Daybreak: Copenhagen

Martin is typically less susceptible to the crazy plans that I end up hatching with jes (see the story of the Fiat Panda for an example). So I was surprised when he suggested that we should visit Copenhagen for a day: arrive in the morning, and return the same evening. My doubts were reasonable: we live in the west of England, which despite being very pretty, is hardly reputed for excellent travel links. Bristol Airport is essentially a glorified lean-to, which meant that we’d probably have to fly out of London: a four-hour round trip on the motorway. To cap off this scheme, Martin also wanted us to work on an incredibly tight budget. Did we succeed? Yes and no, but mostly yes. Here’s how the day went:

0600

Awake at 0530, one of the biggest benefits of only going away for a day was that I didn’t really have to bother with carrying very much at all. All I needed was my phone, keys, wallet and passport. I set off for Martin’s house, which was the easy bit, as Martin was going to be the one driving us to and from the airport. Martin and I had a schedule for the entire day, down to the nearest quarter of an hour, so I was pleased to arrive right on time.

We switched cars and set off to Luton, which was another successful operation only marred by us getting slightly lost searching for the dodgy budget parking we had booked. Martin blames me for this; I blame him for refusing to let us use the satnav until we were lost.

0900

Luton Airport was as Luton Airport will always be: a depressing warehouse solely mitigated by the dent it doesn’t make in your wallet.

They don’t even bother to paint the planes that land at Luton:

It was very much the sort of environment that makes you question past decisions, and I was flagging a little bit in the face of another 17 hours on the road. Thankfully, the flight was on time and, after I had fortified myself with five chocolate Hobnobs, we departed London at 11.15.

1430 (-1h to the timezone gods)

Copenhagen was very smooth going. The airport is reasonably small, and we were through immigration in a few minutes. The metro is small as well, which meant that we were in town within the hour.

The first item on our agenda was food, so we headed down to this small collection of restaurants in the centre of town, where we bagged ourselves some smørrebrød, which is a Danish type of open sandwich:

I’m still not entirely sure what I ate, but it tasted very good. We bought it from this restaurant, and for roughly £5, it managed to banish any lingering Luton blues.

We then made a quick stop to pick up some pastries:

after which we headed out to explore a bit.

1530

Like London, Copenhagen has a citywide bike scheme, which is surprisingly easy to set up an account for, even if you don’t speak Danish. Martin and I were able to book bikes for a specific time, the (reasonable) cost of which would be debited directly from our bank accounts. As I quickly realised in Copenhagen, cycling is pretty much the best way to get around:

Our bikes were really quite nice, but they didn’t blend in with the others very well, mostly because they were bulky and painted a bright white:

Every bike comes with a tablet, which is the main interface through which you log in, unlock your bike, and adjust various settings. There’s also a somewhat useful help menu (if you aren’t able to lower your seat, ‘Apply more force’, apparently).

Every bike also comes with a small electric motor that provides different levels of assistance. I hated it. The motor kicks in as soon as you begin pedalling forwards; you don’t have any control over it yourself outside of a configuration menu on the tablet. There’s nothing more disconcerting than cycling on the wrong side of the road, through traffic, in a foreign country on an overly eager motorised bike. I also suspect, although I’m not sure, that it continues to apply the assistance settings of the previous user unless told otherwise. I discovered about halfway through the day that you could turn the motor off, which made the entire thing much more pleasant.

1645

Our first stop was Nyhavn, which also appeared to be the place where most of Copenhagen was that afternoon:

Nyhavn was nice but also very touristy, and on our shoestring budget, there wasn’t really much for us to do there aside from have a sit down, eat a Hobnob, and enjoy the sunshine. I was still a bit surprised I had made it down an entire city street without being run over on the dubious bike, so it was a good opportunity to stop for a bit and take stock of everything I was grateful for in my life.

Bikes aside, I had decided by this point that I really liked Copenhagen. I’ve lived in London and spent a fair bit of time in quite a few other national capitals, but central Copenhagen is so much more relaxed than any capital I’ve seen before. Relaxed is very much my thing, and I’d definitely like to go back to Copenhagen for longer.

After deciding to move on, we went for a long bike ride alongside the waterfront. By this time I had discovered how to turn the bike’s motor off and was enjoying myself a lot, apart from on the cobblestones, which were doing a number on my privates.

We cycled as far as the Little Mermaid statue before we turned back: we had a flight to catch, and I was running out of Hobnobs.

1900

Careful calculations back in town allowed Martin and I to have a pizza and a drink each, a luxury that had Martin especially overjoyed:

After a quick dinner we stuffed most of our remaining change into two tickets back to the airport, which was eerily deserted (in contrast to Luton which, like the door to the Underworld, is open both day and night).

2315

We arrived back in London just before midnight, picked up the Martinmobile from somewhere in Bedfordshire, and headed back to Bath. I was in bed by 2am on Sunday morning, which wasn’t shabby work at all; we were bang on time at almost every checkpoint we had set ourselves.

Does a day out in Europe really work?

This is a difficult question that’s almost certainly going to be a post in itself at some point. The short version is: the trip cost us just under £100, for a surprisingly fun day out in a country(!) I had never visited before. I tasted new food, used a motorised bicycle, and ate the majority of a packet of chocolate Hobnobs. There’s nothing to complain about there. I wouldn’t really call it tourism though: I don’t think I’ve got a feel for Denmark, and we only saw a tiny fraction of Copenhagen. Yet you can’t win on all fronts, and as far as a day out goes, I don’t think this one is going to be surpassed until the next Daybreak that we set off on. Especially since Martin does all the driving.