Copenhagen Day One, Finding Our Feet and Christmas!

IMG_0840

An English girl and a Welsh man, sitting eating Vietnamese street food in Denmark… There’s no punchline, this was the start of our Copenhagen holiday!

Okay, it wasn’t the official start, but it was the first meal we had there. It was at a place called Lêlê Street Kitchen which was attached to the hotel we were staying at on H.C. Andersens Boulevard 8 called Hotel Alexandra. (More on Lêlê Street Kitchen next time).

The hotel was very easy to get to. From the train station it was a quick walk round the block and we were on H. C Andersens Blvd. We selected the Superior Double Room which was 50s/60s in design and overlooked the main road. The room was on the fourth floor and I have to say that we never heard the road when the windows were shut, so that was a bonus! It had all the usual amenities like a kettle, hair dryer, TV, WiFi and imag1691_1.jpgeven an iPod dock. You also get money off vouchers from Lêlê Street Kitchen if you waivered having your room cleaned. It’s worth 100DKK per day, can only be used between 12:00pm and 9:30pm and can only use one voucher per person per day, so don’t think you can collect them all up throughout your stay and get a free meal, sorry!

The room waIMG_0675s small but clean and the bed was a double, (two singles pushed together) and the top sheets were also single sheets, which was a bonus for me, as Mr Travelstodge didn’t steal the sheets off me for the first time in our relationship. The staff were very friendly and helpful and any questions you had they answered like it was no trouble at all. We needed to print off our boarding passes for our flight home and they let us use their computer and print them off free of charge. You can book direct and see the rooms available here.

After this, we went and had a walk around to get our bearings. We here at Travelstodge HQ do a strange thing on every trip we do… We look for Christmas decorations. That’s right, we scour the internet to find Christmas shops in the places we visit, and Copenhagen didn’t disappoint! We found the Danish Art and imp-1098737_960_720Christmas shop  located at Knabrostræde 3, 1210 København. There is an absolute treasure trove of decorations here, from the traditional wooden ones, to beautiful glass ornaments and the gordy multi-coloured ones that I remember from back in the 1980s. My Nan had the original ones from the 1970s and these took me back to Christmas in her house. We picked a little one with a very impressive beard, known as a Tomar Gnome / Elves, and a Hans Christian Anderson one with the Ugly Ducklings on the front. The guy who owned the shop talked to us about the Hans Christian Anderson stories. He gave us a website link to visit for further information, including some of the stories which have been translated, which you can find here .

IMG_0688

The start of Strøget (street entrance is on the far left)

Once we settled on our decorations of choice we ventured out further and had a walk down the main shopping street in Copenhagen, Strøget, which is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe. You will find luxury brands mingling with cafés and budget stores with bars, not to mention restaurants, Disney and Lego stores and even a Guinness World Record store! It’s an eclectic mix which, for me, was okay walking down a couple of times, but it just feels like any other shopping street in Europe. You can find more details about the street, including a list of upmarket brands that are available here .

 

In my last blog I mentioned about trip-ups. Now, being in the UK, we are used to Health and Safety madness and a mile radius exclusion zone to repair one tiny pot-hole just in case someone falls over and sues the council, so I expected something similar here, but oh how I was wrong! We encountered more open scaffolding than I’ve ever seen and roadworks which makes pedestrians walk into the road with no safety bollards what-so-ever. On our first day, me, Mr Travelstodge and four other people tripped over wooden blocks that were propping up the scaffolding! UK take note…. we never sued the Danish Council, and I suspect neither did the other four people. Travelling makes you appreciate and at the same time criticise your own country. We are lucky having the strict Health and Safety Laws we have, but it does make you wonder if we are too strict.

Next time, food and where to eat… nom nom!

Travel around Copenhagen, Denmark

imag1652.jpg

Copenhagen is a relatively small city which you can walk around quite freely, and getting from A-Z is a doddle. They have a Metro system which is currently in the process of being expanded across the city, a train network that can get you anywhere you need to go outside of Copenhagen, a harbour bus that takes you across the river from one side of the city to the other, and a bus network which will take you to all the tourist attractions you need to get to. It’s a fantastic place to navigate around without the need of a car.

2000px-Scandinavian_Airlines_logo_svgWe flew with SAS, who were excellent, even though the flight back was delayed by two hours. Both I and Mr Travelstodge were annoyed by this, but at the same time we could understand the reason why. There were two bags on board belonging to a passenger who failed to show up for their flight at a previous destination, which delayed the flight back to Copenhagen, which in turn made our flight late to depart. We went to the information desk, where the staff were helpful and friendly, to find out the reason why.

SAS have a whole row of check-in desks at their Copenhagen Airport departure, and you’ll find the majority of them unmanned. This is because they are autonomous and work on barcodes and scanners. We didn’t figure this out until we were sat waiting for half an hour for a desk to open! Once the system was explained to us, we were like “ohhhhh… that’s clever” I did think I was going to get back home and find my luggage somewhere else as I still don’t trust machines… they will take over the world!!! (Briefly… there are terminals that you scan your boarding pass into which produces a luggage label for you to attach to your suitcase, which in turn has a barcode that you scan at the check-in desk) Very futuristic!

To get from the airport (CPH Lufthavn) to the City Centre you can use three options. The 5db61167982e97e74b7e92be05ee4fc6first one, and the one we used, is the train. There is one train every 10 minutes to Københaven Central Station, (you may see it as København H at the station) which is located by the Tivoli Gardens. Be warned… there are two exits out of the train station, and we left out of the back way and got totally confused where we were! The second option is the Metro. Located above Terminal 3, line M2 terminates at Vanløse Station, but it will go through Nørreport Station which is the one you will need for the City Centre. The third option is the 5A bus which takes you to various locations in the centre, but will take around 30 minutes or more. All details can be found here.

imag1650_1.jpgWe brought the Copenhagen Card, which gives you free transport across Copenhagen using the Bus, Metro or Train, and also free entry and discounts to 73 museums, attractions, food and entertainment. I would advise having a look on their website and see if the places you want to visit are listed in the free entry section, and work out if you would save money getting the card or paying the entry fee at the individual places. We only used their Metro system once, purely for the experience, the harbour buses to get to a street food place, and the train to and from the airport.

The one thing we found confusing was when the card actually started. We ordered ours online and had it posted to us. Ours was valid for 120 hours, but you can order different hours to suit your trip. Bizarrely, our card was never checked on public transport… ever! I wrote the date on the front of the card in case it was checked, but wasn’t sure if I should have or not, but as it was never checked, I’ll never know!

So that is Copenhagen travel in a nutshell. It’s such a small city that public transport in most instances is not required, as the majority of attractions are in easy walking distance.

Next time… our first day, Christmas in September and trip-ups

I’m still here *waves hello*

Hello everyone.

I must apologise for the lack of blog posts recently.

I got married in September 2016 and then promptly went to Copenhagen two days later (A blog is coming, don’t worry). Between then and now, we have had some work done on our house (that was stressful to say the least) but now all that is done I can finally concentrate on my blog and also post some recipes I have waiting for you all.

So, this is a tiny, little blog to say that I’m still here, I’ve not travelled off into the sunset and gone forever, although that does sound very nice indeed, and the first blog of my Copenhagen trip will be coming in the next few days.

So, until then, happy travelling and happy eating!

 

Gluten-Free Cookies

small-cookies

I don’t have coeliac disease, nor am I gluten intolerant, but my friend is and as I’m a keen baker I thought I would have a go at baking something tasty for her. She explained that gluten-free foods aren’t as tempting as “ordinary” foods so I set to work finding something for her… and these were the result! Even Mr Travelstodge loved them. His comments were “these are the best biscuits you’ve ever baked” … and believe me, I’ve baked many; much to his waistline’s disapproval!

The ingredients you will need are:

180g Rice Flour (I use Doves Farm)
100g Caster Sugar
100g Milk Chocolate Chips
90g Light Brown Sugar
70g Unsalted Peanuts, Chopped (or use mixed nuts or any combination you want)
60g Unsalted Butter, Softened
2 Large Eggs, Beaten
1/2 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Always make sure you measure out the ingredients before you start, otherwise you will be back and forth across the kitchen… believe me, I’ve been there!

Start by mixing together the rice flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, or a free-standing mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and vanilla extract until light. Next, add the egg bit by bit, making sure it’s mixed in well each time (you don’t want it to split at this point). It will now look rather runny, which is perfectly fine, as you will now add the dry ingredients from the other bowl in to this mix. Put it in one tablespoon at a time otherwise it will end up all over the place! Once combined, add the chocolate chips and peanuts.

large-cookies

Now, depending on how you want the cookies will depend on how long you leave the
mixture in the fridge. For round, crunchy cookies, leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour so it is solid. If you want large soft, floppy cookies (like the ones you get a Millies Cookies) then leave it in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190˚C (170˚C Fan) Gas Mark 5. Line three baking sheets with baking paper. If they move about, dab a little butter on each corner of the tray to anchor the baking paper down.

Use a teaspoon amount for little biscuits, or a dessertspoon for larger ones. If you are leaving them in the fridge for the hour then leave a gap of around 5cm between them. If you are leaving them for only half an hour then double the gap, if not triple… they will spread out considerably and end up joining together! You can always break them apart so not the end of the world if they did.

Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave them to cool… but you all know that!

If you want to leave the nuts out,  just add the same amount of chocolate chips to the mix so it becomes a nut-free recipe too.

Day four: Architecture and a Light Up Fountain

Day four… the final day. I was feeling glum as I had fallen in love with Barcelona all over again, and even Mr Travelstodge didn’t want to leave… and he had a cold!  Today, we went to Poble Espanyol de Barcelona and the light show at the Font Màgica.  As Poble Espanyol de Barcelona was quite far away, we spent most of the day there and because Mr Travelstodge was full up with a cold at this point, we didn’t want to rush around like we had been doing the previous days.

940908_10208584247310073_7713146233582944121_n

Poble Espanyol de Barcelona is an architectural museum in the El Poble-Sec area of Barcelona.  It was built in 1929 to represent what an Iberian village could ideally look like, and has 117 full size replicas with over 40 craft workshops where you can buy anything from bags to chocolate, soap to jewellery and so much more.  I loved it!  Some of the shops there do not allow photos of their items or the shop in general, so please bare that in mind.  There should be a sign in the shop window stating this.  When you enter Poble Espanyol, you walk through a castle entrance, which is very grand, which then leads into a square. All along the streets are wooden pillars with little decorative metal sculptures on, which were interesting and cute so make sure you keep your eye out for those dotted around.  The architecture is beautiful and the views are amazing from here as you are high up overlooking the city.1935490_10208584248270097_8867420435051652393_n

We got the metro to Espanya and walked there, but you can get buses 13, 23 and 150 along with the tourist buses which will take you more or less straight there.

Tickets cost us €13 on the door but if you buy online here you will pay less and details of all the above can be found in their Useful Information section of their website. 

Once we had finished here, we made our way back to our hotel room to freshen up and have something to eat before we made our way over to the Font Màgica located in the Montjuïc area.  On certain nights of the week they do a light show on the fountain and they program the formation of the water shoots to move alongside the music they play, which for us was Barcelona by Queen, followed by Flash Gordon also by Queen.  12301698_10208584332392200_8870271357125176913_nBefore the show, there was a breakdancing group who performed a few dance routines which entertained the scores of people who were turning up to see the fountain show.  Two words of advice.  Number one, turn up nice and early to get the best spot as the area fills up quickly and you will be hard pushed to see much.  Number two, be prepared to get pushed and shoved as everyone wants to get the best position to see the fountain.  The first time I went to Barcelona, I stood to watch the show and I got a tap on the shoulder by a father who complained I was blocking the view for his child…. Now, as I was there first, I politely told him I was here first and stood my ground.  Unfortunately, it is still exactly the same now, overcrowded!

For details of how to get there and when the fountain light show is on, go to their website

So, there you have it… my trip to Barcelona.  I absolutely loved every minute of it.  The food, the culture, the people… everything!  I would go back in a heartbeat, and so would Mr Travelstodge.  We have brought back some good memories from here which I haven’t put into this blog as they are our memories that we will treasure deeply.  If you are planning to go to Barcelona at any point, DO IT!  You will not regret it at all.  If you are going, or have been, let me know what you think and let’s compare stories.  Next stop… Copenhagen…

Chocolate Biscuits

IMAG1312_1

I decided that, as I had an egg left in the box, and it was up today, I had better bake something with it… well, I don’t like waste so these Chocolate Biscuits were the result! So far Mr Travelstodge’s work colleagues have given them the thumbs up along with several at my place of work, so they can’t be that bad.

The ingredients needed are:

175g (6 oz)        Caster Sugar
125g (4½ oz)     Butter at room temperature
125g (4½ oz)     Plain Flour
35g   (1¼ oz)     Cocoa Powder
1                         Egg, beaten
½ tsp                  Bicarbonate of Soda
½ tsp                  Vanilla Extract (Not the artificial suff, get proper extract!)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4) and line three or four baking trays. I used two square trays and one rectangular one but whatever you have will be fine. I find baking paper the best, and a smidge of butter on the tray will help anchor the paper on so it doesn’t move when you are putting the dough on the tray.

Mix together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale in colour and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

Next, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa and beat together until everything is combined. (Travelstodge tip: I mix together all the dry ingredients and sift them into a separate bowl and spoon the dry ingredients into the mix. It’s easier if you are using a hand mixer and or a stand mixer too, as you don’t have to keep stop-starting to sift, it’s all ready to spoon in!)

Now, you can create the biscuits in two ways. The first is with wet hands and roll the dough to create the ball shape needed, but this is messy and I always have the temptation to lick my hands clean… or… you can do what I do and use two teaspoons. Keep transferring the dough from one teaspoon to another to make the desired shape.

The size of the dough shape now will determine the size of the biscuit. A teaspoon size will create the biscuits in the photo, but smaller or bigger will mean adjusting the time in the oven. I made around 26 biscuits using a teaspoon size amount of dough. Make sure when you put the mixture on the baking trays you leave enough room for them to expand, otherwise they will come out all joined together… or one massive biscuit, depends how big your stomach is!

Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes, based on a teaspoon sized dough.

Once baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for five minutes and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a wire rack, I just leave mine on the baking tray to cool completely, it just takes a little longer.

And there you have it! Scrummy chocolate biscuits that everyone will want… all because I needed to use up an egg.

Day Three: Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, National Museum and an Old Bullring

12049414_10208028455655629_846215534579044705_n

I was really looking forward to this day as we had tickets for the Sagrada Familia. It was even more impressive than when I first went in 2007 as they are still building it, and it now has more towers on than the last time I visited. We also had tickets to go up one of the towers, which would have been a great opportunity for stunning photos but alas, the weather wasn’t on our side. The National History Museum of Catalunya and Casa Milà La Pedrera were to follow along with a quick visit to one of their shopping centres, housed in an old bull ring.

12112433_10208028463255819_1164277501180722125_nThe Sagrada Familia, translated as Temple of the Holy Family, is a Gaudí masterpiece. Started in 1882, Gaudí wanted it to be the biggest cathedral in Europe. When it’s completed (around 2026) there will be three facades representing the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, and also eighteen mosaic towers representing Christ, the Virgin Mary, Twelve Apostles and Four Evangelists. Currently, eight have been completed. As you can imagine, this will be a rather imposing building, so much so that other buildings around it will have to be knocked down to make way for it all. 12122625_10208028462255794_3566141981650786333_n

 

The bronze entrance doors on the Passion façade are carved by a sculptor named Josep M. Subirachs. The Cathedral inside is a work of art. My fiancé (Mr Travelstodge) was in awe of the cathedral, and even though this was my second visit, I was too!

 

Now, a Travelstodge tip… you MUST buy your tickets in advance! They are timed entry and if you miss your timed slot, you miss your chance to go in. You only have a 15 minute window to enter. If you try to buy them on the day, you will have to queue and there is no guarantee that you can get in at the time you want. Ticket prices vary depending on the experience you want to have. The basic cost is €15 but all the different options are available here.

12074771_10208028460695755_8866052898391939817_n

As I mentioned above, we had tickets to go up the Tower on the Passion façade, which gives you views of the city centre, but there is also the Tower on the Nativity façade with views over the East of Barcelona. Both would be fantastic to go up, but due to the weather being very windy, the towers were closed. If you have reduced mobility or are visually impaired then you cannot go up the towers for safety reasons. As we had already purchased our tickets in advance we were refunded automatically but please note, there will be no sign to tell you this, so if this does happen, you will be refunded. This was my second attempt in going up one of the Towers, so maybe third time lucky next time?

Details on how to get there can be found here.

Opening Times differ depending on the month so click here for current opening times.

12049414_10208028552018038_717250184618704702_nBefore we visited the National Museum, we went to Las Arenas shopping mall in Placa d’Espanya, which is housed in an old Bullring which opened in March 2011. There are six floors which comprises 115 shops, numerous bars and restaurants, a fitness centre, a 12 screen cinema, an event hall and not to mention the Museum of Rock. On the 5th floor you can get 360˚ panoramic views of Barcelona too….This building is huge! You can find all the details here but it’s all in Catalan or Spanish, so get Google Translate at the ready!

12

After lunch we went to the National Museum of Catalunya (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) over in Parc de MontjuΪc. This is located in the Palau Nacional of Montjuïc which is high above the Font Màgica, both of which were built for the International Exposition of 1929. It’s an impressive building with quite a lot of steps to get up there, so please bare that in mind when you visit. There are escalators which will take you to the top but if they are out of order be prepared to climb high!

Once you get there and pay for your ticket, you then have two days to enjoy the museum as long as you buy a general ticket, which costs €12.00 and use it within one month from the date of visit. The entrance hall has four sofas which I must say were very comfortable to sit on, which gives you free wifi and your feet a welcomed rest.

The ground floor houses the Medieval – Romanesque / Gothic Art, Renaissance and Baroque art along with the temporary exhibitions, Auditoriums and the entrance to the Roof-Viewpoint. The cloakroom, café and gift shop are also on this level. The first floor houses the Modern and Contemporary Art and their Library. The majority of the building is accessible for those with reduced mobility and items such as wheelchairs are available to loan on request.

12108261_10208103810499453_6632987180182796705_n

The views from here are amazing, so make sure when you arrive at the entrance, turn and enjoy the view!

Details on how to get here can be found here with opening times and ticket prices located here.

1424267_10208584150747659_3815862948100711951_n

After we had dinner, we went to Casa Milà (La Pedrera) to see The Origins, which was a roof top light show that was based on the origins of life. This also included a free drink of sparkling wine and nibbles which were so nice that Mr Travelstodge went back for at least two if not three helpings… He has rather a healthy appetite.

Casa Milà, or locally known as La Pedrera, which roughly translates as “The Quarry” or “The Rock” due to the look of the building, is an apartment block built by Gaudí between 1906 and 1912. It’s built using columns and arches so there are no straight lines or right angled corners… apparently!992780_10208584176668307_5806565085821743847_n

We had a tour around the building, which still houses four families even now, and made our way to the roof top where we enjoyed a stunning light show which was projected onto the chimney pots. Please note that there are a lot of steps in this building and only one lift that can only take a couple of people at a time, so be prepared to climb!

11

Details of all the tickets available can be found here and how to get there can be found here.

So, as you can see, we had rather a hectic day of it and it was at this point Mr Travelstodge started to feel unwell with a right hum-dinger of a cold, which I’ll be mentioning in day four and our last full day in this beautiful city.

It was also at this point I wished we had longer here, as I really didn’t want to go back home.