Spectra – a beam of light.

Wednesday 6 August 2014 – London.

When I was researching information about the wonderful World War 1 memorial art installation at the Tower of London I discovered that there was an equally amazing installation in Victoria Tower Gardens that is a must see.

I arranged to meet El at Tower Hill Station when she had finished work and to pass some time and get some exercise in I walked there from Stratford, via my new favourite pathway along the Lea Navigation to Limehouse Quay, and then along the Thames Path to Tower Bridge.

As El had yet to see it, our first stop was the stunning Tower of London installation, “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red”, which I briefly mentioned in a previous post.

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We walked to Victoria Tower Gardens via Somerset House and one of our favourite cafes where we stopped for a glass of rose and a light meal before heading over to the gardens just before sunset.

The installation, named Spectra, was created by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda and produced by the art collective ArtAngel. It is made up of a grid of 49 individual search lights that combine to create a beam that shoots fifteen miles up into the sky. There was not a lot happening when we arrived, and I was surprised at how few people were there, especially given that this work is only around for one week and finishes on 11 August.

The art work commemorates the start of WW1 and the famous quote from Viscount Edward Grey “The lamps are going out all over Europe – we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”

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Not long after we arrived the sun officially set and soon after that the lights were turned on, one by one and technicians walked around and adjusted the louvres on top of the lights. As the sunlight slowly faded the powerful beams could be seen against the dark back drop of the trees that bank the River Thames.

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Once all was working, I was really surprised to see that the tape surrounding the installation was removed and the public were allowed to walk in-between the lights. More and more people started to show up.

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Once the sun had fully disappeared over the horizon the moon became visible. I tried to get the moon and the entire beam into one shot, but without the big camera and its uber wide-angle lens, this was not going to happen unfortunately. However, the sight of the moon rising through the beam was just fabulous. As El said to me at the time, sometimes you just have to stop taking photos and just enjoy what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it.

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As the evening wore on the number of people arriving to view the work grew, like the moths that were drawn to lights. It was interesting watching people pouring through the park gates and moving in and out of the light tubes. I was wondering if they were created to be high enough that only heads poked above the bases and were then lit by the ambient glow. It was fun watching people wave their hands and arms through the light, looking up to see if there was a shadow in the beam, taking photos from different angles. Just experiencing something different in different ways. A great people watch.

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Just before heading off home we stepped back from the installation and I took a few photos looking back over the Houses of Parliament.

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Before one final shot of the base, surrounded by onlookers with cameras and phones raised high.

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We walked over to Westminster Bridge to get a couple of shots from a different angle, before heading home. Though it does not have as wide an angle lens as I would like this new Canon G16 is a wonderful camera for hand held low light shooting.

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One of the many many reasons I love living in this wonderful city is access to beautiful works of art like this. What a fabulous night.

Spectra is a travelling work and has been seen in various forms in a few other countries, it is still travelling the world so if you get a chance to see it, do!

The future is just like now, except in a little while.

Tuesday 5 August 2014 – London.

Since I have been back from my travels I have had two rounds of job interviews, both with employers rather than with agencies, and this week I have second interviews with both of them, so I have fingers crossed for both jobs. They are different roles, both in IT and I would be happy if I was offered the opportunity with either one. With thoughts of potential employment ahead and still with the objective of dropping a couple of pounds I decided to make good use of my free days and get outside as much as possible. Like last week I was meeting my mate John for coffee in Canary Wharf, but this time I decided I would ride my bike, and like last week I took my camera. I wasn’t in a rush…

The ride to Canary Wharf from Walthamstow is pretty good, most of it is off road and on the tow path down the side of the Lea Navigation and the Limehouse Cut.

The first couple of kilometres are through city streets, but soon enough I was entering the Walthamstow Marshes area, via a hunched over slow pedal under the railway.

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The marshes are a lovely rural spot on the banks of the River Lea, there is plenty of wildlife, both domestic and wild and it is quite popular with dog walkers, runners, cyclists and families out for a picnic on a nice sunny day.

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Just past Lea Bridge Road the river splits into two, the river itself and the Lea Navigation. The Navigation is the main channel for the hundreds of narrow river boats that ply the water ways of the UK. The Navigation also connects up with the Hertford Union Canal which feeds into the immensely popular Regents Canal that passes through central London. The meeting point of Hertford Union Canal is at Hackney Wick, which is fast becoming another key street art zone in east London. There is a bit of art on walls down the tow path, including this lovely piece from Sweet Toof.

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A new work from a Brazilian artist who has recently visited and whose name I have totally forgotten.

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As well as some of the usual Hackney Wick suspects like Himbad, Pang and Broken Fingaz.

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Once past Hackney Wick the tow path leaves the trees and grass verges behind and starts to pass through more commercial, light industrial and residential areas. It is still pretty to a degree, but the ride is not quite as nice. I large patches the river is heavily weeded – it was also just announced as one of the most polluted water way in the UK, though lots of people fish in it,

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and a lot of people travel up and down it.

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There is also a lot of construction going along at the southern, Bow end of the river, with dozens of flats going up. It was looking like I was going to be late for my coffee so I stopped taking photos and put my foot, well both feet, down and rode on to Canary Wharf.

After a very enjoyable coffee in the sun with John I rode back the way I came. However, this time I paid attention on the way down as there is a weird little intersection at Limehouse Key and last time I rode this way I ended up heading off to the Regents Canal and had to do a loop back at Victoria Gardens in Hackney. The confusion is less obvious here, but if you end up on the bridge coming the other way, you are definitely going to not get on the right canal path!

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I took a slightly more leisurely ride back home, stopping to take photos as things caught my fancy, like this bit of graf, a sentiment I agree with.

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There are three places where you have to cross the river, most of them can be ridden over, though of course courtesy says if there are pedestrians walking across the bridge then getting off the bike is the best thing to do.

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There is a long term rumour of a crocodile or large snake living in the Lea, the last that was heard about it was just before the Olympics in 2012, but the rumour has been a while for a while, I am not sure if old school street artist Rowdy was painting after a sighting though.

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Though this has not made much impact on the amount of birdlife on the canal, and there are a lot of chicks around at the moment.

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There is a lovely little stretch of canal near Three Mile Lane with some nice grassed banks and these lovely old mill buildings, this is definitely my favourite part of this stretch of the Lea.

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Just up from Three Mile is the dreaded Bow roundabout, the most deadly section of road in the UK for cyclists, and one that is fortunately high on the list to be fixed. Luckily the path passes beneath it.

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Soon I was back to Hackney Wick / Stratford area with artists and painted warehouses on one side of the river and athletes and the Olympic Park on the other.

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I walk this way every so often and have never seen a sunken boat before. The owner was there waiting for people to come and lift the boat. He said it was old and had been a little leaky, but just went down a couple of days ago when the battery died. It looked like it was quite a nice boat before that.
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For most of the way there is a single path, shared by walkers, runners and cyclists. I like to think it is shared with care, but suspect some cyclists give others a bad name. Never being in a rush I am always polite and warn other users with a polite ding of my bell from as far back as I can. There is a nice section near Hackney Marshes that actually has two paths, the inner one is supposed to be used by cyclists, but naturally has the worst surface. I tend to use it, but there are as many dog walkers here as the other path so it is a no-win situation.

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I spotted this cool Sweet Toof painted canal boat up towards Lea Bridge Rd.

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I rode back through Walthamstow Marshes a different way to my southbound trip, I wanted to visit the railway underpass that was painted last summer as part of the ‘Mural on the marsh” project. Brazilian artist Louis Masai had added a bee to the wall as part of an ongoing series highlight the global plight of bees.

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It looks like it is going to be an early blackberry season this year, I must come back with a container!

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I had been putting off stopping for a coffee riding since I left Canary Wharf, there are some nice cafes around the Hackney Wick area, but I wanted to head to Bygga Bo, my favourite Walthamstow coffee shop, but I had totally forgotten it was Tuesday and they were closed… Bugger !

Later in the afternoon I heard I did not get one of the jobs I had interviewed for, oh well.

An afternoon stroll

Friday 01 August 2014 – London.

With all my holidaying and travelling around, plus a bout of pre-holidaying laziness I seem to have gotten a bit ‘soft’ round the middle. In effort to reduce some of the softness and prepare myself for getting back into running again I have decided to fill some of my days with a good long walk. If I think the walk is interesting enough I will chuck the camera in my bag and take some photos on the way.

Today I had planned to meet my mate John for coffee near his office in Canary Wharf at 10:00 and then meet El at South Kensington station at 6:00 so we could see the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Geographic Society. This left me with a decent sized gap in the middle of the day with not much to do so I decided to save money and wasted travel time and take a very slow walk between the two. With the best will in the world even I could not walk that slowly, so to get some practise at carrying a pack as I am thinking of an overnight walk sometime soon, I threw my laptop and a change of clothes in a day bag. I hoped to take some time and stop in a cafe somewhere and actually doing some of the photo editing and blog writing I had been procrastinating on. For good measure I tossed the book I am reading about walking around Britain in as well – just in case I need to procrastinate further. It was a warm day, humid with mostly clear skies, but with a forecast of heavy rain ahead, so I was quite prepared for all contingencies: water, bandana – and a rain coat.

For a bit of fun I put my Garmin GPS watch on and recorded the walk, stopping the clock for any long breaks. I was also quite keen to see what sort of pace I maintain on a fast casual walk – if I do decide to do something a bit longer – at least I know how long to allow for it! It was good to know that I kept a fairly consistent 6km an hour pace for the whole 18kms – which is pretty much what I thought it would be.

I left Canary Wharf just after 11am and intended to follow the Thames Path to Tower Bridge.

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The tide was most of the way and one of the things that really intrigues me about the Thames, and something I will look into, is the amount of old wharf and bridge pilings that are just sitting there, sticking out of the low tide mud. How long have they been there and what were they ? This area of London has historically been very shipping orientated and am I sure there are some interesting histories peaking out of the riverbed.

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A lot of the buildings on both sides of the Thames are old warehouses and I really like the way this old crane structure has been used as stairs for these converted flats. I would love an apartment anywhere along here !

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The Thames Path is not that easy to follow, on either side of the river to be fair. It is adequately sign posted in some places, though I highly suspect some of the residents who share some land with the path have removed signs to prevent us great unwashed from walking past their windows.

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The path meanders in and out from the river side as old warehouses and wharfs butt up against the river.

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In one case the path just led to a completely closed off section as new homes (for the rich I suspect) are being built. This was a bit frustrating as it meant having to back track a couple of hundred metres and walk down the road.

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Though Wapping High Street is not a bad street to walk down these days. Since the great press migration to Wapping in the 1980s I have always though the area would be full of massive warehouses and sheds full of large printing presses – very much like where I last worked, but the main thoroughfare and local side streets are very nice. And of course the great press migration from Wapping is now over with the last of the big papers moving out again.

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The river side walk is interesting with a few things to look at on the way.

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I arrived in St Katherines Docks after an hour or so of walking. I am not a huge fan of the area as it is very touristy and there is not a heck of a lot to see if you do not like yachts – much as I don’t mind being on a boat, I am not one to spend loads of time admiring them, unlike bicycles. The docks area has a mix of nice old buildings.

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And some things that should be immediately destroyed and the person who gave permission to build them sent to the gulags.

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The docks area are next to the Tower of London and this was my next stop, I love the Tower at the best of times, symbol as it may be of kings and queens and power and abuse of power, it is a stunning building. However, today I was here to see the early phases of a massive World War 1 memorial project art installation named ‘Bloodswept lands and seas of red. Planting of large ceramic poppies commenced on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war at the end of July 1914, at the end of the project on November 2014 888, 246 poppies will have been planted, one for each British fatality in the war. That number is just so large, I cannot imagine what the moat of the tower will look like. As I write this there a number of small wars going on in the world, Syria, Gaza and Iraq being just the ones on the news – seems we have not learned anything – ever.

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From the Tower I walked down under London Bridge along Upper and Lower Thames and crossed the river on Blackfriars Bridge.
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My next stop was another art work that is part of the WW1 remembrance project. HMS President was built during the first world war as an anti-submarine vessel and has been moored on the Thames since 1922. It has been repainted in a stylised ‘Dazzle camouflage’ by the artist Tobias Rehberger. Dazzle camouflage was used during WW1 to make it hard for enemy submarines to calculate the course of a vessel by breaking up its normal lines. I really liked it.

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As I was walking up towards the Southbank I realised I have walked past the book and map sellers under Waterloo Bridge dozens of times and have never ever taken a photo – so I did…

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They are expensive, but I like the idea and have seen similar on the banks of the Seine in Paris as well. My next stop was the back of the South Bank centre, there was some new street art painted there as part of the Southbank’s ‘love’ themed summer festival. New works by Ewe Linak,

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And the ever present Lost Souls Crew, though there was a large van parked in front of their’s.
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I stopped for some well earned lunch of a vegeball burger at the food stalls behind the Southbank, the burger was great.

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It was really hot out there and there was not a lot of places to sit in the shade so after eating I walked back to the river side, where the fountain was the most popular I have ever seen it. With school holidays on there are loads of families out and about along this part of the Thames today, nice to see kids enjoying some free fun !

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After a coffee at the Southbank I crossed back over Waterloo Bridge to the north side of the Thames and walked up through Soho to pick the brilliant free monthly music magazine ‘Loud and quiet’ from one of the lovely little record shops on Berwick St. With a couple of hours left to kill before meeting El I stopped for a cold drink in a cafe, got the laptop out and wrote most of the first day in Copenhagen blog. It is something I should do more of, get away from internet access and use the computer for something productive.

It was such a nice day that I decided to wait for El in Hyde Park, I power walked through the human mess that is Oxford St and into a large oasis of calm and peace. The Serpentine was fairly busy with most of the boats out on the lake.

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I wanted to check out the recently re-opened Serpentine Gallery but you needed a ticket to get in to the exhibition that was on today.

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So I went into the recently opened 2014 pavilion, by artist Smiljan Radic – now known as the space ship and bought a coffee. I wandered down to the bottom end of the park, found a nice bank to sit on, got out my book,

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and it poured with rain. I drank my coffee under a tree and after a very short downpour walked down to the V and A museum where, after getting changed, I waited for El over a glass of sauv and a bag of crisps. As I sat there in the cool shade under a blue sky, gazing out across the pond in the square in the the museum it was hard to believe that not fifteen minutes earlier people were running from the rain.

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One of the many many things I love about London is these small oasis of calm in the middle of busy public spaces, somewhere quiet and sheltered where you can buy a nice coffee or a glass of wine and relax surrounded by lovely old buildings. The best thing is they always seem so deserted.

El arrived soon after I did and we walked to the Royal Geographic Society building back up Exhibition Drive towards Hyde Park. The Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition is on and as we both really enjoyed it last year I bought tickets to a private viewing so we could walk around in relative peace. It was a fabulous exhibition, I am so envious of some of the skills that these photographers have and there are some magical images, it finishes on the 17 August. Naturally it rained again, but just a light shower…

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And that was it for the day, it was a good day out, I enjoyed the walk, as always, and saw a little bit of London I have not seen before.

I took this picture the day before from a friends balcony and thought it was worth sharing.

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Copenhagen and Malmo – day three.

Monday 28 July 2014 – Copenhagen, Denmark / Malmo, Sweden.

It was a much cooler night last night, so some sleep was had, though we were up quite early as a group of Aussies decided that outside our open ground floor window was a good place to smoke, drink coffee and chat – loudly. I spent the next thirty minutes hovering by the window waiting for a courtyard table to come free so I could nip down and grab it, breakfast outside was so much nicer than inside. I am happy to report that today’s bacon was as good as yesterdays. Though I did eat some fruit today so that completely balanced out the body weight in bacon that was consumed.

Today we are off to Malmo in Sweden, it is the 58th country I will have visited, and most of those have been in the past two years of travelling as well, I had visited Denmark in 1987, though not Copenhagen, so it this is my first new country since Sri Lanka last year. After checking out we headed over to the station to find tickets to Malmo on the train that heads over the famous Oresund Bridge. We were dead keen to cross ‘The Bridge” and it was one of the reasons we came to this part of the world, the bridge is the bridge in “The Bridge” 🙂 and one of the longest bridges in the world. As we found out on the internet before we took the ride, you don’t actually see the bridge at all on the journey as it is a straight line ! Oh well, it was worth it anyway.

Though we crossed into a new country and had passports handy, they are not required. Malmo in Sweden is not much more than thirty minutes by train from Copenhagen in Denmark and it was a quick and painless journey.

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We enjoyed our couple of hours in town, there was a good map available at the train station and though we didn’t really have much of a plan of what to see I was quite keen to visit St Peter’s Cathedral. The modern art museum was sadly closed on Mondays – as were quite a few things in Copenhagen as well.

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St Peters is the oldest church in Malmo and construction was started in 1391 with the tower being added in the 1500s’. It had some incredible frescoes painted on the walls, but these were largely destroyed when most of the interior was white washed in the 1800s. I think I read it is the only white washed cathedral in the world and visually it is quite stunning.

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I really liked the metal tombs in the floor, and wonder how many thousands of feet have walked across them since they were laid down.

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The one small chapel with frescoes was beautiful to look at, the frescoes were painted in the 1520’s and are pretty much in original condition, slowly fading away. Just lovely, and the reason I wanted to visit the cathedral.

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We took a walk around the main old part of Malmo, which is within a small canal system, Malmo was a lot more how I expected Scandinavia to be, clean and tidy and the buildings here were nicely presented and charming.

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The main square was a bit touristy with most of the old buildings turned into restaurants with big ugly awnings outside, so no photos. We wandered back alongside the canal to the station, and back on the train to Copenhagen.

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Apparently balloons are banned on the platform!

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Back in Copenhagen we walked up from the station to the botanical gardens, it was another lovely, though hot day and a welcome wine under a tiny bit of shade outside the hot house was most welcome.

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We had another couple of hours to kill before we needed to head to the airport so we wandered back into the city centre, passed the round tower, looking for some lunch.

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We found a nice little square off a much larger square at Grabrodestraede and had a really nice lunch at Cafe Flottenheimer. The food and homemade lemonade were excellent and the location was great for people watching and grabbing an ever so slight breeze under the shade of a tree. Another eating recommendation!

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The larger square looked nice for lunch as well.

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We took a final walk back down to the Christiansborg Palace area to find this damn fountain from the TV series Borgen. We had been looking everywhere for it, we did find a fountain, but it was not the right one – again. Maybe it just does not exist!

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And that was that ! Our next trip was back to the station and on to the airport for our flight back to London. We arrived nice and on time, two hours before the flight, just to find that there was at least a two hour delay… We tried to swap to an earlier Easy Jet flight into Gatwick, but were not willing to pay full fare for it. So after checking in we mooched, me rather grumpily, around the airport for a while before heading up to the main departure lounge. It was bit disappointing up there, there was little or no aircon, and I was still hot and sweaty from the day, and a bit uncomfortable to be fair. There were not enough seats for all the people hanging about, we managed to get a seat in a bar where I drank the most expensive pint of piss poor beer that I have ever had in my life(it was soi bad I had two), plus I wasn’t willing to sign away my children’s inheritance to access the free wifi. All in all not a pleasurable experience, sorry Copenhagen Airport, nice and modern as you are, you are no fun if your flight is delayed. Though we did share a nice pizza 🙂

The gate for Easy jet is the furthest possible from the main part of the departure lounge and quite a decent five minute walk, though I actually enjoyed the walk up this long and functional corridor, it was nice to stretch my legs. The walking time to the gate painted was on the floor.
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I am not sure this sign was being ironic or not when we did arrive at the end, but I did find it amusing.

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We still had a while to wait for our delayed flight, so I took some photos of us waiting patiently.

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The flight was delayed even further at the gate, though not by much, as there was no plane, bad weather across Europe in the morning had caused the delay. But it was with relief when we did finally get going.

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We got home about 23:15, later than expected, tired. But it was a really good holiday, and we both liked Copenhagen enough that we would go back again.

Copenhagen – day two.

Sunday 27 July 2014 – Copenhagen, Denmark.

It was another stunning day in Copenhagen! Our hotel, and it appears, most of the city as well had no air-conditioning so it was quite a hot and muggy night with not a lot of sleep – reminiscent of SE Asia!

Breakfast was included in the room and I will confess to an utter pig out on lovely smoky Danish streaky bacon – so good….
After a post breakfast recovery lie-down we waddled out the door for our days adventures – actually, it was just me that waddled, El was far more elegant than that. We had a plan for the day and our first stop was the National Gallery and its lovely garden filled with some excellent bronze work.

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Once we got round to the front we discovered that the gallery didn’t open for another thirty minutes so rather than hang about we headed off to activity two, a hop-on/hop off canal boat tour. On the way we passed this interesting street sign, I have no idea what it means.

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Plus a quite cool paste up.

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As I mentioned in the “Whales” blog post from when I was in Australia recently, I have never really gone in for mass tourism activities, much preferring to find my own way around a city and see the things I want to see – how and when I want to see them. But with a large canal network and a very good price the canal tour just seemed like a very nice way to see the bits of the city we would not see on foot. Plus, it was stinking hot and the boat was likely to be a lot cooler than walking!

The boat is a large flat barge like vessel with about hundred passengers on board, it was pretty full, but we got good seats at the back so it was easy to snap away as we cruised. I loved the spiral spire, lovely.

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We cruised up to what I am guessing is the main tourist eating area, a canal-side strip at Nyhavn. It was pretty packed and we pondered returning here for lunch tomorrow. The buildings are lovely and I am sure it is nice spot to chill, if a little busy.

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After Nyhavn we cruised up towards the open see, passing a lovely old sailing boat under full sail, some very new and quite stunning newly architected buildings.

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And towards the end of the river, a horizon of wind farms.

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The tour went out of the river mouth as far as Trekroner Fort, an artificial island created to defend Copenhagen’s harbour. Construction of the fort started in 1787 and it was used until the end of the first world war. We could have got off the boat for a walk around but it we still had a few things left to do on today’s list and there was not enough to see to kill the hour before the next boat arrived. It looked interesting, but not that interesting 🙂

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One of the main reasons for taking the tour was to go and see The Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction and a reasonable distance from our hotel. We pondered getting off for a look but the sheer number of people there put us off. As we motored past on the boat I was so glad we didn’t stay, this would have driven me bonkers… Sometimes you just need to fence off these attractions and allow everyone an opportunity to see and photograph it without someone’s kids sitting on it.

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The boat took us back up the river and into the canal heading up to Christianshavn, where we planned on stopping for lunch. The ride up the canal was quite nice.

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Freetown Christiana is a small part of the area, it is partially self governing and is a bit of a hippytype commune. I was expecting it to be quite a chilled place, and certainly upon entering it looked the part, street art, cafes (closed at the time), sculptures amongst the trees and a small, Camden style market.

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However as we got further in it just got sadder and sadder as the other side of Freetown Christiana is that it is place where cannabis is freely sold. No photos were allowed in this area obviously, but for somewhere that is supposed to be carefree and open there were a lot of masked men standing behind curtains selling dope to large numbers of, mainly, young people. It all looked a bit tragic to me. I guess we were there a bit early in the day, maybe it is more lively later on.

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Anyway, we were disappointed by it.

We walked back across to the other side of the river across the Knippelsbro, I loved the towers in the middle of the bridge. I am a real sucker for this greening, aged metalwork and the more I saw, the more I liked it.

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On the way to the gallery we walked pas tthe military history museum and its cool little jousting hobby horse outside.

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And of course today’s token bicycle picture:) What really surprised is me was the fact that few of the bikes were locked to anything, a large number were not locked at all and most had very flimsy locks on them. In London this would have been stolen almost immediately… Another big yay for the people of Copenhagen.

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The gallery was pretty cool, (especially where there was some much needed air-con !) in keeping with the rest of the city there was a lot of sculpture, like this roman style hall.

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This rather creepy collection of statue heads,

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And this awesome weeping angel.

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They could film an excellent episode of Dr Who here 🙂

Though the main reason for me coming in here was the collection of French impressionist paintings, it was small, but very nice – and photography was allowed ! There were some lovely works by Monet – The lemon grove in Bordihhera,

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And Van Gogh – Landscape from Saint-Remy,

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And a really nice and large collection of Gaugin works. This is the Road to Rouen, and I loved the colour in this.

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There was also a drinks cart on the roof of the gallery so we stopped for a refreshing drink and a rest to admire the view over the Copenhagen skyline – over the Christiansborg.

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I found a couple more bits of street art on the walk back to the hotel, where we stopped for a rest before heading out again in the early evening.

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Our evening was spent at the crazy Tivoli Gardens. The gardens are the second oldest amusement park in the world, opening in 1843 and we were surprised at the size and scale of some of the rides – and no, we did not do any, we are far to chicken for that sort of malarky.

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The gardens also, surprisingly, have very nice gardens and that sort of cheesy amusement park side of ponds and castles and pagodas and a large Indian style building, all holding restaurants and bars. None of which sold any Indian or Asian food. The pagoda for instance had fish and chips next to it.

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The balloon seller was not having the best of days.

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Though we did get something to eat in the end, and just as we stopped for a final glass of wine, the skies closed in and a sudden, though short, downpour sent people scurrying in all directions. Which was a cue for us to leave.

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Another great day out. Loving Copenhagen so far.

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Copenhagen trip – day one.

Saturday 26 July 2014 – Copenhagen, Denmark.

El and I booked this weekend away to Copenhagen a few months ago, well before I decided to New Zealand to visit my family, it is El’s birthday and we wanted to do something different, and go somewhere that neither of us have been before. We both have a thing for Scandi-noir TV shows and with The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen (which I haven’t seen) all set in or near Copenhagen, it seemed to be a logical choice of location for a long weekend.

To make the most of the time away I had booked us on the 7:00am flight from Stanstead, which meant a 5:00am check in and a 3:30am alarm call. Ridiculously early! I am pretty sure our taxi driver had been up for most of the last 24 hours as he was nodding off on the way, I was a little concerned, but kept my concern to myself until we made the airport. I know how he felt, but I wasn’t driving.

Stanstead was madness at 5:00 am, there were a whole bunch of flights leaving early in the morning and the airport was pretty packed and rather chaotic. I was very pleasantly surprised at the smoothness and efficiency of the check and boarding process with EasyJet. I had expected long queues and therefore grumpy passengers, but we were through quickly and sucking down coffee before we even knew it. Good flight too, well done Easy Jet, a good start to the holiday.

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After clearing immigration and walking ten miles to collect our bags we caught the train from Copenhagen airport into Central Station.

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Our hotel was a five minute walk away and we found it easily enough, We are staying in a Best Western in the centre of Copenhagen – and as we found out near the red light district. Our neighbour was Lady Love “the best strip club in Copenhagen”. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our room was ready even though it was still only 10am, and even better it was not streetside.

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Once checked in and after a wee rest we set out for our first walk, and to hunt down some food. Copenhagen was different to how I expected it, the streets were grubbier than I thought they would be and lots of people were smoking and leaving butts everywhere, there junkies and street drinkers outside the station and there was graffiti on most streets. I am not complaining, it felt a bit more lived in, a bit more London like in some ways. Not the straight up Scandinavia I expected.

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There are also street defibrillators on some of the walls – just in case the excitement from Lady Love was too much.

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It was hot and sunny out, far hotter than anticipated, and I am so glad I made the last minute decision to pack shorts. We didn’t have much of a plan for the walk, just heading in the direction of the Christiansborg Palace in the hope to find a fountain that featured a lot in the TV series – Borgen.

Our first stop was Kobenhavns Rathus (Copenhagen Town Hall) which had a massive atrium in the building. It was nice, cooler than outside too.

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We stopped for lunch after city hall in a place called Oscars that possibly catered for a different kind of clientele later in the day, but the food was lovely, the beer cold and the service pretty good. We were pleasantly surprised at the price of food and drink, we expected it to be mega-expensive. It was not cheap, but found it to be not a heck of a lot more than what we would pay in central London. So no complaints at all. We avoided the obvious.

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Next up was the national museum of Denmark, which was quite interesting, time had us skip all the general museumy sort of stuff and stick to Danish history which was quite interesting – and they had Vikings which was the fun bit.

I really liked the rune stone display, I had always assumed that rune stones had mysterious, spiritual messages of wisdom passed down from the Gods, but apparently they are a lot more prosaic – commemorating the death of a family member, or just letting people know that so and so passed this way. This head stone from the 10th century is from someone named Sser remembering his brother Asgot. It is the only rune stone found that mentions Thor or any of the pre-Christian gods.

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There is a lot of Christian era artifacts in the museum including some excellent old crosses, like this very early copper cross from the 12th century and found in Orting.

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There are also some partial remains of an old Viking long ship, though it was impossible to photograph it.

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The Gundestrup cauldron was my favorite piece in the museum, it is estimated to be over 2000 years old and was found in a peat bog in 1891. Where it comes from and what people made it is still being debated today. It is stunning…

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From the museum we crossed another of the numerous canals to get to the small island that makes up the Christiansborg Palace area.

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There are loads of bronze/copper statues around the city, all nice and green with that aged bronze look – love it.

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The architecture in this, the old central part of Copenhagen is all low rise and what I would call standard European Scandinavian, basically what I expected to see, and there is nothing wrong with that. Visually the city is pretty, yet functional.

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Though the palace itself has one of the many towers that dot the Copenhagen horizon.

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The main roads are massive boulevards but there are very few cars around – however there are loads and loads of bicycles, and excellent riding lanes as well. It is such a good move for a flat city, and one of the reasons why Copenhagen is considered to be a ‘happy’ city. I took a few bicycle photos as we went.

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It was also good to see that parts of the city’s heritage are being maintained.

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Wecrossed back over the canal on the Hojbro (High Bridge), and spotted this unusual underwater statue named ‘Agnete and the Merman’ near where the canal tour boats depart.

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We had a quick look at Hojbro Place, which seemed all rather busy with fellow tourists,

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So we ducked down a deserted side street instead.

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This eventually lead us to the main shopping street of the city, which was pretty much full of the same shops you see in London – and about the same amount of people you would see on Oxford St. Basically it was horrible…

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We followed this back towards our hotel and once the beer/wine fridge was discovered in the lobby, settled down in the courtyard for a cold drink.

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After a rest and some research into eating houses we decided on a couple of restaurant choices for the two nights, both were recommendations and seemed quite close so we decided to walk to Pate Pate and book a table for tomorrow and then walk onto the next one for a meal – if we could get a table. What we did not count on was that most places are closed on Sunday nights, including Pate Pate, so a quick change of plans and we took the last two seats at Pate Pate – sharing the four person table with a Swedish couple 🙂 The food was fabulous, reasonably priced, but delicious. A recommend if you are in Copenhagen!

We had a walk around after dinner to see if we could find the other restaurant, but we could not find it at all. Pate Pate is in what appears to be a recently revitalised part of town, old fishing shed and shops by the look of it. It was very busy, loads of small eating places and bars and very ‘Shoreditch’ cool. Loved it.

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There are some massive engineering works going on in the city centre at the moment, I am guessing they are building a new transit link of some sort as the works disappear into the train station. The hoardings had some quite interesting street art in places. Interesting for a town with so much graff and mindless tagging there is very little street art around.

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The sky was still light when we got back to the hotel, so we grabbed the bottle of duty free red and sat in the courtyard for a while and stared at the sky.

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A pleasant end to a lovely day.