Tag Archives: hindsight

Copenhagen In Retrospect: First Impressions and Overview of the World’s Happiest City

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My first moment in Copenhagen was met by the utter lack of chaos in Kobenhavn Airport. Everything was operating smoothly in an environment I could only describe as lustrous. I left this country without seeing dust and I had dinner at an underground restaurant at some point. Imagine that. Maybe this was how the rest of the world could look if only people respected personal space on a regular basis and did not impose their lives on other people as much. In Copenhagen there is always ample space to live in – even in trains and escalators I had an arm’s length of distance from everything. Meanwhile in London I don’t even dare walk slower than the human behind me in fear of losing my right to exist in that living space. So far, so good.

The Danish are reserved people but very approachable and especially helpful to us when our map reading skills were failing. Their emphasis on simplicity was something I always felt and it truly is inspirational to an extent. If I had to guess, expectations of public decorum (most definitely) included not being too loud. In fact, I witnessed no boisterous laughter in public at all and it is still a wonder to me how I couldn’t overhear ANY conversation – not even from those talking from a mere foot away.

The general atmosphere was pleasant and navigation was easy with the straightforward public transport. It is a small, walking city that we were able to see most of within our first day. I highly recommend exploring by foot if you have a great appreciation for architecture and beautiful narrow streets. As one of Europe’s oldest cities, this Danish capital is home to intricate buildings from the 17th century and an amusement park dating back to 1843. To me, this is simply remarkable.

Things to see

1.City Hall2016-24-11-11-42-00

Standing centrally in Copenhagen is its City Hall which was constructed in the late 1800s. It is open to the public but it is just as a memorable when viewed from the City Hall Square.2016-24-11-11-39-55

2.Nyhavn
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The colorful facade of houses in Nyhavn

Another must see is Nyhavn, a 17th century canal and entertainment district well known for good food and music alongside that laidback atmosphere. Fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen lived in this area particularly in numbers 18, 20 and 67.

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3.Rundetaar
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City overview

If you are looking for a good viewing point of the city then enter the Round Tower otherwise known as Rundetaar. Its shape make it almost impossible to miss and expect to be rewarded with brilliant panoramic views of upon reaching the top.

4.Little Mermaid
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Little Mermaid Statue

The Little Mermaid Statue is a symbol for this city and is unsurprisingly one of most visited attractions. Fans of the Disney animated film Little Mermaid should definitely put this in their itinerary. Yet even as one of Europe’s prominent landmarks, it is relatively unremarkable from the outside and smaller than one would expect. However, this original statue has stood the test of time and celebrated its 100 years last 2013 after being restored many times due to acts of vandalism and mutilation. It has been put back together time and time again to return to Langelinie Harbour, where she seems to continue longing for to be part of another world. This context alone makes it worth seeing in person because this Danish landmark is definitely a survivor.

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Langelinie
5.Freetown Christiana
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Simple rules of Christiana

Feeling adventurous or ready for something out of the ordinary? Then strut over to Freetown Christiana. It’s a neighborhood in Copenhagen that will leave you feeling like you have gone to a completely different dimension. Before entering, we were met by an arch welcoming everyone into this controversial chunk of Copenhagen. But let’s just say that you do not need signs to know you’ve crossed over somewhere different – oh trust me you will JUST KNOW. Aside from the independent shops and stalls and quite radical taste for art, Christiana is a hot topic due to the trade of things that may or may not be illegal. Inside, there are very specific rules we all had to abide by for everyone’s safety (mostly ours). The place had a certain feel of danger to it but simply follow the laws of Christiana and you’ll make it out alive. Wink wink.

6.Tivoli Gardens
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Magical Tivoli Gardens!

There is only one answer to the question what is the best thing to see in Copenhagen. It’s Tivoli Gardens! What makes it one of a kind is not the fact that it’s the world’s second oldest amusement park, but because Walt Disney and Hans Christian Andersen actually spent time here. The place is not just dreamy, it’s where makers of fairy tales as we know it went for fun. Now if that is not amazing then I don’t know what is.2016-24-11-14-09-42

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The Garden’s magic continues at night
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White Christmas

Christmas in Tivoli is unmissable and it was indeed one of my main reasons for flying to Denmark. My friends and I wanted to imbibe on a yuletide vibe that can be quite elusive in London despite the grand display of lights along Regent Street. The Garden was themed with Christmas in every corner and the experience was truly unforgettable. To top this all off, we found Father Christmas! And he took a picture with us to remember this by.

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Merriest Christmas!

Copenhagen is a destination better explored when a traveler has a deep sense of context about the capital. This city is remarkable in itself but even more so because of the talent that nested and thrived within its humble walls. It’s where people who created magic sought inspiration and ideas and where testaments from centuries ago managed to defy time.

It is a place I see myself coming back to, even if I have to do it alone. There is no special reason underneath, it’s just a place I feel comfortable in with its sophisticated airport and hushed citizens. There was a certain level of ease brought about by the unpolluted air and general mood of the locals. I guess they did not dub this place Happiest City on Earth for nothing. Theirs was a different kind of happy because if you ask me… Copenhagen was full of peace and quiet. It is quite hard to imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s talents flourishing anywhere else.

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Until we return, Copenhagen!
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Photographs from Portugal: Picture Perfect Travel Tales

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It reminded me of home. If I had to confine how I felt about Portugal in five words, maybe that would be it. The cab we rode into had seen better days, and as it drove into the rough highway while attempting to illegally overtake another car I can’t help but half smile. To my right a familiar landscape of dilapidated buildings intertwined with what I presume were electric cables rose from the ground. From this side of town, Lisbon seemed more like the Philippines than a place somewhere in Europe. But five minutes into the journey and the similarities dissipated, and I began to see the unique beauty of the place.

Determined to explore the sights and wonders of Portugal, we set afoot on Lisbon on that not so warm November day. Getting around the city was not difficult and we walked around most of the time to maximize the chance of seeing everything, but we also took the bus and train fairly often to save time. It’s still hard for me to explain but somehow, Lisbon proved to be one of the most photographic places I have visited. Something about how it survived through the years made it standout from the other cities I’ve been. It was not even about how the city looked, it was the vibe it exuded. Portugal showed me that not all beautiful things are shiny and new and that to an extent, there is beauty in ruin.

I hope this post allows you to take a glance of Portugal through our photographs, from the food we ate to the many things we saw and discovered in no particular order. May it be a visual experience, a window from which we can share our happiness from this trip. Fragments of time frozen in a frame, a welcome reminder of how at times, this city had me at a loss for words.

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Fountain at Rossio Square. Photo by Kenneth Cerbo.
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A lovely close up. Photo by Kenneth Cerbo
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Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a memorial for the maritime explorers. All those lessons from my high school history class came rushing back to me  and the realization that I was standing in a place where all those travel expeditions came from was surreal.

 

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Portugal’s trams. Old and creaking, I was almost always sure it would fall apart mid – journey. It took extra skills to remain upright once inside but a good rule of thumb would be to hang on for dear life. But seriously, Lisbon would be incomplete without these ancient machines.
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Belem Tower
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A city embellished with tiles. Portugal made me look at tiles from a new perspective. Be sure to drop by the Tile Museum!
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When in Lisbon, don’t forget to look down at the patterned cobbled streets.
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Find yourself a miradouros and marvel at Lisboa.
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City lights

 

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They say real delicious food comes from humble places and not from those fancy overpriced Michelin restaurants serving bite sized meals. In a sense, that is true as the best food I’ve had so far were straightforward and simple, and in this case, served on a plain tin plate. We ordered two more of this Chili Garlic Shrimp from Ramiro’s-it was just that good. The shrimps were succulent and tasty and the garlic chili oil just got me hooked. Definitely worth the queue.
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No shortage of delicious food in Portugal. This crab roe made my heart skip a beat.
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To this day, I cannot believe that the best sandwich I’ve had came from Lisbon. They called it tostas, and at the time I though I was ordering two slices of bread warmed in a toaster. But this is no ordinary toast because it puts all other toasts and sandwiches to shame. My personal favorite was the Chicken Tostas topped with Chopped almonds. There’s your perfect excuse to go brunching in Portugal.
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Cabo Da Roca in Sintra had a shocking view of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves were crashing against the cliffs in almost a protest, with foams of white forming along the rocky shoreline. The enormous cliffs together with the vast ocean made me feel like I was along the final frontier of something. You stand there and you just feel small surrounded by all this beauty.
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Almost freezing to death was not in my itinerary while in Portugal but that was what happened anyway. The fairy tale palace was yellow on one side, pink on the other and dreamily located on top of a mountain. I don’t know if places like these required damsels in distress but I was in some sort of distress in my thin summery jumpsuit while cold mountain winds blasted me left and right in such high velocity. So for the record, DO NOT wear your lovely summer outfits to Portugal on the month of November even if the BBC weather app says it’s going to be 22 degrees. Especially if you’re looking at going around Sintra’s beautiful castles and palaces.

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The Cliffs and Lighthouse of Cabo Da Roca in Sintra, Portugal.
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Much of the travel experience would be about the person you are with. And Portugal was such a lovely experience with my friends around. Between, eating, laughing, getting lost and jaywalking in another country, you realize how blessed you are to have them to share this moment with. These people are not just friends – they are family you chose for yourself and in the end they chose you. Kristine is my flatmate and she has to be one of the kindest persons on Earth. At some point we just clicked, and we didn’t need to explain things to each other, we were just there for one another. Sometimes I like to think she adopted me as a sister – an older sister. Haha.
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If there was a person who taught me how annoying it can be to have a brother, it would be Kenneth. But he is adorable, and he always makes me laugh so in the end we always let him get away with all the teasing and name calling. He’s one of the few adopted family I have and I am proud of how we have each other’s backs while living overseas and all. Travels with him are always fun, and Portugal was so much more memorable because I had him around. If I had to name people who accepted me as I am, mood swings and all, Kenneth and Kristine would be among them for sure. Picture taken in Lourdes, Portugal.

I was born with a way with words. I knew from the beginning that I felt a certain ease in weaving words together and maybe creating something beautiful. Needless to say, I am not one to run out of adjectives. But I guess there are times when pictures tell a better story. And for those moments we were rendered speechless, for those times our words were simply not enough – we are lucky we have pictures to say it all for us. Looking at all these, nostalgia simply overtook me and I learned that there’s something else travel gives a person aside from gaining perspective. It gives you something to look back to – a pleasant memory to make you smile, a period in time you can always recall and happily “travel” back to.