’t this also be perfect? Tiny Detective.
  5. You’ve probably seen this, but if not: Emma Watson Gives Powerful UN Speech About Gender Equality.
  6. Hah: Don’t Leave Your Love Note in This English Class.
  7. Beautiful: The Time Sliced Project.
  8. Never heard of her before this clip, but now I think she’s awesome: Standing Ovation for Katie Nolan’s Stance on the Ray Rice Situation.
  9. Oh for cute: Pug Goes Bananas in a Ball Pit!
  10. You know I love a good mashup: Golden Is the New Black.

(Image via)

Copenhagen: A Walk Through Sustainable and Organic Danish Cuisine

On a drizzly day in Copenhagen, I set out, flower-patterned umbrella firmly in hand, to learn about Danish cuisine. I had signed up with Copenhagen Food Tours for a culinary walk through Copenhagen, and for the next four hours, our guide Maria would lead us around the city as we sampled some of the best cuisine it has to offer.

We began at Torvehallerne, a gigantic food hall. Much like Budapest’s Central Market Hall, I immediately loved – and was overwhelmed by – this place. It has everything: organic produce, fragrant herbs, fresh flowers, delectable chocolates, and more. Even if you don’t go on a food tour while in Copenhagen, Torvehallerne is well worth a visit in its own right.

Copenhagen Food Tour12

Copenhagen Food Tour21

Copenhagen Food Tour11

Copenhagen Food Tour10

Copenhagen Food Tour18

Our first stop was Arla Unika, an artisan cheese shop where we sampled three varieties of cheese: one made from raw milk, one called a “havgus,” and one Danish blue cheese. I particularly loved the havgus, which had a crispiness I enjoyed (this makes sense as, according to this source, havgus contains “delicious salty crystals). After the tour ended, I returned to Arla Unika to buy more havgus for dinner!

Our plate also included a gooseberry jam, which Maria told us that Danes would traditionally eat to ensure they got plenty of Vitamin C during the long, cold winter months. We also drank an apple wine, which was 20% alcohol and made from locally grown apples. While I’m not typically big on apple-flavored beverages, I have to say that this was excellent.

Copenhagen Food Tour1

A few stalls over, we found Spis Bornholmsk, where we were treated to another plate of goodies. These included: a homemade mustard atop an organic spelt cracker, “blackberry apple dream jam” atop a Bornholm rye cracker, two pieces of licorice (one of which was rolled in white chocolate and strawberry), and a piece of soft caramel (which our guide dubbed “the dentist’s nightmare”). I loved the rye cracker and picked up a box for later. The white chocolate and strawberry dipped licorice was also quite good – and I don’t particularly care for licorice – so I picked up a jar for my dad, who does in fact love the stuff.

We also tried a few drinks with our snacks: a rhubarb juice and an aquavit with elderflower that was 40% alcohol. It was definitely a jolt to start my morning with!

Copenhagen Food Tour2

Copenhagen Food Tour16

Copenhagen Food Tour3

Copenhagen Food Tour13

We then left the market hall, heading out into the rainy streets of Copenhagen toward our next destination, Aamann’s. This was perhaps what I was looking forward to most: smørrebrød, or Danish open-faced sandwiches. These are typically made with rye bread (as wheat doesn’t grow well in Denmark’s cold, damp climate) and, as Maria told us, are meant to be eaten with a fork and knife, as that’s how all Danes do it. In fact, she told us that the Danish euphemism for going to a restaurant is “eating with fork and knife.”

We tried four sandwiches, and each was a miniature work of art. I took pictures of everything we ate that day, but most people didn’t – however, everyone got their cameras out for these! Luckily, these tasted just as good as they looked. The four flavors we ate were:

  • Shrimp, topped with eggs, dill, and asparagus.
  • Smoked salmon with cucumber.
  • Chicken salad
  • Ham with romaine salad, bacon, and pickled carrots.

Copenhagen Food Tour17

After finishing our sandwiches, we headed back out, detouring down Wiedeweltsgade, which surely must be the cutest little street in Copenhagen, even in the rain.

Our destination was the Nørrebro Bryghus, where we tried three generously portioned beers: a Thai-inspired ale made with lemongrass, a British-style amber ale, and a smoked porter with hints of coffee and chocolate. Typically, when anyone describes the “subtle flavors” that beers and wines have, I roll my eyes and think, “okay, sure.” But with the porter in particular, the chocolate notes were actually quite noticeable – which made for an interesting beer.

Copenhagen Food Tour4

Copenhagen Food Tour6

Copenhagen Food Tour5

We headed on to Døp, a hotdog stand that serves up organic meat from Hanegal. While there are many hotdog stands throughout Copenhagen, this is the only one that serves organic hot dogs and, along with the open-faced sandwiches, this was my favorite bite of the day (actually, “bite” is misleading – we each got a whole hotdog; you definitely will not starve on this tour!). While I generally eat my hotdogs completely plain – which is weird, I know – I decided I had to go for the whole shebang here: regular onions, fried onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and remoulade. This was a seriously delicious hotdog – NYC hotdogs should hang their heads in shame – and the addition of the fried onions was particularly welcome.

We next stopped at Sømods Bolcher, makers of old-fashioned candies. The cool thing about the shop is that you can watch the candy being made, crowding into a teeny-tiny viewing space to catch a glimpse of the workers sending the sweets through various contraptions. You can also try samples of the candy, which we of course did, my favorite being the rhubarb-flavored bite.

Copenhagen Food Tour7

Copenhagen Food Tour8

Copenhagen Food Tour9

Our final stop of the tour was Summerbird Chocolate. Here, we tried their “Mother’s Day Special” chocolate. Sadly, my notes here are a bit scant, so while I cannot describe the specific flavor of this truffle, one thing I do know is this: it was delicious.

Copenhagen Food Tour25

Though it was not included on the tour, Maria had pointed out St. Peder’s Bageri during our walk, and I decided that it sounded so good I had to try it later. St. Peder’s specializes in cinnamon rolls, which are something of a Danish favorite. I bought one for my breakfast the next day and it was TO-DIE-FOR (all caps necessary). Maria also told us that, in Denmark, Wednesday is sort of an unofficial cinnamon roll day; bosses will bring them in for their employees to help them get through the long work week. Get on that stat, American bosses.

Copenhagen Food Tour14

Copenhagen Food Tour15

Overall, I couldn’t have enjoyed my experience with Copenhagen Food Tours more (okay, perhaps it would have been slightly better if it hadn’t been raining, but the food itself was top-notch). Throughout the tour, there was a distinct focus on patronizing places with organic, locally-grown products and an emphasis on sustainability – both of which are things I appreciate. Plus, with a great guide, friendly fellow tour members, and a very generous amount of food, it’s the perfect way for any foodie to pass the time in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen: Holy Tivoli

Like any self-respecting Midwesterner, I know there is only one amusement park that truly matters:

Cedar Point.

(Don’t try to argue any of this Six Flags nonsense with me.)

My childhood is peppered with Cedar Point memories: visiting the park with my cousins, getting pumped every time a newer, taller roller coaster opened, waiting in line for hours to get on the best rides, using the silver poles that form line dividers as my own personal jungle gym, learning from my dad the only proper way to ride a roller coaster (hands up, the entire time, no matter what), getting rained out during a high school physics trip (and having a blast anyway), being entirely freaked out during Halloweekends….and on, and on, and on. The point being, Cedar Point is the ultimate, as far as amusement parks go.

Tivoli Gardens16

Tivoli Gardens15

Tivoli Gardens13

As for Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens…well, it’s pretty much the opposite of Cedar Point in every way. Tivoli isn’t about the fastest, tallest, scariest rides – it’s about rickety old throwbacks and quaint little spinny things, rides that seem taken straight from the carnivals of yore. It’s not about running through the park, determined to secure a spot in line for the latest coaster before crowds form, but rather about meandering around, exploring the different gardens, and perhaps listening to live music. Cedar Point is an ode to the latest and greatest, but Tivoli? Tivoli is happily, proudly, staunchly a throwback to a different time.

Tivoli Gardens5

Tivoli Gardens10

Tivoli Gardens15

Tivoli opened in 1843, making it the second oldest amusement park in the world (after another Danish park, Dyrehavsbakken). One thing I found cool about the park is that it’s right in the middle of Copenhagen; it’s not on the outskirts or in some suburb like you might expect. It’s also jam-packed with things to see and do, from riding the rides, watching a pantomime performance, listening to concerts, or just exploring the various sections of the park, many of which have an Epcot-like feel to them (for example, there is a small lake with dragon boats in it, a Japanese pagoda, and a Moorish Palace).

Tivoli Gardens8

Tivoli Gardens12

Tivoli Gardens11

Tivoli Gardens9

Tivoli Gardens14

Tivoli Gardens7

Tivoli Gardens6

So if you asked me what amusement park has the best rides in the world, I would still say Cedar Point. But if you asked me which park has the most charming, pleasant atmosphere? Well, then, the answer has to be Tivoli.

Copenhagen: A Delightful Homebase in Nyhavn Harbor

One annoying thing about all the travel I did this semester was the planning: coordinating flights, hotels, food, and sightseeing took a lot of time and effort. Often, I would try to crank out a bunch of trips all at once, going on a spree, for instance, of booking hotels. This meant that, by the time I actually arrived in each destination, I had pretty much forgotten why I had once chosen that particular hotel. Location? Price? Amenities? Who knew. Those details had long ago blended together in a blurry, jumbled travel-planning vortex.

That was not necessarily a bad thing, however. In fact, it happens to be why I had one of my favorite moments of the semester in Copenhagen.

On the plane from Brussels to Copenhagen, I thumbed through a guidebook, taking special note of Nyhavn Harbor. The harbor certainly has plenty of history, dating back to the 17th-century, but I was interested in it for another reason: it looked really, really beautiful. Like, insanely so. With its ships set against a backdrop of brightly colored buildings all in a row, Nyhavn could not have appeared more picturesque. I made a mental note to check it out as soon as possible.

I headed toward my hotel in Copenhagen, rolling my suitcase down the cobblestones behind me, iPhone map firmly in hand. One right turn, I realized, and I would be on the street where the hotel was located. So I turned right, and there it was:

Nyhavn Harbor.

Nyhavn3

Nyhavn5

As it turned out, I had booked a hotel right on the harbor. I hadn’t even realized it until that moment (or perhaps I had realized it, months before, but I had long forgotten about it by that point). It felt like an incredible stroke of luck: I get to wake up here every morning and come back here every night? Really? Well alright. If you insist.

I loved having the harbor as my home base in Copenhagen, as it was an easy walk to the subway, to Strøget (Copenhagen’s long, bustling pedestrian street), and to the Little Mermaid statue. It was also just a pleasant place to be, not to mention a super pleasant place to photograph. Rather inadvertently, I had wound up right where I wanted to be.

On my last night in Copenhagen – which also happened to be my last night of my entire semester abroad – I was in my hotel room, packing. I had put off packing for as long as humanly possible (as I tend to do), and I had to be up early in the morning to catch the first of the three flights it would take to get me back home. I peeked out my window to catch a glimpse of the harbor, as I had grown accustomed to doing during my stay in Copenhagen. I saw this:

Nyhavn8

My jaw dropped. The sky was the most amazing, vibrant shade of orange I had ever seen. I abandoned my packing immediately, throwing on my shoes and coat and heading out for one last stroll through lovely Nyhavn Harbor. That night, I wound up going to bed way later than I had planned, of course. But you know what?

Nyhavn9

Worth it.

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 126

The weekly-ish roundup of internet finds:

  1. “It’s like FourSquare, but for your education. If you were a wizard.”: Syracuse University Turns to Harry Potter to Motivate Business Students.
  2. If they hadn’t put C.J. at #1, I would have revolted, so that’s good. Also, I love that Mandy is #113. But Leo should be #2, Ainsley should be higher, and Amy should be lower: A Definitive Ranking of Every Character on The West Wing.
  3. I personally think they taste gross, but this is an interesting read anyway: The Greatest Trick Capitalism Ever Pulled Was Making You Want a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
  4. #2 and #3 are the story of my life: 14 Things Overthinkers Say and What They Actually Mean.
  5. “I smell like a baby in a damn meadow”: If Nick Miller Quotes Were Motivational Posters.
  6. Gorgeous: Recipes Suspended in Air.
  7. Insert cry-laughing emoji here: #NewSATQuestions.
  8. Heh: If Social Media Was Made For People Who Hate People.
  9. She’s the best: 16 Times Leslie Knope Made the Whole World Happy.
  10. This is adorable: Here’s Tom Brady’s Resume from When He Didn’t Think He’d Make It in the NFL.

(Image via)

An Afternoon in Antwerp

Antwerp5

As I mentioned before, Brussels was not exactly my favorite city, so during my time there, I decided a little daytrip was in order. Given Belgium’s tiny size, there are an abundance of options for taking a quick trip, but I settled on Antwerp, Belgium’s second largest city. While Antwerp is known for two main things – being a port town and having a huge diamond industry – those weren’t really the focus of my time in town.

Instead, I was content just to wander around the heart of Antwerp’s old city, stopping to visit whatever caught my eye. Before I even began my exploring, however, I was impressed with something else: the train station, which was gorgeous! I, apparently, wasn’t the only one who thought so, as Newsweek named it the fourth best train station in the world.

I left the magnificent train station and headed toward Antwerp’s old town, where the main attraction was the Great Market Square. With its triangle-roofed buildings and flourishes of gold, it reminded me of Brussels’s own Grand Place, albeit on a smaller scale.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Antwerp2

Antwerp12

Antwerp14

Antwerp8

I also peeked into the Cathedral of Our Lady, a Roman Catholic church constructed in 1521. Its stark white, impossibly high ceilings were impressive, as were its small collection of paintings – it even has a few pieces by Peter Paul Rubens.

Antwerp13

Antwerp9

Antwerp10

Antwerp11

Other than that, I didn’t do much more in Antwerp, save eating a nice lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant (because, you know, who doesn’t think of Vietnamese cuisine when they think of Belgium?!?) Antwerp wasn’t the most exciting city I visited this semester, but it was certainly a cute one, and well-deserving of a quick stop.

Why Brussels Made Me Miss Bruges

If anyone has been keeping count, I wrote four posts about Bruges (see: one, two, three, and four). Yet Brussels – a larger city, the capital of Belgium, and the seat of the EU’s major institutions – gets this one measly post. Why?

The truth is…I did not love Brussels. It was a fine city, but it was also simply one of those places that I did not “click” with. My time there was pleasant but unremarkable, and, quite frankly, it was a bit of a letdown after the glory that was Bruges. I suppose it was inevitable: I absolutely adored the quaint charm of Bruges, and so Brussels was always going to have a tough time competing; to me, it just felt like any generic big city, and nothing more. So, while I am willing to be proven wrong (and I have been wrong about European cities before), for now, Brussels is pretty low on my list of favorite places in Europe. That said, despite my personal misgivings, there is still plenty to eat, see, and do in the city.

The Grand Place seems to be the center of all activity in Brussels – or all tourist activity, at least – and was one of my favorite parts of the city, crowds notwithstanding. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, and it’s no wonder why, as the gorgeous, ornate buildings that line the square are quite impressive. And while, as I mentioned, Brussels would not necessarily be high on my list of cities to return to, I think it would be worth it to see the flower carpet that decorates the square each August.

Grand Place1

Grand Place7

Grand Place8

(If the Grand Place has one major fault, it’s this: it is almost impossible to get a photograph that encapsulates everything. The square is just too huge!)

Grand Place5

Grand Place6

The other quintessential landmark in Brussels is an odd one: Manneken Pis, a bronze sculpture of a little boy peeing into a fountain. The statue dates back to 1619 and is often dressed in a variety of different costumes – there’s even a non-profit organization dedicated to selecting the tiny dude’s outfits! The statue felt to me much like the Mona Lisa: it’s really small, you have to fight through crowds to get to it, and you wind up wondering what all the fuss is about. Still, I suppose you have to see it at least once, so it’s worth a (quick) wander by.

Shortly after Manneken Pis, I made a left and then began to climb, heading to Brussels’s Upper Town. Here, I wandered through peaceful parks and peeked through the gates of the Royal Palace. There are also several museums in the area – none of which I visited this time around – including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Magritte Museum.

Upper Town3

Upper Town2

Upper Town

Upper Town4

I headed back down via a different route, passing through Mont des Arts on my way back into town. I loved this area for two reasons: first, because it was home to beautiful gardens and second, because it offered some lovely views looking down toward the lower part of town.

Mont des Arts

Mont des Arts2

While in Brussels, it seemed obligatory to eat mussels; unfortunately, though, I wasn’t in the city at peak mussels seasons. The first restaurant I tried to order them at told me that I could have them, but that they didn’t recommend it since the mussels weren’t at their best right then. I opted for another dish, but the next day, I decided to head for a different restaurant and just go for it; I wanted mussels in Brussels, dammit! So, I did indeed eat them (at L’Estaminet du Kelderke). They were good, but not necessarily great. Still, when in Brussels…

I also made sure to snap up some other Belgian favorites while in Brussels, such as:

Raspberry-flavored beer:

Waffles:

French fries:

Belgian Frites

And, of course, chocolate. Much like Bruges, there are chocolate shops everywhere in Brussels. Each shop is super fun to browse; I loved seeing all the unique flavors, creative concoctions, and beautiful packaging at each place. Of course, I made sure to grab a few pieces for myself and also nabbed a fancy-schmancy box to take home for my family.

Brussels Chocolate1

Brussels Chocolate2

Brussels Chocolate3

Brussels Chocolate6

Brussels Chocolate4

Brussels Chocolate7

(Manneken Pis is even creepier in chocolate form, right?!?)

Brussels Chocolate5

Brussels Chocolate8

Finally, while I generally don’t write much about hotels here, the place I stayed in Brussels deserves a mention. I stayed at Hotel Welcome because – I’ll admit it – I once saw it on an episode of Samantha Brown. Still, it’s no wonder my gal Sam featured it on her show, as the hotel is pretty cool. At Hotel Welcome, each room is named for a different country and decorated to match. There aren’t room numbers; when you get your key, the front desk will simply tell you: “You’re in Peru.” As for me, I started my stay in Cuba:

Hotel Welcome - Cuba1

Hotel Welcome - Cuba2

Hotel Welcome - Cuba3

Hotel Welcome - Cuba4

On my last night, the front desk kindly offered to upgrade me to the Tahiti room – an unexpected but welcome perk, as it allowed me to see an entirely new set of decór. In fact, I wish I’d gotten to poke around in all the rooms.

Hotel Welcome - Tahiti1

Hotel Welcome - Tahiti2

While my stay at Hotel Welcome was a fun experience, my overall stint in Brussels was, sadly, a bit less than I had hoped for. Ultimately, though, I don’t think I can complain too much, as I got to travel to a lot of amazing places this semester and it was all but inevitable that each one would not be a winner. I certainly didn’t hate Brussels, but nor did I feel any sort of “magic” there like I have with other destinations – and that’s okay, as I had more than my fair share of magic elsewhere.